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Death By A Thousand Cuts

Lover (2019)

“Death By A Thousand Cuts” is the tenth song on Taylor’s seventh studio album, Lover (2019). It compares the break-up of a relationship to a slow, painful death. It was inspired by the Netflix film Someone Great, not by an aspect of Taylor’s personal relationship. Funnily enough, while working on the treatment for the movie, its writer was inspired by Taylor’s 1989 song “Clean“.
In the midst of her well-deserved bliss with her partner Joe Alwyn, Taylor revealed that “Death By A Thousand Cuts” was the first breakup song she was able to write after finding her happily ever after.

Writing and Inspiration

“Death By A Thousand Cuts” was the last song written for Lover. Taylor wrote and recorded it in June, 2019, together with Jack Antonoff, just two months before the album’s release and after she had already launched the album’s lead single, “ME!“. The heartbroken torch song is one the strongest examples of her ability to craft a story on Lover, as she asks the stop lights along her way whether things will ever be OK. Taylor has said her favorite line from this song is “Our songs, our films, united we stand. Our country, guess it was a lawless land. Quiet my fears with the touch of your hand. Paper cut stings from our paper thin plans.” She told the Elvis Duran Show in 2019:

«Basically, often times I’ll write songs about my own life, but there’s always flickers of other peoples work that influenced me in some way. I think when people make art, other people make art, and I think that especially women who make art, I find it highly inspiring, just based on how well they told a story. There’s just something you get from watching a good story take place. I watched this movie on Netflix, called Someone Great. It’s this amazing romantic comedy with a heart and just, like, depth to it because it’s about this relationship that ends after eight or nine years. And so I cried watching the movie and for like a week I start waking up from dreams that I’m living out that scenario, that that’s happening to me. And I just would wake up and I’m like, 'Oh my God, I’m writing a breakup song', like I have these lyrics in my head based on the dynamics of these characters. And I went into the studio with Jack and I was like, 'I got these lyrics for a song I’ve written for this song called 'Death By A Thousand Cuts'.»

Taylor Swift

Live Performances

Taylor first performed the song at the “City of Lover” one-day concert at the Olympia on September 9, 2019, in Paris, France. She performed an excellent, stripped-down version of “Death By A Thousand Cuts”, backing herself on an acoustic guitar. The concert was filmed and later aired as a TV special on ABC on May 17, 2020. The performance of “Death By A Thousand Cuts” was released for digital download the following day, on May 18, 2020. Taylor also performed the song during her NPR “Tiny Tesk” concert.

Critical Reception

“Death By A Thousand Cuts” received positive reactions upon release, with many critics naming it one of the highlights on Lover, including Rolling Stone. Furthermore, broadway icon Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber praised the song, saying: “‘Death By A Thousand Cuts’ is a really fantastic song. It really shows her country and western roots and I love it – and I love Taylor!”

Commercial Performance

Upon the release of Lover, “Death By A Thousand Cuts” debuted and peaked at No. 67 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Lyrics

[Intro]
My, my, my, my
My, my, my, my
My, my, my, my
My, my, my, my
My, my, my, my
My, my, my, my
My, my, my, my
My, my, my, my

[Chorus]
Saying goodbye is death by a thousand cuts
Flashbacks waking me up
I get drunk, but it’s not enough
’Cause the morning comes and you’re not my baby
I look through the windows of this love
Even though we boarded them up
Chandelier’s still flickering here
’Cause I can’t pretend it’s okay when it’s not
It’s death by a thousand cuts

[Verse 1]
I dress to kill my time, I take the long way home
I ask the traffic lights if it’ll be alright
They say, “I don’t know”
And what once was ours is no one’s now
I see you everywhere, the only thing we share
Is this small town
You said it was a great love, one for the ages
But if the story’s over, why am I still writing pages?

[Chorus]
Saying goodbye is death by a thousand cuts
Flashbacks waking me up
I get drunk, but it’s not enough
‘Cause the morning comes and you’re not my baby
I look through the windows of this love
Even though we boarded them up
Chandelier’s still flickering here
‘Cause I can’t pretend it’s okay when it’s not
It’s death by a thousand cuts

[Bridge]
My heart, my hips, my body, my love
Tryna find a part of me that you didn’t touch
Gave up on me like I was a bad drug
Now I’m searching for signs in a haunted club
Our songs, our films, united we stand
Our country, guess it was a lawless land
Quiet my fears with the touch of your hand
Paper cut stains from our paper-thin plans
My time, my wine, my spirit, my trust
Tryna find a part of me you didn’t take up
Gave you so much, but it wasn’t enough
But I’ll be alright, it’s just a thousand cuts

[Chorus]
I get drunk, but it’s not enough
‘Cause you’re not my baby
I look through the windows of this love
Even though we boarded them up
Chandelier’s still flickering here
‘Cause I can’t pretend it’s okay when it’s not
No, it’s not
It’s death by a thousand cuts (You didn’t touch)

[Post-chorus]
Tryna find a part of me that you didn’t touch
My body, my love, my trust (It’s death by a thousand cuts)
But it wasn’t enough, it wasn’t enough, no, no

[Outro]
I take the long way home
I ask the traffic lights if it’ll be alright
They say, “I don’t know”

General Information
AlbumLover
ReleasedAugust 23, 2019
RecordedJune, 2019
StudioElectric Lady (New York City)
GenrePop
Length3:18
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Jack Antonoff
ProducersJack Antonoff
Taylor Swift
LOVER CHRONOLOGY
Cornelia StreetDeath By A Thousand CutsLondon Boy
Song Certification
Studio Picture
Song Artwork
Live Performance
Official Audio
Official Live Audio