Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"I Knew You Were Trouble" Song Meaning

Today's Taylor Swift song is the meaning of "I Knew You Were Trouble" from her "Red" album.

This song is definitely a pop song.  It has a catchy chorus, a distinct beat and her voice is definitely in pop mode. I love it.

In her preview of the song on Good Morning America Taylor said, "The song we're releasing tonight ... it's a song that's one of my favorite songs on the album because it sounds just as chaotic as the feeling was when I wrote it. It's a song about kind of being frustrated with yourself because you have your heart broken and you knew when you first saw that person you saw all these red flags and you just went for it anyway, 'So, shame on me.' "

Who is this song about?  I had my suspicions when I first heard the song, but after watching the music video I definitely know who it is. It is about John Mayer!

Here are some of the clues from the lyrics. The first is, "Once upon a time, a few mistakes ago".  There are some rumblings that this is about Harry Styles, it is not, why not?  This line.  John Mayer was definitely a few mistakes ago.

She says that this guy "never loved me or her or anyone or anything."  And that as soon as she "fell hard" he "took a step back."  How many women has John Mayer tried to get just so he could dump them?  Taylor definitely knew he was "trouble when you walked in" and in the end "heard you moved on from whispers on the street" and she knew she was just "a new notch in your belt."  She sings about not really knowing the status of their relationship, just wanting to talk to him again when she saw him CMT awards in the song "The Story of Us".   John Mayer clearly never gave any closure to Taylor, boo John Mayer.

The other clues come from the music video.  The guy in the music video has a lot of tattoos  as does John Mayer.  The guy in the music video plays the guitar and is a musician, John Mayer certainly is that.  The other may come from the necklace that is featured prominently in the video.  It seems to be one that is half of another necklace, and it appears that the guy in the video is wearing the other half at times.  He gives this necklace to her and is seen wearing it.  In the end she drops it on the ground to signify the end of their relationship.  Taylor and John sang "Half of My Heart" together for John's album "Continuum".  Taylor is also seen wearing a leather jacket, much like one that John Mayer wore while they were dating.

What is most important about this song though is Taylor communicating her feelings about how she lost herself in the whole relationship.  In the music video she has a voice narration introduction, she says "I think that the worst part of it all wasn't losing him, it was losing me".  She knew "his world moved too fast and burned too bright" but wondered how "the devil be pulling me towards someone who looks so much like and angel when he smiles at you?"  The video focuses on Taylor's confusion and loss of herself.  She wakes up in the ruins of a party, very disheveled.  The mood of the video is very melancholy and bleak, void of bright and vibrant colors. At the end of the video she says, "I don't know if you know who you are until you lose who you are".  Taylor has definitely moved on, is happy and dating again, and I am happy for her, because John Mayer definitely was trouble.


  1. This is so true! Could you do Holy Ground from Red? :) I love your blog!

  2. I wish I could send you an email because this song and Treacherous are very difficult to figure out, and they require a bit of back and forth discussion.

    Taylor has said that Treacherous and I Knew You Were Trouble are about the same person. Treacherous was before the relationship and I Knew You Were Trouble was after. So the first point is that you should really be covering both songs, because if you solve for the person in one song you do so for the other as well. They need to be handled as a set.

    BOTH of these songs have strong elements suggesting either Styles or Mayer. Regarding I Knew You Were Trouble the best argument that this song was NOT about John Mayer is that Taylor massively loved John Mayer and wrote Ours about him. She was head in heels with the guy and had built up a real fantasy about that relationship as both Superman and Ours suggest. This would directly contradict her statements in press interviews about I Knew You Were Trouble that she knew from "the minute I saw him, that it would end in fiery, burning wreckage."

    In addition, about her 2012 Brits Award performance where she performed I Knew You Were Trouble with a slight British accent with Styles in attendance, Taylor told The Sunday Times: 'Well, it’s not hard to access that emotion when the person the song is directed at is standing by the side of the stage watching.' Mayer was NOT at that performance.

    Her relationship with Mayer was about betrayal after she had fallen naively in love. Her relationship with Styles was more about knowing that she would burn and crash with him before she even started, but she simply thought he was cute and there was magnetic attraction.

    Let's also allow that Taylor may have written two songs that combined elements of the two different lovers into one mythical character....

    1. This is excellent analysis. I have been looking for the quote where she said these two songs (Treacherous and I Knew You Were Trouble) were about the same person. Do you have a link? I think that Treacherous was about John Mayer too. She wrote several songs about him. Ours was definitely about him. I need to investigate the 2012 Brits Award performance more. She could have been talking about another song or just teasing Styles. Or maybe she wrote it about John and then it applied to Styles also. Thanks for your analysis. I love analyzing her songs.

  3. I sent you email with information about the Taylor quote linking the two songs. We need to do further research to establish a credible source for that quote but it sounds like a valid quote. If you want to post the quote, maybe one of your readers will know the magazine interview that the quote was extracted from.

