Castles Crumbling (From The Vault)

Feat. Hayley Williams | Speak Now (Taylor's Version) [2023]

“Castles Crumbling (Taylor’s Version) [From The Vault]” is a song performed by Taylor featuring Hayley Williams that appears on Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) [2023], Taylor’s third re-recorded album. She wrote the song alone in 2009. Its lyrics depict a public fall from grace.
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Background and Release

Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) marks the third in a series of albums that have seen Taylor re-recording her Big Machine catalog as an alternative for fans to listen to old albums that will not put money in the pockets of parties who purchased the masters to those records along with the label as a whole. Previous re-recordings were Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and RED (Taylor’s Version), both released in 2021.

“Castles Crumbling” used to be one of Taylor’s many unreleased songs. Fans were aware of the song’s existence since around 2010, although it had never been in rotation. In January 2023, itwas added to Taylor’s Sony registry. She revealed the full track list for Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) on June 5, including who her duet partners would be on the previously unrecorded “Vault Tracks” — Paramore’s Hayley Williams is featured on “Castles Crumbling”. Taylor wrote:

«I’m VERY excited to show you the back cover of Speak Now (My Version) including the vault tracks and collaborations with Hayley Williams from Paramore and Fall Out Boy. Since Speak Now was all about my songwriting, I decided to go to the artists who I feel influenced me most powerfully as a lyricist at that time and ask them to sing on the album. They’re so cool and generous for agreeing to support my version of Speak Now. I recorded this album when I was 32 (and still growing up, now) and can’t wait to unveil it all to you on July 7th!»

Friendship with Hayley Williams

The announcement that Hayley Williams would be taking part had been widely expected, since she had strongly hinted at it in recent days via a meet-and-greet with fans. In a video shared on June 2, a fan gave her a Speak Now friendship bracelet. Hayley responded, “Let me just tell you, this is coming at a very interesting time that you’re giving me this to wear. And that’s all I’ll say.” She also posted about the collaboration on Instagram, writing:

«Taylor was the first industry friend I ever made and hung out with outside of work things. When Speak Now dropped, I bought my friend’s record (as you do!) and listened to the whole thing in my first car, sitting still in the driveway. It’s my favorite Taylor Swift album for so many reasons. I wish I could go back to this moment at my 21st birthday and tell her one day she’ll legitimately own Speak Now and we’ll get to sing together on one of the songs.»

Although “Castles Crumbling” marks their first collaboration, the friendship between Hayley and Taylor goes back more than a decade. They first met around 2009. Hayley then joined Taylor as a guest star during in 2011 on her “Speak Now World Tour“, and also made an appearence in the music video for her 2015 single, “Bad Blood.” Furthermore, Hayley is also heavily rumoured to have been the inspiration behind the song “Speak Now.” On July 5, 2023, Taylor announced that Paramore would join her on the European leg of “The Eras Tour” in 2024.

Lyrical Theme

“Castles Crumbling” is a soft, magical ballad. It has Taylor assessing the damage done during her first year of true superstardom. The imagery of a fallen empire is almost a rough draft for what she would sing on reputation (2017) seven years later, following an even more harrowing time in her career. “My castle crumbled overnight,” she would sing on “Call it What You Want” as an older, wise, and more world-wearied version of herself.

Longtime friend and collaborator Hayley Williams spoke about what the song means to her in an interview with Coup de Main in July 2023:

«As far as 'Castles Crumbling' goes, I heard the song and was super impressed by the storytelling in it, which is no surprise because it's a Taylor Swift song, but it's about an experience that both of us have shared growing up in the public eye, and I just felt very honoured to get to sing about that feeling. And yeah, I just really love it. I love it. I can't believe I got to be a part of it.»

