The Underlying Commentary of “All Too Well” by Taylor Swift


Illustration By Ixchel

Elaine Wen, Contributing Writer

“All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)” by Taylor Swift has taken listeners by storm. Swift has taken the liberty of re-recording her old music with the purpose of taking financial ownership over her own work and reclaiming what’s rightfully hers. The mass-appeal comes from what “All Too Well” signifies beyond the music industry: it’s commentary on society’s views on women. Both the five and ten-minute versions symbolize freedom and feminism, commentating on the hypocritical misogyny in the media. And while to a music expert, the C, G, Am, F chord progression renders the track sounding similar to other pop songs, the impact of “All Too Well” is far from banal.

“All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” is intentionally triple the time of an average song as a direct clapback to the common “girls are too dramatic” stereotype that haunts women. The song tells the tale of Swift’s time with a supposed feminist male partner (illustrated in the “tossing me the car keys” line), but who never gave her the control she deserved during the relationship—a common experience of many women in the public eye.

Despite female celebrities’ apparent constant praise, they suffer from a double-standard that stems from a normalized misogynistic culture that still encourages men to control women. This phenomenon is something Swift is sadly quite familiar with. In an interview with CBS, when talking about how being young and female worked in her disfavor, Swift shed light on the scrutiny of women, saying, “A man is allowed to react; a woman can only overreact,” stating that the criticism she receives for her songs aren’t carried over to her male counterparts.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop her from making music deemed “too much.” Meiya Weeks ’24 commented on “All Too Well,” telling the Register Forum, “People thought, if you just dated a guy for three months, why would you write a five minute song about him? And she bounces back with a ten minute song that explains all the things that were wrong.”
Taylor likes to take what she gets denounced for to the tenth power. Her disregard for what critics think can be seen in songs such as “You Need to Calm Down,” “Mean,” and, of course, “Shake It Off.”

The double-standards Swift faces pervade the music industry. Think about the media backlash to when Hillary Clinton didn’t wear makeup, or when Megan Markle repeated outfits—scandals their male partners would never encounter. The media tends to only associate women with a man. This turns women into an accessory to men, and never the other way around. Swift suggests this is what her partner wants in the line, “A never-needy, ever-lovely jewel whose shine reflects on you.” Irene
Hill ’23 expressed, “The way of [Swift] being able to share that with the world is her form of liberation,” to the Register Forum.

Taylor Swift is taking these revised releases of her old music to show the world that she doesn’t need their approval to do what she loves. This empowers many young women and beyond, despite sexist stereotypes, to do the same.

This piece also appears in our December 2021 print edition.