back to top

58 Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Taylor Swift's Music

To celebrate the fact that today marks 10 YEARS since Taylor released her debut album.

Posted on

1. Taylor woke up at 4 am one night with the entire concept for 1989 in her head. She says she knew instantly that the title would be 1989, that it was going to be purely pop, '80s-inspired, and that she wouldn’t be taking no for an answer when she presented the idea to her record label.

2. But the decision to completely change tack with 1989 actually stemmed from the fact that Red lost out on the Album of the Year award at the 2014 Grammys.

3. The clip of Taylor looking momentarily excited after thinking she'd won the award when she hadn't went viral. And it turns out that she really was expecting to win.

4. She’s explained that everyone kept telling her Red was a dead cert for the award, and when the presenters announced that Random, Access, Memories had won, they dragged out the “Rrrrrr” in "Random", making her think they were going to say “Red”.

Advertisement

5. Taylor was devastated after losing and decided against going to any Grammys after-parties. Instead she "went home, ate In-N-Out, and cried.”

6. She realised her failure to make sonically cohesive albums was the reason for not winning Album of the Year. Taylor has said that although the songwriting on Red was widely acclaimed, the fact that it was marketed as a “country record” despite featuring pop and dubstep influences meant it was critically referred to as “multiple personality”.

7. The concept for 1989, therefore, was a direct response to that.

8. And had she not written "I Knew You Were Trouble" for Red, she may not have had the confidence to write a solely pop album. In fact, Taylor describes that song as a “signal flare” for 1989’s sound. Her record label were unsure about including "...Trouble" on the album or releasing it as a single. But when it was released, it remained at No. 1 for seven weeks – and signalled that she did have the ability to write a successful non-country record.

9. Taylor wrote her first song, “Lucky You”, aged 12 after a computer repairman who came to her house taught her three chords on her guitar.

10. She’s since revealed that from a young age, songwriting has been her way of dealing with complicated emotions in order to "make them simple".

11. And if you wondered why a lot of her songs deal with heartbreak and sadness, it’s because of how she experiences time. “When you’re missing someone, time seems to move slower," she's said. "And when I’m falling in love with someone, time seems to be moving faster. So I think, because time seems to move so slow when I’m sad, that’s why I spend so much time writing songs about it. It seems like I have more hours in the day.”

12. But not all of her lyrics are deeply personal. After "Shake It Off" was released, an interviewer pointed out that no one has ever accused Taylor of "staying out too late". She admitted that the lyric was used simply because “it was a good first line".

Advertisement

13. Taylor was told her debut single would be "Tim McGraw" the second she finished playing it for the first time on a ukulele to her record label boss.

14. Despite her being unsure whether it was a good choice for a first single, the song went on to remain on the Billboard Country Chart for 35 weeks.

15. There’s an interesting parallel between “Tim McGraw” and 1989's “Wildest Dreams”. Both songs feature whimsical lyrics about wanting to be remembered favourably by past lovers.

16. “Tim McGraw” features the lyrics: “When you think 'Tim McGraw' / I hope you think my favourite song / The one we danced to all night long / The moon like a spotlight on the lake / When you think happiness / I hope you think 'that little black dress' / I hope you think of my head on your chest.”

17. And “Wildest Dreams” has a similar theme: “Say you’ll remember me / Standing in a nice dress, staring at the sunset / Red lips and rosy cheeks / Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams.”

19. The similarity is something Taylor hadn’t noticed until an interviewer mentioned it – but she says that there is one key difference between the songs: “I wrote 'Tim McGraw' about a relationship that had already ended, hoping he would remember me well. 'Wildest Dreams' is about a relationship that is just beginning and already foreshadowing the ending of it.”

20. And in fact, “Wildest Dreams” is proof of how her attitude towards romantic relationships has evolved over the years. “If I meet someone who I feel I have a connection with," she said, "the first thought I have is: 'When this ends, I hope it ends well.' Which is not anything close to the way I used to think about relationships. It’s that realisation that it’s the anomaly if something works out; it’s not a given.”

Advertisement

21. Interestingly, some of Taylor’s most successful singles have been last-minute additions to her albums.

22. For example, “Our Song” from her eponymous first album wasn't written for the album, but for a high school talent show. She decided on a last-minute whim to include it on the record. The song went on to win "Female Video of the Year" and "Video of the Year" at the 2008 Country Music Awards.

23. The title of her third album was also changed at the last minute, from Enchanted to Speak Now, because the president of her record label thought the themes of the songs were less about fairy tales, and more about real-life experiences.

24. Similarly, “Should Have Said No” was a very last-minute addition to her first album, and both “Forever and Always” and “Love Story” only just made it on to her second album.

25. And, up until “Shake it Off” was released, “Love Story” was actually her bestselling single to date. They have both now sold over 9 million copies worldwide.

26. “Shake it Off” and “Clean” were also the last songs she wrote for 1989.

27. Following the success of her first two albums, some critics suggested that they were dubious about the amount of songwriting Taylor herself had actually done.

28. She therefore made the decision to write her third album, Speak Now, entirely by herself.

29. She’s since said she believes the comments about her not carrying her weight in the songwriting stakes derive from sexism.

Advertisement

30. Speak Now had a dramatic start, after the lead single “Mine” was leaked two weeks before it was due for release.

31. Taylor found out about the leak an hour into a flight to Japan, where she had to make a series of quick decisions. The track was released on to iTunes immediately, with Taylor accepting that the success of the single was now dependent on the viral response to its leak and not the promotional work she'd had planned.

32. Luckily the song immediately went to No. 1 on iTunes.

33. Taylor has revealed that the decision to release albums on a two-year cycle is to weed out weak songs. “You generally throw out most of what you write in the first year," she said, "because those songs are too similar to what you had done before. And then, at some point after that, it becomes a sound and it gets dialed in.”

