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I am unwell: Review Of “All Too Well” (Taylor’s Version)

Stereotypically, boy-bands are said to have the most intense fanbase but Taylor Swift’s fan base might top the list. As I am writing this, the 10-minute version of the 2012 hit has become the longest song to reach number 1 according to Billboard

In 2021 Swift released the 5-minute version of “All Too Well,” It had no video and no separate promotions. Swift did not anticipate what this one song would bring to her career or her name. When redoing her fourth album, she ensured the fan-favorite would get what is deserved just 9 years later. Not only did she release two versions of the song, but she also wrote, produced, and starred in a short film for the song. She cast two up-and-coming actors, Sadie Sink from Stranger Things and heart-throb Dylan O’Brien from Teen Wolf and Maze Runner. 

The two actors are even believed to represent Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal, who the song is rumored to be about. Sink and O’Brien are just 11 years apart, which is too close to Swift and Gyllenhaal’s age gap at 9 years to not be intentional. Swift has been known to place Easter Eggs throughout her songs, interviews, and music videos, and it was no different with this song release. Specific lyrics point at their age difference: his sister’s house and the red scarf she left at her house. All these things point to Gyllenhaal and it is something she has never denied. But whoever the song was written about, is not who the song is for. It was written for herself and her fans and that is where it stands today, too. 

I was not always a Swift fan; in fact, I went on several rebellious phases where I refused to listen to her. It was either her or Harry Styles and I had to pick the latter (obviously). Recently, I have been drawn to her storytelling and it is a style I have been trying to mimic in my own writing. Before she released the redone version I was listening to the full album and immediately was drawn to “All Too Well,” so I eagerly awaited the remake. Listening to it the first time was no disappointment but I was even more excited for the longer version. I craved every detail and she left no gaps in the telling of her story and I love that she chose to give us the missing pieces. 

Verse 1

I walked through the door with you, the air was cold

But somethin’ ’bout it felt like home somehow

And I left my scarf there at your sister’s house

And you’ve still got it in your drawer, even now

By beginning the song this way she easily sets the tone and feel of the song. The scarf mentioned has long been one of the most talked-about details of the song and the ten-minute version includes even more clues. Swift also brings up two-time lines— the first being the past and the second is her reflecting on it now.

Verse 2

Oh, your sweet disposition and my wide-eyed gaze

We’re singin’ in the car, getting lost upstate

Autumn leaves fallin’ down like pieces into place

And I can picture it after all these days

This verse has a longing feel to it and a slight undertone of regret. So far, the song only includes positive details of the relationship which highlights the goodness of it in the beginning. The line “Autumn leaves fallin’ down like pieces into place” also points at a shift in the seasons and their relationship.

Pre-Chorus

And I know it’s long gone and

That magic’s not here no more

And I might be okay, but I’m not fine at all

Oh, oh, oh

The Pre-Chorus offers a switch in the tone of the song and it comes from a further perspective and leaves listeners sitting on the sidelines with Swift. 

Chorus

‘Causе there we are again on that little town street

You almost ran the red ’cause you were lookin’ over at me

Wind in my hair, I was there

I remember it all too well

Swift seems to reflect on some of her favorite moments and how they burn in her memory as she says “I remember it all too well.” 

Verse 3

Photo album on the counter, your cheeks were turnin’ red

You used to be a little kid with glasses in a twin-sized bed

And your mother’s tellin’ stories ’bout you on the tee-ball team

You taught me ’bout your past, thinkin’ your future was me

And you were tossing me the car keys, “Fuck the patriarchy”

Keychain on the ground, we were always skippin’ town

And I was thinkin’ on the drive down, “Any time now

He’s gonna say it’s love,” you never called it what it was

‘Til we were dead and gone and buried

Check the pulse and come back swearin’ it’s the same

After three months in the grave

And then you wondered where it went to as I reached for you

But all I felt was shame and you held my lifeless frame

The third verse includes so many details that clear up a lot of questions. This one is littered with negatives and it comes later in the song which mimics the events of the relationship. Often times things start out okay but fall apart with time—this one was no different and she realizes this. The line “You taught me ’bout your past, thinkin’ your future was me” never fails to break me. Each time it comes on I scream it with Swift. Swift also places a certain amount of blame on her lover as she says in disappointment “you never called it what it was.” The ending of this verse also includes a specific time frame for the relationship when she sings “Check the pulse and come back swearin’ it’s the same / After three months in the grave.”

Pre-Chorus

And I know it’s long gone and

There was nothing else I could do

And I forget about you long enough

To forget why I needed to

Chorus

‘Cause there we are again in the middle of the night

We’re dancin’ ’round the kitchen in the refrigerator light

Down the stairs, I was there

I remember it all too well

And there we are again when nobody had to know

You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath

Sacred prayer and we’d swear

To remember it all too well, yeah


I love the chorus! The music dances around the lyrics and the words and music are beautifully written and paired together. I also gravitate to the chorus because it clearly has contrasting parts. The beginning includes positive highs of the relationship as she sings “’Cause there we are again in the middle of the night / We’re dancin’ ’round the kitchen in the refrigerator light.” She paints young love in a way that feels comforting and safe. But by the end of the chorus Swift paints a very different picture. She sings “You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath” which clearly points to an imbalance within the relationship. It seems as if she is proud to be seen with him but he wants something more private and closed off.

