By Hailey Abdilla
Taylor Swift’s most recent re-record of her 2012 album, Red debuted some new songs from the vault that she was unable to put on the original album such as “Nothing New” and “I Bet You Think About Me.” Despite the masterpiece her newest songs are, her most iconic song on the re-record is the extended version of one of Taylor’s most heart-breaking songs, “All Too Well.” The original version portrays the story of a young woman who is mourning the loss of a relationship as she painfully remembers the good moments rather than the bad. The extended version gives listeners a deeper look into the relationship as Taylor becomes much more straight-forward with the faults in the relationship, rather than the happy memories. “Any time now he’s gonna say it’s love, you never called it what it was,” the first glimpse we get of the more accusatory side of the song as Taylor explains how her significant other failed to tell her that he loved her. She goes further to explain that he didn’t express his love until the relationship had ended, “after three months in the grave,” as in the relationship had been dead for three months. The song continues until we hit another painful lyric, “you kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath.” Taylor accuses her ex of treating her like something he wasn’t proud of, explaining that she felt that he kept her a secret because he was ashamed whereas she treated him like something to protect, something that was important to her, an oath. The bridge of “All Too Well” is arguably some of Taylor’s best song-writing, with powerful lyrics such as “you call me up again just to break me like a promise” and “so casually cruel in the name of being honest.” Taylor compares herself to a promise, highlighting the innocence and trust that she held in the relationship that her ex was willing to break.
Another example of Taylor’s masterful writing is her ability to make references to other songs of hers. For example, she sings “all’s well that ends well, but I’m in a new hell,” which strikingly resembles a lyric from one of Taylor’s later songs from a different album, Lover. In Taylor’s song “Lover” which was released in 2019, Swift sings “all’s well that ends well to end up with you,” highlighting a beautiful transition, from heartbroken in 2012 to discovering a new love in 2019. Taylor makes other references to her plethora of songs, singing “but then he watched me watch the front door all night willin you to come, and he said it’s supposed to be fun, turning 21.” This makes a reference to Taylor’s song “The Moment I Knew” where she sings about the time her ex failed to show up to her twenty-first birthday party. Furthermore, Taylor makes various references to the fact that her ex consistently called her unfunny. In “All Too Well” she states “and I was never good at telling jokes,” in “Begin Again” she proclaims “I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny cause, he never did,” and in “I Bet You Think About Me” Taylor exclaims “you laughed at my dreams, rolled your eyes at my jokes.” Clearly, Taylor was repeatedly told that she was unamusing, and she has made it clear through her songs that she disagrees.
Despite Taylors excellent song-writing throughout the entirety of the song, I think the most powerful lyrics are the lines that highlight the age difference and the difference in life-experiences between a 20 year old Taylor and a 30 year old Jake Gyllenhaal (who “All Too Well” is supposedly about). Taylor sings about her innocence, stating “but you keep my old scarf from that very first week, cause it reminds you of innocence and it smells like me.” Taylor elucidates to the fact that she began their relationship as an innocent twenty year old, and that innocence was lost through her relationship with Jake. Scarves don’t represent innocence, unless the person wearing the scarf represents innocence. Taylor ends the songs with one of her most accusatory statements, “I’ll get older, but your lovers stay my age.” The entirety of Taylor’s song perpetuates her relationship with a man who was much older than her, and changed her life forever, in more negative than positive ways. After we listen to the heartbreak that this relationship wrought, Taylor states that her ex would do it all again with another girl, which should be upsetting for any empathetic person who truly feels the pain weaved throughout the track. Whether you side with Taylor Swift or her ex Jake Gyllenhaal, it’s evident that their relationship ended in anguish and heartache for Taylor, which she was thankfully able to turn into a pretty incredible song.