34. Taylor plays close attention to the tracklisting of her albums. The haphazard sound of Red came from the fact that not only was Taylor “22 and all over the place emotionally”, but because she doesn't like having two consecutive songs with a similar emotional tone.

35. And the last song on her first album was “Our Song” because the final line ends with the lyric: “Play it again,” giving a subtle nudge to the listener to also play the album again.

36. “Forever and Always” was a last-minute addition to Fearless, that brought the total number of tracks up to 13 – something Taylor was pleased about as 13 is famously her lucky number.

37. However, fans have speculated a lot as to why “Wonderland” and “New Romantics” weren’t included on the final cut of 1989, and only on the deluxe edition – especially as “New Romantics” actually became a single and “Wonderland” was a fan favourite after the album was released.

38. There are two stand-out theories: Firstly, that including these two songs would’ve interrupted the flow of the album – which is especially true for "New Romantics," which is the only song not about a relationship. The other theory is that the final cut of the album includes 13 tracks, and so including these two extra tracks would’ve pushed it over the all-important lucky number.

39. Interestingly, though, "Wonderland" was the one and only track not to be played from 1989 on the world tour. Every other track, as well as the bonus tracks, was played on every date.

Advertisement

40. Speaking of the 1989 Tour, Taylor has revealed that the reason for bringing up special guest stars was because she wanted to emulate the escapism and surprise of a Broadway show. She was aware that her fans would have YouTubed the concert beforehand, and would therefore know about the setlist and costumes. Introducing a special guest added an element of genuine surprise and excitement for each audience.

41. Each of her albums contain “secret messages” for the fans. Some of these are hints at who the songs in question could be about, while others are much more cryptic.

42. Some of the songs themselves have hints to the public and press in their lyrics, too. For example, “Out of the Woods” contains the lyric: “Remember when you hit the brakes too soon, 20 stitches in the hospital room.” The lyrics referenced a snowmobile accident she got into with her then boyfriend that was never uncovered by the press.

43. Taylor has since explained that the wording of “hit the brakes too soon” was also a nod to the media believing they know all the facts of her life. “It was a clue to the media that they don’t know everything that happened in that relationship, or whatever happens in my life," she said. "And I can have something really major and traumatic happen and they don’t know about it.”

44. Her songwriting process changes with each song. The track she wrote with Ed Sheeran, “Everything Has Changed”, for example, was written on a trampoline. She says: “We wrote a song on a trampoline, ate some apple pie, and had a jam. It came out in 20 minutes.”

45. “Out of the Woods” was also written very quickly. Producer Jack Antanoff sent Taylor the backing track and she wrote the melody, a verse, and the chorus in just 30 minutes.

46. “All You Had to Do Was Stay” has a more unusual origin. This song came to her after a dream she had about an ex: “In it, my ex had come to the door to beg for me to talk to him. I opened up the door and I went to go say, 'Hi,' or 'What are you doing here?' or something – something normal – but all that came out was this high-pitched singing that said, 'Stay!' It was almost operatic. I woke up from the dream, said the weird part into my phone and used that sound in the song."

47. And Taylor says that “You Are in Love” was written about Jack Antonoff’s relationship with her friend Lena Dunham, based on stories of their relationship Lena had told her.

48. Weirdly, though, despite hearing the lyrics, neither Jack nor Lena recognised themselves in the song, and they weren’t aware it was about their relationship.

49. The reference to things happening “at 2 am” is a recurring theme in her songs. It’s featured as a lyric on “Breathe”, “The Way I Love You”, "Mine", “Mary’s Song”, “Enchanted”, and “I Wish You Would.”

50. Speaking of “I Wish You Would”, it was another song written to track after working with Jack Antonoff. He said: "We were talking about the snare drum on Fine Young Cannibals' 'She Drives Me Crazy'. Taylor brought it up first, and I was like: 'Holy shit, you're not going to believe this – I just sampled that snare in a track.' I played her one second of it on my iPhone, and she was like, ‘Send me that track.' That became a song called ‘I Wish You Would'."

51. Taylor says the bravest song she wrote for Red was “I Knew You Were Trouble,” because it was the first she’d written from the perspective of knowing someone is going to break your heart.

52. But she says the most emotional song she wrote for the record was “All Too Well”, The first version ended up being over 10 minutes long, and there was a lengthy process to cut it down.

53. She also says the focus on Red was not on the production or genre of the record, but on the emotion of each track. This is something she clearly changed when it came to 1989.

54. The only way to listen to 1989 prior to its release was via Taylor’s phone. The tracks were filed under the codename “Sailor Twips”, and she’d only play them over headphones out of fear of wiretaps.

55. She had to fight her record label at every turn over 1989. They didn’t like the name, the album artwork, or the fact that it featured zero country influences. In fact, after hearing the finished album, the head of her record label begged her to include at least one country song. Taylor refused.

56. And while we’re on the subject of the album artwork, Taylor fought for the image that was eventually used on the cover of 1989. The record label didn't like the fact that half of her face was cropped out of the image, but it was a deliberate move by Taylor. By not showing her whole face or any indication of her expression, Taylor said that listeners would be unable to predetermine the vibe of the album. “I didn’t want people to think, ‘Oh this is a happy album,' or 'This is a sad breakup album,'" she said.

57. But all her fighting paid off. 1989 shifted 1.29 million copies in its first week, the biggest seven-day sales of any release since 2002.

58. She also became the first artist to hit 1 million sales in a first week three times. This not only broke a record for female musicians, and for twentysomethings, but for all musicians.

Every. Tasty. Video. EVER. The new Tasty app is here!

Dismiss