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White Horse

Single | Fearless (2008) | Fearless (Taylor's Version) [2021]

“White Horse” is track five on Taylor’s second studio album, Fearless (2008). It compares the fairytale imagery we are taught as kids to what can really happen in young love and heartbreak. The re-recording of the song, “White Horse (Taylor’s Version)”, was released on April 9, 2021 on the album Fearless (Taylor’s Version).

Background

Taylor wrote the lyrics for “White Horse” in December 2006, and commenced composing the song almost a year before the release of Fearless, weeks after composing the album’s lead single “Love Story“. The two songs were inspired by the same person, but were written at different stages of the relationship and are therefore quite disparate lyrically. Taylor first solely wrote the first verse of “White Horse” before making a phone call to Liz Rose, co-writer of most tracks on her eponymous debut studio album, Taylor Swift (2006), asking for her aid in finishing the song; the two completed writing the song in approximately forty-five minutes.

Lyrical Theme

Taylor never actually dated the subject of the song, despite considering it. The inspiration came when she realised her notion of him as a Prince Charming was incorrect. She said he was the person who triggered the song, but, once in the midst of writing it, drifted in direction. It focused on the initial moment where she recognized the relationship was over. She said everything after that particular moment centered on recuperation and, because of that, considered it the most solemn aspect of a breakup: “To me, ‘White Horse’ is about what, in my opinion, is the most heart-breaking part of a break-up – that moment when you realize that all the dreams you had, all those visions you had of being with this person, all that disappears.” About the difference in themes between “White Horse” and “Love Story”, Taylor explained that in divergent scenarios, she regarded fairytales in different manners. She attributed the fact that because she did not expect to go through the event, then she became more inclined to come in terms with reality:

«When we're little girls, our parents read us storybooks. And we think that Prince Charming's gonna come along, is gonna have a white cape on, is going to put us on a pedestal. And the bad guy wears black and we always know who that guy is. But what we don't realize is that, in reality, the bad guy is wearing jeans. And he's cute. And he's charming, makes you laugh, and you believe him. You think he's the good guy. Then, you realize he's not.»

Taylor Swift
Taylor told CMT that “White Horse” is an example of her fascination with fairytales and how she had to learn that Prince Charming doesn’t exist in real life. She explained: “I am completely fascinated by the differences and comparisons between real life and fairy tales because we’re raised as little girls to think that we’re a princess and that Prince Charming is going to sweep us off our feet. And that we’re going to ride off into the sunset on a white horse. We’re not really expecting to get blown off, or ignored, or broken up with, or cheated on. I think it’s really interesting when you come to terms with that reality: ‘Maybe that’s not gonna happen with this guy because this guy’s a jerk.’ But there’s still that core of us that believes that it’s true and that if you find the right person you can have that love story, and it can work out. So there are different examples of fairy tales, and sometimes I believe in them, and sometimes I don’t. In ‘White Horse’ I’m coming to this realization that this is not a fairytale at all – this is real life.”

Fearless or Speak Now

Taylor admitted in a since-deleted post that was on her label’s website that she actually wasn’t going to put this song on the album and was going to wait for the third album (Speak Now) because she felt like she already had the “sadness” represented on this record. “Then my agency out in LA set up a meeting with executive producers Betsy Beers and Shonda Rhimes at Grey’s Anatomy because that’s my favorite show,” she said. “It would just be a dream come true to have a song on it. So, I played them ‘White Horse.’ It was just me and my guitar and they freaked out. They loved it. They said, ‘We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.’ For a while, we didn’t know if we were going to put it on the record because if it wasn’t going to be on the show, then we weren’t going to put it on the album,” she continued. “Then they called and said they were very interested in the song. We recorded it right away, sent it off to them, and they put it in!”

Music Video

The song’s accompanying music video was directed by Trey Fanjoy, who directed the majority of Taylor’s prior videos. The video features her as she decides to end a relationship via phone call. In the video, Taylor recalls multiple memories with her love interest, both positive and negative.

Live Performances

On her first televised performance of “White Horse”, on November 23, 2008, at the 2008 American Music Awards, Taylor donned a white evening gown as she sat on floral-patterned couch. While promoting the song, she later performed it at the Nomination Concert for the 51st Grammy Awards, where she coupled it in a medley with a cover of Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry”, and the AOL Sessions. Since, Taylor has performed the track at the Studio 330 Sessions, the 2009 CMA Music Festival, the 2009 V Festival, and on Dancing with the Stars. Taylor performed “White Horse” on all venues in 2009 and 2010 of her first headlining concert tour, the “Fearless Tour.” Later, Taylor performed the song in 2013 during the second shows in Omaha, Los Angeles and Arlington during “The RED Tour“, “The 1989 World Tour” (2015), and “reputation Stadium Tour” respectively.

