Out of the Woods (song)

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

"Out of the Woods"
A polaroid photo of Swift standing on the coast, her back facing the front of the photo. She is wearing a blue dress.
Single by Taylor Swift
from the album 1989
ReleasedJanuary 19, 2016
LabelBig Machine
  • Jack Antonoff
  • Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift singles chronology
"Wildest Dreams"
"Out of the Woods"
"New Romantics"
Music video
"Out of the Woods" on YouTube

"Out of the Woods" is a song by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, from her fifth studio album, 1989 (2014). For the song, Swift was inspired by a romantic relationship of hers that ended sooner than she expected due to the constant anxiety it evoked. Written and produced by Swift and Jack Antonoff, it is a synth-pop and indietronica song featuring heavy synthesizers, looping drums and layered background vocals. The song was initially released as a promotional single for the album on October 14, 2014, through Big Machine Records.

The song served as 1989's sixth single on January 19, 2016, when Republic Records in partnership with Big Machine released it to US radio stations. Prior to this release, Swift premiered its music video during ABC's Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve on December 31, 2015. The video depicts Swift struggling to escape from a magical forest while battling against nature.

"Out of the Woods" received acclaim from contemporary critics, who lauded its production and Swift's songwriting; Pitchfork ranked it among the best songs of 2014. In the U.S., the song peaked at number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It reached the top 20 of charts in Australia, Canada, Israel, and New Zealand, and received certifications in the first two mentioned countries and Norway. Swift performed the song on television shows such as Good Morning America, and included it to the set list of the 1989 World Tour (2015).

Background and production[edit]

Inspired by 1980s synth-pop, Taylor Swift decided to move away from the signature country styles of her previous releases and incorporate a straightforward pop production for her fifth studio album 1989, which was released in 2014.[1][2][3] The recording process began in mid-2013 concurrently with the start of Swift's headlining Red Tour in support of her fourth studio album Red.[4] To ensure a smooth transition to pop, Swift enlisted new collaborators including Jack Antonoff, who produced two songs for the album's standard edition, and one bonus track for the deluxe edition.[2] Antonoff had previously worked with Swift on the song "Sweeter than Fiction", a 1980s new wave-influenced song recorded by Swift for the soundtrack of One Chance (2013).[5]

Swift told Entertainment Weekly that she wanted to collaborate with Antonoff again because of his 1980s-flavored production.[5] For "Out of the Woods", Antonoff envisioned the song to feature a 1980s sound with a modern twist; he used a Yamaha DX7 synthesizer to create a 1980s sound for most parts of the song, and a Minimoog Voyager for the refrain to have an "extremely modern" sound.[6] He chopped his background vocals and layered them over looping drums to create a "big bombastic looping beat".[6] After completing the instrumental, Antonoff sent it to Swift when she was on a plane.[7] Swift wrote the lyrics and sent him a voice memo containing the lyrics roughly 30 minutes later.[1] The song marked the first time Swift composed lyrics for an existing instrumental.[6] Antonoff spoke of his working experience with Swift: "She's very natural – when she gets an idea, it just happens very quickly."[8]

The final product of "Out of the Woods", as credited in 1989's liner notes, was written and produced by both Swift and Antonoff.[9] The song was recorded by Laura Sisk, assisted by Brendan Morawski at Jungle City Studios in New York; and Sam Holland, assisted by Cory Bice at Conway Recording Studios in Los Angeles.[9] Swift's vocals were produced by Max Martin.[9]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Critics described "Out of the Woods" as a synth-pop song with a prominent 1980s-influenced production.[8][10][12] Hannah Mylrea from NME considered it an indietronica track.[13] The song features pulsing synthesizers, looping drum beats, and echoed "eh oh" background vocals, resulting in a chaotic and "anthemic" sound.[8][13][14] Compared to the rest of 1989, "Out of the Woods" features a denser production.[15] Antonoff was influenced by rock band My Morning Jacket for production of the song: "every sound is louder than the last ... It started out big, and then I think the obvious move would have been to do a down chorus, but the idea was to keep pushing."[8]

