|Single by Taylor Swift|
|from the album Speak Now|
|Released||March 13, 2011|
|Taylor Swift singles chronology|
"Mean" 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 country radio in the United States on March 13, 2011, as the third single from Speak Now. "Mean" garnered mixed to positive reviews from critics for its lyrical detail and profound country sound. The song received commercial success in the United States and Canada, debuting at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number ten on the Canadian Hot 100. The song also appeared on the Australian Singles Chart at number 45.
The song's accompanying music video was directed by Declan Whitebloom, who developed the concept together with Swift. It received mixed reviews from critics who perceived ambivalent messages in the video, despite the prevalent self-empowerment and anti-bullying themes. "Mean" was performed for the first time by Swift at the 46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards on April 3, 2011. The song won the Grammy Awards for Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance at the 54th Grammy Awards. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Mean as #24 on their list of the 100 greatest country songs of all time.
- 1 Background
- 2 Release
- 3 Composition
- 4 Critical reception
- 5 Commercial performance
- 6 Music video
- 7 Live performances
- 8 Track listing
- 9 Charts and certifications
- 10 Release history
- 11 References
- 12 External links
In an interview with E! News before the release of her third studio album, Speak Now, Swift said that "Mean" is a response to people who criticize whatever she does. She said, "There's constructive criticism, there's professional criticism, and then there's just being mean. And there's a line that you cross when you just start to attack everything about a person." In an interview with Dose.ca, Swift said that she wrote the song to get back at her critics, saying, "There's a song called 'Mean,' that I guess you could categorize it into feelings and or relationships but it's actually about a critic." In a later interview with 60 Minutes, Swift revealed that the critic was someone who attacked her performance with Stevie Nicks at the 52nd Grammy Awards, where she sang off-key. This critic is reputed to be Bob Lefsetz who gave a critical review on his blog, The Lefsetz Letter.
Two exclusive packages were released to Swift's official online store. The first included a T-shirt, an individually numbered "Mean" CD single, and an autographed lithograph. This package is no longer available. The second package contained just the T-shirt and CD single. Only 2,500 copies of the CD single were made. The single was later included in another package that is exclusive to Taylor 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.
A 24-second sample of "Mean" by Taylor Swift.
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
According to Theon Weber of The Village Voice, the song is "made of handclaps, amiable banjo strums, and multi-tracked Taylor Swifts." Matt Bjorke of Roughstock commented that the song is "the most 'country' with an extremely down-home, almost bluegrass sound." The song is written in the key of E major, and Swift's vocals span an octave and a perfect 4th, from G♯3 to C♯5. Jon Caramanica from The New York Times noted the song for its "rootsy sound," where Swift sings "over a bluegrass-influenced acoustic track unlike anything else she’s yet recorded." The chorus has a chord progression sequence of C#m/G#—B/F#—A/E.
The song's lyrics address those who question Swift's ability to sing. This is echoed by Jill Serjeant from Billboard, writing "[the song] appears to take aim at critics who slammed Swift's shaky vocal performance at the 2010 Grammy Awards and at other live shows last year." Ann Powers of Los Angeles Times also agreed that "Mean" "smacks down critics who say she can't sing (I stand accused) by declaring that someday she'll be "livin' in a great big city" and they'll be drunk in some dive bar, bloviating into the void." Additionally, the song lyrics reflect the issue of bullying, which is transparent in a review by aforementioned Matt Bjorke of Roughstock, commenting "'Mean' is an interesting song in that it finds Taylor chewing out many people, particularly bullies. It's a song that really could become part of the anti-bullying campaigns for schools everywhere."
The song's couplets, ("You with your switching sides and your wildfire lies and your humiliation / You have pointed out my flaws again, as if I don't already see them"), were ranked at number five out of ten best couplets from Speak Now sheet by Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly.
