Posted by: dougery | April 1, 2012

Thoroughly Unnecessary Song Explication File #157: Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me”

Welcome back to Thoroughly Unnecessary Song Explication Files, y’all. This time around we have

HOLD ON RIGGS, I’M HAPPY FOR YOU AND YOUR POP SONGS AND IMMA LET YOU FINISH, BUT YOUR YEAR OF WESTERNS POSTS ARE ONE OF THE BEST BLOG SERIES OF ALL TIME!

Er, thanks for the shout-out Kanye, but this post is all about Ms. Swift and her 2009 single “You Belong With Me.” I first encountered the song on Chicago FM radio in a ‘rockulated’ version that was both poppier and significantly louder than the album cut. I found this out when I downloaded the track from iTunes and listened to a much more laid-back and countrified number. I can’t say I’m more partial to either version but it interests me a great deal that big moneymaking songs like this exist in a variety of forms custom crafted to appeal to particular demographics, or rather, some industry suit probably thought to himself “Hey, if we take some of the twang off’n this un we can make even more bushels full of greenbacks.” or something like that. Anyhow…

[Verse 1]

You’re on the phone with your girlfriend, she’s upset

In case you were not aware of this, all young American women exist in one of three forms. They are either a) a Bitch, b) a slut, or c) some combination of artsy/geek/nerd/loser with a social standing so low that nobody bothers to worry whether they should be more properly ranked among the bitches or sluts. “Your girlfriend” (Yes you, reader) here is very clearly in the ‘bitch’ slot. And yet you persist in calling her?

She’s going off about something that you said

What a bitch, amirite?

She doesn’t get your humor like I do

HAHAHA your racially/politically insensitive joke would have been funny under other circumstances.

I’m in the room, it’s a typical Tuesday night

This line is super sneaky. It is doing a ton of work here establishing character and its all through word choice. In nine words we get who this version of Taylor Swift is, or at least who she is trying to make us sympathize with. Who sits in their room? People with no friends or nowhere more interesting to go. But, it’s only Tuesday and not, say, Friday. We can feel sorry for a narrator sitting at home on a Tuesday. I mean, it might be the most home-friendly nights of the week. In fact, if you really think about it, if you have a vibrant social life on Tuesdays you probably either can’t stand your home-life or have some manifestly serious insecurity issues.

I’m listening to the kind of music she doesn’t like

Because she’s a bitch. Your girlfriend I mean. She just doesn’t get the complicated splendor that is Muse.

‘Cause she’ll never know your story like I do

Okay, so maybe there’s a sub-category of the ‘loser’ designation. And let’s call that sub-category ‘kind of a stalker.’

[Bridge]

But she wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts

That’s right, no girl has ever been able to pull off both a short skirt and a t-shirt, not at the same time or even in the same wardrobe. And hey, narrator? I thought the girlfriend was a bitch? Now you’re implying she’s a slut? Looks like somebody else is kind of a bitch…

She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers

Ah, so this is simply a matter of popularity. We, the listeners, should have known all along. Here we have “cheer captain” singular, by definition exclusive and depending on the level of skill displayed, talented and/or desirable and there’s Miss “on the bleachers” or, just another faceless mug amongst the throngs of humanity. However, what does it say about you, Miss “On the Bleachers” that you want someone who prefers to date the “Cheer Captain.” Do you really want to date such a guy? Really?

Dreaming of the day when you wake-up and find
That what you’re looking for has been here the whole time

Right. Because he is simply mistaken. Had he given this whole thing any thought he would clearly have chosen the girl with the backpack so full of books that she slumps like some bell-tower ringing hunchback or the girl who can’t stop playing with fire or the girl who has 36 pairs of khaki pants in her closet and has separated them into ‘sporty’ ‘professional’ and ‘scandalous’ despite the fact that there is no observable difference between those her only pants.

[Chorus]

If you can see that I’m the one who understands you

Yes, I’m one hundred percent certain that you understand him much better than his actual girlfriend or, let’s say, any of the people who he hangs out with or interacts with in the slightest degree.

Been here all along, so why can’t you see?

Having listened to enough pop/love songs one gets kind of dumbfounded by the inexplicable selfishness of the lovescorned. As if waiting patiently on the sidelines (the longer, the ‘nobler’) for someone else is all it takes to be someone’s soulmate. The accusation here is meant to be sad and heartfelt but to me it scans as petty, needy and just plain egotistical. I mean, hey stupid, why don’t you just open your eyes and see that I’m so much better for you.

You, you belong with me, you belong with me

See what I mean? The choice to repeat “you belong with me” (and yeah, I know its the freakin’ title of the song) is what tips this thing. It makes me understand a little more why the song is so sparse and quiet on the original version. Because there’s desperate and then there’s desperate desperate. Any louder or aggressive and things get even whinier.

[Verse 2]

Walking the streets with you and your worn out jeans

It is unclear if the narrator is the one walking the streets with “you” or if she is again watching “you” hanging out with ‘the bitch.’

I can’t help thinking this is how it ought to be

This line makes me think that maybe the narrator is friends with “you.”

