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English Through Music: Taylor Swift’s Song, “Mean”

Country music singer Taylor Swift performs during the Singapore leg of her "Speak Now" concert tour February 9, 2011. REUTERS/Tim Chong (SINGAPORE - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

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The song “Mean” is about someone treating another person terribly. It’s also the victim’s promise to succeed in her life.

Singer, Taylor Swift, writes many popular songs about relationships. One of her songs, “Mean,” is also about a relationship, but it’s not love. “Mean” is about someone who treats others in a mean or unkind way.

“You, with your words like knives

and swords and weapons

that you use against me.

You, have knocked me off my feet again,

got me feeling like I'm nothing.

You, with your voice like nails on a chalkboard,

calling me out when I'm wounded.”

The singer is singing about someone who uses words like knives. That person uses words to hurt someone else and make them feel bad. The problem has gotten terrible. The voice of this person has become like nails on a chalkboard. Have you ever heard someone move their fingernails up and down on a chalkboard? The sound can make you very nervous and uncomfortable.

“Mean” isn’t becoming so popular on the country music charts and the Billboard Hot 100 because it’s about anger. Actually, it’s about a promise to herself.

“Someday I'll be living in a big old city,

and all you're ever going to be is mean.

Someday I'll be big enough so you can't hit me,

and all you're ever going to be is mean.”


The singer promises to be successful in a big important city. She promises that she’ll succeed in life and be very respected. The singer understands that being a mean person is a kind of punishment. In fact, the singer even feels a little sorry for the mean person in the song.

“I'll bet you got pushed around.

Somebody made you cold.

But the cycle ends right now

'cause you can't lead me down that road,

and you don't know what you don't know.”

To get pushed around means to be forced to do things you don’t want to do. The singer knows that people who experience mean behavior or abuse often hurt others. They continue a cycle of abuse. For the singer, the cycle ends right now. She isn’t going to make other people suffer like she’s suffered. She promises not to go down that road – not to do the same thing the abuser did.

“Mean” is a very emotional song about a very bad kind of relationship. But it’s also about the cure for that -- a promise to survive and succeed.

“Someday, I’ll be living in a big old city,

and all you’re ever going to be is mean…”


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