This ballad by American country pop artist Taylor Swift is from her third studio album, Speak Now. Taylor debuted the song at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards on September 12, 2010.
The song is about someone who has lost his path their life, but whose "streaming lights are bright to me." Various media reported after Swift's VMA performance that the song is about Kanye West, who caused controversy at the previous year's award show. The rapper upset Taylor when he came on stage and grabbed the microphone from her when she was accepting the award for Best Female Video. She said about the songs she wrote for Speak Now: "For me, I write everything that I live, so you got to give yourself a little bit of time to live a lot of things so you can write about a lot of things, and my only option is to write about what I've been through and what I've lived, so thankfully, in the past two years, I've experienced a lot of things that I've been dying to write about and a lot of things that I wanted to say in the moment that I didn't."
Taylor confirmed in an interview with New York Magazine that the song was inspired by the 2009 MTV VMA incident where Kanye West interrupted her acceptance speech. "I think a lot of people expected me to write a song about him. But for me it was important to write a song to him," she said. Asked how the incident affected her, Taylor responded, "It doesn't really add anything good if I start victimizing myself and complaining about things. Because I'm proud of that performance at the VMAs last year, where my fans helped me get through it. And there was a lot that went down backstage that I will always be thankful for, and the fans in the subway [where she sang 'You Belong With Me' shortly after the incident] know exactly what happened that night. I feel everything," she added. "I've never had this thick skin... It's not like I am bulletproof in any sense of the word."
The song takes a conciliatory tone towards West, painting him as "32, and still growing up now." Taylor told Billboard magazine she only penned the tune after taking several months to reflect on how she really felt. "It took a while to write that song," said the singer. "That was a huge, intense thing in my life that resonated for a long time. It was brought up to me in grocery stores and everywhere I went, and in a lot of times in my life, when I don't know how I feel about something, I say nothing. And that's what I did until I could come to the conclusion that I came to in order to write 'Innocent.' Even then, I didn't talk about it, and I still don't really."
Taylor discussed her performance of this song at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards on her website: "The song 'Innocent' is about something that really intensely affected me emotionally. It took a while to write this one. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to perform this song on the VMAs, and that's the first time that anyone ever heard it. Putting out an album called Speak Now where you're supposed to say what you feel when you know how you feel, I felt that performing that song on that particular award show was appropriate. I hope everybody likes this one."