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Taylor Swift’s ‘Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)’ Lyrics Breakdown: ‘Better Than Revenge’ and Vault Tracks Decoded

Taylor Swift Speak Now Taylor’s Version Lyrics Breakdown
Taylor SwiftBroadimage/Shutterstock

It’s officially 2010 again for Swifties as Taylor Swift dropped Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) on Friday, July 7.

“It’s here. It’s yours, it’s mine, it’s ours. It’s an album I wrote alone about the whims, fantasies, heartaches, dramas and tragedies I lived out as a young woman between 18 and 20,” the now-33-year-old Grammy winner wrote via Instagram upon the album’s release “I remember making tracklist after tracklist, obsessing over the right way to tell the story. I had to be ruthless with my choices, and I left behind some songs I am still unfailingly proud of now. Therefore, you have 6 From The Vault tracks! I recorded this album when I was 32 (and still growing up, now) and the memories it brought back filled me with nostalgia and appreciation.”

Swift concluded: “For life, for you, for the fact that I get to reclaim my work. Thank you a million times, for the memories that break our fall. 💥🐉🏰 Speak Now (MY VERSION!) is out now.”

In honor of the rerelease — which comes four years after she announced she would remake her first six albums after music manager Scooter Braun bought her masters via the sale of Big Machine Records — Us Weekly is breaking down the key lyrics from Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).

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‘Better Than Revenge (Taylor’s Version)’

Back in 2010, Swift infamously sang, “She’s not a saint, and she’s not what you think / she’s an actress, whoa / She’s better known for the things that she does / On the mattress, whoa” — and after years of speculation, she’s tweaked the track in the 2023 version.

“He was a moth to the flame / She was holding the matches, whoa,” the new lyrics read.

Taylor Swift Speak Now Taylor’s Version Lyrics Breakdown Camilla Belle Joe Jonas
Joe Jonas and Camilla Belle Shutterstock

Swift is long-rumored to have penned “Better Than Revenge” about Camilla Belle, the actress Joe Jonas dated shortly after he ended his romance with Swift in 2008 (via a 27-second phone call).

Four years after its original release in 2010, she addressed the discussion surrounding the song being sexist, telling The Guardian in 2014: “I was 18 when I wrote that. That’s the age you are when you think someone can actually take your boyfriend. Then you grow up and realize no one take someone from you if they don’t want to leave.”

While Swift never confirmed who the song was about, Belle, perhaps most known for starring in the 2006 remake of When a Stranger Calls, publicly took Katy Perry’s side when the “Teenage Dream” singer was feuding with Swift in 2015.

“Finding it ironic to parade the pit women against other women argument about as one unmeasurably capitalizes on the take down of a woman,” Perry tweeted after Swift falsely accused Nicki Minaj of calling her out for her MTV VMA nomination for Video of the Year. (Minaj was actually addressing the lack of Black artists in the category, and Swift admitted she “missed the point” and “misspoke.”)
Belle replied at the time, “@katyperry Couldn’t have said it better …”

Time will tell if Belle — who split from Jonas in 2009 — has any thoughts on the “mattress” lyric tweak.

‘Electric Touch (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)’

Swift tapped Fall Out Boy to join her on her first new song on Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), singing about getting back out there after heartbreak.

“Just breathe, just relax, it’ll be OK / Just an hour ’til your car’s in the driveway / Just the first time ever hangin’ out with you tonight / I’ve got my money on things goin’ badly,” she sings. “Got a history of stories ending sadly / Still hoping that the fire won’t burn me / Just one time, just one time.”

For the record, following her split from Jonas, Swift was linked to Lucas Till, Taylor Lautner (whom she penned “Back to December” about) and John Mayer (the famous inspiration behind “Dear John”) when she wrote Speak Now.

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“All I know is this could either break my heart or bring it back to life / Got a feelin’ your electric touch could fill this ghost town up with life / And I want you now, wanna need you forever / In the heat of your electric touch, mmm,” the chorus reads.

‘When Emma Falls in Love (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)’

Since Swift dropped the name of the vault songs, fans have been speculating about “When Emma Falls in Love” being about Emma Stone, whom the Grammy winner has been friends with since 2008.

Taylor Swift Speak Now Taylor’s Version Lyrics Breakdown Emma Stone
Emma Stone and Taylor Swift Hollywood News Wire/Plux/Shutterstock

“When Emma falls in love, she paces the floor / Closes the blinds and locks the door / When Emma falls in love, she calls up her mom / Jokes about the ways that this one could go wrong,” Swift sings. “She waits and takes her time / ‘Cause little miss sunshine always thinks it’s gonna rain / When Emma falls in love, I know / That boy will never be the same.”

