This song finds Swift, who penned the track with producers Max Martin and Shellback, sending up her image as a heartbreaker who writes all of her songs about former boyfriends. She warns us that she's "got a long list of ex-lovers, they'll tell you I'm insane" plus she has, "a blank space baby, and I'll write your name."
At the Secret Sessions listening parties that Swift held to preview 1989, she said her intention with this track was to run wild with the way the media portrays how she conducts her romantic life.
Swift explained the "boys only want love if it's torture" lyric to UK newspaper The Sun: "I was thinking about this," she said. "Boys only want love if it's torture and a constant chase. Men want love if it's real, right, healthy and consistent."
If you're one of the many who thought Swift was singing "the lonely Starbucks lovers" (or, more sensically, "star-crossed lovers") in the song's chorus, you're not alone. The real line, however, is, "Got a long list of ex-lovers."
Swift found this amusing. She called it, "A delightful misunderstanding about this song that was written about misunderstandings."
The song's music video was directed by Joseph Kahn (Eminem's "Without Me
," Katy Perry's "Waking Up In Vegas
") and filmed in September 2014 in Oheka Castle in Huntington, New York. The clip depicts Swift as an unhinged lovelorn woman who lives alone in a giant mansion with her cat, Olivia Benson. It co-stars male model Sean O'Pry as the singer's generically good-looking love interest. The male model also appeared in Madonna's steamy visual for "Girl Gone Wild
With the title cleverly wrapped up in the song's punchline, "but I’ve got a blank space baby… and I'll write your name," you're not likely to forget the song's name, even though it only shows up three times.
Taylor explained the background to the cut in a chat with NME. "Every few years the media finds something they unanimously agree is annoying about me," she said. "2012-2013 they thought I was dating too much, because I dated two people in a year and a half: 'Oh, a serial dater. She only writes songs to get emotional revenge on guys. She's a man-hater, don't let her near your boyfriend.' It was kind of excessive and at first it was hurtful, but then I found a little bit of comedy in it.
This character is so interesting though. If you read these gossip sites, they describe how I am so opposite my actual life: I'm clingy and I'm awful and I throw fits and there's drama. An emotionally fragile, unpredictable mess. I painted a whole picture of this character: she lives in a mansion with marble floors, she wears Dolce & Gabbana around the house, and she wears animal print unironically. So I created this whole character and I had fun doing it.
Half the people got the joke, half the people thought I was really owning the fact that I'm a psychopath. Either one's fine. It was #1 for eight or nine weeks, so I have no complaints."
Taylor teamed up with American Express to create an interactive app to go along with the video. "We created this 360 degree experience for fans... You essentially get to play around this storyland and explore the mansion [in the video]," she revealed on Good Morning America. "There are all of these hidden little clues. If you click on doorways you go into the next room. If you go to a clock, you can unlock little messages and clues. You can see us acting out these scenes depending on what room you're in or what part of the song."
"It's really fun to actually have fans that care about videos, story lines and lyrics," she added. "And the fact that they're so engaged makes me want to create cool little things for them like this."
The chorus makes up just over half of the entire song, and Swift makes sure you're paying attention. By dropping out most of the backing music at the end of each verse, the chorus is intensified.
Swift performed this song to open the 2014 American Music Awards. In the very elaborate production, Swift wore an evening gown and a headset microphone as she made her way thought a variety of sets populated by a bevy of dancers portraying the men she was dismissing. At one point, she even handles a flaming rose in a bit of symbolism.
Swift was honored with the Dick Clark Award For Excellence at the ceremony.
One of the most memorable sounds in the song does not come from a musical instrument, but from a pen. Right before Swift sings "I'll write your name" at the end of the chorus, a single pen click promises she's ready to make good on the threat.
In October 2014, Swift filed to trademark the first two lines of this song, "Nice to meet you. Where you been?" and "Could show you incredible things." This was done in response to a company that applied to trademark lines from her song "Shake It Off
." These trademarks give the owners the rights to use the phrases on merchandise, stationary, and various other items.
This song was made up of lines Swift collected over the years; says she put it together "like a crossword puzzle," placing the lines where they fit. With lots of lyrical ideas to choose from, she picked the best of the bunch, like "darling I'm a nightmare dressed like a daydream."
Some of the video's interior scenes were shot at Winfield Mansion, which was built in 1916 at Glen Cove on New York's Long Island by the family who started the global chain of Woolworth's retail stores. The property was wrecked by a mysterious fire in early February 2015, an event spookily foreshadowed by Swift singing on this song about love going down in flames.
The song dethroned Swift's previous single, "Shake It Off
," from the top of the Hot 100. This meant the songstress became the first ever female in the chart's history to succeed herself at #1.
The video's director Joseph Kahn told Mashable.com
that Swift specifically asked for co-star Sean O'Pry by name. "She had a vision," he explained. "She's highly aware of one particular thing that's happening right now - the idea that if you date her and you break up with her, she's going to write a song about you. She's aware of this. She's not an idiot."
"Taylor wanted to make a video addressing this concept of, if she has so many boys breaking up with her maybe the problem isn't the boy, maybe the problem is her," he continued. "Taylor wanted to make a video addressing this concept of, if she has so many boys breaking up with her maybe the problem isn't the boy, maybe the problem is her."
Swift didn't completely yank out her country roots with this blend of pop, electropop and hip-hop. Longtime listeners will note she added her faithful acoustic guitar to the mix.
Michigan post-hardcore band I Prevail charted in the Hot 100 with a punk version
of the song. Their interpretation utilizes two vocalists and explosive guitars. Vocalist Brian Burkheiser also tweaked the lyrics including changing Swift's turning "bad guys good for a weekend" to making "good girls bad for a weekend."
This won for Best Female Video at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, defeating Beyoncé's "7/11
." The last time Swift defeated Bey at the VMAs, Kanye West objected, rushing the stage to explain that the "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)
" clip deserved the award over Swift's "You Belong With Me
." This time, Kanye (accompanied by his wife, Kim Kardashian), stayed put - MTV cameras made sure to capture his reaction. Later in the show, Swift presented West with the Video Vanguard Award, poking fun at their initial encounter.
Swift had the video's director Joseph Kahn speak in accepting the award; Kahn explained that directors typically didn't get to give acceptance speeches because they would spend all their time thanking crew members, which he then proceeded to do.
Taylor Swift took home the Best Lyrics honors at the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Awards for this song. "This is amazing because writing lyrics is my favorite part of my job, and with this song in particular, seeing how people have captioned their Instagram picture with, 'Darling I'm a nightmare dressed like a day dream' was fantastic," Swift said, as she accepted the trophy.