The Story of Us (song)

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"The Story of Us"
An image of a woman standing alone in a dark crowded room. She is wearing a white shirt and is looking aside. She is hugging herself while the light hits her upper body. Below her the words "Taylor Swift" and "The Story of Us" are written in white and gold colors respectively.
Single by Taylor Swift
from the album Speak Now
Released April 19, 2011 (2011-04-19)
Format CD single
Recorded 2010
Genre Pop rock
Length 4:27
Label Big Machine
Writer(s) Taylor Swift
Producer(s)
Taylor Swift singles chronology
"Mean"
(2011)
"The Story of Us"
(2011)
"Sparks Fly"
(2011)

"The Story of Us" is a song recorded by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift for her third studio album, Speak Now (2010). It was written by Swift, who produced the song alongside Nathan Chapman. The song was sent to mainstream radio in the United States on April 19, 2011, as the fourth single from Speak Now. Swift composed "The Story of Us" regarding the time when she encountered an ex-boyfriend of hers at the 2010 CMT Music Awards. At the event, the two attempted to ignore each other, which inspired Swift to compose the song.

"The Story of Us" was met with generally mixed reviews from critics who felt that Swift is strongest when she lets her country roots shine. Prior to its single release, the song debuted and peaked at number 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 70 on the Canadian Hot 100 due to strong digital sales. It re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 98 after its single release.

The music video of the song was directed by Noble Jones which took place in Vanderbilt University. It premiered on Tuesday, May 24, 2011. The music video was met with mostly positive reception among music critics for its departure from music video high-school. "The Story of Us" was performed live in The Ellen DeGeneres Show and it was also included in the Speak Now World Tour set list. The performance from the tour was included on Swift's first live album, Speak Now: World Tour Live.

Background and release[edit]

At the 2010 CMT Music Awards, held in June, Swift encountered an ex-boyfriend of hers.[1] The two were seated a couple of seats away from each other, but were unwilling to speak to each other, although they both had much to say. As a result, they both pretended to be heavily engaged in conversations with those surrounding them, individuals who Swift noted to be practically strangers.[2] Swift had the desire to confront him and ask him if the experience was as painful for him as it was for her. However, she did not do so because they both had "silent shields up".[1] "We're sitting six seats away from each other and just fighting this silent war of ‘I don't care that you're here.' I don't care that you're here.' It's so terribly, heartbreakingly awkward", she said.[3] She recalled it to be a miserable experience.[2] When Swift arrived home, she spoke to her mother about the encounter, sitting at her kitchen table and said, "I felt like I was standing alone in a crowded room." She then stood up and ran towards her bedroom to compose "The Story of Us", something Swift's mother was already accustomed to.[1][2] "The Story of Us" was the last track Swift composed for Speak Now, claiming that upon completing the song she knew she was done with the album.[1] The song's subject was revealed by Swift to be the same for "Dear John", which in an interview musician John Mayer confirmed that he was the songs subject. Furthermore, Swift and Mayer both attended the 2010 CMT Awards.[1]

The song was released to mainstream radio on April 19, 2011.[4] An exclusive package was released to Swift's official store including a "Speak Now" Black Leather Bracelet and an individually numbered "The Story of Us" CD single. Only 2,500 copies of the CD single were made.[5] The single was later included in another package that is exclusive to Swift's official store. The package includes the Target exclusive deluxe edition of Speak Now, a free pair of headphones, and the choice between either the "Sparks Fly", "The Story of Us", or the "Mean" CD single.[6]

Composition[edit]

A 27-second sample of "The Story of Us" by Taylor Swift. The song features an element of pop rock.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"The Story of Us" is a song with a length of four minutes and 27 seconds.[7] Jon Caramanica of The New York Times thought that the song contains an element of pop-punk.[8] According to sheet music published by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, "The Story of Us" is written in common time with a tempo of 138 beats per minute. Set in the key of E major, it follows the basic chord progression of Cm7–E–A, while Swift's voice spans from F3 to B4.[9] Matt Bjorke of Roughstock commented that the song is one of many outwardly pop-leaning songs on Speak Now.[10] Scott Shelter of AOL Radio praised the musical element of the song, writing "with a vibrant beat, electric guitars and a fast-paced chorus, the song edges closer to the pop side of country-pop."[11]