The song garnered mixed to positive reviews from music critics. Mandi Bierly of Entertainment Weekly praised the production of the song, writing "[the song] is a nice touch: It brings a sincerity to her pain and lets you focus on the words, which do, near the end, turn cheeky (proving she handles it with a sense of humor)." Theon Weber from The Village Voice described the song as "huge and hugely compassionate, and fearless" and lauded it for being "chipper and funny because the narrator is predicting escape from someone she dislikes: "Some day, I'll be living in a big ole city/And all you're ever gonna be is mean." Kevin John Coyne of Country Universe graded the production of the song as "A", complimenting the message of the song which "articulates the distinction between honesty and cruelty so well." On the other hand, Jonathan Keefe from Slant Magazine lambasted the song for its lyrical content, writing "instead of actually doing something to improve on her inability to find or hold pitch consistently, Swift has simply written a song about how it's 'mean' for people to point out that problem." The song has won at the 54th Grammy Awards for Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance.
"Mean" was released as a promotional single from Taylor Swift's third album Speak Now on October 19, 2010, as part of Countdown to Speak Now, an exclusive campaign by the iTunes Store. Upon its release as a promotional single, "Mean" debuted at number two on the Hot Digital Songs with approximately 163,000 downloads. This led to its appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 the week of October 30, 2010. "Mean" debuted and peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, making Swift the first act to claim the chart's top debut (Hot Shot Debut) in three successive weeks. The song fell off the chart the following week when Speak Now was released, a victim of iTunes' Complete My Album scheme where the customers returned their early purchased tracks from Speak Now to upgrade to a full album purchase. The week of November 6, 2010, the song also debuted on Hot Country Songs at number 55. Upon its release as an official single, "Mean" re-entered Billboard Hot 100 at number 90 and number 17 on the Hot Country Songs. The week of May 14, 2011, Swift made a record when "Mean" jumped from number 12 to number 9 on Hot Country Songs, becoming her 13th consecutive Top Ten hit on that chart. It made Swift one of two women (the other being Carrie Underwood) to begin their chart histories with 13 consecutive Top Tens since the survey's 1944 launch. It peaked at number two for three weeks in June, behind Blake Shelton's "Honey Bee", but it reached number one on the Mediabase / Country Aircheck Country Singles Chart on July 28, 2011 . The week of August 14, 2011, "Mean" became Swift's 13th song to sell more than one million copies which is more than any other country artist in digital history. The song was number 24 on the Billboard Year-end Country Songs chart for 2011. It was certified triple platinum by the RIAA in August 2014. As of November 2014, "Mean" has sold 2.3 million copies in the United States.
Prior to the official release of the song as a single, digital sales accounted for "Mean"'s appearance on international charts. In Canada, the song entered and peaked at number ten. It also made an appearance in Australia at number 45 the week of November 7, 2010.
Background and release
The accompanying music video for "Mean" was directed by Declan Whitebloom. It was shot over two days in Los Angeles, with the Orpheum Theatre serving as its backdrop. The concept of the video was developed by both Swift and Whitebloom, who praised Swift's commitment and involvement with the production of the music video. In an interview with MTV News, Whitebloom said that "Mean" is very personal to Swift because "it's about a critic who was a little too harsh on her". However, he added that people can relate to its message, saying "We all have similar stories in our life that hit similar emotional cues, and to open it up and make it broader about lots of people and situations .. makes it much more accessible." Whitebloom described the video as vignettes that feature scenes from all different time periods, from vaudevillian scenes to scenes resembling O Brother, Where Art Thou?. He also stated that the video was inspired by Swift's performance at the 46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.
Actress Joey King is featured in the video. Prior to the release of the video, Jocelyn Vena of MTV predicted that the video of "Mean" will be "a honky-tonk-type performance video, in which [Swift] and her band have a little fun at someone's expense." The music video premiered on Country Music Television on May 6, 2011, at 22:00 EST (03:00 UTC).