Critical Reception

“White Horse” garnered acclaim from critics. August Brown of The Los Angeles Times compared the song with Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” (1973), saying Parton would have recognized her own predicament in “White Horse” and may have congratulated Taylor for attempting to move on. Jonathan Keefe of Slant Magazine called “White Horse” a “lovely ballad” with a prominent hook and deemed it “easily the best song” on Fearless. Lucy Davies of the BBC said it demonstrated how repetitive the lyrical themes on Fearless were. Kate Kiefer of Paste recognized it to be one of Taylor’s best songs.

Commercial Performance

On the week ending November 29, 2008, “White Horse” debuted and peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. Its appearance, along with six other songs, on the chart tied Taylor with Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) for the female act to have the most songs charting on the Billboard Hot 100 in the same week, a record later surpassed by Taylor herself when she charted eleven songs at once in 2010. The single was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipments exceeding one million copies. As of November 2017, “White Horse” has sold 2 million copies in the United States. The single debuted at No. 37 on Billboard Hot Country Songs on the week-ending December 12, 2008. On the week ending February 14, 2009, it entered the top ten at No. 10, scoring Taylor’s seventh consecutive top ten hit on the chart. It peaked at No. 2 on the week-ending April 4, 2009 and held there on the following week.

“White Horse” debuted at No. 27 in Canada on the week ending November 29, 2008. On the week ending January 24, 2009, “White Horse” peaked at No. 43 in Canada. It was certified Gold by Music Canada for sales of 40,000 digital downloads. In Australia, the track entered at its peak at No. 41 on the week ending February 22, 2009. In the United Kingdom, “White Horse” debuted and peaked at No. 60 on the week ending March 21, 2009.

Accolades

At the 2010 Grammy Awards, “White Horse” won the awards for “Best Country Song” and “Best Female Country Vocal Performance”. The song also performed well commercially, although it did not duplicate the success of its predecessor, “Love Story“. In the United States, it peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on Hot Country Songs.

Taylor's Version

On February 11, 2021, Taylor announced on Good Morning America that a re-recorded version of “White Horse”, titled “White Horse (Taylor’s Version)”, would be released on April 9, 2021, as the fifth track from Fearless (Taylor’s Version), the re-recorded version of the 2008 Fearless. After the album’s release, Taylor told a radio station:

«'White Horse' is about comparing the fairytale imagery we are taught as kids, comparing it to what can really happen in young love, and young heartbreak, and how you just expect a happily ever after type thing. And then you don’t find it and you’re faced with this reality of, 'Oh, this isn’t Hollywood, this is a small town.’ Those kinds of realizations that hit you. But I’ve always been so proud of this one. And every time I sing it I still get so emotional, cause it’s really that emotion that’s just on the surface. Every time I hear this song, it’s like, 'It’s too late for you and your white horse to catch me now.’ It’s like that coming of age where you realize you’re stronger than wanting that happily ever after, you want something better for yourself. You want something different, something more independent, something freer than even what you were told about in fairytales.»

Taylor Swift

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Say you’re sorry, that face of an angel
Comes out just when you need it to
As I paced back and forth all this time
‘Cause I honestly believed in you
Holdin’ on, the days drag on
Stupid girl, I shoulda known, I shoulda known

[Chorus]
That I’m not a princess, this ain’t a fairytale
I’m not the one you’ll sweep off her feet, lead her up the stairwell
This ain’t Hollywood, this is a small town
I was a dreamer before you went and let me down
Now it’s too late for you and your white horse
To come around

[Verse 2]
Maybe I was naive, got lost in your eyes
And never really had a chance
My mistake, I didn’t know to be in love
You had to fight to have the upper hand
I had so many dreams about you and me
Happy endings, now I know

[Chorus]
That I’m not a princess, this ain’t a fairytale
I’m not the one you’ll sweep off her feet, lead her up the stairwell
This ain’t Hollywood, this is a small town
I was a dreamer before you went and let me down
Now it’s too late for you and your white horse
To come around

[Bridge]
And there you are on your knees
Beggin’ for forgiveness, beggin’ for me
Just like I always wanted
But I’m so sorry

[Chorus]
‘Cause I’m not your princess, this ain’t our fairytale
I’m gonna find someone someday, who might actually treat me well
This is a big world, that was a small town
There in my rear view mirror disappearing now
And it’s too late for you and your white horse
Now it’s too late for you and your white horse
To catch me now

[Outro]
Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa
Try and catch me now, oh
It’s too late to catch me now

General Information
AlbumsFearless
Fearless (Taylor’s Version)
ReleasedNovember 11, 2008
Re-ReleasedApril 9, 2021
WrittenDecember 2006
GenreCountry
Length3:55
LabelsBig Machine Records
Republic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Liz Rose
ProducersNathan Chapman (original)
Christopher Rowe
Taylor Swift
FEARLESS CHRONOLOGY
Hey StephenWhite HorseYou Belong With Me
Single Certification
Hidden Message
All I ever wanted was the truth
Single Artwork
Highest Accolade
Music Video
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Taylor's Version
Original Audio