Behind The Meaning of Taylor Swift’s Romeo and Juliet-Inspired “Love Story”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

In fair Hollywood, where we lay our scene, we find a 20-something Taylor Swift throwing caution to the wind and following her heart. Swift has a number of songs that are on the quick recall when you mention her name—“All Too Well,” “You Belong With Me,” and “Shake It Off” to name a few. But, perhaps the most nostalgic and sanguine of her offerings is “Love Story,” originally released in 2008.

In the track, Swift compares her love to Romeo and Juliet, sans all the suicide of course. In her version of the story, the young lovers defy the odds and end up at the end of the aisle, living happily ever after. With just the right amount of doe-eyed optimism and glittery pop flavors of 2010, “Love Story” is an incomparable bop.

We all know the story of Romeo and Juliet—our middle school English teachers made sure of that— but how does Swift’s version of the classic tale differ? Let’s go behind the meaning and origins of “Love Story” below.

Meaning Behind the Lyrics

As much as we’d like to deny it, our parents often know best. The same was true for Swift in her teens as her parents warned her against a “creep” of a guy she was seeing. Though she resigned later that he was, in fact, a creep, a younger Swift was convinced it was love and began to put her emotions down on paper. What resulted was this Romeo and Juliet-inspired tale of forbidden love.

Though nothing is confirmed, fans have speculated about which of Swift’s famous exes this track is about with the pervasive answer being Joe Jonas. She dated the middle Jonas brother for much of 2008. The Swifties cite the line Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone as a nod to their fame getting in the way of their relationship. On top of the allusions to sneaking around, Swift’s father famously advised against the boy bander, which Swift obviously ignored.

Swift once told The Morning Call, “I wrote it about a guy that I was talking to. He wasn’t the popular choice, but I believed in it. I thought, ‘This love is difficult, but it’s real.’ And I knew I needed to put that line in somewhere. I think that this song is really more about a love that’s not convenient and not as comfortable as something else, but it’s something you have to fight for. I added the ending [a proposal] cause I want that ending. I want someone to say, ‘I love you and that’s all I really know.’ That’s the girly girl in me.”

‘Cause you were Romeo, I was a scarlet letter
And my daddy said, “Stay away from Juliet”
But you were everything to me
I was beggin’ you, “Please don’t go, ” and I said

Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone
I’ll be waiting, all there’s left to do is run
You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess
It’s a love story, baby, just say, “Yes”

Star-Crossed Lovers

Naturally, the accompanying video for “Love Story” has a Shakespeare flare about it. Starting off with Swift walking around a college campus and locking eyes with a love interest, she quickly begins to fantasize about castles, balls, and middle-aged gowns. It’s lush, romantic, and inspiring to boot—much like the song suggests.

Taylor’s Version

As part of her ongoing effort to reclaim her master recordings, Swift released a “Taylor’s Version” of Fearless last year. Though obviously, it’s still the same album we know and love (albeit with a few additions), it can be fun to compare the two versions.

Much of the original Fearless is markedly fresh-faced, full of tales of first loves and teenage angst. Because of this, the original version of the album is cemented in a particular time and place. If you were a teenager in 2008, this album was your guiding light and your confidant.

With the revamped version, Swift’s maturity shines though, shifting to a point of view that almost seems like an older sister sharing her hard-earned wisdom. She’s still holding our hand, but instead of walking through our troubles with us, she’s made it to the other side.

In terms of musicality, “Taylor’s Version” sees crisper instrumentation that pulls out new features that may have been missed the first time around—a little banjo here, a few cymbal crashes there. Her sense of arrangement has also matured across the 13 years between the two versions.

Photo: Taylor Swift Fearless (Taylor’s Version) Album Cover

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