The video begins with a shot of the inside of an empty theater. As the song begins, the curtains open to reveal Taylor Swift, who is wearing a cream-colored dress and playing a banjo. Shortly thereafter, the stage lights are brightened and you can see that the rest of her band is standing around her, dressed in vintage-inspired clothing. The stage is set up to look like the front yard of a farmhouse. Shots of Swift and her band are alternated with shots that tell several stories about people who are the victims of bulling. One is this boy who is being pushed around by the members of a football team for reading a fashion magazine. Another is a girl who is trying to earn money for college by wearing a costume to promote a fast food restaurant, and subsequently has things thrown at her by a group of her peers. One story features Taylor Swift herself, who is tied to the railroad tracks by a villain. The villain and his friend then laugh at her as she sits there helpless. The final story is about a girl (played by Joey King) who is not allowed to sit with a group of other girls at lunchtime, because she is wearing a different colored ribbon around her waist then they are. At about the 3-minute mark, the stage that Taylor Swift and her band is on is transformed into a ritzy nightclub. Taylor Swift herself is now dressed in a sparkly flapper dress, and it is obvious that she is now performing in the big leagues. For the video's conclusion, each of the different stories resolve themselves, and they all end happily. It is revealed that the boy reading the fashion magazine is now a famous fashion designer, the fast food girl has saved up for college and is now a big-time executive, and Taylor Swift effortlessly removes the ropes binding her and walks away from the tracks once the villain and his friend have fainted from drinking heavily. The final scene shows the girl with the unique-colored ribbon sitting as the only audience member in the theater, watching and applauding as Swift finishes performing.
The music video was met with mixed reviews from the critics. Story Gilmore of Neon Limelight perceived the clip to be "adorable", while Amanda Lynne of Gather.com was not disappointed with the video and thought that Swift delivered once again. The Huffington Post said the video was effective at putting Swift alongside the underdogs and dreamers. Daily Mail praised the theme of the video which is about self-empowerment, writing "her new video for her upcoming single Mean depicts how young people picked on at school rise up and become successful later in life." The same opinion was echoed by Jocelyn Vena of MTV who wrote that the video "is the latest entry in an avalanche of empowering clips, which we've seen from artists like Katy Perry ("Firework") and Pink ("Raise Your Glass")." Ashley Iasimone of Taste of Country complimented Swift's looks in the video which corresponded with the video's art direction. She concluded that "it's difficult to not feel as empowered as superstar Swift.
Kyle Anderson of Entertainment Weekly thought that the message in the music video was confusing, writing "Is she really equating a professional critic questioning her ability to sing at an awards show to getting bullied because you're different?" Donna Kaufman of IVillage also felt the mixed messages in the video, stating "the video doesn't show Swift being bullied...Instead, she's a kind of savior to the outsider kids, who are all shallow stereotypes." Kyle Buchanan of New York described the video as cliched, didactic, self-impressed and studiously unrevealing. Drew Grant of Salon.com felt that the video tried to disseminate anti-bullying message from a person who has never been bullied by equating it with an evil vision of fairy tale. Sophie Schillaci of Zap2it noticed that the flaw in the video was the assumption that "mean ole' bullies just rot in their hometown," whereas in reality plenty of successful people are simply mean.
"Mean" was first performed at the 46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards on April 3, 2011. In May 2011, Swift performed the song on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Swift also performed the song live at the 2012 Grammy Awards, changing the first line of one of the final choruses to "Someday, I'll be singin' this at the Grammys", as well as on her Speak Now World Tour. Finally, in 2013 and 2014 she performed it on The Red Tour.
- "Mean" – 3:58
Charts and certifications
Since May 2013 RIAA certifications for digital singles include on-demand audio and/or video song streams in addition to downloads.
|US Country Songs (Billboard)||24|
|United States||March 13, 2011||Country radio||Big Machine Records|
- "Nominees And Winners". The Recording Academy. November 30, 2011. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
- Shelburne, Craig (November 30, 2011). "Grammy Award Nominations Revealed". CMT. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
- Bierly, Mandi (October 19, 2010). "Taylor Swift takes on a bully (and John Mayer?) on new album". EW.com. Retrieved November 22, 2010.
