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Picture to Burn

Single | Taylor Swift (2006)

“Picture to Burn” is an angsty breakup song on Taylor’s debut album, Taylor Swift (2006). It was inspired by the narcissistic and cocky nature of her former high school classmate Jordan Alford with whom Taylor never established a formal relationship.

Background and Lyrical Theme

Taylor amd Jordan went out before he dated classmate Chelsea. She was frequently frustrated by his narcissistic and cocky nature, and decided to write a song about how she felt at her after school job, writing songs for Sony/ATV Music. “Picture to Burn” was co-written with Liz Rose on guitar, and given a comedic edge (an idea of Taylor’s):

«I found myself just sitting there with my guitar going, 'I hate his stupid truck that he doesn't let me drive. He's such a redneck! Oh my Gosh!' That actually became the chorus to the song, so that's one of the most honest songs I've ever written.»

Taylor Swift
Taylor described “Picture to Burn” as brutally honest, and cited it as an example of how she expresses herself if someone leaves her heartbroken, offends her, or is hostile towards her. Furthermore, she said it became the only song driven by anger on Taylor Swift, a topic she felt most teenage girls could identify with. “It’s OK to be mad after a breakup or after something goes wrong with a relationship”, Taylor said. Jordan Alford went on to date, and later marry Chelsea. Ironically, he works as a firefighter. Chelsea told Daily Mail:

«[Jordan and I] just thought it was funny. [Jordan] was like, ‘I’m not a redneck! She makes me look like some redneck!’ But other than that we just thought it was kind of funny. After I began dating him, Taylor and I exchanged a few words over a locker fight. We were 14, we were just being girly, snarky.»

Chelsea Alford

Teenage Feelings

In retrospect, Taylor has stated that she has evolved on a personal level and as a songwriter, claiming she processed emotions differently since “Picture to Burn”. When looking back at the song in 2011, she said: “I had this song called ‘Picture To Burn,’ that’s talking about how, ‘I hate your truck,’ and, ‘I hate that you ignored me, I hate you.’ Now, the way that I would say that and the way that I would feel that kind of pain is a lot different.” Despite her evolving on a personal level and as a songwriter, she claimed not to be regretful of “Picture to Burn”, rather happy she was able to demonstrate “those emotions that when you’re so angry, you hate everything. It’s like recording your diary over the years, and that’s a gift”, she said.

Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta never thought that the song was too harsh. He said it was the second or third song Taylor played for him when they first met. “That was the song where I pointed and said, ‘That’s a hit song,'” he recounted. “I had her play it again; I heard the first line and said, ‘Did you really just sing that?'”

Music Videos

The music video for “Picture to Burn” was directed by Troy Fanjoy and features Taylor fantasizing about taking revenge on her ex-boyfriend after she discovers him with another girl. The video also has Taylor and her band, The Agency (they came up with the name during this video shoot), performing with pyrotechnics as a backdrop. Taylor’s high school best friend Abigail Anderson, who Taylor wrote “Fifteen” about, as well as her brother, Austin Swift, both appear in the video.

Critical Reception

“Picture to Burn” received critical acclaim. Chris Neal of Country Weekly believed “Picture to Burn”, along with “Should’ve Said No“, were the most immediately striking songs on Taylor Swift. Kate Kiefer of Paste magazine selected the track as one of Taylor’s six best singles, and stated, “She really shows her age in this one”.

Commercial Performance

The song was chosen as a single based on the audience’s reaction to it in concert. It was the fourth single from the album. On the week ending March 1, 2008, “Picture to Burn” debuted at No. 91 on the Billboard Hot 100. The following week it ascended to No. 83, and ten weeks later, on the week ending May 17, 2008, it reached its peak at No. 28 on the Hot 100, and No. 3 on Billboard’s US Hot Country Songs.

Lyrics

State the obvious, I didn’t get my perfect fantasy
I realize you love yourself more than you could ever love me
So go and tell your friends that I’m obsessive and crazy
That’s fine, you won’t mind if I say

And by the way…
I hate that stupid old pickup truck
You never let me drive
You’re a redneck heartbreak
Who’s really bad at lying
So watch me strike a match
On all my wasted time
As far as I’m concerned you’re
Just another picture to burn

There’s no time for tears,
I’m just sitting here planning my revenge
There’s nothing stopping me
From going out with all of your best friends
And if you come around saying sorry to me
My daddy’s gonna show you how sorry you’ll be

I hate that stupid old pickup truck
You never let me drive
You’re a redneck heartbreak
Who’s really bad at lying
So watch me strike a match
On all my wasted time
As far as I’m concerned you’re
Just another picture to burn

If you’re missing me,
You’d better keep it to yourself
Cause coming back around here
Would be bad for your health…

I hate that stupid old pickup truck
You never let me drive
You’re a redneck heartbreak
Who’s really bad at lying
So watch me strike a match
On all my wasted time
In case you haven’t heard,

I really really hate that..
Burn, burn, burn, baby, burn
You’re just another picture to burn
Baby, burn…

“That’s fine you won’t mind if I say” was originally recorded as “That’s fine, I’ll tell mine you’re gay”.

General Information
AlbumTaylor Swift
ReleasedOctober 24, 2006
Recorded2006
StudioThe Castles Studios-A (Nashville)
Sound Cottage (Nashville)
Sound Emporium (Nashville)
GenreCountry
Length2:55
LabelBig Machine Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Liz Rose
ProducerNathan Chapman
TAYLOR SWIFT CHRONOLOGY
Tim McGrawPicture to BurnTeardrops On My Guitar
Single Certification
Hidden Message
Date nice boys
Single Artwork
Music Video
Live Performance
Official Audio