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Holy Ground

RED (2012) | RED (Taylor's Version) [2021]

“Holy Ground” is track eleven on Taylor’s fourth studio album, RED (2012). It talks about moving on from a failed relationship and maturing from it. The title is a reference to a “safe” place, kind of like a truce. The re-recording of the song, “Holy Ground (Taylor’s Version)”, was released on November 12, 2021, on RED (Taylor’s Version).
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The song was written by Taylor alone. It is one of two songs of hers that Jeff Bhasker has produced (the other one being “The Lucky One“). When she started writing the track, she knew she wanted Bhasker to produce it. She contacted him and he agreed to work with her. As a result, “Holy Ground” sounds different from any of Taylor’s previous work. She explained the song’s meaning in an interview.

«The song ‘Holy Ground’ was a song that I wrote about the feeling I got after years had gone by and I finally appreciated a past relationship for what it was, rather than being bitter about what it didn’t end up being. And I was sitting there, thinking about it after I’d just seen him and I was just like, 'You know what, that was good.' It was, it was good, having that in my life, and I wrote the song and I immediately heard Jeff Bhasker’s production. I hadn’t ever worked with Jeff, but he has done some amazing work. I love what he’s done on Fun’s record, and I love his diversity. He’s just so talented, and so I called him and I said, 'I wrote this song. I really want you to work on it with me.' And I played it for him and he was like, 'Let’s go! This is great!' And he did such an amazing job on it.»

Lyrical Theme

In “Holy Ground,” Taylor is looking back at a whirl wind relationship from her past. She realizes that just because said relationship didn’t work out, doesn’t mean she can’t remember it fondly, or that it was wasted time. The memories are still safe and sacred. The song’s hidden message is “When you came to the show in SD” which leads to assumption that “Holy Ground” was written about Joe Jonas, who was spotted at Taylor’s San Diego show during the “Speak Now World Tour” in 2011.

Live Performances

Taylor has performed “Holy Ground” close to 100 times over the years. She first sang the song live during “The RED Tour” (2013-2014), where the song served as the second track on the setlist and featured an elaborate drum section. Later on, Taylor performed “Holy Ground” acoustically on “The 1989 World Tour,” as a surprise song in Dublin on June 30, 2015. In 2016, she added the song to the setlist of her first “Greatest Hits” concert: to everyone’s surprise she sang it at the Formula 1 US Grand Prix on October 22, 2016. In 2018, Taylor chose “Holy Ground” as the surprise song for her “reputation Stadium Tour” show in Seattle on May 20. It was also the first surprise song on “The Eras Tour” (2023-2024) in East Rutherford on May 27, 2023, and the second surprise song in Tokyo on February 7, 2024. On July 6, 2024, she played a mashup of “Holy Ground” with “Sweeter Than Fiction” (2013) in Amsterdam.

Notably, Taylor transformed the originally up-beat “Holy Ground” into an emotional piano ballad at the BBC Radio1 Live Lounge on August 29, 2019, during her gig in promotion of her seventh studio album, Lover (2019).

Critical Reception

“Holy Ground” was generally well-received, with some critics highlighting it as a standout track on RED. Writing for The Atlantic, Brad Nelson praised the song, writing, “‘Holy Ground’ isn’t Springsteen in subject. It’s Springsteen in style. The song’s tempo feels his. The drums are pure bombast. They are insistent enough to act as punctuation for the lyrics, which practically tumble out of Swift and fit into one another strangely, like how early Springsteen rhymed as if by accident of memory. Most of all, Springsteen and Swift share a sensibility: that a story can be reduced purely to its rising action. There’s no climax; it’s a tense framework of expectations and barely contained ecstasy. It’s like the seconds right before you run into the middle of traffic. It lasts three and a half minutes.” Pitchfork wrote, “The drums bloom beneath the skin of ‘Holy Ground,’ a song where Swift discovers a brief connection so glowing and true that she skips over the end of the relationship because it’s not important.”

Commercial Performance

Upon the release of RED (Taylor’s Version), “Holy Ground (Taylor’s Version)” debuted at No. 76 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the week ending November 26, 2021.

Taylor's Version

Taylor re-recorded “Holy Ground (Taylor’s Version)” for her second re-recorded album, RED (Taylor’s Version), which was released on November 12, 2021, through Republic Records. She told Amazon Music:

«The song 'Holy Ground' is one of my absolute favorite songs, not only on RED, but of any song that I have been a part of. And one of my favorite things about re-releasing the RED album is that all the original producers pretty much wanted to return to this project. So working with Jeff Bhasker was one of the highlights of my experience making RED, and he wanted to redo his songs on the album, and that was so exciting! The song is about looking back on an old relationship and kind of playing the highlight reel of really beautiful, poignant moments that you shared, and I think this song is just still one of my favorites.»


[Verse 1]
I was reminiscing just the other day
While having coffee all alone
And Lord it took me away
Back to a first glance feeling on New York time
Back when you fit in my poems like a perfect rhyme
Took off faster than a green light, go
Yeah, you skip the conversation when you already know
I left a note on the door with a joke we’d made
And that was the first day

[Chorus 1]
And darling, it was good
Never looking down
And right there where we stood
Was holy ground

[Verse 2]
Spinning like a girl in a brand new dress
We had this big wide city all to ourselves
We blocked the noise with the sound of, “I need you”
And for the first time I had something to lose
And I guess we fell apart in the usual way
And the story’s got dust on every page
But sometimes I wonder how you think about it now
And I see your face in every crowd

[Chorus 2]
‘Cause darling, it was good
Never looking down
And right there where we stood
Was holy ground

Tonight I’m gonna dance
For all that we’ve been through
But I don’t want to dance
If I’m not dancing with you
Tonight I’m gonna dance
Like you were in this room
But I don’t want to dance
If I’m not dancing with you

[Final Chorus]
It was good
Never looking down
And right there where we stood
Was holy ground

Tonight I’m gonna dance
For all that we’ve been through
But I don’t want to dance
If I’m not dancing with you
Tonight I’m gonna dance
Like you were in this room
But I don’t want to dance
If I’m not dancing with you

General Information
ArtistTaylor Swift
RED (Taylor’s Version)
ReleasedOctober 22, 2012
Re-ReleasedNovember 12, 2021
StudiosEnormous (Los Angeles)
Kitty Committee (Belfast)
GenreHeartland Rock
LabelsBig Machine Records
Republic Records
SongwriterTaylor Swift
ProducerJeff Bhasker
The Last TimeHoly GroundSad Beautiful Tragic
Hidden Message
When you came to the show in SD
Song Artwork
Live Performance
Acoustic Performance
Lyric Video
Taylor's Version
Original Audio