- Morris, Edward (November 6, 2010). "Taylor Swift's Speak Now Speaks Loud as Week's Best-Selling CD". CMT.com. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
- "Taylor Swift Gets 'Mean' With Her Critics; Listen to Her New Single". Dose.ca. November 1, 2010. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
- "Taylor Swift: A young singer's meteoric rise". 60 Minutes. November 20, 2011. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
- "Mean by Taylor Swift Songfacts". Songfacts. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
- "Grammys". February 1, 2010. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
- Raftery, Brian (March 2012). "Who The Hell Is Bob Lefsetz?". Wired. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- "Big Ole City Package". TaylorSwift.com. Retrieved June 9, 2011.[dead link]
- "Mean Package". TaylorSwift.com. Retrieved May 17, 2011.[dead link]
- "Speak Now Deluxe CD-DVD + CD Single + FREE Headphones". Taylor Swift. TaylorSwift.com. Archived from the original on November 17, 2011. Retrieved September 9, 2011.
- Theon Weber (November 3, 2010). "The Iceberg Songs of Taylor Swift". The Village Voice. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
- Bjork, Matt (October 26, 2010). "Taylor Swift – Speak Now". EW.com. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
- "Digital sheet music – Taylor Swift – Mean". Musicnotes.com. Alfred Publishing.
- Jon Caramanica (October 20, 2010). "Taylor Swift Is Angry, Darn It". The New York Times. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
- Jill Serjeant (October 20, 2010). "Taylor Swift Sings Revenge; John Mayer Among Targets?". Billboard. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
- Ann Powers (October 22, 2010). "Taylor Swift: What it means to be 'Mean'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
- Leah Greenblett (October 25, 2010). "Taylor Swift's 'Speak Now': The 10 best lines from her new album". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
- John Coyne, Kevin (March 10, 2011). "Single Review: Taylor Swift, "Mean"". Country Universe. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
- Keefe, Jonathan (October 25, 2010). "Taylor Swift – Speak Now". Slant Magazine. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
- "Taylor Swift Countdown to Speak Now". iTunes Store. Apple, Inc. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
- "SPEAK NOW 3-WEEK ITUNES COUNTDOWN!". Taylorswift.com. September 27, 2010. Retrieved December 19, 2010.[dead link]
- Pietroluongo, Silvio (October 28, 2010). "Far*East Holds on Hot 100, Swift Makes Another Top Debut". Billboard (Nielsen Business Media, Inc). Retrieved December 19, 2010.
- "Chart Moves: Taylor Swift, Michael Jackson, Rihanna, Kanye West". aCharts.us. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
- "Taylor Swift – Mean – Music Charts". billboard.biz. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
- "Hot 100: Week of April 09, 2011 (Biggest Jump)". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- "Hot Country Songs Chart Week of March 26, 2011".
- Trust, Gary (May 5, 2011). "Weekly Chart Notes: Taylor Swift, Adele, Richard Marx". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
- "Advertisement Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood Make Chart History". WTMA. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
- "Taylor Swift: Country Music Legend". Oh No They Didn't. May 6, 2011. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
- "Mean Marks Taylor's 8th #1". Taylor Swift. TaylorSwift.com. June 28, 2011. Retrieved September 9, 2011.[dead link]
- "Week Ending Aug. 7, 2011. Songs: Place Your Bets". Yahoo! Music. Yahoo!. August 10, 2011. Retrieved August 11, 2011.
- "Best of 2011: Country Songs". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 2011. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
- "Recording Industry Association of America". RIAA. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
- Trust, Gary (November 11, 2014). "Ask Billboard: All-Taylor Swift Edition". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved November 11, 2014.
- "Canadian Hot 100: Week of November 6, 2010 (Biggest Jump)". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. November 6, 2010. Retrieved November 1, 2010.
- "Australian-charts.com – Taylor Swift – Mean". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved January 11, 2012.
