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Out of the Woods

Single | 1989 (2014)

“Out of the Woods” was the second promotional single released from her fifth studio album, 1989 (2014), and later became its sixth official single. It captures the anxiety and excitement of a past relationship that Taylor treasures the memories of.

Background and Release

Taylor told Entertainment Weekly that she wanted to collaborate with Jack Antonoff because of his 1980s-flavored production. She had previously worked with him on the song “Sweeter Than Fiction“, a 1980s new wave-influenced song Taylor wrote and recorded for the soundtrack of One Chance (2013). For “Out of the Woods”, Antonoff envisioned the song to feature a 1980s sound with a modern twist. After completing the instrumental, he sent it to Taylor when she was on a plane. She wrote the lyrics and sent him a voice memo containing the lyrics roughly 30 minutes later. The song marked the first time Taylor composed lyrics for an existing instrumental. Antonoff spoke of his working experience with her: “She’s very natural – when she gets an idea, it just happens very quickly.”

On October 13, 2014, Taylor premiered a 15-second clip of “Out of the Woods” on “Good Morning America”. It was made available as a pre-release promotional single for 1989 on October 14, 2014. On December 22, 2015, Taylor announced on “GMA” that she would premiere the music video for “Out of the Woods” on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, broadcast on December 31. The song served as the sixth single from 1989, following the US top-ten singles “Shake It Off“, “Blank Space“, “Style“, “Bad Blood“, and “Wildest Dreams“. Republic Records, in partnership with Big Machine, released the song to US contemporary hit radio and hot adult contemporary radio stations on January 19, 2016.

Lyrical Theme and Production

Taylor said that “Out of the Woods” is one of her “favorite songs on this album because it best represents 1989.” But compared to the rest of the album, the song features a denser production. Antonoff was influenced by rock band My Morning Jacket for production of the song: “Every sound is louder than the last. It started out big, and then I think the obvious move would have been to do a down chorus, but the idea was to keep pushing.” The song’s lyrics are about a fragile relationship. In the refrain, Taylor repeats the line, “Are we out of the woods yet?” over and over, desiring to maintain the relationship albeit with a slim chance. She ponders over the inevitable end of her love and the past mistakes that she and her lover had made. In a cover interview with Rolling Stone for the September 2014 issue, Taylor explained that the lyrics were inspired by one of the real-life relationships of hers that evoked constant anxiety. The song is generally assumed to be about her relationship with Harry Styles. She has said the following on the song:

«It kind of conjured up all these feelings of anxiety I had in a relationship where everybody was watching, everybody was commenting on it. You’re constantly just feeling like, ‘Are we out of the woods yet? What’s the next thing gonna be? What’s the next hurdle we’re gonna have to jump over?’ It was interesting to write about a relationship where you’re just honestly like, ‘This is probably not gonna last, but how long is it gonna last?’ Those fragile relationships…It doesn’t mean they’re not supposed to happen. The whole time we were having happy memories, or crazy memories, or ridiculously anxious times, in my head it was just like, ‘Are we okay yet? Are we there yet? Are we out of this yet?’»

Taylor Swift
The bridge details a snowmobile accident that requires one of the couple to undergo a surgery. That was a real incident that Taylor had persuaded the tabloid journalists to not circulate. “Every day was a struggle. Forget making plans for life – we were just trying to make it to next week.” In an October 2014 interview with NPR, she provided a detailed explanation of the bridge’s lyrics:

«That line is in there because it's not only the actual, literal narration of what happened in a particular relationship I was in, it's also a metaphor. 'Hit the brakes too soon' could mean the literal sense of, we got in an accident and we had to deal with the aftermath. But also, the relationship ended sooner than it should've because there was a lot of fear involved. And that song touches on a huge sense of anxiety that was, kind of, coursing through that particular relationship, because we really felt the heat of every single person in the media thinking they could draw up the narrative of what we were going through and debate and speculate. I don't think it's ever going to be easy for me to find love and block out all those screaming voices.»

Taylor Swift

The Start of a Close Friendship

“Out of the Woods” is also very important song to producer Jack Antonoff. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2021 he mentioned he used to regularly be told he would never be a producer. Taylor was the first artist to ever let him produce music. Nowadays, Jack is one of the most important producers of the pop and alternative industry, having produced multiple records for Taylor, Lorde, and Lana Del Rey (only to mention a few). In regards to “Out of the Woods”, he said: “I fucking put my heart and soul into that thing. Right at the moment when I was expecting some heavy was going to come in and do the production, she was like, ‘Can’t wait for this to come out!’ And I was like, ‘That’s it?’ She was like, ‘Yes, perfect.'”

Music Video

The accompanying music video was directed by Joseph Kahn. It premiered through Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on December 31, 2015. The video was filmed on location in New Zealand: in the mountains of Queenstown and on Bethells Beach. Kahn said that Taylor “suffered for the art” for the video; she did not employ a double stunt and did all the action, such as crawling through the mud or running through the snow, by herself. The video shows Taylor battling to get out of a forest, interpreting the title song’s literally. She is seen running through what appears to be enchanted woods that formed around her, being chased by a pack of wolves as she struggles to escape while animate roots constantly follow her. She then finds herself in different locations representing nature like the snowy mountains, an ocean, a barren landscape, a muddy location, and a burning forest. At the end of the video, the woods disappear as she finds a beach, where another version of her is standing by the shore as she reaches for her. The video ends with the caption “She lost him, but she found herself, and somehow that was everything,” which is the hidden message for the song “Clean“, written in the booklet of 1989.