The song's lyrics are about a fragile relationship.[16] In the refrain, Swift repeats the line, "Are we out of the woods yet?" over and over, desiring to maintain the relationship albeit with a slim chance.[17] Swift ponders over the inevitable end of her love and the past mistakes that she and her lover had made: "Your necklace hanging from my neck the night we couldn't quite forget / When we decided to move the furniture so we could dance / Baby, like we stood a chance."[18] The bridge details a snowmobile accident that requires one of the couple to undergo a surgery: "Remember when you hit the brakes too soon / Twenty stitches in a hospital room."[19][20][21] In a cover interview with Rolling Stone for the September 2014 issue, Swift explained that the lyrics were inspired by one of the real-life relationships of hers that evoked constant anxiety: "Every day was a struggle. Forget making plans for life – we were just trying to make it to next week."[21] The snowmobile accident was a real incident that Swift had persuaded the tabloid journalists to not circulate.[21] In an October 2014 interview with NPR, Swift provided a detailed explanation of the lyrics:

That line is in there because it's not only the actual, literal narration of what happened in a particular relationship I was in, it's also a metaphor. "Hit the brakes too soon" could mean the literal sense of, we got in an accident and we had to deal with the aftermath. But also, the relationship ended sooner than it should've because there was a lot of fear involved.[22]


On October 13, 2014, Swift premiered a 15-second clip of "Out of the Woods" on Good Morning America (GMA).[23] On the radio program On Air with Ryan Seacrest, she called "Out of the Woods" one of her favorite songs because it "best represents 1989".[11][24] It was made available as a pre-release promotional single for 1989 on October 14, 2014, by Big Machine Records.[25] On December 22, 2015, Swift announced on GMA that she would premiere the music video for "Out of the Woods" on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, broadcast on December 31.[26] The song served as the sixth single from 1989, following the US top-ten singles "Shake It Off", "Blank Space", "Style", "Bad Blood", and "Wildest Dreams".[27][28] Republic Records, in partnership with Big Machine, released the song to US contemporary hit radio and hot adult contemporary radio stations on January 19, 2016.[29][30] It was released to Italian radio stations on February 5, 2016, by Universal.[31]


"Out of the Woods" was met with critical acclaim. Jason Lipshutz from Billboard gave the song four and half stars out of five. Lipshutz noted the song's synth-pop production was a dramatic change from Swift's country songs, and described its lyrics which describe a troubled relationship as a proof for how "she [remained] a writer capable of presenting striking, instantly unforgettable images".[32] Meanwhile, Sam Lansky of Time was more impressed with the production: "It's the furious chant of that anthemic chorus, all breathless urgency, and the left-of-center production that help Swift perform the niftiest sleight of hand: Even with lyrics that include some of her most headline-grabbing autobiographical admissions to date, the most interesting thing here isn't who it's about, but rather, how different it sounds."[33] Writing for New York, Lindsay Zoladz opined that the song signified "an exciting, unexpected, and mature new direction in Swift's sound".[34]

Brian Mansfield of USA Today commended the track's departure from Swift's well-known country sound for showing her maturity as an artist.[10] Mikael Wood writing for the Los Angeles Times deemed "Out of the Woods" one of 1989's better songs, and hailed it as the most authentic tribute to the 1980s synth-pop sound that Swift tried to recreate.[17] Slant Magazine's Annie Galvin called the track "a rousing triumph of a love song" that offers an emotional engagement uncommon in mainstream pop.[18] Andy Gill from The Independent praised the lyrics for encapsulating "dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines", and compared the synth production to that of the 1981 song "Vienna" by British new wave band Ultravox.[20]