Lyrically, the song narrates the awkwardness that takes place between two people after they break up. Chris Willman of Yahoo! Music thought the key lyrics of the song are "I'd tell you I miss you but I don't know how/I've never heard silence quite this loud" and also "I would lay my armor down, if you would say you'd rather love than fight."[12] In a different perspective, Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly considered these couplets from the song, ("I used to know my place was the spot next to you / Now I’m searching the room for an empty seat / ‘Cause lately I don’t even know what page you’re on"), as one of the best couplets from Speak Now sheet.[13] Jonathan Keefe of Slant Magazine claims that the song describes "a young woman who is at turns sharp and snide, but who is nonetheless defined by relationships."[14]

According to Swift, she wrote the song "about an awkward situation where, well... Let me just preface by saying that I have happened to run into exes in strange places lately. This is about one of those situations where the strange place that I ran into him was an awards show. I was seated a couple of seats away from him and there was so much that needed to be said, and neither one of us was willing to say it. We were both acting like we were engaged in conversations with people that we don't even know. It was just miserable. I was telling my Mom about it later, and I said I felt like I was standing alone in a crowded room. And then I was like, "Gotta go. Bye!" And my Mom is used to that at this point so, that's what this song is about."[15]

Critical reception[edit]

"The Story of Us" was met with mixed reviews from critics. While reviewing Speak Now, Dave Heaton of Pop Matters observed that the album is built upon conflicting stories which result in a discrepancy between those stories and the way life turns out. He added that "'Story of Us' makes this explicit, by presenting the verses as 'chapters', within a song where the story isn’t being written the way [Swift] wants it to, turning into a 'tragedy' she didn’t imagine."[16] Liz Stinson of Paste was not impressed with the song and she likened Swift as the "annoying cousin" of Katy Perry for trying to embrace her pop side. Nevertheless, she felt that "Swift is strongest when she lets her country roots shine through."[17] Theon Weber of The Village Voice chastised the song as "giddy and bombastic (...) which plays around with glammy dance-pop."[18] Amanda Hensel of Taste of Country praised the song by claiming that it's "upbeat and fun, and even a bit rock-y".[19] Rahul Prabhakar of The Oxonian Review felt that it was "fast-paced and destined for girls’ gym mixes, but otherwise boring."[20] Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone stated that fans could "tell what chick flicks Swift has been watching from the song title[s]."[21]

Commercial performance[edit]

Following the release of Speak Now, on the week ending November 13, 2010, "The Story of Us" debuted at number 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 which became its peak position;[22] it became one of the songs to make Swift the first act to have ten songs debut on the Billboard Hot 100 in the same week.[23] Following its single release, the song re-entered Billboard Hot 100 at number 98 on the week ending May 28, 2011. Since then, the song has peaked at number 66 on the week ending June 25, 2011.[24] This is Swift's first and only single to not have peaked within the top 40 on the Hot 100. "The Story of Us" also her first single to not have peaked within the top 20 in Pop Songs; it only peaked at number 21.[25]

Internationally, "The Story of Us" has had moderate success. The song debuted in Canada at number 70 on the week ending November 13, 2010.[26] The song has also peaked at number 15 on Belgian's Flemish Ultratip chart.[27]

Live performances[edit]

"The Story of Us" was performed live by Swift on The Ellen DeGeneres Show which marked her televised premiere of the song.[28][29] During a break from the European leg of Speak Now World Tour, Swift played a live acoustic set for BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge including an acoustic performance of "The Story of Us".[30] Swift also performs the song during the Speak Now World Tour.[31][32][33] The performance was included on Swift's first live album called Speak Now: World Tour Live.[34]

Music video[edit]

Development and release[edit]

The music video of "The Story of Us" took place in the Central Library of Vanderbilt University.[35]

