The meaning behind Taylor Swift’s “Maroon” has come under a lot of speculation since the release of her tenth studio album, Midnights. Fans have dissected the singer’s entire catalog in order to pinpoint the track’s meaning, but what they’ve found is a whole lot of theories and not one answer.
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Since the release of Midnights, Taylor’s devotees, affectionately called Swifties, have been hard at work. And it’s not an easy job being a loyal subject to the breadcrumb-dropping, Easter egg-hiding queen herself.
With the news that her new album was full of songs about her—a project encapsulating 13 stories over 13 sleepless nights – fans were bound to draw from the singer’s past and make their own interpretations from there. Here’s what they’ve found:
Putting the Red in “Maroon”
Swifties are saying “Maroon” is a darker shade of Red, her fourth studio album from 2012. With the release of Midnights arriving almost exactly a decade after Red, fans have looked to that album for clues. They’ve sifted through countless lyrics to pinpoint not what, but who the song is about.
The number one theory: actor Jake Gyllenhaal.
Songs on Red, like “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” “All Too Well,” and the title track, are said to document the singer’s breakup with Gyllenhaal, whom she briefly dated for three months in 2010.
“Maroon” opens with When the morning came / We were cleaning incense off your vinyl shelf. Swifties have determined this is a nod to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” in which Taylor sings of Gyllenhaal’s indie record collection that’s much cooler than mine. The Jake theory evolves further with a dive into “Red.”
In “Red,” Taylor sings Losing him was blue, like I’d never known / Missing him was dark gray, all alone / Forgetting him was like trying to know / Somebody you never met / But loving him was red / Loving him was red. The color-driven tune is something mirrored in “Maroon,” just in deeper shades, potentially painting a more mature take on the relationship or depicting Taylor’s overall growth since Red.
The burgundy on my T-shirt / When you splashed your wine into me / And how the blood rushed into my cheeks / So scarlet, it was / The mark thеy saw on my collarbone / The rust that grew bеtween telephones / The lips I used to call home / So scarlet, it was maroon, she sings on the Midnights track.
However, Gyllenhaal isn’t the only ex under the microscope when it comes to “Maroon.”
The Harry Styles Theory
Clues have also led fans to believe fellow-pop star Harry Styles, with whom Taylor had another short-lived romance sometime between 2012 and 2013, could be the subject of the mysterious “Maroon”.
On 1989, Taylor’s fifth album, the track “Clean” is thought to be about Styles and chronicles another relationship’s end. “Clean” mentions a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore, which many think is referenced in the “Maroon” line: The burgundy on my t-shirt when you splashed your wine into me.
“Maroon” also paints rust that grew between telephones in the chorus. Several fans suggest that could mean a long-distance relationship, something the two singers would have had to endure during their fling as Styles is from England.
Other wild card theories have been thrown around, as well.
Other Wild Cards
One off-the-wall hypothesis points to another ex and fellow artist, John Mayer. Their brief relationship in 2009 has sparked many a Taylor song, however, no concrete lyrical evidence can be found tying “Maroon” to Mayer and Mayer to “Maroon”. So why is he on the suspect list? Mayer has synesthesia. He sees music as colors.
Another actor-ex-boyfriend, Tom Hiddleston, has also been thrown into the ring of leading men. The lines The one I was dancing with / In New York, no shoes some say point to the Thor star because this one time at the Met Gala in New York City … they danced.
Lines in “Maroon,” no doubt, parallel much of Taylor’s early work, but who the song is or isn’t about is up to fans to decide. As of now, Queen T’s lips are sealed.
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