Taylor Swift’s ‘Slut!’ Lyrics Are Her Response to Relentless Slut-Shaming

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Taylor Swift’s dreamy pop song “Slut!,” one of the most highly-anticipated tracks “From the Vault” of Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version), isn’t a tell-all about any specific boy she dated. Instead, the track acts similarly to “Blank Space,” cleverly commenting on the media portrayal’s of her as a serial dater. It has a sincere, romantic side to it, bringing in a new love interest who Swift decides makes the attention worth it.

As she sings in the chorus, “But if I’m all dressed up / They might as well be lookin’ at us / And if they call me a slut / You know it might be worth it for once / And if I’m gonna be drunk / I might as well be drunk in love.”

While the identity of this love interest isn’t clearly defined, there are hints it could be Harry Styles, who inspired several tracks on 1989—or at least another male celebrity with heartthrob status. (Swift has a long history of being romantically linked to famous men.)

Styles, who was in the boy band One Direction at the time he and Swift dated, had an enormous fan base crushing on him. Swift seemingly alludes to this fame, saying in one verse, “Everyone wants him, that was my crime / The wrong place at the right time / And I break down, then he’s pullin’ me in / In a world of boys, he’s a gentleman.”

Thematically, fans noticed on Genius that Swift alluded to other songs on 1989, specifically “Blank Space,” which explores the same subject of how the public sees her love life.

The lyric “Love thorns all over this rose / I’ll pay the price, you won’t” is similar to the “Blank Space” line, “Screaming, crying, perfect storms / I can make all the tables turn / Rose garden filled with thorns.” It also points out the double standard between the treatment of men and women’s love lives, something Swift would explore more deeply later in her Lover song “The Man.”

Swift confirmed in January 2016 that she wrote “Blank Space” to comment on the media’s treatment of her—which inspired her to create a satirized character. “It got pretty out of control there for a couple of years. … Every article was like, ‘Taylor Swift, standing near some guy—watch out, guy!’” she said then. “My first reaction was to be like, That’s a bummer. This isn’t fun for me. But then my second reaction ended up being like, Hey, that’s actually a really kind of interesting character they’re writing about. She jet sets around the world, collecting men, and she can get any of them … but she’s so clingy, so they leave and she cries and then she gets another one in her web and she traps them and locks them in her mansion and then she’s crying in her marble bathtub surrounded by pearls. So I was like, I can use this.”

In the prologue of 1989 (Taylor’s Version), which came out tonight, Swift touched again on the impact the public’s commentary on her love life had on her at the time. She wrote:

You see, in the years preceding this, I had become the target of slut shaming—the intensity and relentlessness of which would be criticized and called out if it happened today. The jokes about my amount of boyfriends. The trivialization of my songwriting as if it were a predatory act of a boy crash psychopath. The media co-signing of the narrative. I had to make it stop because it was starting to really hurt.

It became clear to me that for me, there was no such thing as casual dating, or even having a male friend who you platonically hang out with. If I was seen with him, it was assumed I was sleeping with him, and so I swore off hanging out with guys. Dating, flirting, or anything that could be weaponized against me by a culture that claimed to believe in liberating women but consistently treated me with the harsh moral codes of the Victorian era.

Being a consummate optimist, I assumed I could fix this if I simply changed my behavior. I swore off dating and decided to focus only on myself, my music, my growth, and my female friendships. If I only hung out with my female friends, people couldn’t sensationalize or sexualize that, right? I would learn later on that people could and people would.

“Slut!” portrays a Swift who is too in love to care about the noise—and provides a fascinating portrait of the singer in her mid-twenties. Read the lyrics in full (via Genius) and listen to the song below:

Verse 1
Flamingo pink, Sunrise Boulevard
Clink, clink, being this young is art
Aquamarine, moonlit swimming pool
What if all I need is you?

Pre-Chorus


Got love-struck, went straight to my head
Got lovesick all over my bed
Love to think you’ll never forget
Handprints in wet cement
Adorned with smoke on my clothes
Lovelorn and nobody knows
Love thorns all over this rose
I’ll pay the price, you won’t

Chorus

But if I’m all dressed up
They might as well be lookin’ at us
And if they call me a slut
You know it might be worth it for once
And if I’m gonna be drunk
I might as well be drunk in love

Verse 2


Send the code, he’s waitin’ there
The sticks and stones they throw froze mid-air
Everyone wants him, that was my crime
The wrong place at the right time
And I break down, then he’s pullin’ me in
In a world of boys, he’s a gentleman

Pre-Chorus

Got love-struck, went straight to my head (Straight to my head)
Got lovesick all over my bed (Over my bed)
Love to think you’ll never forget
We’ll pay the price, I guess

Chorus


But if I’m all dressed up (If I’m all dressed up)
They might as well be lookin’ at us (Lookin’ at us)
And if they call me a slut (If they call me a slut)
You know it might be worth it for once (Worth it for once)
And if I’m gonna be drunk
I might as well be drunk in love

Bridge

Half asleep, takin’ your time
In the tangerine, neon light, this is luxury
You’re not sayin’ you’re in love with me
But you’re going to
Half awake, takin’ your chances
It’s a big mistake, I said, “It might blow up in your
Pretty face,” I’m not saying, “Do it anyway” (Do it anyway)
But you’re going to

Outro


Up!
And if they call me a slut!
You know it might be worth it for once
And if I’m gonna be drunk!
I might as well be drunk in love

Headshot of Alyssa Bailey

Senior News and Strategy Editor

Alyssa Bailey is the senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at InStyle and Cosmopolitan. When she’s not working, she loves running around Central Park, making people take #ootd pics of her, and exploring New York City.

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