Taylor Swift Decoded: The Stories of 1989

TSwiftSongDeciphering.RachelJohannes Imma let you finish, but “1989” is the best Taylor Swift era of all time.

Sure, we grew up with “Fearless,” and maybe “Speak Now” was one of your first real stadium concerts, but numbers speak for themselves: Ms. Swift has seriously sold over a million copies of the No. 1 record in its debut week.

While “1989” is new for Swift with regards to the hypnotic beats and new-wave pop sound that is recurring with each amazing song, the song-writing is very much still Classic Swift–giving us the right amount of shade, the right amount of heartbreak and lyrics that are downright poetic. Just in time for the announcement of the 1989 World Tour, Valley has the inside scoop on what exactly some of these sketchy songs could really mean (because we’re Taylor’s personal friends, of course.)

Blank Space”

This song is a favorite of mine for many reasons. On first listen, it’s just a fun song with a catchy beat and just the right amount of echoes and Swift’s amazing harmony. However, on a second listen, the song is definitely making fun of the way the mainstream media makes fun of her with lyrics like “And I know you’ve heard about me” and “Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane.” This song is describing her pain now, after years of her dating life’s ridicule, about how she feels like she can’t date like a normal 24-year-old girl anymore. She has to watch her every step, and she expects guys she meets to run away and hide. People can say what they want about her dating habits, the difference is now is that she doesn’t care. Rock on.

“Out of the Woods”

Okay, there is no way in hell this song isn’t about Harry Styles. Any diehard fan of Swift (or if you just bothered to Google her name or go on Tumblr) is aware of the fact that Taylor would frequently wear a paper airplane necklace that reportedly belonged to the One Direction member, and she would frequently flaunt this during their short-lived relationship. The lyrics in this song really speak for themselves with the following line: “Your necklace hanging from my neck, the night we couldn’t quite forget when we decided to move the furniture so we could dance, baby like we stood a chance, two paper airplanes flying, flying.” Taylor also said in her Rolling Stone cover story that her and Styles were in a snowmobile accident, hinting at the final verse of the song about hospital rooms and windows and “when you hit the brakes too soon, 20 stitches in the hospital room.” Seriously though, why is this tidbit not headline news? Doesn’t every teenage girl in the world bleed when Harry Styles bleeds?

“Bad Blood”

Katy Perry and Taylor Swift fans knew who this song was about the second Swift released the title of the track months ago, and dreaded the day of its release. The internet is probably bursting into flames right now, as #KatyKats and #Swifties duke it out on Twitter and say how much the respective opposing singer sucks eggs. The rumor behind this one is that Katy stole some of Taylor’s dancers for her own tour, jeopardizing Swift’s tour entirely (whether this ties into the recently announced 1989 World Tour, or the Red Tour last year is unknown.) It’s actually really sad, considering there are several pictures of the two at award shows being all cute and famous. Swift gets extra dark in this song with lyrics like “Band-aid’s don’t fix bullet holes, You say sorry just for show.” Ouch. Katy, you’re up, where is your angsty song?

Now that we’ve covered the real dirt, here’s a further track-by-track mini breakdown:

“Welcome to New York”

This song represents the new era of Taylor, as the singer recently just bought a penthouse in New York City (jealous). It’s the perfect opening track, and showcases the musical vibe for the rest of the album: new, adventurous and the beginning of a new chapter.


Taylor herself in a recent interview said that the basis of the song is that she is comparing the return, or longevity of a trend in fashion to the return to a love interest that floats in and out of your life. This definitely doesn’t scream John Mayer to me. Maybe Jake Gyllenhaal? Either way, this song is bound to get stuck in your head.

“All You Had to Do Was Stay”

This album, if you look at the track order, tells a story from start to finish (from Welcome to New York to the dramatic closer, Clean.) It’s no coincendece that this track falls after Out of the Woods, giving the story a plot twist that yes, they did manage to find their way out of the woods, but once in the clear, mystery man decided to flake out again. Harry Styles, I’m still looking at you here for this one.

“Shake It Off”

Does this one even need an explanation at this point?

“I Wish You Would”

This song is the midpoint of the album, and it sounds a bit repetitive with the message, which is very similar to “All You Had to Do Was Stay.” New York Times critics raved this song was the best, and I would like to direct them to listen to “I Know Places” and rewrite their thoughts.

“Wildest Dreams”

This songs speaks to the soul as you pass by a random attractive stranger: “He’s so tall and handsome as hell.” I feel your pain, Taylor. Boys are too much for me.

“How You Get the Girl” & “This Love”

These two songs both have the classic Swift sound and song-writing to an almost cheesy extent. If you’re trying to dig on the vibe of “1989,” leave these two out of your listens.

“I Know Places”

I could write novels about how much I adore this track. I might. It’s so DRAMATIC. And describes how Swift has to physically hide her relationships from the rest of the world. She can’t simply cross the street hand-in-hand with a guy, because they will get absolutely mobbed, and sexist American media will hint at the song she’ll write about him later.


This final track wraps “1989” with a perfect wine-stained white dress bow. It’s very insightful to how Swift has grown into herself, and how her walls have ultimately come down and how she’s managed to find an outlet. It’s beautiful, you might cry and it’s definitely your new post-breakup-now-I’m-human-again jam.

Photo by Rachel Johannes


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