Red and orange leaves falling down on an Autumn field, wearing scarves to keep from the breezy cold, and breakups in the middle of lonely nights—can you picture it?
Well, if you need help, you’ve come to the right place.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would know that Taylor Swift took the world by storm this month with the release of her version of Red; the perfect breakup album that captures the feeling of being happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. One of the huge reasons why this particular re-release caught so much attention is because with it, she finally put out the long-awaited ten minute version of her song, ‘All Too Well’. In the past, she had to cut the song in half because of its controversial length. The five minute version went on to become the #1 Taylor Swift song for fans, and so she decided to let the full version out of the vault after almost a decade. She couldn’t have made a better decision.
We’ll just be transparent—we think ‘All Too Well’ is a perfect song. You might be rolling your eyes right now considering the amount of times we’ve written about Taylor Swift being a genius, but we’re here with three major reasons explaining why we can’t get this track out of our heads!
Getting lost upstate
We all love stories, don’t we?
Some prefer to watch movies or TV shows while others might like to find a cozy space to read a book. Either way, we’re always consuming media to get a good story.
What’s so rare nowadays is getting a good story from a song. As everyone’s attention spans get worse, songs are becoming shorter and shorter. That doesn’t necessarily make a song bad, but most of the time we only end up getting the gist of what singer-songwriters want to say. Breakup songs specifically tend to be stuck in a particular moment. They always come from a place of sadness or anger, or even nostalgia. On their own, they don’t really paint a complete picture. Take Olivia Rodrigo’s music for example; when she first released ‘Drivers License’, literally all anyone could say was that she was devastated by a breakup. It was only when she released later singles and the entire album that a better and more accurate story was released into the world. She wasn’t only heartbroken, but she was also bitter and frustrated. By the end of ‘SOUR’, you know that the conclusion to the story is that she lived, learned, and moved on. (Self-promotion: Go read our other article called SOUR: Do you get deja vu? for our in-depth analysis of the album!)
Here comes Taylor Swift who doesn’t care about the trend of shorter songs or the terrible sense of concentration people have developed these days; she went and released a ten minute track that goes through all the sadness, anger, and nostalgia that no other breakup song can express in their short durations.
With ‘All Too Well’, she takes us on an entire journey. From the beginning of her relationship with a certain ex to the end of it, we’re put into her shoes to witness everything. The descriptive writing in the song allows us to visualize what she saw and felt at important moments, and it genuinely feels like a short story that builds up with a beginning, middle, and end.
The production, intonations, and pacing of the song contribute to the stellar storytelling as well. As the story builds up, so does the music and the energy of Taylor’s voice. Her emphasis on significant words like ‘promise’ by the time the song reaches its 4:29 mark, the way she slows down during vulnerable sections like the fifth verse six minutes into the song, and the fade-out at the end with repeating lyrics to symbolize the process of letting go all elevate the message she’s trying to tell and the emotions she wants to convey. The attention to detail simply makes you get lost in this universe that the song sucks you into, and sometimes it may feel strange since after all, it’s just a breakup. However, it’s how this song was so carefully constructed that gets you personally attached to this relationship that seemed sweet at the start but turned out bitter in the end.
So casually cruel in the name of being honest
It’s impossible to explain the brilliance of Taylor Swift’s storytelling without going through the lyrics she uses to tell the story itself, something that’s on a completely different level on its own.
Not to sound nerdy, but it’s the way she phrases this song that makes it perfect. The metaphors such as the scarf motif that may refer to innocence. The imagery that comes from her specificity (seen in lyrics like “We're singing in the car, getting lost upstate; autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place…”). The subtleties such as the little hints throughout the song that allude to the toxic nature of her past relationship. Reading the lyrics alone is heartbreaking in itself because of how much they make you feel the raw and honest pain of the person who wrote them. The weight of the words being sung hit you like a truck, and we can go on and on about how beautifully they convey this sad, beautiful, and tragic tale. Instead of an endless paragraph of geeking out though, we picked some of our favorite lines (you have no idea how difficult it was) that we think can prove our point.
“And I was thinking on the drive down, any time now
He's gonna say it's love, you never called it what it was...”
These lyrics point out two important characteristics of the main character of All Too Well; she was observant and hopeful. The former being something her ex didn’t appreciate while the latter being something he took advantage of whether he was aware of it or not. She took note of what her ex had said and didn’t say because he meant that much to her despite the fact that he didn’t reciprocate that same level of awareness. At the same time, she was optimistic; she believed in her lover even after observing the red flags that she shouldn’t have ignored.
“And there we are again when nobody had to know
You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath
Sacred prayer and we'd swear to remember it all too well..”
These lyrics encapsulate the classic, “Let’s keep this between us, so it’s private” kind of thing but turns out to have a hidden meaning behind it which is something like, “This is actually a secret, and I don’t want anyone else to know about us.” Familiar?
During the relationship and heat of the moment, Taylor Swift obviously did not realize how the love she gave him was so different from the love that he gave her. With Taylor’s ex being a whole lot older than her, he had so much more experience about what it’s like being in a relationship. His love was toxic, manipulative and chaotic, while her love was pure, selfless, and innocent. These lyrics also gave hints about how he was so secretive of her which made her feel insecure, while she valued him more than anything in this world which made him feel secure. What’s unfortunate is that she realized all this too late.
“They say all's well that ends well, but I'm in a new hell
Every time you double-cross my mind...”
We’re sure every Swiftie freaked out when this line was sung.
