All Too Well
|"All Too Well"|
|Song by Taylor Swift|
|from the album Red|
|Released||October 22, 2012|
|Red track listing|
"All Too Well" is a song recorded by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. It was written by Swift and Liz Rose, produced by Swift and Nathan Chapman, appearing as the fifth track on Swift's fourth studio album, Red (2012). "All Too Well" is a country and soft rock power ballad that narrates heartache from a derailed romantic relationship, using vivid imageries. It received its debut performance at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2014, to widespread appraisal.
Contemporary critics lauded the song's production and evocative lyrics that portray a vivid depiction of emotional tumult, and declared it as a standout on Red. Retrospectively, critics deemed it the best song of Swift's career. It gained a cult following among Swift's fans and appeared in several publications' lists of the best songs of the 2010s decade. "All Too Well" peaked at number 80 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number 59 on the Canadian Hot 100. It was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for moving over 500,000 units in the country.
Background and release
"All Too Well" was the first song Swift wrote for her album Red. While collaborating with different writers on Red, Swift wrote the song along with Liz Rose, with whom she had written many songs on her earlier albums. Rose has said that Swift unexpectedly asked her to help write the song as a one-off project after not having collaborated with Swift for some years. Swift started writing the song by herself unexpectedly:
"The lyric I’m most proud of is from "All Too Well": "And you call me up again just to break me like a promise / so casually cruel in the name of being honest." That was something I came up with while ranting during a soundcheck. I was just playing these chords over and over onstage and my band joined in and I went on a rant. Those were some of the lines I thought of. [...] I was going through a really hard time then, and my band joined in playing, and one of the first things that I came up with, just, like, spat out, was "And you call me up again just to break me like a promise, so casually cruel in the name of being honest.""
Swift has also said that the song was "the hardest to write on the album", saying: "it took me a really long time to filter through everything I wanted to put in the song without it being a 10-minute song, which you can’t put on an album. I wanted a story that could work in the form of a song and I called my co-writer Liz Rose and said, ‘Come over, we’ve gotta filter this down,’ and it took me a really long time to get it." Rose also said that the song was originally "10, 12 or 15 minutes long" before cutting down to "the important pieces". In a later interview, Rose described "All Too Well" as originally being "probably a 20-minute song when [Swift] called me." Even after cutting it down, the song is the longest track on the album, clocking in at five minutes and twenty-eight seconds (5:28).
The song's studio recording was produced by Nathan Chapman and Swift. Its secret message in Red's liner notes is "MAPLE LATTES". Various publications have linked the song lyrics and the secret message to Swift's earlier relationship with actor Jake Gyllenhaal.
Upon its release, the song received universal acclaim from music critics, with many calling it the best song of Swift's catalogue. Slant Magazine particularly lauded the song within its review, saying ""All Too Well" is arguably the finest song in Swift's entire catalogue: The arrangement slowly crescendos from coffeehouse folk to arena rock as Swift adds new details from a doomed relationship, until she unleashes one of her best-ever lines ("You call me up again just to break me like a promise/So casually cruel in the name of being honest") and the song explodes into a full-on bloodletting."
Billboard gave a positive review to the song, saying "Just like that, Swift snaps back to her core demographic: "All Too Well" is sumptuous country, with Swift "dancing 'round the kitchen in the refrigerator light" in the memory of a romance that has seemingly been buried in time. The tune would have fit snugly on Speak Now, and even touches upon some of the same themes as "Mine", but on Red it serves as a reminder that these songs will always remain in Swift's wheelhouse." Idolator stated that "And yet, it’s the tense "All Too Well" that hits the hardest: Swift drops the devastating image, "We're dancing around the kitchen in the refrigerator light," before reaching an almost hysterical unraveling with the despondent cry, "I'm a crumpled up piece of paper lying here." It's dramatic, but with Swift, it always is. That's a good thing." Pitchfork ranked "All Too Well" as the 57th best song of the 2010s, applauding "her emotional intelligence, her candor, her economy of words, her ability to find beauty in vulnerability."
The week her album Red was released, all of the songs charted in different countries due to its strong digital sale downloads. With this, the song debuted at number 80 on Billboard Hot 100, number 22 on the Digital Song Sales chart, number 59 on the Canadian Hot 100 and number 17 on the Hot Country Songs.
