Taylor Swift has been releasing music since 2006. She is an artist that has evolved an incredible amount over the last 15 or so years. From the country girl with the curly hair and acoustic guitar to the pop-indie performer who released “folklore” and “evermore” just last year.
On this day in 2008, Swift released her song “Picture to Burn.” It came off her self-titled debut album. She would later perform it live during her first tour after releasing “Fearless.”
The single peaked at No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 on the country charts. Other songs on that album include, “Tim McGraw,” “Teardrops on My Guitar,” “Our Song,” and “Should’ve Said No.”
Meaning Behind the Song
“Picture to Burn” is allegedly about one of Swift’s ex-boyfriends, something she is known for writing about in the past. The two weren’t in a formal relationship but had dated when they went to high school together.
According to The Boot, the wife of one of Swift’s ex-boyfriends came forward to say that “Picture to Burn” is about her husband. She claims that the song is about him because the two happened to date freshman year. The song mentions something about trucks and the wife said he has always had big and old trucks.
“She really does write her own songs, so I guess if you date her, you have to know you’re going to get a song written about you. In our case, back in school, nobody thought she was actually going to go anywhere,” the ex-boyfriend, Jordan Alford said.
Swift has never been shy about the fact that she writes her songs about her own life and her own experiences. So, this is obviously going to include her real dating life and the boys that were a part of it.
Many people have now dubbed Taylor Swift’s song as a feminist anthem.
Beyond just being a song about an ex-boyfriend, “Picture to Burn” was a lot more than that.
“This song is my angry song on my album. I’m really excited we’re releasing it because I went out on the road to all these tours and would play it every night, and literally even though it wasn’t a single yet, it would get the most crowd response. … As loud as it is in concert with all the girls screaming it, I think it will multiply when this becomes a single,” Swift said to CMT.
The song is all about the feeling of anger that comes after a terrible breakup. She sings about all his terrible qualities, the disastrous relationship, and how all he will ever be to her is a “Picture to Burn.”
“‘Cause I hate that stupid old pickup truck you never let me drive / You’re a redneck heartbreak who’s really bad at lying / So watch me strike a match on all my wasted time / As far as I’m concerned, you’re just another picture to burn.”
For Taylor Swift, she was hoping a lot of girls would relate to the fiery and passionate message behind the song.
“I think girls can relate to the song because basically it’s about just being mad. And it’s OK to be mad after a breakup or after something goes wrong with a relationship. It’s just like completely, brutally honest. It’s also kind of funny. It’s got a comedic edge to it,” Swift said.
Taylor Swift Growth in Songwriting
Over the years, Swift has talked about just how much she thinks her songwriting, her voice, and her music as a whole has grown over the years.
Now, Taylor Swift has an entirely different voice in the industry than she did in 2008. Her sound is more pop and indie aligned and she no longer releases country music.
In a 2011 interview with MTV Swift said, “I had this song called ‘Picture to Burn,’ that’s talking about how ‘I hate your truck,’ and ‘I hate that you ignored me,’ ‘I hate you.’ Now, the way that I would say that and the way that I would feel that kind of pain is a lot different … I look back on the record I made when I was 16, and I’m so happy I made it. I got to immortalize those emotions that when you’re so angry, you hate everything. It’s like recording your diary over the years, and that’s a gift.”
Especially now Swift’s newer works showcase just how far her songwriting abilities have come since she was 16. Her songs in both “evermore” and “folklore” tell a combined story with elaborate and intricate lyrics.