June 2.2015 – Story Behind “Mean” by Taylor Swift

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Hear the story here

This twangy track finds Taylor taking aim at her critics. Taylor told Entertainment News: “When you do what I do, which is you put yourself out there for a lot of people to say whatever they want, there’s a million different opinions.”

“I get that, no matter what, you’re going to be criticized for something,” she added. “But I also get that there are different kinds of ways to criticize someone. There’s constructive criticism, there’s professional criticism – and then there’s just being mean. And there’s a line that you cross when you just start to attack everything about a person.”

The song alludes at least in part to Swift’s off key performance of Fleetwood Mac’s ” Rhiannon” with Stevie Nicks at the 2010 Grammy Awards. A number of pundits laid into her saying she was badly off-key and couldn’t sing, but the specific review that got her blood boiling came from Bob Lefsetz, who wrote in his Lefsetz Letter: “did Taylor Swift kill her career overnight? I’ll argue she did. In one fell swoop, Taylor Swift consigned herself to the dustbin of teen phenoms… Taylor’s too young and dumb to understand the mistake she made.”

Faced with such stinging words, you can understand why towards the end of this song, Taylor sings: “And I can see you year from now in a bar talking over a football game/With that same big loud opinion, but no one’s listening/Washed up and ranting about the same old bitter things/Drunk and talking all about how I… can’t… sing.”

The music video broadens the song’s message to make it relate to school kids who are bullied or mistreated for being different. We see a boy reading a fashion magazine among the football players in the locker room, and a girl wearing blue instead of pink.

Taylor admits that she has a thin skin and can’t just brush off criticism. She wrote on her website: “No matter how old you are, no matter what your job is, no matter what your place is in life. There’s always going to be someone who’s just mean to you. Dealing with that is all you can control about that situation, how you handle it. ‘Mean’ is about how I handle it, and sort of my mind set about this whole situation.”

Taylor discussed dealing with criticism of her voice in an interview with Parade Magazine: “Some days I’m fine and I can just brush it off and go about my day, but some days it absolutely levels me. All I can do is continue to try to work hard every single day and feel everything. I think it’s important to feel things because I then write songs about that. The whole idea of being criticized and the fact that that entered my life made for a song that I’m very proud of on the record called ‘Mean.'”

The song debuted at #11 on the Hot 100 dated November 6, 2010. This meant that Taylor became the first act to claim the chart’s Hot Shot Debut, awarded to the list’s highest new entry, in three successive weeks. Its premier arrival followed those of ” Speak Now” (#8) and ” Back to December” (#6).

Swift took home Grammys for Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song for this cut. “Thank you to anyone who voted for this song,” said Taylor as she accepted the latter award at the 2012 ceremony. “I want to thank [Big Machine Records President] Scott Borchetta for believing in this song. When we put it out as a single, people said, ‘Really? You’re gonna do it?’ But my label stood by it, and country radio played it a lot. This is unbelievable!”

Lyrics:
You, with your words like knives
And swords and weapons that you use against me
You have knocked me off my feet again
Got me feeling like I’m nothing
You, with your voice like nails on a chalkboard
Calling me out when I’m wounded
You picking on the weaker man

You can take me down with just one single blow
But you don’t know, what you don’t know…

Someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?

You, with your switching sides
And your wildfire lies and your humiliation
You have pointed out my flaws again
As if I don’t already see them
I walk with my head down
Trying to block you out ’cause I’ll never impress you
I just wanna feel okay again

I bet you got pushed around
Somebody made you cold
But the cycle ends right now
‘Cause you can’t lead me down that road
And you don’t know, what you don’t know…

Someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?

And I can see you years from now in a bar
Talking over a football game
With that same big loud opinion
But nobody’s listening
Washed up and ranting about the same old bitter things
Drunk and grumbling on about how I can’t sing
But all you are is mean

All you are is mean
And a liar, and pathetic, and alone in life
And mean, and mean, and mean, and mean

But someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean, yeah
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so?..

Someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city (Why you gotta be so?..)
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean (Why you gotta be so?..)
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me (Why you gotta be so?..)
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?

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About Robynn

Robynn Jaymes has spent her whole life in radio… 30 years!! And almost half of them have been at Star Country. Originally from Cincinnati, Robynn came to the area as a Liberty University student. Along with all things country music, Robynn is a big fan of Football!—The Virginia Tech Hokies, The Washington Redskins and, of course, the Cincinnati Bengals. And also, “I’m addicted to the Weather Channel,” she says. Right now, Robynn is a big fan if the music coming from Miranda Lambert, Lady Antebellum and Kenny Chesney! Robynn is also a winner of the Billboard Air Personality of the Year award. Hear all new Warm & Fuzzies with Robynn M-F at 11:45AM!