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My name's Clifford Stumme, and I explain the deeper meanings of popular songs. Let's have a conversation about what you think about the songs and go deeper together. Feel free to email me at clifford@popsongprofessor.com with questions or ideas!

What does "Told You So" by Paramore mean?

What does "Told You So" by Paramore mean?

"Told You So" Lyrics Meaning

Paramore dropped the music video for a new single just a few days ago, and it's been very interesting, between "Told You So" and the previously released "Hard Times" to try to predict the direction the band is taking. My impression of Paramore's earlier music was that it was fairly hardcore, but this new music seems to have Latin influence and seems lighter and easier to digest. 

People Rubbing it in My Face

The lyrics are also fairly easy to digest, but there are a few lines that give me pause. The essential idea in this song is that Hayley, the lead singer, has been at odds with certain people in the past, and they turned out to be right, but she takes issue with their tendency to rub it in her face. She wants them to stop "throwing her in the fire" and to fess up to enjoying saying, "Told you so."

Verse 1

For all I know
The best is over and the worst is yet to come
Is it enough
To keep on hoping when the rest have given up
And they go

In this stanza, Paramore tells us that life is uncertain for the narrator. Life has been difficult, but they can't predict the future, and, for all they know, life is going to get worse. In the face of this, Hayley asks, "Is it enough / To keep on hoping when the rest have given up?" Other people in her life have given up on whatever their objective had been, and she's wondering if she wants to keep dreaming. 

The last line of the verse feeds into the chorus: "And they go . . ."

Chorus

I hate to say, "I told you so"
But they love to say they told me so
I hate to say, "I told you so"
They love to say they told me

These people in "Told You So" are saying exactly that, but they're being a little deceitful. They tell Hayley that they "hate to" have to tell her that they were right, and she was wrong, but they do it anyway. Of course, this is a common expression, but most hearers are, I think, accustomed to hearing it said with a lack of sincerity. 

Verse 2

I know you like
When I admit that I was wrong and you were right
At least I try
To keep my cool when I'm thrown into a fire
And they go

In the second verse of "Told You So," Paramore tells the naysayers that they know the naysayers "like / When I admit that I was wrong and you were right." But Hayley still feels like she's being "thrown into a fire" when they berate her for her error. Even still, she tries to stay calm and endure the shame with grace.

Bridge

Throw me into the fire
Throw me and pull me out again

In the bridge, Paramore acknowledges that the haters will continue to want to hurt them again and again. The highly repetitive nature of the stanza suggests that this "burning" will go on for some time.

Deeper Meaning of "Told You So": Admitting When You're Wrong

I think the powerful aspect of "Told You So" is that Paramore and Hayley admit that they were wrong. There was an argument, and here's a songwriter who's willing to mention and acknowledge a time that she was wrong about something. I think that kind of humility is rare in songwriters, and so I appreciate it. 

That being said, she doesn't focus on that wrongdoing or seem to accept any sort of penitent attitude because the opportunity to do so gracefully isn't afforded her. She can't say "sorry" or accept being wrong her (i.e. by focusing on it as the subject of the song) because others are more than willing to "throw her in the fire" for being wrong. The lyrics clearly show that these people don't have Paramore's songwriter's interests at heart, and so a half-muted standoff of defensiveness and attacking goes on.

The thing I learn from "Told You So" is that when I'm right (especially in emotionally difficult situations), I need to be gracious about it and allow the other party the opportunity to back down graceful instead of me wanting to enjoy them being wrong. What do you think? What's your favorite part of "Told You So," and what do you think it's about?

 

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