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Better Than Revenge

Speak Now (2010) | Speak Now (Taylor's Version) [2023]

“Better Than Revenge” is track ten on Taylor’s third studio album, Speak Now (2010). The pop rock track is one of her vengeance songs. The re-recording of the song, “Better Than Revenge (Taylor’s Version)”, was released on July 7, 2023, on Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).
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Background and Lyrical Theme

“Better Than Revenge” was written by Taylor and produced by her frequent collaborator Nathan Chapman. The lyrics are about her plea for vengeance against a romantic rival. Compared to her previous songs about romantic fantasy, “Better Than Revenge” features a much more angry and spited perspective on love:

«The song 'Better Than Revenge' is about a girl who a few years ago stole my boyfriend. And I think she probably thought I forgot about it. But I didn't.»

It is rumored that the song was aimed at Camille Belle, an actress Joe Jonas pursued after breaking up with Taylor in 2008. This theory seems likely, considering one of the last lines of the song, “Come on, show me how much better you are” is a reference to the Jonas Brothers’ 2009 song “Much Better.” That track was felt by many to be an unkind remark at how superior Joe’s new girlfriend was in comparison to Taylor:

Now I’m done with superstars
And all the teardrops on her guitar
I’m not bitter
Now I see everything I need
Is the girl in front of me
She’s much better

In the mid-2010s, Joe and Taylor became friends again.

Live Performances

Taylor included “Better Than Revenge” on the set list of her “Speak Now World Tour” (2011–2012). During the shows, she sang the song on top of a bridge, dressed in a red sequined mini-dress and boots, and play-fought with her backup singers Caitlin Evanson and Liz Huett. In the years after, Taylor was reluctant to perform the song, due to its misogynistic message.

After the release of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), Taylor performed “Better Than Revenge” for the first time in eleven years during her sixth headlining concert tour, “The Eras Tour” (2023-2024). She sang the updated version with the re-written chorus. It was the first surprise song during her show on November 12, 2023, in Buenos Aires (Argentina).

Critical Reception

In an American Songwriter review of Speak Now, Rick Moore contended that “Better Than Revenge” is the one song that “shows Swift isn’t the naïve young role model that so many parents perceive her to be”, citing the “on the mattress” lyrics. In a more positive vein, Mikael Wood from Spin deemed the song entertaining. Leah Greenbalt of Entertainment Weekly considered the “surprisingly sharp-toothed” song a step forward from Taylor’s previous “twitterpated heart of teendom”, and Steve Hyden of The A.V. Club considered the track, among others about vengeance, one of Speak Now‘s strongest: “Swift’s niftiest trick is being at her most likeable when she’s indulging in such overt nastiness.” Rolling Stone featured the song on their 2015 list of “Country’s 20 Best Revenge Songs”: “Taylor Swift has made a multi-million dollar career out of getting lyrical revenge, with [“Better than Revenge”] perhaps packing the strongest punch.”

Commercial Performance

After Speak Now was released, “Better Than Revenge” entered and peaked at No. 73 on the Canadian Hot 100. In the United States, the song peaked at No. 56 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 6 on the Country Digital Song Sales chart. In 2014, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the track Gold for surpassing 500,000 units based on sales and streaming.

Taylor's Thoughts on the Song Now

As Taylor’s success grew with her subsequent pop albums, the media focused on the problematic lyrics of “Better Than Revenge” to question her feminist identity. Journalists considered the song a misstep for her artistry, on the grounds that it indulged in celebrity and tarnished her wholesome public image that she had curated. In some ways, “Better than Revenge” was also the precedent to many of Taylor’s subsequent songs about celebrity and vengeance, notably “Bad Blood” (2014) and “Look What You Made Me Do” (2017), as her personal life became sensationalized in the press. In 2014, she told The Guardian that she identified as a feminist and spoke about the song:

«I was 18 when I wrote ['Better Than Revenge']. That’s the age you are when you think someone can actually take your boyfriend. Then you grow up and realize no one can take someone from you if they don’t want to leave.»

Taylor's Version

The re-recording of the song, “Better Than Revenge (Taylor’s Version)” was released on July 7, 2023. In this new version, Taylor decided to change the controversial lyric to: “He was a moth to the flame, she was holding the matches.”

Upon the release of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), “Better Than Revenge (Taylor’s Version)” debuted and peaked at No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the week ending July 13, 2023.


General Information
ArtistTaylor Swift
AlbumsSpeak Now
Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)
ReleasedOctober 25, 2010
Re-ReleasedJuly 7, 2023
GenrePop Punk
Pop Rock
LabelsBig Machine Records
Republic Records
SongwriterTaylor Swift
ProducersNathan Chapman (original)
Christopher Rowe
Taylor Swift
EnchantedBetter Than RevengeInnocent
Single Certification
Hidden Message
You thought I would forget
Song Artwork
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Taylor's Version
Original Audio
Live Version