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Lyrics can be interpreted so many different ways – and sometimes when you find a new interpretation of something, it makes you love it even more. 

We all know Taylor Swift is one of the greatest songwriters of our generation. A reason she is so popular is because so many people – especially young women – see themselves in her songs. Her lyrics are so personal and metaphorical, and tell stories that can be interpreted in so many different ways. Here are some of my favorite hidden meanings in Taylor Swift songs. 

  1. “I was there, I remember it”

We all know and love the song “All Too Well,” and when the 10 minute version came out in 2021, we all fell even deeper in love with it. Throughout the 10 minutes and 13 seconds of this song, Taylor repeats the lyric “I was there, I remember it” many times. I love to interpret this song as her repeating herself as her partner tries to gaslight her and tell her that she remembers something wrong. Despite his efforts to make her feel crazy, Taylor ensures herself, “I was there, I remember it.” Being gaslighted is a universal experience for women, which is why this lyric is so powerful. 

  1. “Hope this never ends / I’d never walk Cornelia Street again”

I like to think of “walking Cornelia Street” as a metaphor for falling in love. God forbid Taylor ever lost her partner, the heartbreak would be so painful that she believes she would never fall in love again. Or, metaphorically “walk the street” that they walked together again. 

  1. “I knew you, playing hide and seek and giving me your weekends”

This lyric from “Cardigan” seems innocent at first glance, implying that the characters Betty and James have fun during their weekends together. I like to think of “hide and seek” as a metaphor. However, Betty is saying that James always played games with her, disappearing physically and emotionally for days at a time while she wondered where he was. Was he hiding something from her? As we learn in the songs “Betty” and “August,” he was.

  1. “Remember when I pulled up and said ‘Get in the car,’ and then canceled my plans just in case you’d call”

A beautiful interpretation of the song “August” implies that the character repeating this lyric over and over again is symbolic of how minimal her experiences with James were. While Betty was able to fill the song “Cardigan” with three unique choruses, “August” had to repeat the same lyrics over and over throughout the course of the song, because James never truly gave her all of him (hence the lyric, “So much for summer love and saying “us,” ’cause you weren’t mine to lose”).

  1. “Now I’ve read all of the books beside your bed”

This lyric from “Paper Rings” doesn’t only show the progression of time, but also gorgeously explains how falling in love can make someone fascinated with the way their partner’s brain works. As you fall deeper and deeper in love, you want to understand their interests and get an insight into their mind – and the metaphor of reading the books beside someone’s bed explains this perfectly.

  1. “Call my bluff, call you ‘babe’”

This lyric in “It’s Nice to Have a Friend” fascinates me, because, in my opinion, it summarizes the album “Lover” perfectly. “1989,” Taylor’s album about being single and independent, uses the imagery of games to explain love (“Love’s a game, wanna play?” and “He can’t see it in my face, but I’m about to play my Ace”). Years later on “Lover,” Taylor’s album about being in love, she puts all of those games aside when her partner “calls her bluff.” For the first time, love is not for show; it is real.

  1. “What am I defending now?” / “Who am I offending now?”

This chilling lyric from “Exile” perfectly explains the contrast between how men and women view love and heartbreak. While Bon Iver is concerned with “defending” his partner as if she is his property, Taylor Swift is concerned with “offending” her partner. Which is a common experience for women who are scrutinized for being too emotional or hysterical. 

  1. “Peter losing Wendy”

In the song “Cardigan,” Taylor uses this lyric to symbolize the characters Betty and James parting ways. I like to think about how Peter Pan lost Wendy because he refused to grow up just like how the character James constantly used the excuse “I’m only 17” to defend his actions that hurt Betty. 

This list could go on and on, because throughout Swift’s 10 studio albums, she tells stories that are universally understood. She is a master of metaphors, and the great thing about metaphors is that we can take them and interpret them however we want. That’s why her music speaks so flawlessly to so many people.

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Emma Barber

Montclair '23

Emma is a senior at Montclair State University, studying Social Media & Public Relations and Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies.