All Too Well: Heartbreak Anthem of the Decade
Although the Philippines does not have an autumn season, how very fitting it was that our favorite blondie, Ms. Taylor Swift herself, released the re-recording of her iconic Red album, now Red Taylor’s Version, on the 12th of November this year in the heart of autumn. This provides fans with an emotional ride of a record that will carry us through the colder months of either autumn, or for Filipinos, the Christmas season.
Red (Taylor’s Version) Album / Spotify
But, there is one song in the album that truly stands out as the most gut-wrenching of all, and it is none other than “All Too Well,” specifically the raw and unfiltered 10-Minute Version. Having been a Swiftie since childhood and relistening now as an 18-year old adult, the hurt and betrayal in the song are just as, if not even more, viscerally felt. Though I haven’t experienced heartbreak of that kind, Swift just has the ability to let you feel what she feels, in the most painfully beautiful way through her music. Not only is the 10-minute version of “ATW” more emotionally gripping and brutally honest, but there is a maturity in the lyricism influenced by her personal growth as a 31-year old woman.
Stills from the “All Too Well 10-Minute Version” Short Film / YouTube
Fans are taken down memory lane as they relive the original parts of the song-the upstate escape, never-returned scarf, kitchen slow dancing, and the powerfully seething bridge-while also uncovering new emotions as Swift reveals deeper intimacies and harsh truths during the short yet impactful love affair.
Perhaps the most significant perspective offered in this 10-minute version would be the consistent acknowledgement of the bigger age difference between her and the ex-lover. This is evident in the new, vicious one-liners such as when she sings
“I was thinking on the drive down, ‘Any time now, he’s going to say it’s love.’ Never called it what it was.”
In this line, she acknowledges the hurt brought by her naivety as a 20-year old, wishing that the love she felt would be reciprocated and develop into something more. Another sucker punch of a line, and my personal favorite addition, is that which goes
“And there we are again when nobody had to know. You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath.”
While secret relationships have their share of fun and excitement, there is an undeniable level of toxicity that eventually becomes too unbearable, especially when one is far more emotionally invested. Such seemed to be the implication in this line as Swift blatantly admits the disparity between how she and her ex viewed each other in that brief time. She was merely his secret, yet he was her oath. Finally, the age gap is directly addressed in the lyric
“You said if we had been closer in age maybe it would have been fine. And that made me want to die.”
This signals the breaking point in their relationship, as the one unchangeable part of Taylor is brought to the forefront and acts almost as the final knife that pierces her right in the center. Of course the age gap isn’t the sole reason for the breakup, but it certainly played a large part in the differences of their feelings and perspectives that ultimately ended the relationship.
Stills from the “All Too Well 10-Minute Version” Short Film / IMDB
This review does not aim to vilify anyone who may have been involved in the subject matter of this song, but undeniably “All Too Well” is really just a story about the deep heartbreak of a young woman during a formative period of her life. It also shows the power of memory and how this is both a blessing and a curse. Throughout every chorus, there are lyrics where Swift repeats that she was there and she remembers all of it. She even asserts that he was also there and that he remembers it all with her. At this point the scarf is not really a concrete object, as much as it is a symbolism of how much she knew he also cared for her and will keep thinking of her, even if he’s in denial of it.
In the face of an emotionally confusing and crippling relationship, Swift used her memory to recall the details of their time together, in order to somewhat prove to herself how all of it was still real. She even welcomes the intimacy of loss and anger in her lyrics to remind herself of the pain that comes with the realness. The relationship may have scarred her, but no matter what her ex felt (or did not feel), it was a period filled with true memories and vulnerabilities that have, in time, only made her the stronger person she is now.