When that song is actually about you ...

Taylor Swift's new album, Evermore, has two tracks named after women. PHOTO: REPUBLIC

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - There are some songs that have lyrics so saturating of our psyche that they seem almost innate; that have crowds raising their drinks and bellowing along to the chorus in a dive bar at 2am… well, maybe not that, at least not now.

But what if that song that seems to be playing everywhere has an uncanny resonance? What if that song is actually about you?

Songs named after people have long been part of the pop culture landscape - Dolly Parton's Jolene, the elusive Lola name-dropped by the Kinks, the mysterious Roxanne (Sting, Arizona Zervas).

Taylor Swift's new album, Evermore, has two tracks named after women - Marjorie appears to be inspired by Swift's grandmother. The other one, Dorothea, has set the Internet alive with debate about its inspiration.

All this is very familiar to Valerie Star, a make-up artist.

In 2006, English singer-songwriter Dave McCabe, whom she had dated for a short time, wrote an indie rock song about their relationship.

Their heady romance was cut short when Ms Star was arrested on charges of driving under the influence, and McCabe's musical tribute served as a sort of wistful love letter to her.

Played by McCabe's band The Zutons, the song peaked at No. 9 on the British charts.

It might have faded into obscurity but for the interest of Amy Winehouse, who recorded a version of Valerie with Mark Ronson. The rest is a history written in endless covers and, at one time, karaoke renditions.

"That's when I really started hearing the song out and about randomly, in movies, and commercials. It's everywhere," Ms Star said in an interview.

"It was a brilliant song and I loved everything about it. It described that moment in my life and those trials and tribulations that I had gone through in the most quintessential way. I would never change a thing about the reasons why that song happened, the things that put me in that situation or anything about Dave and I."

Like The Zutons, whose other almost-hit track was Oh Stacey (Look What You've Done), Swift has name-dropped many times in her lyrics.

Betty was speculated to be Karlie Kloss (whose middle name is Elizabeth) and Rebekah Harkness (who is said to have used Betty as a nickname), before Swift eventually confirmed that the song was named after Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds' youngest daughter.

And who could forget the hit single Style, supposedly based on Swift's romance with Harry Styles? Or her back catalogue classic Hey Stephen, a song inspired by Swift's teenage crush?

The identity of the woman that Swift sings about in her latest record may never be revealed, if she even exists, but if she does, then Ms Sharona Alperin, the subject of The Knack's 1979 hit My Sharona, may have some wisdom to impart.

Ms Alperin was introduced to the lead singer of The Knack, Doug Fieger, when she was working in a clothing store, by his girlfriend at the time, and was invited to hear the band play at a rehearsal studio.

"Soon after he met me, he took me to lunch and told me he was in love with me," she said.

"I thought it was sweet, but he was 11 years older and I had a boyfriend at the time who I was madly in love with."

Eventually, Fieger won Ms Alperin after writing the catchy bass-driven track about her.

She spent her late teens touring the world with him, with the song that pleads with her to "give me some time" being the highlight of every show.

"It played everywhere I went," Ms Alperin recalled. "It was in the elevator, it was in the dentist, it was on the airplane, in the market, played by every Top 40 band. It was everywhere. It was exciting and it was everything."

And then, by the time she was 21, it was enough.

"When we broke up, it was time to be 'my' Sharona," Ms Alperin said. "The word 'my' in that song says a lot. There's not more of a possessive or obsessive word in the English vocabulary. He thought I was his soul mate, his other half, but it was a lot."

Similarly, while many were charmed by the Plain White T's 2006 love song Hey There Delilah, the real Delilah DiCrescenzo was somewhat less so.

Ms DiCrescenzo was living in New York City at the time - as crooned plaintively in the opening lines - and she reported being stunned when a brief encounter led to her being name-checked.

In a 2013 interview, she remembered being anxious that she had led songwriter Tom Higgenson on, feeling the pressure to live up to the expectations of fans and worrying about the impact on her fledgling athletic career.

And these women were written about before social media truly took off. The online furore to uncover the identity of Beyonce's "Becky with the good hair", framed as the singer's rival in the song Sorry on her sixth album Lemonade, reflects how an era of lessened privacy means that being the subject of a song can now be much more invasive.

My Sharona was written before social media," Ms Alperin said. "Things are very different now and I feel that I wouldn't have had the privacy that I have now if it had been written today."

Indeed, Ms Star managed to keep her identity a secret until 2019, when she was tracked down by Vice.

But although she said she has now removed Valerie from her playlists and avoids bringing up the connection to the song on a first date, particularly with other musicians, she has no regrets about what she called "a part of my life, a moment in time that has transpired, that will live forever, 'Valerie' has made a mark that has now taken on a life of its own. I wouldn't change anything about it."

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