The Meaning Behind “I Did Something Bad” by Taylor Swift

The entirety of Reputation saw Taylor Swift own her edgier sides. “I Did Something Bad” is ostensibly the thesis statement of the record. They say I did something bad / Then why’s it feel so good, she sings, bouncing back from a tough year. With this track, she proves it’s possible to come out the other side of a bad situation on top—if you’re cunning enough.

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Behind the Meaning

I never trust a narcissist
But they love me
So I play ’em like a violin
And I make it look oh so easy

Swift starts this song in the shadows. There is something mysterious about opening a song with a statement equally as tongue-in-cheek as it is plaintive: I never trust a narcissist / But they love me. The off-kilter musicality only adds to the dark persona Swift adopts in this song. In the next breath, she reveals her plan to snake out the competition.

We have to assume this song points at Swift’s infamous enemy, Kanye West, though she doesn’t name-drop him. Regardless of who this berating is pointed at, we have to imagine being on the other end of this scorching song would leave some wounds.

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Things heat up in the chorus. I can feel the flames on my skin / Crimson red paint on my lips, she sings. The allusions to West get even more explicit in the next line, which references their beef around the time of this album’s release (which was ultimately chalked up to a half-truth from West) and her response to the fallout.

If a man talks shit, then I owe him nothing
I don’t regret it one bit, ’cause he had it coming

In the second verse, she gets a little more general. Her focus shifts from West and gets pointed to an ambiguous relationship. I fly him all around the world / And I let them think they saved me, she sings. Swift keeps her hardened demeanor intact when discussing leaving her partner behind: This is how the world works / You gotta leave before you get left.

In the bridge, Swift reveals why she is so okay with the backlash against her. In the end, is fighting for your reputation worth it if everyone has already made their mind up? They’re burning all the witches, even if you aren’t one, she sings.

If you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, you might as well revel in the fun you can have along the way. They say I did something bad / Then why’s it feel so good. The answer lies in the question.

Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

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