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The Story of Us

Single | Speak Now (2010)

“The Story of Us” is a song that appears on Taylor’s third studio album, Speak Now (2010). The song narrates the awkwardness that takes place between two people after they break up. In this case, Taylor and her ex were sitting close to each other at the 2010 CMT Awards, refusing to speak to one another, despite the many things they had to say.

Background and Lyrical Theme

“The Story of Us” was written by Taylor and co-produced with Nathan Chapman. In a 2010 interview with USA Today, Taylor explained:

«'The Story of Us' is about running into someone I had been in a relationship with at an awards show, and we were seated a few seats away from each other. I just wanted to say to him, 'Is this killing you? Because it’s killing me.' But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Because we both had these silent shields up. I went home and I sat there at the kitchen table and I said to my mom, 'I felt like I was standing alone in a crowded room.' Then I got up and ran into my bedroom, as she’s seen me do many times. And she probably assumed I had come up with a line in the song. And I had. And that was actually the last song I wrote on the album, and after I finished that one, I knew I was done.»

Taylor Swift
Based on the timeline given, it can be assumed that Taylor wrote this song sometime after July 19th, 2010, the day she finished “Innocent,” which she thought would be the final song to be featured on the record. In the end, “The Story of Us” was the last track she composed for Speak Now, claiming that upon completing the song she knew she was done with the album. The song’s subject was revealed by Taylor to be the same for “Dear John“, which in an interview musician John Mayer confirmed that he was the song’s subject. Furthermore, Taylor and Mayer both attended the 2010 CMT Awards.

Music Video

The music video for the song was directed by Noble Jones which took place in Vanderbilt University, which her brother Austin attended. A few of his friends are featured in the video. It premiered on May 24, 2011, and was met with mostly positive reception among music critics for its departure from the usual high school setting of Taylor’s previous videos. Taylor agreed that the video is different from the rest of her music videos. According to her, “the biggest difference between the new video and all the other ones is that I love to make a happy ending happen, and with this video, it doesn’t happen.”

Live Performances

“The Story of Us” was first performed on the mini documentary Taylor Swift: Speak Now which aired as a Thanksgiving special on NBC in 2010. Taylor also sang the song on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” She performed the song regularly during the “Speak Now World Tour” (2011-2012). On September 8, 2018, she played the song as the surprise song at the Kansas City stop of the “reputation Stadium Tour.”

Critical Reception

“The Story of Us” was met with mixed reviews from critics. While reviewing Speak Now, Dave Heaton of Pop Matters observed that the album is built upon conflicting stories which result in a discrepancy between those stories and the way life turns out. He added that “‘The Story of Us’ makes this explicit, by presenting the verses as ‘chapters’, within a song where the story isn’t being written the way [Taylor] wants it to, turning into a ‘tragedy’ she didn’t imagine.” Theon Weber of The Village Voice chastised the song as “giddy and bombastic […] which plays around with glammy dance-pop.” Amanda Hensel of Taste of Country praised the song by claiming that it’s “upbeat and fun, and even a bit rock-y”. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone stated that fans could “tell what chick flicks Swift has been watching from the song title[s].”

Commercial Performance

Following the release of Speak Now, on the week ending November 13, 2010, “The Story of Us” debuted at No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 which became its peak position; it became one of the songs to make Taylor the first act to have ten songs debut on the Billboard Hot 100 in the same week. Following its single release, the song re-entered Billboard Hot 100 at No. 98 on the week ending May 28, 2011. Since then, the song has peaked at No. 66 on the week ending June 25, 2011. Internationally, “The Story of Us” has had moderate success. The song debuted in Canada at No. 70 on the week ending November 13, 2010. The song has also peaked at No. 15 on Belgian’s Flemish Ultratip chart.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
I used to think one day we’d tell the story of us
How we met and the sparks flew instantly
And people would say, “They’re the lucky ones”
I used to know my place was the spot next to you
Now I’m searching the room for an empty seat
‘Cause lately I don’t even know what page you’re on

[Pre-chorus 1]
Oh, a simple complication
Miscommunications lead to fall-out
So many things that I wish you knew
So many walls up I can’t break through

[Chorus]
Now I’m standing alone in a crowded room and we’re not speaking
And I’m dying to know is it killing you like it’s killing me, yeah?
I don’t know what to say, since the twist of fate when it all broke down
And the story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now

Next chapter.

[Verse 2]
How’d we end up this way?
See me nervously pulling at my clothes and trying to look busy
And you’re doing your best to avoid me
I’m starting to think one day I’ll tell the story of us
How I was losing my mind when I saw you here
But you held your pride like you should’ve held me

[Pre-chorus 2]
Oh, I’m scared to see the ending
Why are we pretending this is nothing?
I’d tell you I miss you but I don’t know how
I’ve never heard silence quite this loud

[Chorus]
Now I’m standing alone in a crowded room and we’re not speaking
And I’m dying to know is it killing you like it’s killing me, yeah?
I don’t know what to say, since the twist of fate when it all broke down
And the story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now

[Bridge]
This is looking like a contest
Of who can act like they care less
But I liked it better when you were on my side

The battle’s in your hands now
But I would lay my armour down
If you said you’d rather love than fight

So many things that you wish I knew
But the story of us might be ending soon

[Chorus]
Now I’m standing alone in a crowded room and we’re not speaking
And I’m dying to know is it killing you like it’s killing me, yeah?
But I don’t know what to say, since the twist of fate when it all broke down
And the story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now, now, now.

And we’re not speaking
And I’m dying to know is it killing you like it’s killing me, yeah?
I don’t know what to say, since the twist of fate ’cause we’re going down
And the story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now

The end.

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General Information
AlbumSpeak Now
ReleasedOctober 25, 2010
RecordedJuly, 2010
GenreCountry Pop
Length4:26
LabelBig Machine Records
SongwriterTaylor Swift
ProducersNathan Chapman
Taylor Swift
SPEAK NOW CHRONOLOGY
MeanThe Story of UsNever Grow Up
Single Certification
Hidden Message
CMT Awards
Single Artwork
Music Video
Live Performance
Official Audio
Official Pop Version
Official Live Version