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Taylor Swift’s New Song Is a Perfect Reminder of Why So Many People Love Her

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift performs onstage at the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Festival.

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Taylor Swift’s best songs—“Red,” “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “All Too Well,” “Fifteen,” to name just a few—tend to play like the scene of a car accident receding in the rearview mirror. She remembers the rush of the relationship and of losing control but also how it ended. This dual perspective is part of what makes her songs relatable to such a wide range of people: Her younger fans can relate to the confused intensity of young love, but her older fans can relate to the hard-earned wisdom of hindsight. (No wonder her albums always come out in the fall, just when the flush of summer has ended.)

Swift’s new song “Out of the Woods,” which went straight to No. 1 upon its release on iTunes last night, fits squarely into this tradition. If the dancey, haters-gonna-hate anthem “Shake It Off” was her new album’s “22,” “Out of the Woods” sounds like its “Red.” There are similar metaphors for the fragile, doomed thrill of the relationship (the image of “two paper airplanes flying” is this song’s “Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street”). And there’s also, here, a literal crash: Remember when you hit the brakes too soon/ 20 stitches in a hospital room,” Swift sings, recalling a snowmobile wreck with an ex that she revealed to Rolling Stone in their recent cover story. (For now the song is available to hear only on iTunes or you can stream on fans’ Tumblr pages. Update, Oct. 14: This post originally embedded a YouTube video with the song but it has now been taken down.)

While Swift’s teen fans are already puzzling out whether that snowmobile wreck was with Harry Styles of One Direction, as rumored, the real story of this song is her collaboration with Jack Antonoff of Fun. While lyrically the song is all Swift, musically it’s all Antonoff, swapping out the guitars and banjos Swift fans are accustomed to for synthesizers and ’80s big drums. The chant-along chorus (which repeats “Are we out of the woods yet?”), meanwhile, recalls the centerpiece of Antonoff’s “I Wanna Get Better.”


Swift has said that while “Out of the Woods” is not an official single like “Shake It Off,” it gives a better feel for 1989 as an album. If that’s the case, fans should be excited: “Out of the Woods” suggests a collection of songs that serve up Swift’s signature lyrical vividness but with a wider sonic palette. As she puts it while describing a Polaroid snapshot in “Out of the Woods,” giving an image that gives the central metaphor of “Red” a Technicolor makeover: “The rest of the world was black and white/ But we were in screaming color.”