The bridge of the five minute version of ‘All Too Well’ is already overwhelming, but the ten minute version elevates it further with an entirely new section that builds up the tension. The rhyming for this particular line is so catchy and satisfying but also insightful to what emotion is being felt by the singer.
The phrase “all’s well that ends well” refers to the idea that no matter how horrible an experience was, if the outcome is positive, then that’s all that counts. However, Taylor points out that life can’t always be as simple as that.
The lyric is obviously sung in a moment fresh from the heartbreak. There’s an interesting double meaning when she says, “I’m in a new hell every time you double-cross my mind”. You can interpret it as every time her ex betrays her or plays mind games with her, she gets hurt. But, you can also consider the fact that without the word ‘double’, the phrase “every time you cross my mind” would mean every time she thinks of him. Essentially, the lyric can also be saying that every time she remembers him and how he crushed her trust in him, she can’t help but feel crushed again.
“You said if we had been closer in age maybe it would
have been fine, and that made me want to die...” vs.
“And I was never good at telling jokes, but the punch line
goes ‘I'll get older, but your lovers stay my age’...”
These two sets of lyrics are so similar yet so different which is what makes them so impactful.
“You said if we had been closer in age maybe it would have been fine, and that made me want to die,” shows how Taylor allowed herself to believe what her ex had said right after their breakup. She was devastated about the fact that things didn’t work out between the both of them and thought that her being too young was the issue. She blamed herself and their age difference while she was hurting, and this is a perfect example of her ex’s manipulative nature.
“And I was never good at telling jokes, but the punchline goes ‘I’ll get older, but your lovers stay my age’,” just slaps and puts so much emphasis on how Taylor’s mindset has changed over the years. Back when the breakup was fresh, her ex used their age gap to justify why their relationship did not work out which might have been true. However, seeing the young women he has dated after Taylor shows otherwise. This is when Taylor realizes that it was never her or the age gap; it was just him all along.
An ever-lovely jewel
We have three names for you: Taylor Swift, Dylan O’Brien, and Sadie Sink.
We get chills every single time we hear these names. They’re the perfect mix of genius songwriting, impeccable acting, and brilliant directing. Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink can make the farthest person sitting in the movie theatre cry with their talent. With Taylor Swift’s ability to write so eloquently, it is not surprising to hear someone say how much they relate to her song ‘All Too Well’ whether they have gone through a breakup or not. Her directorial debut manages to break records and leave the audience in awe. Taylor Swift is the only singer-songwriter and director who has done this.
Taylor made sure that no detail was left out in the short film. The large age gap between Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien captured Taylor’s past relationship dynamic quite perfectly. The lyrics of ‘All Too Well’ are already enough to allow you to picture what it was like being in Taylor’s shoes, but the visuals, attention to detail, and the raw emotions shown in the short film allowed us to witness the joy, misery, manipulation, and aftermath of their relationship in a whole new way.
One may think that there should have been more talking than actual singing since there was only one scene in the short film with dialogue, but it is absolutely surreal to see the entire journey of their relationship even without many lines and talking. It almost feels like you can hear what they’re trying to say without actually hearing what they’re trying to say. With all that being said, this short film is a perfect example of effective storytelling. The whole piece revolves around the problems that age difference brings in a relationship. Dylan O’Brien plays the old and supposedly more “mature” one in the relationship, while Sadie Sink plays the young and wide-eyed girlfriend. Honestly, the entire thing was toxic. They would fight and make up then argue and suddenly start dancing around the kitchen in the refrigerator light. Dylan’s “maturity” and Sadie’s innocent nature complemented one another at first, but it turned out to be the two things that broke the last thread holding their relationship together. Dylan (playing the role of Taylor’s ex) so-called “maturity” turned out to be arrogance and a manipulative nature, and these left pure and innocent Sadie (playing the role of young Taylor) confused and distraught. Eventually, Dylan broke things off and ended up breaking the girl who loved him the most.
During the latter part of the film, Taylor plays the role of herself thirteen years later. It transitions from her crying in her bedroom and parties to her coming back stronger and wiser than ever as she is seen in a book signing event with the novel that she wrote entitled ‘All Too Well’. It then zooms out to her ex wearing her old scarf while watching her from the window. This shows how Taylor has learned and moved on from the relationship and how her ex seems to be forever haunted by it.
Even though we weren’t exactly there to witness Taylor’s heartbreak firsthand, this short film made us feel like we were in their shoes. Whether you’ve gone through a similar experience or not, watching the film will break your heart into pieces over and over again. It is needless to say that this short film just elevated her song even more and brought it to life. We saw how it turned from wonderful chemistry to an absolute catastrophe.
Did this maim you all too well?
It is pretty much safe to say that everything about ‘All Too Well’ is a masterpiece. We personally think that this ten minute song represents what makes a Taylor Swift song. She has honestly raised the bar so incredibly high because the majority of her songs include a catchy beat, clever lyrics, and it almost seems like you can listen to her forever.
Her choice of words and the idioms that are found in her lyrics show her depth as a writer. The musical and lyrical arrangements of the song show how great of a storyteller she is, and the short film just honestly makes us crave for Taylor Swift songs to be turned into movies. Not all singer-songwriters have the ability to catch the audience’s attention in a five-minute song, but Taylor has done exactly just that and even more. She managed to leave us wanting more even after a ten-minute song.
If you somehow haven’t listened to the song or watched the short film yet, go do that now because even if you aren’t a Swiftie, we’re sure you can appreciate the awe-inspiring quality that they exude. From the storytelling, to the lyrics, and to the visuals, Taylor has created something special and rare that we’ll be sure to remember all too well.