By Nina Benich, Online Editor
Whether you’ve been through a breakup or not, the best breakup songs can capture the essence of heartbreak in ways that no other piece of art can. We know iconic hits such as “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood, “Someone Like You” by Adele and countless others that fill us with rage for a failed relationship that never was. There is something so captivating about this genre of music and its songs, and although we scream the lyrics to them, the best one by far is “All Too Well” by Taylor Swift.
In this emotional ballad from her 2012 album Red, Swift reflects on what fans speculate was her relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal. The two were only together for two months, but the song makes it sound as if they were married. It’s flawlessly written and stands as a lyrical feat in modern music.
Swift begins by reflecting on a core memory. In the first verse, she sings that she left her scarf at her ex’s sister’s house and that he still has it. This infamous scarf was featured in a few paparazzi photos of Swift and Gyllenhaal on a date, but the song turns it into a metaphor for the beginning and end of their relationship.
Swift goes on to describe snippets of memories that she can’t forget, and we try to make sense of them with her as she sings, “Autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place.” As she moves on to the pre-chorus, she comes to terms with the fact that “it’s long gone and that magic’s not here no more.”
If you’ve never been through a breakup, you can at least relate this lyric to a lost friendship or something nostalgic you find yourself missing — it’s heartbreakingly realistic, and the chorus is even more so.
Perhaps the most well-written lyric in this whole song comes next: “‘Cause there we are again on that little town street / You almost ran the red ‘cause you were looking over at me.”
This lyric is a genius double entendre. On the surface, her ex was so distracted by her that he almost ran a red light. Its deeper meaning, however, suggests that her ex was so in love with her that he didn’t care about the potential hurt he’d cause her. Instead, he “ran the red” — red being Swift ‘sword for the anger, sadness, confusion and leftover love that comes with a breakup, as well as the title of her token breakup album.
The incredible bridge of “All Too Well” is self explanatory. Swift reminisces on the actual breakup, calling her ex “so casually cruel in the name of being honest,” a vicious yet subtle description of the call that broke her heart. At the song’s conclusion, she weaves the story of the scarf full-circle and says that her ex “can’t get rid of it” because he remembers their relationship just as vividly as she does.
You could write a novel on the sheer genius of Swift’s lyricism in this song. Its vivid imagery, captivating key changes and use of rhetorical devices make it not only the best breakup song, but one of the best songs ever written. With the release of Swift’s re-recording of Red in November, including a 10-minute version of “All Too Well” on its tracklist, this title won’t be lost anytime soon.