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this is me trying

folklore (2020)

“this is me trying” is the ninth track on Taylor’s eighth studio album, folklore (2020). In the song, Taylor tells the story of someone who’s struggling in life. Fear, alcohol, and a sense of failure and isolation complicate the start of the healing process, but the person takes the first step by having the humility to admit things are difficult and uncertain.

Background and Lyrical Theme

Taylor surprise-released folklore on July 24, 2020. The album eschews the upbeat pop production of her previous releases and adapts indie folk and alternative styles, brought about by collaborations with Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff. Taylor also brought along her partner Joe Alwyn to help produce the album, which he did along with her and Antonoff on “this is me trying”. In the primer that preceded the release, Taylor teased imageries of various tracks, with “this is me trying” being about “a whiskey bottle beckoning.” She has stated that the song was inspired by multiple narratives, such as her state of mind in 2016-2017 when she “felt like [she] was worth absolutely nothing”, as well as themes of addiction and existential crisis. In the documentary concert film folklore: the long pond studio sessions (2020), she affirmed that the song touches on alcoholism:

«I’ve been thinking about people who are either suffering through mental illness, addiction or who have an everyday struggle. No one pats them on the back every day but every day they are actively fighting something. There are so many days that nobody gives them credit for that and so, how often must somebody who’s in that sort of internal struggle wanna say to everyone in the room: ‘You have no idea how close I am to going back to a dark place.’ I had this idea that the first verse would be about someone who is in a life crisis and has just been trying and failing in their relationship, has been messing things up with people they love, has been letting everyone down and has driven to this overlook, this cliff, and is just in the car, going, ‘I could do whatever I want in this moment and it could affect everything forever.’ But this person backs up and drives home.»

Taylor Swift
folklore producer Aaron Dessner shared his interpretation of the song in a 2020 interview with Vulture: “’this is me trying,’ to me, relates to the entire album. Maybe I’m reading into it too much from my own perspective, but [I think of] the whole album as an exercise and working through these stories, whether personal or old through someone else’s perspective. It’s connecting a lot of things.” Taylor felt similar, further explaining her thoughts that went into the second verse:

«The second verse is about someone who felt like they had a lot of potential in their life. I feel like there are a lot of mechanisms for us in our school days, in high school or college, to excel and to be patted on the back for something. And then a lot of people get out of school and there are less abilities for them to get gold stars. Then you have to make all these decisions and you have to pave your own way. There’s no set class course you can take. I think a lot of people feel really swept up in that. And so I was thinking about this person who is really lost in life and then starts drinking…and every second is trying not to.»

Taylor Swift

Live Performance

Taylor first performed “this is me trying” as part of the concert film and documentary folklore: the long pond studio sessions (2020), together with Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff.

Critical Reception

Upon the release of folklore, “this is me trying” was met with positive reviews from music critics; praise centered on Taylor’s vocals and the song’s portrayal of mental health, addiction, and emotional vulnerability. Alexandrea Lang from the Dallas Observer named the song as one of the “most profound and underrated” songs on folklore, as well as praising Taylor’s “gorgeous, breathy vocals” and the “flawless” capture of emotions of someone struggling with motivation and mental illness. Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield said that the track is “the disturbingly witty tale of someone pouring her heart out, to keep herself from pouring more whiskey.” Regarding the song’s metaphor set around curve and sphere, Sheffield commented: “what a math flex”; “Taylor could have invented geometry, but Euclid couldn’t have written this song.” New Statesman critic Anna Leszkiewicz defined “this is me trying” as an “expansive, atmospheric portrait” of someone opting vulnerability over “defense mechanisms” in a relationship.

Commercial Performance

Upon folklore‘s release, “this is me trying” debuted at No. 9 on the US Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart, and at No. 39 on the all-genre Hot 100 as one of the album’s 10 tracks to chart inside the top 40. It further reached No. 15 on the Singapore Singles chart, No. 18 on Australia’s ARIA Singles Chart, and No. 30 on the Canadian Hot 100.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
I’ve been having a hard time adjusting
I had the shiniest wheels, now they’re rusting
I didn’t know if you’d care if I came back
I have a lot of regrets about that
Pulled the car off the road to the lookout
Could’ve followed my fears all the way down
And maybe I don’t quite know what to say
But I’m here in your doorway

[Chorus]
I just wanted you to know that this is me trying
I just wanted you to know that this is me trying

[Verse 2]
They told me all of my cages were mental
So I got wasted like all my potential
And my words shoot to kill when I’m mad
I have a lot of regrets about that
I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere
Fell behind all my classmates and I ended up here
Pouring out my heart to a stranger
But I didn’t pour the whiskey

[Chorus]
I just wanted you to know that this is me trying
I just wanted you to know that this is me trying

[Post-Chorus]
At least I’m trying

[Bridge]
And it’s hard to be at a party when I feel like an open wound
It’s hard to be anywhere these days when all I want is you
You’re a flashback in a film reel on the one screen in my town

[Chorus]
And I just wanted you to know that this is me trying
(And maybe I don’t quite know what to say)
I just wanted you to know that this is me trying

[Outro]
At least I’m trying

General Information
Albumfolklore
ReleasedJuly 24, 2020
RecordedMay–July, 2020
StudioKitty Committee (Los Angeles)
Long Pond (Hudson Valley)
GenreDream Pop
Length3:15
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Jack Antonoff
ProducersJack Antonoff
Taylor Swift
Joe Alwyn
FOLKLORE CHRONOLOGY
augustthis is me tryingillicit affairs
Song Artwork
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Official Audio
Official Live Audio