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I Knew You Were Trouble.

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

“I Knew You Were Trouble.” was released as a single from Taylor’s fourth album, RED (2012) and became an international hit. In the song, Taylor expresses her guilt about a relationship which was destined to fail. With its sound playing between electropop and dubstep, the song marked the beginning of Taylor’s move away from her country roots and into more pop influences. The re-recording of the song, “I Knew You Were Trouble. (Taylor’s Version)”, was released on November 12, 2021 on the album RED (Taylor’s Version).

Background and Production

Taylor released her third studio album, Speak Now, in October 2010. She wrote the album entirely by herself and co-produced it with Nathan Chapman, her longtime collaborator. That album musically expands on the country pop sound of her two previous albums, with elements of radio-friendly pop crossover that had been evident on its predecessor Fearless (2008). On Speak Now‘s follow-up, RED, Taylor aimed to experiment beyond her previous albums’ formulaic country pop sound. To this end, she approached different producers beyond her career base of Nashville, Tennessee.

Although Taylor wanted to experiment with various musical styles, she, as a songwriter, prioritized the lyrics over the production, striving to capture her temporary emotions. She went to Los Angeles to meet with Swedish producer Max Martin, whose chart-topping pop songs had impressed her by “how [they] can just land a chorus”. For “I Knew You Were Trouble”, Taylor developed the song as a ballad on piano, and asked Martin and Shellback to accompany the intense emotional sentiment with a “chaotic” sound. She told Rolling Stone in 2020:

«I remember bringing in this slow, sad thing that I had written, called ‘I Knew You Were Trouble.’ I had originally called it ‘Trouble’. I was like, ‘I don't know if we could have some kind of intense bass drop or something, like dubstep is really awesome…’ And they were just like, ‘Yes, absolutely!’ And then Shellback was like, ‘In the verse, let's do this really frantic drum beat.’ And it just was something I would never have thought of; to make the beat of the verse really up-tempo, and then make the intensity drop off the chorus, and then have it build back up, and then have a production explosion at the end of the chorus. It was so thrilling! I couldn't believe the song started where it started and then their added ideas with production. They ended up seeping into my brain and I started thinking the way that I would hope they would think. I would write a verse and Max would be like, ‘This is this many syllables, can you shorten it and make it more succinct, but convey the same message?’ And I would just go off into a corner and I felt like I had like this amazing assignment. So the challenge of it was so thrilling for me.»

Taylor Swift
Max Martin and his protégé Shellback co-wrote and produced three songs on RED — “22“, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together“, and “I Knew You Were Trouble.” All of them feature a synthesizer-driven pop production. For “I Knew You Were Trouble,” the two producers infused elements of dubstep into the song — a genre that Taylor had little knowledge of. At the time of its release, the song was a drastic departure from her characteristic country songs and the boldest musical decision on RED that made the entire industry “freak out over.” In an interview with the Associated Press in October 2013, Taylor described Martin and Shellback as “dream collaborators” because they took her ideas in a different direction, which challenged her as a songwriter.

Lyrical Theme

Taylor described “I Knew You Were Trouble.” as “just as chaotic as the feeling was when [she] wrote it”. In the lyrics, she blames herself for a frustrating relationship that has ended, because she knows she could have stayed out of it but chose to ignore the “red flags”. She told MTV about the experience that inspired the song:

«[It’s] about knowing the second you see someone like, ‘Oh, this is going to be interesting. It’s going to be dangerous, but look at me going in there anyway.' I think that for me, it was the first time I ever kind of noticed that in myself, like when you are curious about something you know might be bad for you, but you know that you are going to go for it anyway because if you don’t, you’ll have greater regrets about not seeing where that would go.»