The music video for "The Story of Us" was directed by Noble Jones.[36] The video was filmed at Vanderbilt University's Central Library with additional scenes filmed in Vanderbilt's Alumni Hall.[35][37] Allison Bonaguro of Country Music Television complimented the setting of the video, writing "shooting it in a library was a smart way to make all the lyrics about "I don't even know what page you're on" and "I've never heard silence quite this loud" really shine."[38] A sneak peek featuring the first forty-four seconds of the music video was released on MTV.com on May 20, 2011.[39] The music video premiered on May 24, at 7:53 p.m. ET on MTV and MTV.com and was followed by Swift's interview session with Sway Calloway of MTV News for "MTV First: Taylor Swift" segment.[40] During the interview, Swift revealed that the video shoot encountered some problems since tornadoes were hitting Nashville during the video shoot. She explained, "We had to hide. All of us, we had to hide in a room where there were no windows, so that was a little bit crazy. [But] other than that, it was incredibly fun."[37] Swift also shared her emotions with Calloway after watching the music video. She expressed,

"Anytime I'm onstage or watching the music video, the first thing that comes into my mind is the person I wrote the song about. It's like the first thing that you think of is the moment that inspired the song, which is that excruciating, awful moment when you run into an ex for the first time."[40]

Prior to the release of the video, Universal Music Group released a promotional music video featuring the European leg of Swift's Speak Now World Tour.[41] Swift also added that the music video is different from the rest of her music videos. According to her, "the biggest difference between the new video and all the other ones is that I love to make a happy ending happen, and with this video, it doesn’t happen."[42]

Synopsis[edit]

The video begins with shots of the library and a book called "The Story of Us". Swift narrates the story while standing between two bookshelves, sitting on a desk and lying across a table (and occasionally lying on top of "The Story of Us") with a stack of books next to her, as we see scenes flashing back and forth between her and her ex-boyfriend, students in the library, some library staff, and her band playing the song. The scenes between her and her ex start with a private meeting between the two in the library, scenes where she is finding a place by herself without him in the library, to the awkward scene of finding him across the room from her. Swift hides behind a book she's holding when she notices her ex, then looks away pulling on her clothes and plays with her hair, in the attempt of not making him notice her. She doesn't notice that he noticed her too, later in the video, and was trying to avoid her too. They both eventually catch each other looking and they awkwardly try to give each other a silent and distant "Hi" as the video cuts to a scene where we see a girl who first pulls Swift's ex into a make out, then pulls away as the librarian passes by. When the librarian passes, Swift's ex pulls the girl back and kisses her again. This cheating caused the fall out between Swift and the guy. Swift eventually gives the first "Hi" which he returns and both get up to confront the other. The video ends with a break out of the other classmates and staff joining in, the classmates throwing away their papers and they and the staff begin dancing to the song while both Swift and her ex are face to face with each other in a very awkward moment, both trying to say how the other feels, but eventually they both shrug at each other and walk away. The last shot is of Swift closing the book of "The Story of Us".[43]

Reception[edit]

The music video for "The Story of Us" was met with mostly positive reception among music critics. Kyle Anderson of Entertainment Weekly praised the video for being "a lovely and clever bit of film for Swift" which could be thought of as a sequel to "You Belong with Me". He concluded that Swift is good at telling sweet little tales of unrequited love rather than trying to be a symbol of young female empowerment.[44] Donna Kaufman of IVillage was amused with Swift's idea of what happened at a university library which was portrayed in the music video, writing "it's all very cute in that patented Taylor Swift way."[45] Leah Collins of The Vancouver Sun complimented the video for its departure from music-video high school.[46] The same opinion was expressed by Carina Adly MacKenzie of Zap2it who noted that "Swift has graduated from the "You Belong With Me" prom days to a world of dusty books and hipster glasses for "The Story of Us"."[47]

Track listing[edit]

  • Australian Promotional CD single[48]
  1. "The Story of Us" – 3:36
  • US Limited Edition CD single[5]
  1. "The Story of Us" – 4:25

Charts[edit]

Charts (2010–11) Peak
position
Belgian Tip Chart (Flanders)[27] 15
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[26] 70
Hungarian Airplay Chart[49] 33
US Billboard Hot 100[22][50] 41
US Pop Songs (Billboard)[51] 21
US Adult Pop Songs (Billboard)[52] 31
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[53] 23

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
United States (RIAA)[54] Platinum 1,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label
United States[55] April 19, 2011 Mainstream radio Big Machine Records

References[edit]

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External links[edit]