Out of the Woods (song)

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"Out of the Woods"
Taylor Swift - Out of the Woods.png
Single by Taylor Swift
from the album 1989
ReleasedJanuary 19, 2016
StudioMXM Studios (Stockholm)
LabelBig Machine
  • Taylor Swift
  • Jack Antonoff
Taylor Swift singles chronology
"Wildest Dreams"
"Out of the Woods"
"New Romantics"
Music video
"Out of the Woods" on YouTube

"Out of the Woods" is a song by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. The song was written and produced by Swift and Jack Antonoff of Fun. Max Martin produced Swift's vocals. It was the second song to be officially released from her fifth studio album 1989, serving as the first promotional single on October 14, 2014.[1][2] It is the fourth track on the album, after "Style". "Out of the Woods" serves as the sixth official single with an accompanying music video that premiered on December 31, 2015, during Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve on ABC. It was released to radio on February 5, 2016.[3] The song went number one in Israel and has reached the top 10 in Canada, and New Zealand as well as the top 20 in Australia and the United States. The song received critical acclaim upon release.

Background and release[edit]

Swift premiered a 15-second clip of "Out of the Woods" on Good Morning America on October 13, 2014.[4] Swift called "Out of the Woods" one of her "favorite songs on this album because it best represents 1989."[1][5] She explained that the song is about "the fragility and breakable nature of some relationships. This was a relationship where I was kind of living day-to-day wondering where it was going, if it was going to go anywhere, if it was going to end the next day."[6] "Out of the Woods" was initially released as a promotional single on October 14, 2014,[7] with no plans for a music video or an official release.[8] On December 22, 2015, Good Morning America officially announced the release of a music video for the song to premiere during Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve.[9] "Out of the Woods" also serves as the sixth official single from 1989,[10] and it was released to radio stations on February 5, 2016.[3]


"Out of the Woods" is a synth-pop[13][14][15][16] indietronica[17] song. The track was written and produced by Swift and Antonoff and is the first song that Swift has written to an existing track. Antonoff sent an early version of the song without the vocals or lyrics to Swift, which she then added in just 30 minutes. Speculation as to whom the song is about is rampant.[8] The bridge section of the song references the snowmobile incident that Swift and her former boyfriend, One Direction's Harry Styles, were reported to be involved in during their relationship.[18] Max Martin produced Swift's vocals for the song.[19] It is written in the key of C major with Swift's vocals spanning two octaves, between G3 and E5[20] and runs three minutes and fifty-five seconds (3:55), at 92 bpm.[21]

Featuring heavy synths and percussion, Antonoff described that the song is given an arrangement that combines both 1980s and modern elements. A Yamaha DX7 is used for the 1980s-tinged sounds apparent on most parts of the song, but they are countered with the Minimoog Voyager during the chorus sections, in which he explained, "That sounds extremely modern to me. It's that back-and-forth."[8] Antonoff also provided backing vocals. He said, "I just chopped this piece of my voice singing and started looping it over and over. Then I started banging on some drums I had in the room and stomping on the floor and sampling all these sounds to make this big bombastic looping beat with the sample on top of it."[8] In an October 2014 interview with NPR, Swift provided a detailed explanation of the lyrics:

That line is in there because it's not only the actual, literal narration of what happened in a particular relationship I was in, it's also a metaphor. "Hit the brakes too soon" could mean the literal sense of, we got in an accident and we had to deal with the aftermath. But also, the relationship ended sooner than it should've because there was a lot of fear involved. And that song touches on a huge sense of anxiety that was, kind of, coursing through that particular relationship, because we really felt the heat of every single person in the media thinking they could draw up the narrative of what we were going through and debate and speculate. I don't think it's ever going to be easy for me to find love and block out all those screaming voices.[22]

Critical reception[edit]

The song received universal acclaim. Billboard gave the song four and half stars out of five.[23] Chris Willman Writing for Yahoo called the song "Pretty weird, and pretty wonderful".[24] Katie Hasty of HitFlix gave the song an A+ writing that the song "is damned near perfect."[25] Writing for Vulture, Lindsay Zoladz stated that "Swift revealed something even more promising: the cavernous, Antonoff-produced "Out of the Woods," which seemed to herald an exciting, unexpected, and mature new direction in Swift's sound."[26] Sam Lansky of Time praised the track stating, "It's the furious chant of that anthemic chorus, all breathless urgency, and the left-of-center production that help Swift perform the niftiest sleight of hand: Even with lyrics that include some of her most headline-grabbing autobiographical admissions to date, the most interesting thing here isn't who it's about, but rather, how different it sounds".[27] "Out of the Woods" ranked number 94 on Pitchfork's list of The 100 Best Tracks of 2014.[28] In 2020, NME writer Hannah Mylrea placed the song at number seven on her list ranking every 161 song by Swift. She lauded the song as Swift's greatest triumph, and commended its "exhilarating" production and "anthemic" chorus".[17]

Commercial performance[edit]

On the Billboard Hot 100 chart the song debuted and peaked at number 18. It became Swift's 61st song to enter the Hot 100, making her the female artist to have the second most charted songs on the Hot 100, behind Aretha Franklin (73).[29] The song debuted at number one on the Hot Digital Songs chart, selling 195,000 copies and displacing Swift's "Shake It Off" from the top spot. In doing so, Swift became the first lead artist to simultaneously occupy the top two positions twice since 2012, when her songs "Ronan" and "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" occupied the top two positions.[30] Swift stood at rank four as the artist with the most number-one Digital Songs and tied with Rihanna for the most number-one debuts.[29] Following its release as a single in 2016, the track re-entered the Hot 100 at number 46. "Out of the Woods" was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling over 1,000,000 copies.[31]

