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Better Than Revenge

Speak Now (2010)

“Better Than Revenge” is a pop rock song on Taylor’s third studio album, Speak Now (2010). It is one of her vengeance songs. In recent years, she’s been reluctant to perform the song live, due to its misogynistic message.

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. It is rumored that the song was aimed at Camille Belle, the young 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

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. Nowadays, Taylor is reluctant to perform the song, due to its misogynistic message.

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 Swift

Lyrics

[Spoken Intro]
Now go stand in the corner and think about what you did
Time for a little revenge

[Verse 1]
The story starts when it was hot and it was summer
And I had it all, I had him right there where I wanted him
She came along, got him alone and let’s hear the applause
She took him faster than you could say “sabotage”
I never saw it coming, wouldn’t have suspected it
I underestimated just who I was dealing with
She had to know the pain was beating on me like a drum
She underestimated just who she was stealing from

[Chorus]
She’s not a saint and she’s not what you think
She’s an actress (Whoa)
She’s better known for the things
That she does on the mattress (Whoa)
Soon she’s gonna find stealing other people’s toys
On the playground won’t make you many friends
She should keep in mind, she should keep in mind
There is nothing I do better than revenge (Ha!)

[Verse 2]
She looks at life like it’s a party, and she’s on the list
She looks at me like I’m a trend and she’s so over it
I think her ever-present frown is a little troubling
She thinks I’m psycho ’cause I like to rhyme her name with things
But sophistication isn’t what you wear or who you know
Or pushing people down to get you where you wanna go
They wouldn’t teach you that in prep school, so it’s up to me
But no amount of vintage dresses gives you dignity

[Chorus]
She’s not a saint and she’s not what you think
She’s an actress (Whoa)
She’s better known for the things
That she does on the mattress (Whoa)
Soon she’s gonna find stealing other people’s toys
On the playground won’t make you many friends
She should keep in mind, she should keep in mind
There is nothing I do better than revenge

[Bridge]
I’m just another thing for you to roll your eyes at, honey
You might have him, but haven’t you heard?
I’m just another thing for you to roll your eyes at, honey
You might have him but I always get the last word (Oh, whoa)

[Chorus Variation]
She’s not a saint and she’s not what you think
She’s an actress (Whoa) (She deserves it)
She’s better known for the things
That she does on the mattress (Whoa)
Soon she’s gonna find stealing other people’s toys
On the playground won’t make you many friends
She should keep in mind, she should keep in mind
There is nothing I do better than revenge

[Outro]
Do you still feel like you know what you’re doing?
‘Cause I don’t think you do (No)
Do you still feel like you know what you’re doing?
I don’t think you do, I don’t think you do
Let’s hear the applause
Come on, show me how much better you are (So much better, yeah?)
So you deserve some applause?
‘Cause you’re so much better
She took him faster than you could say “sabotage”

General Information
ArtistTaylor Swift
AlbumSpeak Now
ReleasedOctober 25, 2010
Recorded2009–2010
GenrePop Punk
Pop Rock
Length3:40
LabelBig Machine Records
SongwriterTaylor Swift
ProducerNathan Chapman
SPEAK NOW CHRONOLOGY
EnchantedBetter Than RevengeInnocent
Single Certification
Hidden Message
You thought I would forget
Song Covers
Live Performance
Official Audio
Official Live Version