Taylor Swift Fans Have Admitted That They Don’t Understand What These 10 Lyrics Mean, So We’ve Broken Them Down For You

Taylor Swift Fans Have Admitted That They Don’t Understand What These 10 Lyrics Mean, So We’ve Broken Them Down For You

If you’re confused about Taylor “not dying” in front of a vending machine, and Cory’s “radio” smile, then this is for you.

It’s fair to say Taylor Swift is one of the most prolific songwriters in the industry today, with the pop superstar memorializing pretty much her entire life through her work.

Taylor Swift is onstage singing in a sparkling fringe dress, with a microphone in hand

Hector Vivas / Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

This started when she was just a teenager seeking inspiration from her regular high school life and love interests, and has led to Taylor creating a treasure trove of insight into the world of celebrity and pop culture as her star power grew.

But while her lyrical prowess is one of the main things that Taylor’s fans love about her, it has recently come to light that many Swifties don’t actually understand a lot of what she is singing about.

It all started when X — formerly Twitter — user @maroonwine13 tweeted “what are some taylor lyrics that make zero sense?” earlier this week, a prompt that has been seen more than 4.5 million times in less than 48 hours.

Twitter: @maroonwine13 / Via Twitter: @maroonwine13

Suffice to say, the Swifties did not hold back as they answered the question, with thousands of Taylor fans replying to and quoting the tweet to share their confessions.

And with many of the same lyrics coming up time and again, I thought that I would explain their meaning to end this confusion once and for all.

But, before we get into it, it’s worth mentioning that while these are the most commonly assumed meanings, lyrical interpretation is entirely subjective and only Taylor can truly say what her words mean.

1. “Cruel Summer”

Taylor Swift performs onstage in a glittery outfit with a unique pattern, bending forward with one hand near her ear, as if listening

China News Service / VCG via Getty Images

While Taylor’s 2019 song “Cruel Summer” has always been a firm fan favorite, the lyrics have been scrutinized ever since its release — with one line in particular leaving listeners scratching their heads.

For the uninformed, “Cruel Summer” is widely assumed to be about Taylor realizing that she’d caught real feelings for somebody who initially started out as a casual fling.

It is the opening line of the second verse that has faced constant backlash, with Taylor singing: “Hang your head low in the glow of the vending machine / I’m not dying.”

But what many Swifties appear to miss is this line’s connection to the final lyric in the first verse, where Taylor sings: “What doesn’t kill me makes me want you more.”

Here, Taylor is literally saying that as long as she is alive, she is falling even more deeply for her situationship.

Her going on to reference the fact that she isn’t dying as she watches her subject do something as mundane as stand in the glow of a vending machine reiterates the fact that she is constantly developing stronger feelings for them.

2. “Cardigan”

Taylor Swift performing onstage

Buda Mendes / Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

“I knew I’d curse you for the longest time / Chasing shadows in the grocery line” was perhaps the second most mentioned Taylor lyric after the one in “Cruel Summer,” with the line featuring in Taylor’s 2020 song “Cardigan.”

“Cardigan” was one of three songs on Taylor’s Folklore album that tells the story of a fictional love triangle between the characters James, Betty, and August. This particular track is told from Betty’s perspective, the woman that James cheated on.

With that context in mind, it can be assumed that the aforementioned lyric means that Betty knew that she would remain angry at James for a long time after his infidelity.

However, it also acknowledges that she can’t get him out of her head, and always mistakenly thinks that she is seeing him in her day-to-day life — like in lines at the grocery store.

3. “Stay Beautiful”

Taylor Swift performing with a guitar, wearing a sparkly black dress, accompanied by a male guitarist

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The opening line of one of Taylor’s early songs “Stay Beautiful,” which was released in 2009, has been mystifying listeners for over a decade — but once you actually look at the written lyrics, I promise that it all makes sense.

The line in question is: “Cory’s eyes are like a jungle, he smiles, it’s like the radio.”

First of all, the first part is kind of obvious. Taylor has most likely used a simile to compare Cory’s eyes to a jungle because she can easily get lost in them.

The second half of this line is admittedly less clear-cut, with some theorizing that “he smiles, it’s like the radio” means that his smile is so beautiful it’s like a song.

But it is perhaps more probable that “he smiles” is just a stand-alone statement, and “it’s like the radio” actually connects to the next part of the song, which is: “He whispers songs into my window / In words that nobody knows.”

So, to simplify it even more, Taylor is seemingly saying: “I get lost in Cory’s eyes. He smiles. The way he whispers songs into my window is like a radio.”

4. “Death by a Thousand Cuts”

Taylor Swift wearing a lilac ruffled dress at an awards event

Bridget Bennett / AFP via Getty Images

“I ask the traffic lights if it’ll be alright / They say ‘I don’t know,’” Taylor repeated in her song “Death by a Thousand Cuts” back in 2019, which has played on some fans’ minds ever since.

The song is about Taylor struggling to come to terms with the breakdown of her relationship, and this lyric suggests that she is so heartbroken that she is desperately looking for signs in inconsequential things.