On January 26, 2014, Swift performed "All Too Well" at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Wearing a dramatic beaded gown with sequin detailing and a long train streaming out behind her, she sang while playing piano on a low lit stage, before being joined by a live band midway through the performance. Her performance was praised and received a standing ovation. Swift's headbanging at the song's climax gained significant media coverage. Sean Thomas of The Slanted called it the "performance of the night," and Amy Sciarretto of Pop Crush hailed it as "unforgettable."
Swift also performed the song live throughout her Red Tour, while playing the piano. On August 21, 2015, Swift performed the song in Los Angeles at the Staples Center, the only time on The 1989 World Tour.  On February 4, 2017, Swift performed the song as part of the Super Saturday Night show in Houston, Texas.
Swift performed an acoustic version of the song on the first show of her Reputation Stadium Tour in Glendale, Arizona on May 8, 2018, the fifth show in Pasadena, California on May 19, 2018 and the last show of the U.S. leg of the tour in Arlington, Texas on October 6, 2018. The latter of which appeared in her Netflix concert film of the same name. On September 10, 2019, Swift performed the song as part of the City of Lover concert. On October 11, 2019, she performed the song at a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR Music.
"All Too Well" is the most critically acclaimed song in Swift's catalogue. It has generally been labeled, by both fans and critics, as the best song in her discography. The song has been placed on numerous best-of lists by several publications.
Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone ranked "All Too Well" as the best song in Swift's catalogue, writing "no other song does such a stellar job of showing off her ability to blow up a trivial little detail into a legendary heartache". Sheffield also ranked the song as the number-one best song of the 2010s decade. In her 2020 list ranking all 161 songs by Swift yet, Hannah Mylrea of NME placed the song at number one, dubbing it Swift's "magnum opus" and exemplary of her songwriting prowess. Mylrea wrote that the ballad conveys the heartache resulting from a painful breakup, visualizing "a tale of lost scarves and autumn days as she jumps between different points—both good and bad—in a relationship".
Rolling Stone placed the song at number 29 of its list of The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century and at number 5 on its list of The 100 Best Songs of the 2010s, describe the song as a “subtly devastating ballad" and adding that “the brilliance of "All Too Well" is in how it makes you feel like you were right there with her, too”. Uproxx, Stereogum, and Pitchfork included the song on their lists of the best songs of the 2010s decade, at number 10, 24, and 57 respectively. It also ranked at number 13 on NPR's list of the top 25 songs of the decade. Insider ranked the song as one of the 8 best songs of the 2010s and later placed it at number 5 on its list of the top 113 songs of the decade, describing it as a “cinematic, five-minute masterclass on narrative structure”, while Time named it one of the best 10 songs of the 2010s. Parade listed "All Too Well" as one of the 50 best songs of the 2010s, stating that "we'll be listening to for decades to come". In their "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list, Rolling Stone listed Red, and highlighted "All Too Well" as "vivid a post-breakup remembrance as any artist has ever produced".
The song references a beloved scarf that Swift lost and which was subsequently kept by the song's subject. It has become a symbol in Swift's fandom, inspiring jokes, memes, and interview questions. It has even inspired numerous fan fictions in other fandoms. Writer Kaitlyn Tiffany of The Verge described the scarf as "the green dock light of our time." The song has achieved a cult following within Swift's fanbase and despite not being a single, is one of the most widely recognized songs among the fans. Swift herself mentioned this unexpected popularity during her Reputation Stadium Tour. In addition, fans have asked Swift on two different occasions on the existence of the original, 10-minute version of "All Too Well", and she has admitted that she has a copy. The original lyrics are included in the deluxe versions of Swift's seventh studio album, Lover.
Credits and personnel
- Taylor Swift – vocals, songwriter, producer
- Liz Rose – songwriter
- Nathan Chapman – producer, acoustic guitar, studio personnel
- Justin Niebank – mixer, studio personnel
- Hank Williams – mastering engineer, studio personnel
- Drew Bollman – assistant mixer, studio personnel
- Brian David Willis – assistant recording engineer, studio personnel
|Canada (Canadian Hot 100)||59|
|US Billboard Hot 100||80|
|US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)||17|
|US Country Airplay (Billboard)||58|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||500,000|
sales+streaming figures based on certification alone
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