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Blank Space

Single | 1989 (2014)

“Blank Space” is the second single released from Taylor’s fifth studio album, 1989 (2014). It is one of her biggest hits. She has stated that she wrote the song from the perspective of a character she created based on claims made about her by the media. The character combines the various portrayals of her dating persona – being overly attached, dating just for publicity etc.

Background

Having been known as “America’s Sweetheart” thanks to her wholesome and down-to-earth girl next door image, Taylor saw her reputation blemished due to her history of romantic relationships with a series of high-profile celebrities. The New York Times asserted in 2013 that her “dating history [had] begun to stir what feels like the beginning of a backlash”, questioning whether she was in the midst of a quarter-life crisis. The Tampa Bay Times observed that until the release of 1989, Taylor’s love life had become a fixed tabloid interest and overshadowed her musicianship. Taylor disliked the media portrayal of her as a “serial-dater”, feeling that it undermined her professional works, and became reticent to discuss her personal life in public. The tabloid scrutiny on her image prompted her to write satirical songs about her perceived image, in addition to her traditional romantic themes.

«Every few years, the media finds something they unanimously agree is annoying about me. 2012-2013 they thought I was dating too much, because I dated two people in a year and a half. ‘Oh, a serial dater. She only writes songs to get emotional revenge on guys. She’s a man-hater, don’t let her near your boyfriend.’ It was kind of excessive and at first it was hurtful, but then I found a little bit of comedy in it. This character is so interesting, though. If you read these gossip sites, they describe how I am so opposite to my actual life: I’m clingy, and I’m awful, and I throw fits, and there’s drama. An emotionally fragile, unpredictable mess. I painted a whole picture of this character. She lives in a mansion with marble floors, she wears Dolce & Gabbana around the house, and she wears animal print unironically. So I created this whole character and I had fun doing it.»

Taylor Swift
Republic Records in partnership with Taylor’s then-label Big Machine announced in late October 2014 that “Blank Space” would serve as the second single from 1989, following the lead single “Shake It Off” in August.

Lyrical Theme

Taylor admitted that she had felt personally attacked by the constant slut shaming for a long time before realizing “it was kind of hilarious”. Talking to GQ in 2015, Taylor said that she envisioned “Blank Space” to be a satirical self-referential nod to the media perception of her image as “a girl who’s crazy but seductive but glamorous but nuts but manipulative”. Consequently, her persona in the song has spotted a bad boy and although she knows he is trouble and that the relationship is doomed, she pursues him. This persona the media created seems to equally enjoy the over-the-top fantasy that comes from the first stages of love and the messy crash when her clingy, jealous, abusive side comes out. She told NME in 2015:

«Half the people got the joke, half the people thought I was really owning the fact that I’m a psychopath. Either one’s fine. It was No. 1 for eight or nine weeks, so I have no complaints.»

Taylor Swift
She further explained the meaning of the line “boys only want love if it’s torture”: “I was thinking about this. Boys only want love if it’s torture and a constant chase. Men want love if it’s real, right, healthy and consistent.”

Music Video

Joseph Kahn directed the music video for “Blank Space”. Taylor approached him with the idea for treatment, desiring the video to portray her self-deprecation as a “crazy villain” akin to the lyrics. According to Kahn, Taylor envisioned “Blank Space” as “a video addressing this concept of, if she has so many boys breaking up with her maybe the problem isn’t the boy, maybe the problem is her”. Photography took place at two locations in Long Island: primary shooting took place at Oheka Castle, with a few additional scenes shot at Woolworth Estate. The video was shot over three days in September 2014; the last day was dedicated to film “American Express Unstaged: Taylor Swift Experience”, an interactive 360° mobile app in collaboration with American Express. For the video, Taylor was thorough in choosing the concepts and imagery. Kahn spoke of his working experience with her on Mashable: “When you have an artist wanting to test her imaging, it’s always great territory to be in”.