Taylor Swift

Release

To promote RED, Taylor premiered one album track each week on Good Morning America, from September 24 until the album’s release date of October 22, 2012, as part of a four-week release countdown. “I Knew You Were Trouble.” was the third song that she premiered, on October 8, 2012. A day following the Good Morning America premiere, Big Machine Records released the song onto the iTunes Store for digital download as a promotional single. “I Knew You Were Trouble.” was released to U.S. pop radio on November 27, 2012, as an official single. It was the second pop radio single from RED, following “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”.

Music Video

The single was supported by a music video directed by Anthony Mandler. Shot in Los Angeles over two days, the video stars Reeve Carney as Taylor’s love interest. It depicts Taylor going through a tumultuous relationship with an unfaithful man. She summarized the video’s narrative: “I wanted to tell the story of a girl who falls into a world that’s too fast for her, and suffers the consequences.”

Critial Reception

“I Knew You Were Trouble.” divided contemporary critics for its dubstep experimentation. In positive reviews, Jon Caramanica from The New York Times, Randall Roberts from the Los Angeles Times, and Chris Willman from The Hollywood Reporter praised the song for exhibiting Taylor’s versatility beyond country. In a review for Spin, Mark Hogan commented that while the dubstep-influenced refrain initially came off as unoriginal, it “ultimately gets absorbed into [Swift’s] own aesthetic”, resulting in a radio-friendly song that retained her authentic, “sharply crafted” songwriting. In a RED album review for The Washington Post, Allison Stewart criticized the production as “gratuitous and weird” which overshadowed Taylor’s lyrical narratives. Retrospectively, Josh Kurp from Uproxx commented that “I Knew You Were Trouble.” became one of the dubstep-influenced songs from its time that managed to age well. Hannah Mylrae from NME considered the single a bold move for Taylor, lauding it as her “most brilliantly bombastic release”. Alexis Petridis of The Guardian ranked the single among Taylor’s best: “Held together by a sparkling melody, it works as a pop song and a statement of artistic intent.”

Commercial Performance

In the U.S., after its digital release, “I Knew You Were Trouble.” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Hot Digital Songs with 416,000 copies sold during the first week. It was Taylor’s eleventh song to debut in the top ten of the Hot 100. Together with Red’s lead single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, it made her the first artist in digital history to have two 400,000 digital sales opening weeks. Buoyed by strong digital sales, “I Knew You Were Trouble.” reached its peak at No. 2 on the Hot 100 chart dated January 12, 2013.

In Canada, the single peaked at No. 2 on the Canadian Hot 100 and was certified five times platinum by Music Canada (MC). “I Knew You Were Trouble.” charted in the top ten on record charts of European countries, peaking at No. 1 in the Czech Republic, No. 3 in Denmark, No. 4 in Ireland, No. 6 in Austria and Russia, No. 8 in the Commonwealth of Independent States and Switzerland, No. 9 in Germany, and No. 10 in Belgian Flanders and Finland. The song received platinum certifications in Germany and Switzerland. In the U.K., “I Knew You Were Trouble.” peaked at No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart and was certified double platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). It peaked at No. 3 and was certified multi-platinum in Australia (six times platinum) and New Zealand (double platinum). As of 2021, “I Knew You Were Trouble.” is eligible for a “Diamond” certification by the RIAA for selling over 10 million copies in the United States.

Accolades

“I Knew You Were Trouble.” was one of the award-winning songs at the 2014 BMI Awards. It was one of the “Most Performed Songs” awarded at the 2014 ASCAP Awards, in honor of songwriters and producers. The song won “Song of the Year” at the 2013 Radio Disney Music Awards. At the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, “I Knew You Won Trouble.” won “Best Female Video” and was nominated for “Video of the Year”; it was Taylor’s second win in the category following “You Belong With Me” in 2009. It also won “YouTube Phenomenon” at the inaugural YouTube Music Awards in 2013. The song received nominations at popularity-catered awards ceremonies including Nickelodeon Australian Kids’ Choice Awards, Teen Choice Awards, and Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards.