Bridge

Well, maybe we got lost in translation, maybe I asked for too much

But maybe this thing was a masterpiece ’til you tore it all up

Runnin’ scared, I was there

I remember it all too well

And you call me up again just to break me like a promise

So casually cruel in the name of bein’ honest

I’m a crumpled-up piece of paper lyin’ here

‘Cause I remember it all, all, all

This comes from Swift’s inner thoughts and is written as something that feels confessional and private. She seems to ask herself “maybe I asked for too much?” and instinctively blames herself for the failed relationship. She then seems to stop herself in the middle of her thought and thinks “but maybe this thing was a masterpiece ’til you tore it all up.” My favorite lines here are by far “And you call me up again just to break me like a promise / So casually cruel in the name of bein’ honest.”

Verse 4

They say all’s well that ends well, but I’m in a new hell

Every time you double-cross my mind

You said if we had been closer in age, maybe it would’ve been fine

And that made me want to die

The idea you had of me, who was she?

A never-needy, ever-lovely jewel whose shine reflects on you

Not weepin’ in a party bathroom

Some actress askin’ me what happened, you

That’s what happened, you

You who charmed my dad with self-effacing jokes

Sippin’ coffee like you’re on a late-night show

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 twenty-one”

This verse, like verse three, offers a lot of specific details that add a lot to the story. She writes that “You said if we had been closer in age, maybe it would’ve been fine / And that made me want to die.” Age seems to have been one of the major pieces that broke their relationship and it seems to not have been Swift’s choice.

Verse 5

Time won’t fly, it’s like I’m paralyzed by it

I’d like to be my old self again, but I’m still tryin’ to find it

After plaid shirt days and nights when you made me your own

Now you mail back my things and I walk home alone

But you keep my old scarf from that very first week

‘Cause it reminds you of innocence and it smells like me

You can’t get rid of it

‘Cause you remember it all too well, yeah

This verse, similar to the bridge, has a confessional and private feel to it. She is not speaking to her lover but to herself. The detail of the scarf is brought up again as she sings “But you keep my old scarf from that very first week / ‘Cause it reminds you of innocence and it smells like me / 

You can’t get rid of it.” 

This idea of memories being scattered around is part of the journey Swift walks listeners through. Verse One focuses on his sister’s house and her leaving the scarf there, verse two focuses on them singing along in the car, verse three shows her seeing into his childhood and his own innocence, verse four and five highlight the problem of their relationship and verse six focuses on the time after the breakup.

Chorus

‘Cause there we are again when I loved you so

Back before you lost the one real thing you’ve ever known

It was rare, I was there

I remember it all too well

Wind in my hair, you were there

You remember it all

Down the stairs, you were there

You remember it all

It was rare, I was there

I remember it all too well

If one part of this song could summarize it I would say it’s the chorus. It holds feelings of regret and loss while also showing how great the relationship was at it’s peak. There is a sense of mutual pain as she places both of them at the scene as she interchanges “You were there” with “I was there.” 

Verse 6

And I was never good at tellin’ jokes, but the punch line goes

“I’ll get older, but your lovers stay my age”

From when your Brooklyn broke my skin and bones

I’m a soldier who’s returning half her weight

And did the twin flame bruise paint you blue?

Just between us, did the love affair maim you too?

‘Cause in this city’s barren cold

I still remember the first fall of snow

And how it glistened as it fell

I remember it all too well

This is one of the verses that was added to the longer version and it holds many details that were originally withheld. These lines point to the breaking moment of the relationship as she points to their age difference. At the time of the rewrite, Gyllenhaal continues to date women in their twenties which contrasts with why he ended things. If her age wasn’t working then why is he still pursuing young women? She asks this question and gives us this information in poignant prose that allows for her honest storytelling to shine. My favorite lines in this verse are “And did the twin flame bruise paint you blue? / Just between us, did the love affair maim you too?” The diction in this verse parallels the language she uses in Folklore and Evermore. One can see the parts that are added as she has a more mature tone and there is almost a feeling of acceptance in the added verses. 

Outro

Just between us, did the love affair maim you all too well?

Just between us, do you remember it all too well?

Just between us, I remember it (Just between us) all too well

Wind in my hair, I was there, I was there (I was there)

Down the stairs, I was there, I was there

Sacred prayer, I was there, I was there

It was rare, you remember it all too well

Wind in my hair, I was there, I was there (Oh)

Down the stairs, I was there, I was there (I was there)

Sacred prayer, I was there, I was there

It was rare, you remember it (All too well)

Wind in my hair, I was there, I was there

Down the stairs, I was there, I was there

Sacred prayer, I was there, I was there

It was rare, you remember it

Wind in my hair, I was there, I was there

Down the stairs, I was there, I was there

Sacred prayer, I was there, I was there

It was rare, you remember it

Swift ends the song with lots of repetition, which ties the story together in a beautiful way. It is also interesting to note that she ends it with the use of “I” and does not include any reference to her ex-lover except for the use of the word “us.” This could be Swift’s way of claiming her version of how the relationship ended. She just knows her side of the story and that is the side she tells. Taylor Swift is an artist I have only begun listening to recently; however, she is someone I look up to greatly. If you are not a Swiftie, I still encourage you to at least watch the short film and bask in the new story that Swift has chosen to share with us.

My name is Emily Venné and I am a junior at Winona State University. I am double majoring in Literature and Language and also Writing Option. When my nose isn't buried in a book, I am either writing, hanging out with friends, or binge-watching my favorite tv shows. I dream of one day working in either publishing or editing, and maybe even writing a book of my own. <3
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