In New Zealand, it debuted at number six, the highest debut that week.[32] In Australia, it debuted at number twenty one on the Australian Singles Chart and peaked at number nineteen.[33] In its first week of release, the song sold 21,000 downloads in Canada.[34] The song entered the top 10 of the Canadian Hot 100, debuting and peaking at number 8 on the week of November 1, 2014, making it the week's highest debut. It dropped off the Hot 100 a week later.[35]

Music video[edit]

Bethells Beach, the beach displayed at the end of the video

Production and release[edit]

The accompanying music video directed by Joseph Kahn premiered on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest on ABC on December 31, 2015.[36] It marked Swift's and Kahn's fourth collaboration in 1989 following "Blank Space", "Bad Blood" and "Wildest Dreams".[37] The video was filmed on location in New Zealand in the mountains of Queenstown and on Bethells Beach.[38] During the filming, a severe storm struck, causing trees to fall around them. After evacuating, filming resumed a week later.[39]


The video starts with the caption "She lost him." Next, Swift is first seen on the beach barefoot and only wearing a blue dress. She runs through what appears to be enchanted woods that formed around her, chased by a pack of wolves who tear at her blue dress as she struggles to escape as some wooden roots constantly follow her. Then she finds herself in different locations representing the four basic elements of nature throughout the video like the snowy mountains, an ocean, a barren landscape, a muddy location, and a burning forest. At the end of the video, the "woods" she was crawling through disappear as she finds a beach, where another version of her is waiting by the shore as she reaches for her. The video ends with the caption "She lost him, but she found herself, and somehow that was everything.", which was part of the secret messages in her song "Clean" in the lyric-booklet of her 1989 record.[40]


Sharan Shetty of Slate wrote the subject of the song, anxiety, "is literalized to an extreme degree in the song’s video".[41] Peter Sblendorio of the New York Daily News deemed it "perhaps her most stunning music video yet" and hailed the visuals as "eye-popping".[42] People also called it "an eye-popper of a video",[43] while Billboard agreed on the stunningness of the clip.[44] Writing for Spin, Harley Brown described the video as "fantastically cinematic".[45] The Huffington Post's Dominique Mosbergen called the music video "haunting".[46] As of January 2020, the video has over 155 million views on YouTube.[47]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Organization Award/work Result
2016 Antville Music Video Awards Best Visual Effects Won

Live performances and covers[edit]

Swift first performed the song as part of her "1989 Secret Sessions" for iHeartRadio in New York City, the day 1989 was released in October 2014. She then performed it in New York City for Good Morning America, on October 30, 2014, when she also performed "Welcome to New York" and "Shake It Off."[48] On December 3, 2015, Swift performed the song on a piano at Australia's Hamilton Island, where radio channel Nova 96.9 hosted a small performance featuring the singer and a few of her fans.[49] She also played a piano rendition of "Out of the Woods" at The Grammy Museum, where she did an acoustic performance to celebrate her attendance record breaking exhibit, on September 30, 2015.[50]

Swift also performed the song as the opening act to the 58th Annual Grammy Awards on February 15, 2016.[51] The song was also a regular part of her setlist for The 1989 World Tour and was the penultimate song sung on the show each night.[citation needed] In 2018, Swift performed an acoustic version of the song during her Reputation Stadium Tour show at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada and Auckland, New Zealand.[52]

Ryan Adams recorded a soft rock cover of "Out of the Woods" for his album 1989. Yahoo! writer Oscar Gracey said that Adams' cover "makes us want to hike through a forest, find a clearing, and mourn the relationships that didn't quite work out."[53]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits are adapted from liner notes of 1989.[54]


Chart (2014–16) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[33] 19
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[55] 64
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[56] 50
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[35] 8
Canada AC (Billboard)[57] 13
Canada CHR/Top 40 (Billboard)[58] 13
Canada Hot AC (Billboard)[59] 9
Denmark (Tracklisten)[60] 23
France (SNEP)[61] 70
Hungary (Single Top 40)[62] 37
Israel (Media Forest TV Airplay)[63] 1
Italy (FIMI)[64] 97
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[32] 6
Poland (Polish Airplay Top 100)[65] 43
Scotland (OCC)[66] 48
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[67] 22
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[68] 136
US Billboard Hot 100[69] 18
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[70] 20
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[71] 11
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[72] 12


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[73] Gold 35,000double-dagger
Canada (Music Canada)[74] Gold 40,000*
United States (RIAA)[31] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label Ref.
Various October 14, 2014[a] Digital download Big Machine [1]
United States January 19, 2016 Contemporary hit radio
Hot adult contemporary [76]
Italy February 5, 2016 Contemporary hit radio Universal [3]


  1. ^ Release as a promotional single.

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ Linder, Emilee (February 3, 2016). "Taylor Swift's Next Single 'Out Of The Woods' Is On Its Way: Get The Deets". MTV. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "Taylor Swift – Out of the Woods Radiodate". radioairplay.fm. February 5, 2016. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
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External links[edit]