Behind the Meaning of Taylor Swift’s Pride Anthem “You Need to Calm Down”

Taylor Swift has always been a songwriter with something to say. But prior to releasing her 2019 album, Lover, that something was usually a detailed account of her inner thoughts—her struggles, her past relationships, and her memories.

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After the release of Lover, Swift would forever be known as a steward for something bigger than herself. The second single from the record, “You Need to Calm Down,” saw Swift pick up the banner of LGBTQ+ pride amongst other causes. She stood firmly in that community’s ranks and prepared to fight against any adversarial forces in their way.

It’s equally one of Swift’s most bubbly, carefree tracks and one of her most pivotal. Uncover the meaning behind “You Need to Calm Down,” below.

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Behind the Meaning

Swift dials the sass all the way up on “You Need to Calm Down.” Before starting in on homophobia, she begins the track with a broadside against her own haters on the internet. You are somebody that I don’t know / But you’re taking shots at me like it’s Patrón / And I’m just like “Damn, it’s 7:00 a.m, she sings in the opening verse.

Lover followed Swift’s drama-fueled record, Reputation. She was still coming out of the Kardashian/West beef while writing this album and while it is a far more optimistic effort, she couldn’t miss out on an opportunity to “shake off” the haters at least once on the track list.

In the second verse, she starts to take aim at homophobic picketers. Sunshine on the street at the parade / But you would rather be in the dark ages / Making that sign, must’ve taken all night, she sings.

It was a big year for LGBTQ+ causes in 2019. That year alone, the first transgender civil rights case was tried by the Supreme Court, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a change to the Affordable Care Act that restricted healthcare for transgender people, and the fight against the transgender military ban saw major backlash.

With those causes and more planted on the country’s mind, Swift picked her side and drew a stark line in the sand. The final verse comments on the press and the public, pitting Swift and her fellow female pop stars against one another. She pushes all the noise aside and contends that they can all rule the pop game side by side.

And we see you over there on the internet / Comparing all the girls who are killing it / But we figured you out / We all know now, we all got crowns, she surmises. Swift shuts down the scrutiny surrounding all of these issues with one simple phrase: You need to calm down.

Music Video

Swift brought in a host of her friends for the accompanying music video for “You Need to Calm Down.” She lives it up in a rainbow-colored motor home camp with the likes of actress Laverne Cox, content creator Todrick Hall, Katy Perry, Adam Lambert, Ellen DeGeneres, RuPaul, the cast of Queer Eye, and more.

Elsewhere is a group of drag queens dressed as famous pop singers, including, Tatianna (as Ariana Grande), Trinity The Tuck (as Lady Gaga), Delta Work (as Adele), Jade Jolie (as Swift), Adore Delano (as Katy Perry), A’Keria Chanel Davenport (as Nicki Minaj), Trinity K. Bonet (as Cardi B), and Beyoncé impersonator Riley Knoxx (as Queen Bey herself).

Revisit the music video, below.

Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images

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