Some listeners have connected the “little miss sunshine” lyric to Stone singing Natasha Bedingfield’s hit “Pocketful of Sunshine” in the 2010 movie Easy A.

“Cause she’s the kind of book that you can’t put down / Like if Cleopatra grew up in a small town,” the chorus reads. “And all the bad boys would be good boys / If they only had a chance to love her / And to tell you the truth, sometimes I wish I was her.”

The chatter begs the question, who did Stone “fall in love” with back then? Let Us remind you that she was linked to her Paper Man costar Kieran Culkin, whom she met while filming the comedy in 2009, at the time. While some fans want to believe Stone’s romance with Andrew Garfield could be the inspiration for the song, she didn’t meet her Peter Parker until the 2012 film The Amazing Spider-Man. (The twosome split in 2015, and she married director Dave McCrary in 2020).

‘I Can See You’ (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)’

Swift sings about a forbidden romance: “But what would you do if I went to touch you now? / What would you do if they never found us out? / What would you do if we never made a sound?”

Swift — who writes about crossing the line and keeping “everything professional” — met two of her exes in this era through work. She collaborated with Mayer on 2009’s “Half of My Heart” and costarred with Lautner in the 2010 movie Valentine’s Day.

“I can see you in your suit and your necktie / Passed me a note saying, ‘Meet me tonight’ / Then we kissed and you know I won’t ever tell, yeah / And I could see you being my addiction,” she sings. “You can see me as a secret mission / Hide away and I will start behaving myself.”

‘Castles Crumbling (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)’

Swifties quickly tied “Castles Crumbling” to track 14 on Speak Now, “Long Live,” declaring it a “dark sister” and “antithesis” of the popular song about her connection with her fans.

Taylor Swift Speak Now Taylor’s Version Lyrics Breakdown Kanye West VMA 2009
Kanye West and Taylor Swift YouTube

“Once, I had an empire in a golden age / I was held up so high, I used to be great / They used to cheer when they saw my face / Now, I fear I have fallen from grace,” she sings. Swift could be addressing the infamous 2009 VMAs incident in which she believed she was being booed as Kanye West stormed the stage and declared Beyoncé should’ve won the award for best female video. (She wrote Speak Now’s “Innocent” about West.)

Taking on the chorus with Paramore’s Hayley Williams, they sing: “And I feel like my castle’s crumbling down / And I watch all my bridges burn to the ground / And you don’t want to know me, I will just let you down / You don’t wanna know me now.”

Swift has addressed her self-doubt and fears about maintaining her massive success over the years, singing about the same topics in Red (Taylor’s Version)’s “Nothing New (From the Vault)” and Midnights’ “Anti-Hero.”

There are also noticeable parallels to Reputation’s “Call It What You Want,” in which she sings, “My castle crumbled overnight. … And I know I make the same mistakes every time / Bridges burn, I never learn.”

‘Foolish One (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)’

Singing about missing the signs — as she did in “Dear John” (“And I’ll look back and regret how I ignored when they said / ‘Run as fast as you can’”) — Swift may have penned this track about her whirlwind romance with Mayer.

Taylor Swift Speak Now Taylor’s Version Lyrics Breakdown John Mayer
John Mayer and Taylor Swift Amanda Schwab/Starpix/Shutterstock

“You give me just enough attention to keep my hopes too high / Wishful thoughts forget to mention when something’s really not right,” the first verse states. “And I will block out these voices of reason in my head.”

Swift not-so-cryptically asked fans not to come for Mayer for hurting her when she was 19 ahead of Speak Now’s rerelease.

“And the voices say, ‘You are not the exception / You will never learn your lesson,’” she sings before the chorus. “Foolish one / Stop checkin’ your mailbox for confessions of love / That ain’t never gonna come / You will take the long way, you will take the long way down.”

‘Timeless (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)’

Swift included photos of her grandparents in the lyric video for “Timeless” shared via YouTube, singing about a lasting love story. (She penned “Marjorie” on 2020’s Evermore about her grandmother too.)

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“On a crowded street in 1944 / And you werе headed off to fight in the war / You still would’ve been mine / We would have been timeless,” she sings. “I would’ve read your love letters every single night / And prayed to God you’d be comin’ home all right / And you would’ve been fine / We would have been timeless.”

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