I'm Clifford Stumme, and I use literary analysis and research to explain the deeper meanings of pop songs. Feel free to leave a comment or to email me at with questions or ideas!

What does "Out of the Woods" by Taylor Swift mean?

What does "Out of the Woods" by Taylor Swift mean?

"Out of the Woods" Lyrics Meaning

Time to freak out, fanboys and fangirls. T-swizzle's not done with 1989 yet. She just released an actual music video for "Out of the Woods," and I like it. You might like it too. I used to think the song was kind of boring--too poppy and WAY to repetitive--but this music video might have converted me. At the very least, it's an easy song to sing along with, and the music video gives more context for what the song itself means.

The Music Video

In the video for "Out of the Woods," we see Taylor Swift standing on the beach in a simple blue dress. Vines start to grow all around her trapping her, and soon she's traveling through a variety of beautiful but dangerous landscapes. Through this journey, she begins to make sense of things, and she turns from being scared and lost to strong and confident.

At the end of the video, she comes back to the beach, the woods melting away behind her, as she puts her hand on the shoulder of an earlier version of herself who is still staring at the ocean and wearing the same blue dress.

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The video's not too subtle about its meaning, but the visual spectacle by which it expresses that meaning is beautiful. At the beginning, we see the words, "She lost him," and at the end we see, "She lost him but she found herself and that somehow was everything." Between the prologue and the epilogue, as she's being chased by wolves through snowy forests, desserts, and mountainous hills, we understand that this video is about her trying to reshape her understanding of herself after a painful breakup.

She wants her female listeners/viewers to know that they should be confident in themselves rather than in how they feel about themselves in a relationship.

The Meaning of "Out of the Woods" by Taylor Swift

"Out of the Woods" is about a relationship gone bad that Taylor Swift didn't think she could leave and that she felt she had to keep pushing through with. She didn't want to leave the guy (we'll call him "Ed") because she was afraid of what was outside the relationship, but in the end she finds that outside to actually not be as bad as she thought--it was the inside of the relationship that she needed to leave.

"Out of the Woods" starts with its First Versethat suggests that this relationship feels good at times. Taylor sings, "Looking at it now / It all seems so simple / We were lying on your couch / I remember." She's looking back at the past and remembering when he "took a Polaroid [picture] of us." When he took the picture, he "discovered . . . / The rest of the world was black and white / But we were in screaming color."

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Ed's excited about the relationship, or maybe the relationship is vibrant and has really good times, but unfortunately for the relationship there are problems with it as well. While Ed's taking the picture Taylor's hoping and "thinking . . . / Are we out of the woods yet?" which leads us into the chorus.

If you've listened to the Chorus at all, then you've probably got the lyrics down by now. Taylor Swift wants to know if the current good times the relationship is experiencing represent her and Ed (who some suggest is based on Harry Styles) being "out of the woods" and "in the clear." Based on my reading, this portion of "Out of the Woods" is about asking whether a person is now experiencing the "good times" yet or if this is only a temporary rest as they must soon keep trudging through the "forest." The forest represents arguments and discussions and the difficulties of making the relationship work.

Swift ends the chorus by asking, "Are we in the clear yet? / In the clear yet? / Good!" It's almost as if she's been told that they are free, and she's happy about it. But like the repetitive nature of the chorus, the chorus itself keeps repeating, and she keeps realizing that they're not yet free of the really tough times--tough times that aren't just the usual tough times every relationship goes through.

In Verse 2, Swift sings, "Looking at it now / Last December . . . / We were built to fall apart / Then fall back together . . ." Looking back, she can see that their relationship was "destined" to experience tough times, and she fondly remembers the good times they had in spite of it. She sings, "Your necklace hanging from my neck [a sign of relational intimacy] / The night we couldn't quite forget / When we decided . . . / To move the furniture so we could dance." It's a good memory, but Swift sarcastically realizes, "Like we had a chance."

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They were "[t]wo paper airplanes flying, flying, and flying." Paper airplanes are hard to steer, vulnerable, and tossed around by even the tiniest puffs of air. There really was no hope for Taylor and Ed; Swift remembers how, even while they were dancing that night, she was asking herself, "Are we out of the woods yet?" and she launches back into the chorus.

In the Bridge, Swift recalls the last moments of the relationship with Ed: "Remember when you hit the brakes too soon? / Twenty stitches in the hospital room." This could refer to an actual car accident and actual stitches, but it's more likely about Ed giving up too quickly in a conversation or situation and hurting both of them. They both "started crying" and "when the sun came up, [Taylor] was looking at [Ed]." They were still together, but they weren't going to last much longer.

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She sings, "Remember when we couldn't take the heat?" They couldn't make it through the woods--it was just too hard to get their personalities, situations, or lives to reconcile to each other's. It was Taylor who ended the relationship: "I walked out and said, 'I'm settin' you free.'" When she leaves, "the monsters turned out to be just trees" and leaving the relationship wasn't as difficult as she'd thought. She made it "[a]nd when the sun came up, you were lookin' at me." Ed wasn't gone--they both survived--but they were free to travel different paths.

What do you think about "Out of the Woods" by Taylor Swift, and what'd you think about my explanation? A HUGE part of the helpfulness of this blog is the commenters. If you can help to improve on what I've started, future readers and I will be forever in your debt. Thanks! And talk to you soon. I try to respond to every comment I get. :) 

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