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 "You Need To Calm Down" by Taylor Swift mean?

What does "You Need To Calm Down" by Taylor Swift mean?

“You Need To Calm Down” Lyrics Meaning

(The following blog post is a transcript created by Xalma of the below video.)

Today we're talking about "You Need To Calm Down" by Taylor Swift; she just released a music video for it, and there is a lot here to unpack; so we are going to dive into the lyrics, and we'll talk a little bit about the music video too. So as far as the lyrics go; generally, I think what we see in the song is that the first half is talking about how people attack her, and how they need to calm down, because there is no need for hate; and then, when we get into later verses and stanzas, she shifts some of the words in the chorus, and she shifts what she's focusing on in the latest verse, and makes it more about the LGBTQIA+ movement.

Verse One

You are somebody that I don't know
But you're takin' shots at me like it's Patrón
And I'm just like, damn, it's 7 AM
Say it in the street, that's a knock-out
But you say it in a Tweet, that's a cop-out
And I'm just like, "Hey, are you okay?"

So she is being dissed by people; and it's probably random people from the internet; and the fact that they don't even know each other, made her feel like "Why are you even spending your time criticising me?!". The "shot like a Patron" is a pun, because a patron is a tequila, and it's "only 7 am", so people are dissing her at all hours of the day, right? She is saying that they can say it on the street face-to-face, and though it would be kind of painful; but the fact that they're tweeting these words at her, it feels like a sop-out; like they're too afraid to say it to her face. To be fair, most people won't get to see her face, because her security would probably take them out; anyway, in the pre-chorus, we have,


And I ain't tryna mess with your self-expression

Which is a little bit ironic and sarcastic, because she is saying "Part of expressing who you are is being hateful towards other people; I get it!"; and that's like a little patting on the head.

But I've learned a lesson that stressin' and obsessin' 'bout somebody else is no fun
And snakes and stones never broke my bones

So basically she is saying "why are you doing this to yourselves? you're the only one losing here, because I'm not paying any attention to your words"; because snakes and stone never broke her bones, which is a twist on the old saying "Sticks and bricks may break my bones; but words will never hurt me"; but she's saying "even if you're going to try to betray me, or try to throw rocks at my house, it's not even a big deal for me"; she's a bit stronger than the average person, who sticks and bone might be painful for; because maybe she's kind of immune to it at this point.


So oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh
You need to calm down, you're being too loud
And I'm just like oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh (Oh)
You need to just stop, like can you just not step on my gown?
You need to calm down

Pay attention to that part because we'll come back to it later, but she's basically repeating the main idea, or the theme of the song; then we get into the second verse; and this is where we start to see some of the LGBT+, pride month influence on what she's saying,

Verse Two

You are somebody that we don't know
But you're comin' at my friends like a missile
Why are you mad when you could be GLAAD? (You could be GLAAD)

Notice that she starts saying "we" in the first line; so it shifted from her to her with other people; and you'll probably notice too that in the music video it starts out with just her and she's being a little bit sassy, and she's saying "You need to calm down"; and it's about her; the cameras are focusing on her as a person; but as the music video goes on , the focus shifts more and more to her neighbors, but we'll get to that in a second. In the third line in that stanza, the word glad is spelled GLADD, which is The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, an organization by members of the community to fight for LGBTQ+ rights. That's essentially a lot of what the song and music video is about; it's her talking about why she doesn't want people coming at her, but it's also aligning that empathising with the community, and putting her struggles in the same vain as the people who are defamed for their sexuality. At the same time, "don't get mad, get glad" is also the slogan for the hefty garbage bag; so it's a little cultural reference I guess.

Sunshine on the street at the parade
But you would rather be in the dark ages
Makin' that sign must've taken all night

She's referring to the people who protest against gay rights, and saying either her and the community signs took all night making them because they are intricate; or maybe that the protesters signs are meaningless and they shouldn't have spent all night making them.


You just need to take several seats and then try to restore the peace
And control your urges to scream about all the people you hate
'Cause shade never made anybody less gay

Instead of saying "Take a seat and calm down", she's saying that they need to take several ones, because one isn't enough, they're REALLY upset; then she basically says "Hey, whatever your doing won't really work; because you can't change who people are".

Then we have the chorus, and the line I mentioned earlier, it changes to,


So oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh
You need to calm down, you're being too loud
And I'm just like oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh (Oh)
You need to just stop, like can you just not step on
his gown?
You need to calm down

Which is probably reference to drag queens, or boys who were dresses, right?


