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The Great War

Bonus Track | Midnights (3am Edition) [2022]

“The Great War” is the fourteenth track on Taylor’s tenth studio album, Midnights (2022). It is also the first bonus song on the record’s 3am Edition. Written and produced by Taylor and Aaron Dessner, it details a devastating conflict within a romantic relationship and how to overcome it.
Table of Contents

Background and Release

On August 28, 2022, Taylor announced her tenth studio album, Midnights, set for release on October 21, 2022. On October 16, she posted a short video on her social media that presented a schedule of the days leading up to the album release, entitled “Midnight Manifest”. On it, Taylor also teased a “Special very chaotic surprise” happening 3 hours after the albums release. This materialized into a digital and streaming only version of the album titled Midnights (3am Edition), containing an additional seven songs that according to Taylor were written but removed to keep the album at 13 songs. One of those songs is “The Great War.” Taylor said:

«I think of Midnights as a complete concept album, with those 13 songs forming a full picture of the intensities of that mystifying, mad hour. However! There were other songs we wrote on our journey to find that magic 13. I’m calling them 3am tracks. Lately I’ve been loving the feeling of sharing more of our creative process with you, like we do with 'From The Vault' tracks. So it’s 3am and I’m giving them to you now.»

Lyrical Theme and Production

One of the stellar Aaron Dessner collaborations tucked away on the Midnights (3am Edition), “The Great War” goes into the question of how emotional battles happen and how to end them, especially when you realize you’re the one firing the cannons. It’s a dilemma Taylor has written about her whole career, from her teen ballad “Cold As You” to “Afterglow.” Aaron told the podcast Broken Record in April 2023 that he had started working on certain songs that ended up on Midnights in March 2021. His collaboration with Taylor continued afterwards, even as the album started becoming something different than what they had initially thought:

«Eventually she obviously made most of Midnights with Jack and it became something different, but we made 'Would've, Could've, Should've, 'High Infidelity', 'The Great War' and 'Hits Different' together. And it was great to be a part of that record in that way. It was really special.»

The World War One imagery and martial drums are fitting for a song about how easy it is for two hearts to dig themselves into trenches. But “The Great War” also doubles as a tribute to the type of lover who can help rescue you from your own destructive instincts, the kind you want on your side.

Live Performance

“The Great War” received its first live performance acoustically on guitar on April 14, 2023, in Tampa during one of Taylor’s shows on “The Eras Tour.” Aaron Dessner was the surprise guest and accompanied her on a second guitar. Taylor introduced Aaron and the song by saying:

«In the last couple of years I discovered sort or like the collaborator version of a soulmate. I met a guy named Aaron Dessner and he's so incredibly brilliant. We have made so much music together in the last couple years...it's actually ridiculous how much music we made together. We started with folklore, then went onto evermore, and he's been so helpful with the re-records we're doing. And we are so lucky tonight, Tampa, Florida, because Aaron Dessner is here! [...] We wanted to perform a song for you that we did together, if that's cool. And you know, this song really took on a new meaning when you guys made enough jokes about how you tried to get tickets for this tour, and it felt like surviving The Great War.»

Aaron thanked Taylor and the crowd by asking, “Hi! Are you guys enjoying watching the greatest show of all time? You are so lucky!”

Critical Reception

“The Great War” received acclaim from music critics. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone ranked it at No. 20 out of all of Taylor’s 229 songs (as of October 2022), praising the use of World War One metaphors and the correlating production.

Commercial Performance

In the United States, songs from Midnights occupied the entire Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100; a historic feat. “The Great War” debuted at No. 26 on the chart. Taylor became the first artist to simultaneously occupy the Top 10 spots of the Hot 100; the female artist with the most Top 10 songs (40); and the first act to occupy the entire Top 10 of the Hot 100, Streaming Songs, and Digital Songs charts simultaneously. Midnights also became the first album in history to contain ten Top 10 songs.


[Verse 1]
My knuckles were bruised like violets
Sucker punching walls
Cursed you as I sleep talked
Spineless in my tomb of silence
Tore your banners down
Took the battle underground
And maybe it was egos swinging
Maybe it was her
Flashes of the battle come back to me in a blur

[Chorus 1]
All that blood shed
Crimson clover
Uh-huh, sweet dream was over
My hand was the one you reached for
All throughout the Great War
Always remember, uh-huh
Tears on the lеtter, I vowed
Not to cry anymore
If wе survived the Great War

[Verse 2]
You drew up some good faith treaties
I drew curtains closed
Drank my poison all alone
You said I have to trust more freely
But diesel is desire
You were playing with fire
And maybe it’s the past that’s talking
Screaming from a crypt
Telling me to punish you for things you never did
So I justified it

[Chorus 2]
All that blood shed
Crimson clover
Uh-huh, the bombs were closer
My hand was the one you reached for
All throughout the Great War
Always remember, uh-huh
The burning embers, I vowed
Not to fight anymore
If we survived the Great War

Uh-huh, uh-huh

It turned into something bigger
Somewhere in the haze
Got a sense I’d been betrayed
Your finger on my hairpin triggers
Soldier down on that icy ground
Looked up at me with honor and truth
Broken and blue
So I called off the troops
That was the night I nearly lost you
I really thought I’d lost you

[Verse 3]
We can plant a memory garden
Say a solemn prayer
Place a poppy in my hair
There’s no morning glory
It was war, it wasn’t fair
And we will never go back to that

[Chorus 3]
Crimson clover
Uh-huh, the worst was over
My hand was the one you reached for
All throughout the Great War
Always remember, uh-huh
We’re burned for better, I vowed
I would always be yours
‘Cause we survived the Great War

Uh-huh, uh-huh
I will always be yours
‘Cause we survived the Great War
I vowed I will always be yours

General Information
ArtistTaylor Swift
ReleasedOctober 21, 2022
StudioLong Pond (Hudson Valley, NY)
GenreIndie Pop
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Aaron Dessner
ProducersAaron Dessner
Taylor Swift
MastermindThe Great WarBigger Than The Whole Sky
Song Certification
Song Artwork
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Official Audio