Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Mean" Song Meaning

Today's Taylor Swift song, the meaning of "Mean" from her "Speak Now" album.

Mean Cover art, courtesy of
Let me just say I love this song!  It is one of my favorites on the album. I really relate to Taylor Swift here.

In an interview with People magazine Taylor said, "Some days I'm fine and I can just brush it off and go about my day, but some days it absolutely levels me. All I can do is continue to try to work hard every single day and feel everything. I think it's important to feel things because I then write songs about that. The whole idea of being criticized and the fact that that entered my life made for a song that I'm very proud of on the record called 'Mean.'" 

I so relate to that comment, sometimes I can brush off criticism, sometimes it just stays and stays and stays with me.  I too like to get out emotions using the written word.  I have a poem journal and regular prose journals.  I especially think of one person when I hear this song that criticized me relentlessly.  It took me forever to get over the criticism, but I am finally free of it.  And this song just helped a little more.

What was the situation in Taylor's life that spawned this song?

His evil name was Bob Lefsetz.  I only include his review here because it is what spawned the song.  I do not agree with it or endorse his words in any way.  Don't read it if you don't want to get mad. It's in really small print too, because that's how I feel about his words.


Everybody could sing!  Could almost make you a Celine Dion fan.  Especially after experiencing Taylor Swift.

How awful was she?


"Fearless" deserved to win Album of the Year.  I was glad it did.  Scuttlebutt was it was DMB’s year, but to say "GrooGrux" is good is to be a tie-dyed hippie hanging out in the parking lot before a show that features great playing but mediocre material.  "GrooGrux" sold to a small coterie, most people don’t care.  But Taylor Swift is as mainstream as you can get.  Triumphing in two formats.  Speaking her truth to her audience.  I love "Fearless".  You can play it from start to finish, again and again, it’s honest.  But last night’s performance…

Do you remember Billy Squier’s pink video?  Which killed his career overnight?  Take a peek: 

Billy Squier "Rock Me Tonite"
What was a hard rocker doing prancing around in a pink tank top?  What was a neophyte artist doing sharing a stage with a legend who made it before auto-tune, before studio tricks could make anybody a singer?

I don’t need to analyze the performance.  (H..., what I don’t get is how Taylor rearranged her own hit song.) But what I am interested in is the impact.  Because now, everybody knows that Taylor Swift can’t sing.  Is this what they’ll remember?

Now unlike Billy Squier’s pink video, there won’t be endless repetition on MTV.  And one can question how much of the target audience saw this performance.  But the cognoscenti did, and to what degree do they now want to distance themselves from Ms. Swift?

In other words, did Taylor Swift kill her career overnight?

I’ll argue she did.  Oh, I’m not fully convinced of that, but let’s start from this position.

She’ll be even further hated in Nashville (and what kind of fucked up world do we live in where the CMAs are better than the Grammys?)  I’d love to say whored out Top Forty radio stations will ignore her, but this is doubtful, still…

In one fell swoop, Taylor Swift consigned herself to the dustbin of teen phenoms.  Who we expect to burn brightly and then fade away.  From New Kids On The Block to Backstreet Boys to Miley Cyrus.  A wall is created, stating you can’t come any further.  Debbie Gibson can appear in shows on Broadway, but she can’t have a hit record, the powers-that-be won’t let it happen.

Taylor’s too young and dumb to understand the mistake she made.  And those surrounding her are addicted to cash and are afraid to tell her no.  But last night Taylor Swift SHOULD have auto-tuned.  To save her career.

They say it’s easy to fake it in the twenty first century.

But one thing we know is the truth will always come out.

It’s hard to be a singer if you can’t sing.

Ultimately, we want our stars to be genuine.  Without this credibility, your time atop the charts is brief.

Taylor Swift shortened her career last night.  And since she says she calls all her own shots, she has to shoulder the blame.  Yes, her dream came true, she made it, she’s a star, but the real test is longevity.  Elton John can play with GaGa decades later.  Will Taylor Swift be duetting with the stars of the 2030s?  Doubtful.

Okay it's the end of the letter you can look again.  I have a couple of things to say to Bob.  You are going to sitting in a "bar, talking over a football game with that same big loud opinion but nobody's listening....Drunk and grumbling on about how I can't sing." Taylor is still going to be famous and she can sing.  Look at how well "Speak Now" has done and how just the first two songs of her new album "Red" have done.  Everything she touches is gold.

Last of all here are some more words from Taylor about the song,   “There’s constructive criticism, there’s professional criticism, and then there’s just being mean. And there’s a line that you cross when you just start to attack everything about a person… This happens no matter what you do, no matter how old you are, no matter what your job is, no matter what your place is in life, there’s always gonna be someone who’s just mean to you. And dealing with that is all that you can control, how you handle it. This song is about how I handle it.”

Ditto Taylor!  There is definitely a difference between constructive criticism and just being mean!  Thanks for giving everyone a way to deal with all the mean people.

I absolutely love the feel of this video.


  1. i watched her singing she sounded fine without autotune

    1. not just fine, but amazing! watch her sing 'mean' live on "The Speak Now World Tour" on dvd or cd :)


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