Taylor Swift “Red” Lyrics Breakdown: So Many Colors, So Many Similes

Taylor Swift Red

Posted by on 10/12/2012 at 7:35 PM Lyrics

The Popdust Files: lyrics, red, taylor swift

The title track from Taylor Swift’s upcoming Red album has simmered around the pop landscape for a week now and the critical consensus, both in the minds of our writers and the Tay-Swizz fan community, remains muddled. It’s not hard to see why—the song is defined more by what it’s not than anything it does. It’s not as country as Swift’s earlier material, nor as poppy as “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” It’s not as optimistic as “Begin Again,” or as sad as “Roman” or as dubsteppy as “I Knew You Were Trouble.” It’s just kind of … there.

Can a deeper look at the song’s lyrics reveal a treasure trove of meaning? Only one way to find out!

Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street

Unlike some of Swift’s past songs, “Red” isn’t trying to eviscerate or excoriate her ex in the wake of a failed relationship. From the very first line, she’s telling us that her time with him was a good thing, just maybe it was too good to last. One quibble: The Maserati line just plain doesn’t fit with either the restrained sound of the song or Taylor Swift’s public persona. A Corvette would have worked, as would a Ferrari, but Maserati is a little too European to really “play” as a reference.

Faster than the wind, passionate as sin, ended so suddenly

This doesn’t really scan with the first line so much—is driving a Maserati down a dead-end street really “passionate as sin”?—but the internal rhyme is nice enough that we’ll forgive it.

Loving him is like trying to change your mind once you’re already flying through the free fall

One thing we’ve noticed already: These are long lines.They meander a bit and, since most of them are similes, they’re not as immediate as some of Taylor’s past highlights. It’s the difference between saying “We are never, ever getting back together” and saying “Getting back together with you is like a mouse inviting a hungry cat over for teatime.” Both good lines (if we do say so ourselves), but which one are you going to sing along to?

Like the colors in autumn, so bright just before they lose it all

For the record, here are the things this relationship has been compared to, one verse in: Driving an expensive car, skydiving, autumn leaves. Holy mixed metaphors!

Losing him was blue like I’d never known
Missing him was dark grey all alone
Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you’ve never met

We praised the chorus the first time we heard “Red,” and it still holds up. There’s nothing too original here, plenty of artists have compared feelings to colors before. But the emotional math of “losing him=blue, missing him=grey” works, and stays with you much longer than anything in the verses. Use that distinction when you’re trying to remember the difference between metaphor and simile. (Also, yes, the third line is technically a simile. It’s also the worst of the three! Advantage: metaphors.)

But loving him was red (Reh-eh-eh-ed)
Loving him was red (Reh-eh-eh-ed)

We’ve now gotten to the most easily-identifiable portion of the song, the much maligned Autotune stutter. While we wouldn’t go so far as those who say it ruins the song, it does come completely out of left-field—a robotic intruder in what has so far been an inoffensive pop-country amble. The best thing we can say about it is that, after a few listens, you start to ignore it.

Touching him is like realizing all you ever wanted was right there in front of you
Memorizing him was as easy as knowing all the words to your old favorite song
Fighting with him was like trying to solve a crossword and realizing there’s no right answer
Regretting him was like wishing you never found out that love could be that strong

Again with the similes! We think we’ve found the reason “Red” hasn’t caught on as much as Taylor’s other new tracks. Swift’s best skill as a songwriter is painting indelible character portraits: Even if they’re unfair, you know what “Mean,” “WANEGBT” and “Begin Again” want to say about their targets/subjects. What’s Taylor’s ex in “Red” like? We have no idea. She liked touching him, she felt frustrated when they fought, and she missed him after they broke up. Great, that clears everything up. Taylor’s spotlighting her feelings here at the expense of detail, which is fine, but since the feelings are so ambivalent, it’s harder to get an emotional read on the song. As we said in our review, “Red” will probably make an awesome live song someday, when Taylor can flesh out the emotions behind it, but in its present, recorded version it’s a bit too flat for our liking.

Take a look at the full lyrics below. You can play the song at the bottom of the post!

Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street
Faster than the wind, passionate as sin, ended so suddenly
Loving him is like trying to change your mind once you’re already flying through the free fall
Like the colors in autumn, so bright just before they lose it all

Losing him was blue like I’d never known
Missing him was dark grey all alone
Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you’ve never met
But loving him was red (Reh-eh-eh-ed)
Loving him was red (Reh-eh-eh-ed)

Touching him is like realizing all you ever wanted was right there in front of you
Memorizing him was as easy as knowing all the words to your old favorite song
Fighting with him was like trying to solve a crossword and realizing there’s no right answer
Regretting him was like wishing you never found out that love could be that strong

Losing him was blue like I’d never known
Missing him was dark grey all alone
Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you’ve never met
But loving him was red (Reh-eh-eh-ed)
Oh red (Reh-eh-eh-ed)

Burning red (Reh-eh-eh-ed)

Remembering him comes in flashbacks and echoes
Tell myself it’s time now, gotta let go
But moving on from him is impossible
When I still see it all in my head

Burning red!
Darling it was red!

Oh, losing him was blue like I’d never known
Missing him was dark grey all alone
Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you’ve never met
‘Cause loving him was red
Yeah yeah red

We’re burning red
And that’s why he’s spinning round in my head
Comes back to me burning red
Yeah yeah
‘Cause love was like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street

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