And we see you over there on the internet
Comparing all the girls who are killing it
But we figured you out
We all know now we all got crowns
You need to calm down

All of the sudden we've got this third theme here; which is a little bit confusing. So "we see you over there on the internet", she's talking about haters and even fans; who are "comparing all the girls who are killing it", she's talking about other popstars; and in the music video in that part we see bunch of drag queens dressed up as few popstars, like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Taylor Swift is up there among them; and they're all lined up as if they're being judged, so it's a reference to people who're ranking popstars; like those who say "I'm more a Katy Perry fan; she's way better than Taylor Swift" or whatever. But even if those people exist, she says "We know what you're doing; and we are confident in who we are; so just calm down; and we don't really need to listen to what you're saying, because we all are killing it!"

This is basically the story of the lyrics; and you can see that she changes the last chorus a little bit again,


Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh
You need to calm down (You need to calm down)
You're being too loud (You're being too loud)
And I'm just like oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh (Oh)
You need to just stop (Can you stop?)
Like can you just not step on
our gowns?
You need to calm down

She went from my to his to ours, so she's really sending this message out about few different groups that she feels like they deserve less hate.

“You Need To Calm Down” Music Video Meaning

I'll talk a little bit about the music video so I can help you deepen your experience of watching it. There are going to be things and celebrities that I miss, or don't recognise; so this is not meant to be an exhaustive explanation of the music video; but I want to give the big ideas, and couple of notes.

One of the first things that we see in the music video is this painting I guess that says "Mom, I am a rich man", which is probably a reference to an interview by Cher, from several years back, where she was saying that her mum had told her that she needs to settle down, and marry a rich guy; so she responded with "Mom, I am a rich man!". Taylor Swift putting that in her room, and putting in mind that the first third of the song is about her, it just makes sense; it's about her being really sassy and confident, going on and doing her own thing, even if it's 7 am and people are hating on her; right? The theme here is like colourful pastel Meghan Trainor aesthetic; and it's pretty cool; the set designer did an excellent job there.

She is in a trailer, and she is just making her space very her own, she wants to self-express; because a trailer is usually not a fancy place where a rich celebrity like Taylor would hang out in; but it's almost like she's saying that "If I lived in a trailer, I would make it my own, and I'd be who I am"... even if it requires an incredible amount of money for what most people have when they're living in a trailer. Then we kind of see that the neighborhood that she's living in is completely LGBT+ friendly, where everybody is doing similar things to what she's doing; and there is this really strong theme of people in this community here who are very self-expressive; people who will be who they are, doing what they want, no matter what; and even though we see those protesters come in, and they seem to be over by their trailer at one point, in this beaten down, broken, gross, old trailer; those people are writing signs, and they're misspelled, so they're calling Taylor Swift and her friends "morans". I don't know why she did that exactly, other than maybe to make those audience seem stupider or something; but you definitely see this contrast between the two groups; the people who are just minding their own business, doing their thing, expressing themselves, they seem happier, the colours there are brighter; and then those who are obsessing with hating other people, they spend so much time hating the other guys, they don't have time to make where they live nicer, or kind of more enjoyable, or just a place that anybody would like to be.

There is couple of other things there in the music video; but that's just the basic main gist of it; other than that, it's really notable that she and Katy Perry are kind of like hugging it out; Taylor is dressed like french fries, and Katy is dressed like a cheeseburger; which seems to be a reference to her Met Gala dress; and I am not sure why Taylor went as a french fries other than maybe to match with Katy Perry; so now they're friends again, and that's cool and all... Ellen DeGeneres s is getting a tattoo at one point, and that's kind of cool! And then Ryan Reynolds is there too at one point; and I don't understand that cameo at all; so if you guys know about it let me know in the comments; you probably know more about the pop culture side of things a bit more than I do.

But yeah; over all, the story of the music video and the song is "hey, you need to mind your own business; let people be who they are; because you can't change who people are; and even if you did, it won't be sincere or real; instead, go take better care of yourself"; and that applies to everyone, whither it's Taylor Swift herself, whether it's members from the LGBTQ+ community, or whether that is female popstarts in general.

Taylor Swift ends with a call to action "Let's show our pride by demanding that, on a national level, our laws truly treat all of our citizens equally"; and then gives a link to a petition that calls for LGBTQ+ quality.

If you want to check out the music video, click on the link below,

Check out more of Taylor Swift's songs explanations here.

What does "RUNAWAY" by half•alive mean?

What does "RUNAWAY" by half•alive mean?

What does "Guiltless" by dodie mean?

What does "Guiltless" by dodie mean?