Taylor planned to premiere to the video on “Good Morning America” on November 11, 2014, but Yahoo! accidentally leaked it a day before. Taylor posted the video onto her Vevo account quickly after the leak. The interactive app “American Express Unstaged: Taylor Swift Experience,” was released concurrently. The user could choose to either follow Taylor and her love interest throughout the linear storyline, or leave the storyline to explore other rooms in the mansion and find interactive easter eggs, such as Taylor’s childhood photos.

USA Today in 2017 named the video Taylor’s best music video up to date, calling it a “pure ‘art’ form”. Spin also dubbed it the greatest video she had done so far, praising the video’s combination of glamorous aesthetics and hilarious depiction of her reputation. The video for “Blank Space” won “Best Pop Video” and “Best Female Video” at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. The “American Express Unstaged: Taylor Swift Experience” app won “Original Interactive Program” at the 67th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards. Rolling Stone placed “Blank Space” at No. 67 on its list of “100 Greatest Music Videos of All Time.”

Live Performances

Taylor performed “Blank Space” during the “1989 Secret Session“, live streamed by Yahoo! and iHeartRadio on October 27, 2014. She premiered the song on television at the 2014 American Music Awards, where she recreated the narrative of the music video, acting as a psychopathic woman who acts erratically towards her boyfriend. She again performed the song on “The Voice” on November 25 and at the 2014 “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” on December 2, 2014. On February 25, 2015, Taylor opened the 2015 BRIT Awards with a rendition of “Blank Space”. The song was part of the set lists for two of her concert tours so far — “The 1989 World Tour” (2015) and the “reputation Stadium Tour” (2018). At the 2019 American Music Awards, where Taylor was honored “Artist of the Decade,” she performed “Blank Space” as part of a medley of her biggest hits.

Commercial Performance

“Blank Space” debuted at No. 18 on the US Billboard Hot 100 on the chart dated November 15, 2014. The single reached No. 1 in its third week on the chart, supported by the release of its music video. It took the No. 1 position from 1989‘s lead single “Shake It Off”, making Taylor the first woman in Billboard Hot 100 chart history to succeed herself at the top spot. “Blank Space” remained atop the Billboard Hot 100 for seven consecutive weeks, making it her longest reign at No. 1.

The single also reached No. 1 in Australia, Canada, South Africa, and Scotland. It peaked atop the Euro Digital Song Sales, a Billboard component chart, and the Finnish Download Chart. “Blank Space” charted within the top five of national record charts, at No. 2 in New Zealand, Poland, Slovakia, No. 3 in Bulgaria, No. 4 in the Czech Republic, Ireland, Israel, the UK, and No. 5 in Lebanon. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the song was the eighth best-selling song of 2015, with 9.2 million track-equivalent units.

Critical Reception

The song received critical acclaim. Upon the release of 1989, PopMatters‘s Corey Baesley lauded it as “easily a candidate for the best pop song of 2014”. Sydney Gore from The 405 deemed “Blank Space” the album’s highlight, and Aimee Cliff from Fact labeled it one of Taylor’s “most enjoyable songs to date” for portraying a mundane topic in a larger-than-life manner. Drowned in Sound‘s Robert Leedham wrote that Taylor succeeded in experimenting with new musical styles on 1989, specifically choosing “Blank Space” as an example. The New York Times critic Jon Caramanica deemed the song “Swift at her peak” that “serves to assert both her power and her primness”.

Retrospective reviews of “Blank Space” have also been positive. Critic Alexis Petridis of The Guardian in 2019 declared “Blank Space” the best single Taylor had released, praising its success in transforming her image from a country singer-songwriter to a pop star thanks to its “effortless” melody and witty lyrics. Rolling Stone reviewer Rob Sheffield wrote: “Every second of ‘Blank Space’ is perfect”. Paste in 2020 described the song as “remarkably well-made, infectiously catchy, and legitimately funny”, and named it the best song on 1989. Selja Rankin from Entertainment Weekly also dubbed “Blank Space” the best track on the album, praising the over-the-top lyrics and its catchy 1980s pop sound.