She added: “[Working with Taylor] was really special because we have known each other for a really long time in different stages of our lives. We connected in the beginning when Paramore was just sort of starting to break out and kind of become a popular band, and she had already been successful in country [music] but she was kind of nearing her crossover moment, and it was very exciting. I was also very thankful to know someone that was my age, that was in a similar position to me. And over the years, whether we’ve been in contact consistently or not, I’ve just always been really grateful to know I’m not alone in it. She has so many experiences that I can’t even fathom. There’s been so much added pressure that I know nothing about, and the scale of it is something that’s so much grander than Paramore has experienced even, but I think we’ve found such a good honest connection of just trying to be good stewards of the opportunity that we’ve both been given in music. Like, how do we actually use this in the best way that we can? How do we share these opportunities with the right people? How do we experience this and be fully present for it? And I really look up to her for that. “

Live Performances

“Castles Crumbling” received its first live performance acoustically on piano on July 28, 2023, in Santa Clara during one of Taylor’s shows on “The Eras Tour” (2023-2024). On June 22, 2024, Taylor and Hayley sang the song together at London’s Wembley Stadium. Introducing the song, Taylor said:

«I was thinking about how incredibly special over the last couple of years it’s been how much you’ve supported me re-recording my music. It’s truly meant more to me than I will ever be able to say to you, because I don’t think anyone thought that was gonna work and you guys were like, ‘Ah, its gonna work. We’re gonna make that work.’ So as I was going about it, in the process of re-recording, I was really trying to reach out to artists that I’m such a fan of, but in the case of one of the albums specifically, I reached out to people who had been so influential in my music, in my writing, people I’ve looked up to, and I asked an artist who I’m such a huge fan of to collaborate with me on one of the songs. And she said yes. And then I asked her to tour with me and she said yes! And London, we are so lucky, because when I asked Hayley Williams to come out and play with me, she said yes! Can we please welcome to the stage Hayley Williams? [...] And I was thinking about how the last time that we performed together, it was actually in [2011] on the 'Speak Now Tour.'»

Critical Reception

“Castles Crumbling” received positive reviews from music critics. Poppie Platt of The Daily Telegraph opined that the song is a neat addition to other Speak Now ballads, such as “Enchanted” and “Last Kiss“. Maura Johnston of Rolling Stone described it as a “gauzy surveying of a ruined personal landscape”, connecting it with another album track “Innocent“. Laura Snapes from The Guardian said it is a “crestfallen, delicate song” and a “prescient song for Swift to have written at the outset of her imperial phase”. Labeled as “a duet for the ages” by Mark Sutherland, a Rolling Stone UK critic, wrote that the singer’s voiced “gorgeously intertwining as they wrestle with the fear that the cheers may one day turn to jeers”.

Commercial Performance

Upon the release of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), “Castles Crumbling” debuted and peaked at No. 31 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the week ending July 13, 2023.


[Verse 1: Taylor Swift]
Once I had an empire in a golden age
I was held up so high
I used to be great
They used to cheer when they saw my face
Now I fear I have fallen from grace

[Chorus: Taylor Swift & Hayley Williams, Taylor Swift]
And I feel like my castle’s crumbling down
And I watch all my bridges burn to the ground
And you don’t want to know me
I will just let you down
You don’t want to know me now

[Verse 2: Hayley Williams, Taylor Swift & Hayley Williams]
Once I was the great hope for a dynasty
Crowds would hang on my words
And they trusted me
Their faith was strong
But I pushed it too far
I held that grudge til it tore me apart

[Pre-Chorus: Taylor Swift & Hayley Williams, Taylor Swift]
Power went to my head
And I couldn’t stop
Ones I loved tried to help
So I ran them off
And here I sit alone behind walls of regret
Falling down like promises that
I never kept

[Chorus: Taylor Swift & Hayley Williams, Taylor Swift]
And I feel like my castle’s crumbling down
And I watch all my bridges burn to the ground
And you don’t want to know me
I will just let you down
You don’t want to know me now

[Bridge: Taylor Swift]
My foes and friends watch my reign end
I don’t know how it could’ve ended this way
Smoke billows from my ships in the harbor
People look at me like I’m a monster
Now they’re screaming at the palace front gates
Used to chant my name
Now they’re screaming that they hate me
Never wanted you to hate me

[Final Chorus: Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift & Hayley Williams]
My castle’s crumbling down
And I watch all the bridges burn to the ground
And you don’t want to know me
I will just let you down
My castle’s crumbling down
You don’t wanna know me now

General Information
ArtistTaylor Swift
AlbumSpeak Now (Taylor’s Version)
FeatureHayley Williams
ReleasedJuly 7, 2023
StudiosRough Customer (Brooklyn)
Electric Lady (New York)
Kitty Committee (London)
LabelRepublic Records
SongwriterTaylor Swift
ProducersJack Antonoff
Taylor Swift
I Can See YouCastles CrumblingFoolish One
Taylor & Hayley
Song Artwork
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Official Audio