«'I Knew You Were Trouble.' was a big signal flare. When I did something like that, that I thought people were going to be freaked out over, and it ended up spending seven weeks at No. 1 on the pop charts, it felt like I had tried on something new that fit really well.»

Taylor Swift

Taylor's Version

Following the controversy regarding the ownership of Taylor’s back catalog in 2019, she confirmed re-recording her entire back catalog in November 2020. “I Knew You Were Trouble (Taylor’s Version)” was released as part of her second re-recorded album, RED (Taylor’s Version), on November 12, 2021, through Republic Records. Unlike the original track, the title of the re-recorded version is not stylized with a period at the end. Critics complimented the sharper reworked instrumentation for better conveying the emotion. Taylor told Amazon Music:

«'I Knew You Were Trouble.' is a song that I think really made me expand my horizon of what kind of music I wanted to make, and what kind of music I was allowed to make. At this point in my career I was a completely straight forward country artist that sort of toyed around with pop melodies every once in a while. But when I had gotten this idea, I brought it to Shellback and Max Martin. It was a piano ballad and I thought it was just gonna be a really sad, down tempo song. And I remember Shellback going, 'What if we do like a dubstep bass drop?' And I was like, 'Um, yeah! Let's do that.' It was one of the most shocking moments that we had in the studio, making RED. I think the whole time we were making the song we were all like, 'Can we really do this?' And I love moments like that! Because that means you're pushing boundaries, you're going for it. I've learned that since. I felt that when I was making folklore like, 'Am I allowed to make an alternative album?' You just gotta listen to that feeling sometimes.»

Taylor Swift
After the album was released, “I Knew You Were Trouble (Taylor’s Version)” entered the top 40 of charts in Australia (21), Canada (29), New Zealand (26), and Singapore (13). It peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard Global 200.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Once upon a time, a few mistakes ago
I was in your sights, you got me alone
You found me, you found me, you found me
I guess you didn’t care, and I guess I liked that
And when I fell hard you took a step back
Without me, without me, without me

[Pre-chorus 1]
And he’s long gone when he’s next to me
And I realize the blame is on me

[Chorus]
‘Cause I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places I’d never been
‘Til you put me down, oh
I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places I’d never been
Now I’m lying on the cold hard ground
Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble
Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble

[Verse 2]
No apologies
He’ll never see you cry,
Pretends he doesn’t know that he’s the reason why
You’re drowning, you’re drowning, you’re drowning
Now I heard you moved on from whispers on the street
A new notch in your belt is all I’ll ever be
And now I see, now I see, now I see

[Pre-chorus 2]
He was long gone when he met me
And I realize the joke is on me, yeah!

[Chorus]
I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places I’d never been
‘Til you put me down, oh
I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places I’d never been
Now I’m lying on the cold hard ground
Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble
Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble

[Bridge]
And the saddest fear comes creeping in
That you never loved me or her, or anyone, or anything, yeah

[Chorus]
I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places I’d never been
‘Til you put me down, oh
I knew you were trouble when you walked in
(You were right there, you were right there)
So shame on me now
Flew me to places I’d never been
Now I’m lying on the cold hard ground
Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble
Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble

[Outro]
I knew you were trouble when you walked in
Trouble, trouble, trouble
I knew you were trouble when you walked in
Trouble, trouble, trouble

General Information
AlbumsRED
RED (Taylor’s Version)
ReleasedOctober 9, 2012
Re-ReleasedNovember 12, 2021
StudioConway (Los Angeles)
MXM (Stockholm)
GenreDance Pop
Length3:39
LabelsBig Machine Records
Republic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Max Martin
Shellback
ProducersMax Martin (original)
Shellback
Christopher Rowe
Taylor Swift
RED CHRONOLOGY
TreacherousI Knew You Were Trouble.All Too Well
Single Certification
Hidden Message
When you saw me dancing
Single Artwork
Music Video
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Taylor's Version
Original Audio