Accolades

Rolling Stone ranked “Blank Space” sixth on their list of the “Best Songs of 2014” and 73rd on their list of the “Best Songs of the 2010s Decade.” Time named it as the ninth best song in their year-end list. The song placed at number three on The Village Voice‘s annual year-end “Pazz & Jop” critics’ poll of 2014. Stereogum and Uproxx ranked the song at No. 49 and 72 on their lists of the “Best Songs of the 2010s Decade,” respectively. Billboard named it one of the 100 “Songs That Defined the Decade”. Katie Atkinson wrote that the single consolidated Swift’s trademark autobiographical storytelling in music while “setting the standard for a new, self-aware pop star” in poking fun at her perceived image. On Slant Magazine‘s list of the “100 Best Singles of the 2010s,” “Blank Space” ranked 15th. In 2021, Rolling Stone placed the song at No. 357 on its list of “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

“Blank Space” won “Song of the Year” at the 2015 American Music Awards. At the 2016 BMI Awards, the song was one of the “Award-Winning Songs” that helped Taylor earn the honor “Songwriter of the Year.” It earned a nomination for “International Work of the Year” at the 2015 APRA Awards in Australia. At the 58th Annual Grammy Awards in 2016, “Blank Space” was nominated in three categories — “Record of the Year,” “Song of the Year,” and “Best Pop Solo Performance.”

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Nice to meet you, where you been?
I could show you incredible things
Magic, madness, heaven, sin
Saw you there and I thought,
“Oh my God, look at that face
You look like my next mistake
Love’s a game, wanna play?”

[Verse 2]
New money, suit and tie
I can read you like a magazine
Ain’t it funny, rumors fly
And I know you heard about me
So hey, let’s be friends
I’m dying to see how this one ends
Grab your passport and my hand
I can make the bad guys good for a weekend

[Chorus]
So it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames
You can tell me when it’s over, if the high was worth the pain
Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane
‘Cause you know I love the players and you love the game
‘Cause we’re young and we’re reckless we’ll take this way too far
It’ll leave you breathless or with a nasty scar
Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane
But I’ve got a blank space, baby
And I’ll write your name

[Verse 3]
Cherry lips, crystal skies
I could show you incredible things
Stolen kisses, pretty lies
You’re the King, baby, I’m your Queen
Find out what you want
Be that girl for a month
Wait, the worst is yet to come (Oh no)

[Verse 4]
Screaming, crying, perfect storms
I can make all the tables turn
Rose garden filled with thorns
Keep you second guessing like,
“Oh my God, who is she?”
I get drunk on jealousy
But you’ll come back each time you leave
‘Cause darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream

[Chorus]
So it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames
You can tell me when it’s over, if the high was worth the pain
Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane
‘Cause you know I love the players and you love the game
‘Cause we’re young and we’re reckless we’ll take this way too far
It’ll leave you breathless or with a nasty scar
Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane
But I’ve got a blank space, baby
And I’ll write your name

[Bridge]
Boys only want love if it’s torture
Don’t say I didn’t, say I didn’t warn ya
Boys only want love if it’s torture
Don’t say I didn’t, say I didn’t warn ya

[Chorus]
So it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames
You can tell me when it’s over, if the high was worth the pain
Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane
‘Cause you know I love the players and you love the game
‘Cause we’re young and we’re reckless we’ll take this way too far
It’ll leave you breathless or with a nasty scar
Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane
But I’ve got a blank space, baby
And I’ll write your name

General Information
Album1989
ReleasedOctober 27, 2014
RecordedOctober, 2013
StudioConway (Los Angeles)
GenreElectro Pop
Length3:52
LabelBig Machine Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Max Martin
Shellback
ProducersMax Martin
Shellback
1989 CHRONOLOGY
Welcome to New YorkBlank SpaceStyle
Single Certification
Hidden Message
There once was a girl known by everyone and no one
Single Artwork
Instagram Teaser
Music Video
Live Performance
Live Acoustic Performance
Official Audio
Official Voice Memo