- Vena, Jocelyn (May 6, 2011). "Taylor Swift's 'Mean' Video Aims To Empower Fans. Singer plays up anti-bullying message in her video.". MTV. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- "Taylor Swift's "Mean" Video Debuts Friday". MTV. May 4, 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- "Taylor Swift's "Mean" Video Debuts Friday". CMT. Viacom. May 4, 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- Bonaguro, Alison (May 6, 2011). "OFFSTAGE: Taylor Swift Isn't "Mean" at All, Director Says". CMT. Viacom. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- Vena, Jocelyn (May 9, 2011). "Taylor Swift's 'Mean' Director Calls Her 'Timeless'". Viacom. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
- "Taylor Swift music video". Joey-king.net. May 7, 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- Sinclair, Jessica (May 8, 2011). "Taylor Swift Mean : Mean Video". Long Island Press. Jed Morey. Retrieved May 9, 2011.
- Vena, Jocelyn (May 4, 2011). "What Would Taylor Swift's 'Mean' Video Look Like?". MTV News. MTV. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- Gilmore, Story (May 7, 2011). "New Video: Taylor Swift Escapes Small Town Life In "Mean"". neonlimelight.com. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- Lynne, Amanda (May 7, 2011). "Taylor Swift Releases Video for 'Mean'". Gather.com. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- "Taylor Swift 'Mean' Music Video: Singer Takes On Critics, Bullies (VIDEO)". The Huffington Post. AOL. May 9, 2011. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
- "Taylor Swift releases new single "Mean" to empower fans who are being bullied". Daily Mail and General Trust. Associated Newspapers Ltd. May 8, 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- Vena, Jocelyn (May 6, 2011). "Taylor Swift's 'Mean' Video Aims To Empower Fans". MTV. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- Iasimone, Ashley (May 6, 2011). "Taylor Swift Braves the Bullies in Beautiful New ‘Mean’ Video". tasteofcountry.com. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- Anderson, Kyle (May 9, 2011). "Taylor Swift battles bullies, critics, and silent movie villains in new 'Mean' video: Watch it here". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
- Kaufman, Donna (May 9, 2011). "WATCH: Taylor Swift's "Mean" Video Creates Controversy". IVillage. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
- Buchanan, Kyle (May 9, 2011). "Taylor Swift’s ‘Mean’ Video Makes Us Temporarily Pro-Bully". New York. New York Media Holdings. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
- Grant, Drew (May 9, 2011). "Taylor Swift's "Mean" doesn't equate to "It Gets Better"". Salon.com. Salon Media Group. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
- Schillaci, Sophie (May 9, 2011). "Taylor Swift's 'Mean' video: A deserving message gone wrong". Zap2it. Tribune Media Services. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
- Eggenberger, Nicole (April 4, 2011). "Watch Taylor Swift Perform ‘Mean’ at Academy of Country Music Awards!". OK! Magazine. Retrieved April 16, 2011.[dead link]
- "Taylor Swift Performs 'Mean'". Ellen DeGeneres. May 30, 2011. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
- "Taylor Swift shimmers in Omaha". Coffey, Kevin. Omaha World-Herald. May 28, 2011. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
- "Mean – Single". iTunes Store. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
- "Taylor Swift – Chart history" Canadian Hot 100 for Taylor Swift. Retrieved January 11, 2012.
- "South Korea Gaon International Chart (Week: January 15, 2012 to January 21, 2012)". Gaon Chart. December 15, 2012. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
- "Taylor Swift – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Taylor Swift. Retrieved January 11, 2012.
- "Taylor Swift – Chart history" Billboard Hot Country Songs for Taylor Swift. Retrieved January 11, 2012.
- "Billboard Country Digital Songs : November 6, 2010". Billboard (Prometheus Global Media). 6 November 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2010.
- "Canadian single certifications – Taylor Swift – Mean". Music Canada.
- "American single certifications – Taylor Swift – Mean". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
- "RIAA Adds Digital Streams To Historic Gold & Platinum Awards". Recording Industry Association of America. May 9, 2013. Retrieved May 9, 2013.