Innocent (Taylor Swift song)
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|Song by Taylor Swift|
|from the album Speak Now|
|Released||October 25, 2010|
"Innocent" is a song written and recorded by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift for her third studio album, Speak Now (2010). Written by Swift in response to Kanye West's interruption of her acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, the song is Swift's confession to West, claiming that he was "innocent" despite the public outrage after the controversy. Swift premiered the song at the following year's MTV Video Music Awards on September 12, 2010, a month prior to the release of Speak Now, as a means of putting the controversy behind them.
Following the release of Speak Now, "Innocent" debuted at number 53 and 27 on the Canadian Hot 100 and Billboard Hot 100, respectively. The song received mixed reviews from critics—some complimented the sparse instrumentation, but others found the lyrics patronizing, fueling debates over Swift's public image as an innocent sweetheart.
Background and composition
"Innocent" features sparse instrumentation to reflect the simplicity of innocence, while lyrically it speaks about someone who has lost their way in life but who is "still an innocent". With lyrics such as "time turns flames to embers / You'll have new Septembers" and "Today is never too late to be brand new," the song also conveys a message of forgiveness and redemption, describing how anyone can rise above and move past a difficult time in their life.
In the liner notes for Speak Now, Swift explained that every song on the album is an "open letter" to someone in her life, "telling them what I meant to tell them in person." She also noted that one song in particular is addressed to "someone I forgive for what he said in front of the whole world," alluding to the MTV Video Music Awards incident. Critics have noted influences of that event in the lyrics to "Innocent", particularly in the reference to September, as the award show took place on September 13, 2009, and the line "32 and still growing up now" (that being West's age at the time). Swift revealed in an interview with New York magazine that while she knew people "expected me to write a song about [West]," she felt it was important to "write a song to him."
The song garnered mixed reception from music critics. Allison Stewart of The Washington Post described "Innocent" as a "small masterpiece of passive-aggressiveness" in her review of the album. In a more mixed review of the song's debut performance, Melinda Newman of HitFix praised the song for balancing personal details and universal appeal with its "beautiful" lyrics, but was also critical of Swift's vocal delivery. She ultimately rated the performance a B.
Jonathan Keefe of Slant Magazine was more critical of the song, describing it as a "patronizing, condescending sermon" and somewhat hypocritical given her reputation for writing songs that "[go] for the jugular". Country-music journalist and CMT editorial director Chet Flippo said he was not at all surprised by the way Swift handled herself at the show. "Everyone was waiting to see how she would do it, and that’s what she does: She writes songs based on what’s going on in her life," Flippo said of the ballad, which mixed forgiveness and pathos with a touch of pity. "It's not unique. Some of the best country music writers do that, but typically those songs are self-directed and not about someone else."
Credits and personnel
Credits adapted from Tidal.
- Taylor Swift – vocals, songwriter, producer, acoustic guitar
- Nathan Chapman – producer, acoustic guitar, piano, digital piano, banjo, bass guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, organ, synthesizer
- Bryan Sutton – acoustic guitar
- Amos Heller – bass guitar
- Tim Marks – bass guitar
- Tommy Sims – bass guitar
- John Gardner – drums
- Nick Buda – drums
- Shannon Forrest – drums
- Grant Mickelson – electric guitar
- Mike Meadows – electric guitar
- Paul Sidoti – electric guitar
- Rob Hajacos – fiddle
- Tim Lauer – piano, Hammond B3
- Al Wilson – percussion
- Eric Darken – percussion
- Smith Curry – steel guitar
|Canada (Canadian Hot 100)||53|
|US Billboard Hot 100||27|
|US Country Digital Song Sales (Billboard)||2|
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