It is also possible that with the traffic lights specifically, Taylor planned to use the green light for “yes” and the red light for “no” when she asked herself a question, but was instead hit with an amber light — hence “I don’t know.”

5. “Dancing with Our Hands Tied”

Taylor Swift onstage

Graham Denholm / Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

Another lyric mentioned off the back of the viral tweet is: “I’d kiss you as the lights went out, swaying as the room burned down, I’d hold you as the water rushes in,” from Taylor’s 2017 song “Dancing with Our Hands Tied.”

Here we can safely assume that Taylor is simply using dramatic imagery to reinforce her love for the song’s subject; she’s basically saying that even if the world was ending, she wouldn’t leave their side.

The latter part of this lyric also references the 1997 movie Titanic, which includes a scene where an elderly couple embrace in bed as the ship is sinking — choosing to die in one another’s arms rather than risk being separated in their attempt for survival.

6. “When Emma Falls in Love”

Emma Stone in a sequined dress and Taylor Swift in a satin gown posing together

Eric Charbonneau / WireImage

“When Emma Falls in Love” was first released last year as a vault song from Taylor’s version of her 2010 album Speak Now. It is largely believed to have been inspired by Taylor’s close friend Emma Stone, and details Taylor’s admiration for Emma.

The lyric that some have admitted to being confused by is: “‘Cause she’s the kind of book that you can’t put down / Like if Cleopatra grew up in a small town.”

Here, Taylor is highlighting just how great she thinks Emma is by comparing her to both a gripping book and Cleopatra, who was the queen of Egypt from 51 to 30 BC.

Cleopatra has become a symbol of women’s power over the years, so Taylor is basically just saying that Emma is incredibly similar to the famous queen, apart from the fact that she grew up in a small town in modern times rather than in Egypt thousands of years ago.

7. “Bigger Than the Whole Sky”

Taylor performing onstage

Hector Vivas / Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

A whole bunch of songs from Taylor’s 2022 album, Midnights, also came up as a result of the tweet, including “Bigger Than the Whole Sky,” which is about processing and grieving the loss of a loved one.

In the song, Taylor questions how and why the loss could have occurred, at one point asking: “Did some bird flap its wings over in Asia?” which has left many confused.

However, it is actually an apparent reference to chaos theory, otherwise known as the butterfly effect. This is the idea that a small thing can have a non-linear impact on something; such as a butterfly’s flapping wings setting off a chain of events that leads to a typhoon somewhere in the world.

It is the same theme being visited in this lyric, with Taylor essentially asking if a bird flapping its wings in Asia kickstarted a chain of events that ultimately resulted in her loss.

8. “You’re on Your Own, Kid”

Taylor Swift at an event, wearing a black outfit with a gold chain necklace

Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

Other lyrics are arguably more straightforward, with “from sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes” in Taylor’s 2022 song “You’re on Your Own, Kid” widely being interpreted as a more artistic way of saying “through the seasons.”

“From sprinkler splashes” represents cooling off in sprinklers over the summer, and “fireplace ashes” represents the colder months of winter.

9. “Karma”

Taylor Swift performing on stage in a shimmery outfit with knee-high boots

Mat Hayward / Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

In the chorus of another Midnights song, “Karma,” Taylor reels off all of the good things in her life that she considers to be a sign of her good karma.

These range from a purring cat to the breeze in her hair, and she then asks the subject of her song: “Karma’s a relaxing thought, aren’t you envious that for you it’s not?”

Despite arguably being a pretty straightforward question, there were a large number of Swifties who admitted to struggling with the meaning behind this lyric, which might stem from a misunderstanding of the term “karma.”

To bring you up to speed, “karma” is the idea that how somebody behaves in their life dictates whether or not they will have good or bad things happen to them. If you do good things, you will have good karma, and if you are bad, then your karma will be bad.

In short, Taylor is suggesting that the person this song is about has done bad things and therefore should be expecting bad karma, unlike her.

With this particular lyric, she is asking the subject if they are jealous that karma is a “relaxing thought” for her because she doesn’t have to worry about it being bad, whereas they do.

10. “Cowboy Like Me”

Taylor Swift in a houndstooth coat outdoors at night; bystanders in background. (Note: Identity of the woman cannot be disclosed.)

Mat Hayward / GC Images

Finally, there has also been a lot of confusion over Taylor’s opening line to her 2020 song “Cowboy Like Me,” which tells the story of two outlaws who have a chance meeting and fall in love.

The opening line in question? “And the tennis court was covered up by some tent-like thing.”

And at this point it’s probably worth mentioning that, sometimes, a lyric can mean exactly what it says. In this case, a tennis court was literally covered up by a tent-like thing, for example, a gazebo for a wedding or other kind of party.

This is supported by the fact that the next line in this song is: “And you asked me to dance,” which reiterates the idea that two people have met at an event — which they seemingly both attended with the sole intention of hustling the other guests.

It’s been widely theorized that Taylor used the phrase “tent-like thing” as opposed to a more specific word like “gazebo” deliberately to illustrate that the outlaws were out of place at the event.

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