    And I apologize but Taylor mocked Harry with a British accent at the 2013 Brits Award performance, not 2012. So timeline for the whole Styles relationship appears to be:

    1) Some kind of email or friend-based gossip prior to March 2012 in which each expresses some interest in the other informally.

    2) One Direction performs in March 2012 at Kids Choice awards. Taylor meets Harry that night.

    3) Some relationship starts but then ends late April 2012 when Harry is caught kissing a New Zealand model.

    4) They take up again in November 2012 (after Red is released) and then break up again in January 2013. Taylor tweets on January 5, 2013 "Til you put me down" which is the line from I Knew You Were Trouble.

    Somehow Taylor manages to write three songs out of a handful of dates. This girl has a very creative mind.

    And don't forget we'll get a whole new group of songs on the 2015 album concerning the additional three dates she got from November 2012 to end of December 2012. More creative genius. :)

    1. Thanks for your email. I look at the quote and I think the key word there is "directed at" meaning she is directing the song to Styles. Styles and Mayer are a lot alike, why do nice girls go for bad boys? I think sometimes that Styles is a younger John Mayer. She could have originally wrote the song for Mayer and then "directed" it towards Styles later. She did this with the song "Sparks Fly" also. It was written based on her feelings for Jake Owen, but later when it was released to had it apply to John Mayer too.

  4. I also get a sense from these songs that they started out being about John Mayer, but that she repurposed them somewhere along the way to be about Styles. So Mayer was her initial muse but once the songs were largely done she decided to apply them to Styles.

    I think it would make sense to find the source of the original quote. If we can confirm her statement that she knew the romance would crash and burn from the start, then that doesn't sound like John Mayer.

    1. I really want to find a source for that quote too. I have looked and looked, but to no avail. The quote might further link it to Mayer. She was warned about him in the song "Ours" and "Dear John". In Dear John she talks about how her mother warned her and how she "should have known" and in "Ours" she talks about how people were judging them and she wouldn't listen to her father when he warned her. I think they definitely apply to Styles too.

  5. In Ours and Dear John, Taylor makes clear that *OTHER* people warned her about John Mayer, but that she blindly rejected those warnings. And Superman makes clear that her *INITIAL* impression of Mayer was that he was a superhuman, above any kind of criticism.

    The quote I sent you from Taylor is about a man she *IMMEDIATELY* felt as her *FIRST* impression, that the relationship would crash and burn, but she blindly follows her sexual attraction instead of following experience and instinct.

    One assumes she learned a lesson from John Mayer, and that is what instructed her as a warning about Harry Styles. But because she is still young and foolish, she followed lust instead of experience.

    To me this argues for Styles being the subject of Treacherous, Come Back Be Here, and I Knew You Were Trouble. At least by the time she was done writing those songs he was the retargeted character.

    But I grant your points that a lot of the elements in these songs point to Mayer, and again she might have started these songs out as fragments of memories relating to Mayer, prior to March 2012. Then Styles comes along and she has all of this unfinished material lying around that she can then take and finish off, repurposing it to the new relationship. I'm sure sometimes the art has to be compromised to simple lack of time in her brutal schedule.

  6. I found a quote from Taylor that gives some validation to the idea that Treacherous and I Knew You Were Trouble might be about two different people. Here is an interview for the VH1 Storytellers performance in Fall 2012:

    In the text of that article Taylor is quoted saying about some unnamed song "Or you’ll sit there and go ‘that song was inspired by three different situations with three different people.’"

    So that seems to acknowledge the possibility that she had written these songs about John Mayer, then Harry Styles came along and she repurposed parts of those songs to him.

  7. While those are both good arguments, I'm fairly certain you're both wrong. As I explained in the Come here analysis there are clues to support that all 3 songs are about him, as was the majority of the album. And not only does she admit that the whole album is mostly about one guy but in the video where she says both those songs are about the same guy she also says she got the idea for it 6 months before writing with Martin and Shellback (who she also wrote We are never getting back together with and recorded it on the same day as I knew you were trouble in 2011) which therefore makes it too late to have been written about John and too early to be about Harry. Perfect timing however for it to be about Jake who might not be the stereotypical bad boy but who was clearly bad news for her. So I'm guessing she learned the signs from dating John and therefore knew Jake was trouble and although she went for it anyway, clearly ended things for good by the time she wrote this and would not have gotten back together with him which would've been the case had this been about Harry although I have a feeling they were either dating the whole time from March/April 2012 to January 2013 or weren't dating quite yet then only hanging out because I doubt she'd ever want to have an on and off relationship again after Jake.

  8. I am pretty sure that Come back be here is about Jake and I knew you were trouble is about Harry. I don't know about Treacherous for certain but I think is about Jake but about a second time around Jake or the Jake post first break-up; the Jake going back and forward. But I am not sure.

  9. I knew you were trouble is about Jake.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...