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Picture to Burn

Single | Taylor Swift (2006)

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

Taylor and Jordan were classmates at Hendersonville High School in Tennessee and they went out before he dated classmate Chelsea who would later become his wife. Taylor 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. It was co-written with Liz Rose on guitar, and given a comedic edge (an idea of Taylor’s). She found herself sitting, playing her guitar:

«The guy I wrote this song about, I didn't really ever 'officially' date. We almost dated. It really bothered me that he was so cocky and that's where that song came from. After school, I would come into downtown. I had a publishing deal with Sony, and I would write songs every single day, exactly what I felt. 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.»

The song was chosen as a single based on the reactions it garnered at concerts. Taylor recalled that, although “Tim McGraw” (2006) was her only single at the time she began opening for Rascal Flatts’ “Me and My Gang Tour” (2006-2007), “Picture to Burn” was the performance during which the crowd seemed to be the most enthusiastic, with most screaming it “at the top of their lungs”.

Lyrical Theme

Taylor said “Picture to Burn” became the only song driven by anger on Taylor Swift, a topic she felt most teenage females could identify to. “It’s OK to be mad after a breakup or after something goes wrong with a relationship”, she said, and further described the song as brutally honest. She cited it as an example of how she expresses herself if someone leaves her heartbroken, offends her, or is hostile towards her. Back in the day, Taylor introduced the song by saying:

«Before I sing this song, I always try to tell the audience that I really do try to be a nice person. But if you break my heart, hurt my feelings, or are really mean to me, I'm going to write a song about you. Haha. This song is the perfect example.»

Jordan Alford went on to date, and later marry Chelsea. Ironically, he works as a firefighter. Chelsea told The Daily Mail, “We were kind of good friends at school, later not so much. She dated him, that’s why. They dated in freshman year. ‘Picture to Burn’ is about him. Because he’s always had big old trucks and stuff.” The couple were told by Taylor’s best friend Abigail Anderson that the song was about Jordan. Chelsea continued, “[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.”

Teenage Feelings

In retrospect, Taylor has stated that the song was something typical of her to say in her teenage years and that it exemplified how she processed emotion at the time, adding “I didn’t know anything then.” 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”, but rather happy that 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 Video

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.

Live Performances

Taylor first performed the track at Billboard headquarters in 2006. She then performed “Picture to Burn” as she opened for Rascal Flatts on several dates, from October 19 to November 3, 2006, included on the “Me and My Gang Tour” (2006-2007). She also performed the song when she served as opening act on twenty dates for George Strait’s 2007 United States tour, and selected dates for Brad Paisley’s “Bonfires & Amplifiers Tour” in 2007. During mid-2007, Swift embarked as the opening act on several dates for Tim McGraw’s and Faith Hill’s joint tour, “Soul2Soul II Tour” (2006-2007), where she again performed the song.

Taylor later performed “Picture to Burn” on all venues of her first headlining concert tour, the “Fearless Tour” (2009-2010). After closing out the tour, and after 291 performances, she didn’t acknowledge the song in concert again, until she performed it as the first surprise song during her “The Eras Tour” show in Denver on July 14, 2023.

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. Roger Holland of PopMatters commented that the song was the epitome of how, according to him, Taylor was more given in uptempo tempos, and that it served as indication to the nature of her debut album. Josh Love of The Village Voice attributed the song to be one of the reasons how the singer rose to stardom. He called it a “bluntly relatable composition […] that connected [Taylor] with teens from across the spectrum.” Kevin Courtney of The Irish Times supported the sentiment behind the song and wrote, “You go girl”.

Commercial Performance

On the week ending March 1, 2008, “Picture to Burn” debuted at No. 91 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ten weeks later, on the week ending May 17, 2008, it reached its peak at No. 28. The single has been certified double Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. On the week ending January 26, 2008, the single debuted at No. 52 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs. On the week ending May 17, 2008, it reach its peak at No. 3 on the chart. It spent a total of twenty weeks on Hot Country Songs. On the week ending March 15, 2008, “Picture to Burn” also debuted at No. 85 on the Canadian Hot 100. It reached its peak at No. 48 on the chart on the week ending May 3, 2008. The single was certified Gold by Music Canada for sales of 40,000 digital downloads.


[Verse 1]
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

[Verse 2]
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…

[Final Chorus]
‘Cause 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 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

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
ArtistTaylor Swift
AlbumTaylor Swift
ReleasedOctober 24, 2006
StudioThe Castle Studios-A (Nashville)
Sound Cottage (Nashville)
Sound Emporium (Nashville)
LabelBig Machine Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Liz Rose
ProducerNathan Chapman
Tim McGrawPicture to BurnTeardrops On My Guitar
Single Certification
Hidden Message
Date nice boys
Single Artwork
Music Video
Live Performance
Official Audio
Official Live Audio