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Back to December

Single | Speak Now (2010)

“Back to December” is an orchestral country pop ballad on Taylor’s third studio album, Speak Now (2010). Its lyrics are a remorseful plea for forgiveness for breaking up with a former lover.

Background

According to Taylor, “Back to December” is the first time she ever apologizes to someone in a song. She said she never felt the need to apologize in a song before. But in the last two years she had experienced a lot, including different kinds of learning lessons: “And sometimes you learn a lesson too late and at that point you need to apologize because you were careless.”

«‘Back To December’ is a song that addresses a first for me, in that I’ve never apologized to someone in a song before. This is about a person who was incredible to me – just perfect in a relationship, and I was really careless with him. So, this is a song full of words that I would say to him that he deserves to hear.»

Taylor Swift
“Back to December” was Taylor’s first song to ever feature orchestral arrangements, the second being fellow Speak Now track “Haunted“.

The Boy from Michigan

It is no secret that “Back to December” is about Taylor Lautner, one of Taylor’s ex-boyfriends. This was later confirmed by Lautner himself. The line ,”So if the chain is on your door I understand” was once changed by Taylor to, “So this is for the boy from Michigan” when she performed this song at a show on the “Speak Now World Tour” at Staples Center, which Taylor Lautner attended. He is from Michigan.

Music Video

The accompanying music video for “Back to December” was directed by Yoann Lemoine. It laments the aftermath of a break-up between Taylor and her boyfriend in a cold and wintery small town. It was filmed in late December 2010 before Christmas Day. The director had a clear vision for the video’s look and feel: He told MTV News that he wanted the video to be simple yet metaphorical: “I wanted to work on the coldness of feelings in a very visual way, playing with the snow, the distance and sadness.” He also wanted to focus on Taylor’s look in the video so that she would come off as accessible, saying “I wanted her to perform a very natural way, to make her look very European. This was the main challenge to me. All of Taylor’s world is very far away from my culture, but I saw something in her that could be very rough and heartbreaking; far from the princess glittery outfits and glam that she often goes for.”

Live Performances

Taylor first performed “Back to December” in Paris at a showcase at the Salle Wagram theater, on October 18, 2010, to promote her upcoming album, Speak Now, set for release on the October 25, 2010. She also performed the song on Speak Now: Taylor Swift Live From New York City, a special programme which was streamed live on CMT.com, MTV.com, VH1.com and other MTV Networks websites in Europe, Asia, Australia and Latin America to celebrate the release of her new album. She also performed “Back to December” on several other occasions. On November 10, 2010, she performed the song live at the 44th annual Country Music Association Awards at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. On November 21, 2010, Taylor mashed “Back to December” with OneRepublic’s “Apologize” at the 38th American Music Awards.

Taylor performed “Back to December” and several songs from Speak Now on November 24, 2010, during Thanksgiving night, on NBC for the special Taylor Swift: Speak Now (2010). She also performed the song on her “Speak Now World Tour” (2011-2012) as well as mashing the song with “Apologize” and her own song “You’re Not Sorry“, from her album Fearless (2008). The performance was released on Taylor’s first live album called “Speak Now: World Tour Live” (2011).

Critical Reception

“Back to December” received critial acclaim, and is regarded as one of the highlights of Speak Now. Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone gave it a positive review commenting, “Swift’s voice is unaffected enough to mask how masterful she has become as a singer; she lowers her voice for the payoff lines in the classic mode of a shy girl trying to talk tough.” Jonathan Keefe from Slant Magazine complimented Taylor, saying “it isn’t easy to make a melancholy song like ‘Back to December’ sound catchy at the same time, but that’s what Swift does, and it’s an impressive trick.”

Commercial Performance

“Back to December” is one of 14 songs on the standard edition of Speak Now which has charted within the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. Upon its release as a promotional single, it debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 with sales of 242,000 digital downloads (approximately), on October 12, 2010. Following its single release, the song re-entered Billboard Hot 100 at No. 74 on the week ending November 27, 2010. It eventually reached a position of No. 18.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
I’m so glad you made time to see me
How’s life? Tell me, how’s your family?
I haven’t seen them in a while
You’ve been good, busier than ever
We small talk, work and the weather
Your guard is up, and I know why

[Pre-chorus 1]
Because the last time you saw me
Is still burned in the back of your mind
You gave me roses, and I left them there to die

[Chorus]
So this is me swallowing my pride
Standing in front of you saying, “I’m sorry for that night”
And I go back to December all the time
It turns out freedom ain’t nothing but missing you
Wishing I’d realized what I had when you were mine
I’d go back to December, turn around and make it all right
I go back to December all the time

[Verse 2]
These days, I haven’t been sleeping
Staying up, playing back myself leavin’
When your birthday passed and I didn’t call
Then I think about summer, all the beautiful times
I watched you laughing from the passenger side
And realized I loved you in the fall

[Pre-chorus 2]
And then the cold came, the dark days
When fear crept into my mind
You gave me all your love and all I gave you was, “Goodbye”

[Chorus]
So this is me swallowing my pride
Standing in front of you saying, “I’m sorry for that night”
And I go back to December all the time
It turns out freedom ain’t nothing but missing you
Wishing I’d realized what I had when you were mine
I’d go back to December, turn around and change my own mind
I go back to December all the time

[Bridge]
I miss your tan skin, your sweet smile
So good to me, so right
And how you held me in your arms that September night
The first time you ever saw me cry
Maybe this is wishful thinking
Probably mindless dreaming
But if we loved again, I swear I’d love you right
I’d go back in time and change it, but I can’t
So if the chain is on your door, I understand

[Final Chorus]
But this is me swallowing my pride
Standing in front of you saying, “I’m sorry for that night”
And I go back to December
It turns out freedom ain’t nothing but missing you
Wishing I’d realized what I had when you were mine
I’d go back to December, turn around and make it all right
I’d go back to December, turn around and change my own mind
I go back to December all the time

[Outro]
All the time

General Information
ArtistTaylor Swift
AlbumSpeak Now
ReleasedOctober 25, 2010
Recorded2010
GenreCountry Pop
Length4:54
LabelBig Machine Records
SongwriterTaylor Swift
ProducersNathan Chapman
Taylor Swift
SPEAK NOW CHRONOLOGY
Sparks FlyBack to DecemberSpeak Now
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Official Audio
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