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1 step forward, 3 steps back

SOUR (Olivia Rodrigo Album) | 2021

“1 step forward, 3 steps back” is the fourth track from Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album SOUR and was released through Geffen Records on May 21, 2021. The song is an interpolation of “New Year’s Day” which Taylor and Jack Antonoff co-wrote for Taylor’s sixth studio album, reputation (2017).
When the songwriting and production credits for Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album SOUR were released, fans quickly noted that Taylor is credited (along with Jack Antonoff) on “1 step forward, 3 steps back,” which had them thinking that Olivia, Taylor, and Jack either worked on a song together or that Olivia sampled one of the tracks the latter two wrote together. The two numbers even make a “13,” a subtle nod to important numerology in the Swiftverse.

Taylor Inspirations on SOUR

However, neither of those speculations are accurate: Rolling Stone confirmed that while Taylor and Jack Antonoff have writing credits on the song, they did not collaborate on the track with Olivia. The song is simply an interpolation of Taylor’s 2017 reputation closer “New Year’s Day.” For those waiting on an official collaboration between Taylor and Olivia, they’ll have to wait a bit longer.

«We interpolated 'New Year’s Day,' which is Taylor’s song off of reputation. I came up with the 'one step forward' concept and I wrote a verse and a chorus. I was in the car on a roadtrip, and when I got home, I decided to sing it over the chords of 'New Year’s Day,' and I think they’re really beautiful chords. I was lucky enough to get that approved, and it’s on the record now, so yeah, it’s a cool thing.»

Olivia Rodrigo
“1 step forward, 3 steps back” isn’t the only song that interpolates Taylor. Olivia revealed to Rolling Stone in April 2021 that she was inspired by Taylor’s “Cruel Summer” bridge while writing the bridge for her hit “deja vu.” In July 2021, Taylor and her “Cruel Summer” co-writers Jack Antonoff and St. Vincent were officially added as songwriters on “deja vu”.

Taylor, the Idol

Olivia is notably a huge fan of Taylor’s and has been an active member of the Swiftie fandom for years. She’s called Taylor one of her “biggest inspirations.” Prior to Olivia releasing her breakout single “drivers license,” Taylor had acknowledged Olivia’s cover of Lover (2019) song “Cruel Summer.”

The pair have interacted more in 2021: Olivia and fellow Swiftie-turned-pop star Conan Gray made TikToks in promotion of Fearless (Taylor’s Version). Taylor also sent Olivia a copy of the ring she wore while recording her fourth album, RED (2012). Taylor and Olivia officially met in person at the Brit Awards in May 2021, exchanging handwritten letters and posing for pictures backstage.

Critical Reception

The A.V. Club critic Tatiana Tenreyro wrote that “1 step forward, 3 steps back” blends Taylor’s influences with that of Regina Spektor, “inviting listeners who may have mourned failed romances while listening to Begin To Hope to feel nostalgic, while also allowing a new generation of teenagers to recognize themselves”. Writing for The New York Times, Jon Caramanica asserted that the song, like its fellow tracks, perfects “the precise language for an imprecise, complex emotional situation; and working through private stories in public fashion.” Pitchfork‘s Olivia Horn identified the song’s “Swiftian” songwriting, in which Olivia Rodrigo “treats emotional turmoil like jet fuel, and laces her lyrics with specifics”.

Commercial Performance

“1 step forward, 3 steps back” debuted and peaked at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the chart week of June 5, 2021. The song also reached the top 20 in Australia, Canada, Singapore, and the United States, and the top 30 in New Zealand and Portugal.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Called you on the phone today
Just asked you how you are
All I did was speak normally
Somehow I still struck a nerve
You got me fucked up in the head, boy
Never doubted myself so much
Like am I pretty? Am I fun, boy?
I hate that I give you power on that kind of stuff

[Chorus]
‘Cause it’s always one step forward and three steps back
I’m the love of your life until I make you mad
It’s always one step forward and three steps back
Do you want me, love me, hate me, boy, I don’t understand
No, I don’t understand

[Verse 2]
Maybe in some masochistic way I kinda find it all exciting
Like which lover will I get today?
You walk me to the door and send me home crying

[Chorus]
‘Cause it’s always one step forward and three steps back
I’m the love of your life until I make you mad
It’s always one step forward and three steps back
Do you want me, love me, hate me, boy, I don’t understand

[Verse 3]
No it’s back and forth, did I say somethin’ wrong?
It’s back and forth, goin’ over everything I said
It’s back and forth, did I do somethin’ wrong?
It’s back and forth, baby, this is all your fault
Instead it’s one step forward and three steps back
And I’d leave you but the roller coaster’s all I’ve ever had

[Chorus]
Instead it’s one step forward and three steps back
And I’d leave you but the roller coaster’s all I’ve ever had
It’s always one step forward and three steps back
Do you want me, love me, hate me, boy, I don’t understand
No, I don’t understand

General Information
AlbumSOUR
ReleasedMay 21, 2021
Recorded2020-2021
GenreSinger-Songwriter
Length2:43
LabelGeffen Records
SongwritersOlivia Rodrigo
Taylor Swift
Jack Antonoff
ProducersDan Nigro
Olivia Rodrigo
InterpolationNew Year’s Day
Taylor & Olivia
Olivia's Journal
Lyric Video
Official Audio
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