Peter Sblendorio of the New York Daily News deemed it “perhaps her most stunning music video yet” and hailed the visuals as “eye-popping”. Writing for Spin, Harley Brown described the video as “fantastically cinematic”. Amanda Bell from MTV News compared the video’s cinematic quality to the Harry Potter series, and commented that the video’s message “serves as a clear metaphor for her very public relationship history and how she transformed each conflict into her own personal victories, one in particular”.

Live Performances

On October 23, 2014, Taylor delivered her first performance of “Out of the Woods” on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”. She performed the song as part of the “1989 Secret Sessions“, live streamed by iHeartRadio and Yahoo! on October 27, 2014, the day of the album’s release. On September 30, 2015, Taylor played a stripped-down piano rendition of “Out of the Woods” at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, as part of her performance celebrating her attendance record-breaking exhibit, on September 30, 2015. She also performed “Out of the Woods” as the opening number to the 58th Annual Grammy Awards on February 15, 2016. The song was included as the penultimate song on the regular set list for “The 1989 World Tour” (2015). During her 2018 “reputation Stadium Tour,” Taylor performed an acoustic version of the song at the shows held in Toronto, Canada, and Auckland, New Zealand.

Critical Recpetion

“Out of the Woods” was met with critical acclaim. Jason Lipshutz from Billboard gave the song four and half stars out of five and noted the song’s synth-pop production was a dramatic change from Taylor’s country songs. Writing for New York, Lindsay Zoladz opined that the song signified “an exciting, unexpected, and mature new direction in Swift’s sound”. Brian Mansfield of USA Today commended the track’s departure from Taylor’s well-known country sound for showing her maturity as an artist. Slant Magazine‘s Annie Galvin called the track “a rousing triumph of a love song” that offers an emotional engagement uncommon in mainstream pop.

“Out of the Woods” ranked at No. 94 on Pitchfork‘s list of “The 100 Best Tracks of 2014.” In 2020, NME‘s Mylrea placed the song at No. 7 on her list ranking every song by Taylor, lauding it as one of her “greatest triumphs” for the “anthemic, exhilarating chorus”.

Commercial Performance

“Out of the Woods” entered the US Billboard Hot 100 chart dated November 1, 2014, at No. 18, its peak position. It debuted atop the Billboard Digital Songs, becoming her eighth No. 1 entry. After Taylor premiered the single on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, “Out of the Woods” re-entered the Hot 100 at No. 46.

The single was a No. 1 hit on the Israeli Media Forest airplay chart. It peaked within the top 10 on record charts in New Zealand (6) and Canada (8). In Australia, the song peaked at No. 19 on the Australian Singles Chart.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Looking at it now
It all seems so simple
We were lying on your couch
I remember
You took a Polaroid of us
Then discovered (Then discovered)
The rest of the world was black and white
But we were in screaming color
And I remember thinking

[Chorus]
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet, in the clear yet? Good
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet, in the clear yet? Good (Are we out of the woods?)

[Verse 2]
Looking at it now
Last December (Last December)
We were built to fall apart
Then fall back together (Back together)
Oh, your necklace hanging from my neck
The night we couldn’t quite forget
When we decided (We decided)
To move the furniture so we could dance
Baby, like we stood a chance
Two paper airplanes flying, flying, flying
And I remember thinking

[Chorus]
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet, in the clear yet? Good
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet, in the clear yet? Good (Are we out of the woods?)

[Bridge]
Remember when you hit the brakes too soon?
Twenty stitches in the hospital room
When you started crying, baby, I did too
But when the sun came up, I was looking at you
Remember when we couldn’t take the heat?
I walked out, I said, “I’m setting you free”
But the monsters turned out to be just trees
When the sun came up, you were looking at me
You were looking at me (Oh)
You were looking at me
(Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet?)
(Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods?)
I remember
(Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet?)
(Are we in the clear yet, in the clear yet? Good)
Oh, I remember

[Chorus]
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet? (Yeah)
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet? (Say, are we?)
Are we in the clear yet, in the clear yet? Good
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet? (Yeah) Are we in the clear yet? (Yeah)
Are we in the clear yet, in the clear yet? Good (Clear yet? Good)
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet, in the clear yet? Good (Do you remember?)
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet, in the clear yet? Good

General Information
ArtistTaylor Swift
Album1989
ReleasedOctober 14, 2014
Recorded2013
StudioJungle City (New York)
GenreSynth Pop
Length3:55
LabelBig Machine Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Jack Antonoff
ProducersJack Antonoff
Taylor Swift
Max Martin
1989 CHRONOLOGY
StyleOut of the WoodsAll You Had To Do Was Stay
Single Certification
Hidden Message
They loved each other recklessly
Single Artwork
Instagram Teaser
Taylor Talks About the Song
Music Video
Live Performance
Acoustic Live Performance
Official Audio