Laughing on a park bench, thinking to myself
Hey, isn’t this easy?

But then I get the mental image of the narrator sitting on a park bench all alone laughing to herself and I’m like, hmmm. Maybe the soul-crushing loneliness has cracked this one a bit too far. I mean she’s probably singing about the two of them sitting there together, I get it. But its much more fun to picture her imagining this kind of breezy afternoon in the park with cheer captain dating guy. Maybe its the way Swift’s voice does that trilly thing on ‘easy’.

And you’ve got a smile that could light up this whole town

A rare non-cliched pop music metaphor, and good one. You’re growing on me, narrator. Finally. Now just don’t backslide into being all arrogant and judgmen…

I haven’t seen it in a while since she brought you down

…tal. Well, you almost made it half a verse.

You say you’re fine, I know you better than that
Hey, what ya doing with a girl like that?

Yes, what are you doing with a girl like that. The nerve of “girl like that,” not being me and all. Why if she were only me then she would be like this instead of that. So much better, this.

[Modified Bridge]

She wears high heels, I wear sneakers

Alright, we get it. You have a horrible lack of fashionable accessories.

She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers

Where I’m sure there are plenty of other nice young women who don’t feel so entitled.

Dreaming of the day when you wake-up and find
That what you’re looking for has been here the whole time

The only reason there’s been a ‘whole time’ is because you (narrator) could have otherwise been spending time dating someone else who actually cared about you instead of pining over some asshole with the cheerleader girlfriend. Not that I’m bitter, or was in any way the slightly less than popular middle-school guy who had a crush on you, artsy geek girl who only had eyes for the freakishly mature broad-shouldered classmate who could already grow a beard. See how I turned things around here? Like a freakin’ Ouroboros.

Take away the braids and lip gloss and this may as well be a picture of me in highschool. Ugh, marching band scored me so many points...

[Chorus]

If you can see that I’m the one who understands you
Been here all along, so why can’t you see?
You belong with me

Standing by and waiting at your back door

Um, yeah, we’re back in stalker-town. Or at the very least slavish unreciprocated devotion-town. Either way I’d recommend hopping a train to somewhat better mental health-ville or respectable self-image-burg.

All this time how could you not know?

Um, I think he knows, darling. He definitely knows.

Baby, you belong with me, you belong with me

[Verse 3]

Oh, I remember you driving to my house in the middle of the night

This is my favorite part of the song. The part where the weirdo-stalker arrogance morphs into wonderfully somewhat specific romantic delusions. I choose to read the following as pure fantasy rather as something that truly happened, and the song is improved by this 1,000%. The narrator, to me, becomes more personable and odd, that she would dream things up in this way. Still kind of annoying and pretentious, but weirdly endearing at the same time.

I’m the one who makes you laugh when you know you’re ’bout to cry
And I know your favorite songs, and you tell me ’bout your dreams

Ah, young love, so innocent, all about dreams. Not hormones or anything so sullied and dirty like sex or even third base.

Think I know where you belong, think I know its with me

Of course those endearing moments crash and burn and we’re back in the headspace of a girl who has things all figured out.

Can’t you see that I’m the one who understands you

We’re like the same person, can’t you see?

Been here all along, so why can’t you see?

Hiding in the bushes before you get back from your driver’s ed class, sitting out on a tree limb peeping on you while you do your civics homework. I’ve been here allllll allllooonnnnggggg.

You belong with me

Standing by and waiting at your back door
All this time how could you not know?

I mean the walls of my bedroom and the inside of my locker door are entirely covered with thousands of pictures of you that I took on my cell phone while you weren’t looking! If I sit in the right spot all of you eyes look like they are staring at me!

Baby, you belong with me, you belong with me

You belong with me
Have you ever thought just maybe
You belong to me?
You belong to me

Say it enough times and it might just come true.


Responses

  1. I love this:”But then I get the mental image of the narrator sitting on a park bench all alone laughing to herself and I’m like, hmmm. Maybe the soul-crushing loneliness has cracked this one a bit too far. I mean she’s probably singing about the two of them sitting there together, I get it. But its much more fun to picture her imagining this kind of breezy afternoon in the park with cheer captain dating guy.”

  2. I love this so much. So many amazing lines. And totally, totally creepy. (And I’m not just talking about the song! Imagining my husband as Taylor Swift, minus braids and lip gloss…shudder.)

  3. Dropping an Ouroboros reference into a review of a Taylor Swift song?

    So cliche.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

finding jackie

celebrity, biography, feminism

DELAWHERE COMICS

the greatest comic strip on earth... literally

taken by sound.

New music reviews and interviews from a music nerd, finding, reviewing and interviewing the best new and undiscovered music that Earth has to offer.

A year of reading the world

196 countries, countless stories...

Atalkata

Two brothers expatiate [wander intellectually without restraint]

Me Blog Write Good

An episode-by-episode retrospective of a truly cromulent show

Raging Biblio-holism

The overwhelming urge to collect, consume, and consider books

Austin H. Gilkeson

Fiction, Nonfiction & Things That Go Bump in the Night

douglas e riggs

reflections from a house on fire

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: