Swift Analysis: The (Almost) Definitive Guide to the Subjects of All 19 ‘Red’ Songs

Page 2 of 3

4. "I Knew You Were Trouble"

Clue: "When you saw me dancing"

Many people were quick to peg this as a Gyllenhaal slap when it came out on iTunes a few weeks ago. The "trouble" with that is the lyrics make it sound like there was not much love lost when this one came to an end, and she always knew it would end badly, which hardly seems to be the case in the overtly Jake-centered breakup songs. Also, get a load of the bridge: "The saddest fear comes creeping in that you never loved me, or her... or anyone..." This suggests that there was a romantic rival that brought the relationship to an end. Now, if you've been reading the latest gossip about Swift's supposed romance with One Direction's Harry Styles last spring, you know that it allegedly all came to an end when she saw tabloid photos of him canoodling with another woman. So: advantage, Styles. But the hidden message also has some import here. Swift and pal Selena Gomez were seen dancing to One Direction last year in the front row at the Kids' Choice Awards. That may well be where Styles "saw (her) dancing."

Best bet: Styles

Our confidence level: 75%

5. "All Too Well"

Clue: "Maple lattes"

Honestly, this one's a no-brainer. It takes place in autumn – when Swift was dating Gyllenhaal – and includes references to meeting the ex-boyfriend's family. There are references to a "scarf from that very first week" that the ex never returned when he sent back her other stuff, and of course Swift was first photographed by paparazzi walking the streets of New York with Jake wearing a scarf, in a walking clinch that almost looked like a sweet recreation of the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. But that hidden message – come on. Google "maple lattes" and one of the first things that comes up is a November 2010 People magazine story about this particular couple sharing that particular beverage at a Starbucks.

Best bet: Gyllenhaal

Our confidence level: 99%

6. "22"

Clue: "Ashley Dianna Claire Selena"

These were apparently the attendants at a 22nd birthday celebration.

Best bets: Ashley Avignone, Dianna Agron, Claire Callaway, and Selena Gomez.

Our confidence level: 99%

7. "I Almost Do"

Clue: "Wrote this instead of calling"

Swift was clearly feeling some post-breakup ambivalence when she wrote this one, which is about barely resisting the urge to make a reconciliatory phone call in the wake of a split. "Each time you reach out," she sings, "there's no reply/I bet it never, ever occurred to you/That I can't say hello to you and risk another goodbye." This would seem to suggest the song is a partner with "State of Grace," which bears a hidden message indicating that the beau in question tried to say "I love you" after instigating the split. Swift's clear ongoing affection for the subject of the song clearly rules out a regretted quickie romance, i.e., Styles. So unless she's dipping further back into her romantic past (which is not her usual writing m.o.), the process of elimination leaves one guy.

Best bet: Gyllenhaal

Our confidence level: 85%

8. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"

Clue: "When I stopped caring what you thought"

The assumption about this first single was that it had to be about Gyllenhaal, but that was before there was widespread speculation that Styles had figured into last year's mix for Swift. The lyrics really aren't much help, since they speak of multiple breakups and reunions, and none of Swift's recent publicly known relationships have seemed that protracted. She tells the story of getting a visit in the studio from a friend of the ex who loudly talked about the couple getting back together – and it seems more likely that a friend of a One Direction member would happen to be in a recording studio than a friend of an actor. But the fact that Swift admits caring about the relationship for a long time after it was over, and mentions a post-split "I love you" phone call like the ones references in earlier songs, points toward the first assumption being right.

Best bet: Gyllenhaal

Our confidence level: 60%

9. "Stay Stay Stay"

Clue: "Daydreaming about real love"

Since this is the most cheerful song on the album aside from a couple at the end that are clearly about Conor Kennedy, some fans have assumed this one is, too. They point toward a reference to the sweet new boyfriend donning a football helmet to add some levity to a tense moment, and Kennedy plays football, so... it has to be, no? Well, no, because the hidden message informs us that the song is a "daydream." A reality-inspired daydream, perhaps – we're not ruling Kennedy out! – but more likely just a daydream-daydream, intended to add some hope and light in the middle of a dark stretch of the album.

Best bet: Non-existent fantasy lover

Our confidence level: 70%

10. "The Last Time"

Clue: "LA on your break"

"All the times I let you in/Just for you to go again" makes it clear that this is probably the same on-again/off-again relationship alluded to in "We Are Never Getting Back Together," and that suggests Gyllenhaal. But the reference to a "best apology" could mean either Jake or Harry, since it sounds like they both did some apologizing. The "L.A." hidden message? Not helping us here.

Best bet: Gyllenhaal

Our confidence level: 50%

11. "Holy Ground"

Clue: "When you came to the show in SD"

Who came to Swift's show last year in San Diego? Or South Dakota? No idea here – sorry. But the fact that Swift would still think of their shared ground as hallowed after the fact would seem to rule in potential-great-love Gyllenhaal and rule out silly-boy Styles. The reference to "New York time" cements it.

Best bet: Gyllenhaal

Our confidence level: 75%

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Yahoo Our Country Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Whoomp! (There It Is)”

Tag Team | 1993

Cecil Glenn — a.k.a., "D.C." — was a cook at Magic City, a nude dance club in Atlanta, when he first heard women shout "Whoomp — there it is!" Inspired by the party chant, he and partner Steve "Roll'n" Gibson wrote a song around it. Undaunted by label rejections, they borrowed $2,500 from Glenn's parents and pressed 800 singles, which quickly sold out in the Atlanta area. A record deal came soon after. Glenn said the song was meant for positive partying. "If you're going to say 'Whoomp there it is,' and you're doing something negative, we'd rather it not have come out of your mouth."

More Song Stories entries »