"Out of the Woods" ranked at number 94 on Pitchfork's list of The 100 Best Tracks of 2014. On behalf of the publication, Corban Goble praised the song's production building up to a climatic ending: "they deploy all their weapons—from the shuttering drums to the cascading perfection that is Swift's vocal performance—for 2014's Best Breakdown".[35] In 2020, NME's Mylrea placed the song at number seven on her list ranking every song by Swift, lauding it as one of Swift's "greatest triumphs" for the "anthemic, exhilarating chorus".[13] Nate Jones from New York similarly lauded the production,[36] but Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone was less enthusiastic, feeling that the composition overwhelms the intricate lyrics.[37]

Commercial performance[edit]

"Out of the Woods" entered the US Billboard Hot 100 chart dated November 1, 2014, at number 18, its peak position.[38] It debuted atop the Billboard Digital Songs, becoming her eighth number-one entry.[39] After Swift premiered the single on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, "Out of the Woods" re-entered the Hot 100 at number 46.[40] The song was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling over 1,000,000 units in the U.S.[41]

The single was a number-one hit on the Israeli Media Forest airplay chart.[42] It peaked within the top 10 on record charts in New Zealand (number six)[43] and Canada (number eight).[44] In Australia, the song peaked at number 19 on the Australian Singles Chart[45] and was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).[46] The track was certified platinum by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in Norway, despite failing to chart on the country's singles chart.[47]

Music video[edit]

Swift encountering another version of her, at the end of the "Out of the Woods" music video.

The accompanying music video was directed by Joseph Kahn. It premiered through Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve on December 31, 2015.[48] The video was filmed on location in New Zealand: in the mountains of Queenstown and on Bethells Beach.[49] While filming at Bethells Beach, Swift encountered backlash from conservationists who claimed that her production team breached their permit and endangered a rare native bird by using up to 12 vehicles.[28] During the filming, a severe storm struck, causing a one-week delay.[50]

The video shows Swift battling to get out of a forest, interpreting the title song's literally.[28] Swift is seen running through what appears to be enchanted woods that formed around her, being chased by a pack of wolves as she struggles to escape while animate roots constantly follow her. She then finds herself in different locations representing nature like the snowy mountains, an ocean, a barren landscape, a muddy location, and a burning forest. At the end of the video, the woods disappear as she finds a beach, where another version of her is standing by the shore as she reaches for her.[51] The video ends with the caption "She lost him, but she found herself, and somehow that was everything," which is a hidden message written in the booklet of 1989.[28]

Kahn said that Swift "suffered for the art" for the video; she did not employ a double stunt and did all the action, such as crawling through the mud or running through the snow, by herself.[52] Sharan Shetty of Slate wrote that anxiety—the subject of the song—"is literalized to an extreme degree in the song's video".[51] Peter Sblendorio of the New York Daily News deemed it "perhaps her most stunning music video yet" and hailed the visuals as "eye-popping".[53] Writing for Spin, Harley Brown described the video as "fantastically cinematic".[54] Amanda Bell from MTV News compared the video's cinematic quality to the Harry Potter series, and commented that the video's message "serves as a clear metaphor for her very public relationship history and how she transformed each conflict into her own personal victories, one in particular".[55]

Live performances and covers[edit]

Swift performing "Out of the Woods" on the 1989 World Tour

On October 23, 2014, Swift delivered her first performance of "Out of the Woods" on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.[56] She performed the song as part of the 1989 Secret Sessions, live streamed by iHeartRadio and Yahoo! on October 27, 2014, the day of the album's release.[57] She then performed it on GMA, on October 30, 2014.[58] On December 3, 2015, Swift performed the song on a piano at Australia's Hamilton Island, as part of a program by the radio channel Nova 96.9.[59]

On September 30, 2015, Swift played a stripped-down piano rendition of "Out of the Woods" at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, as part of her performance celebrating her attendance record-breaking exhibit, on September 30, 2015.[60] John Blistein from Rolling Stone praised the stripped-down version over the original synth-pop production, writing: "With her vocals driving the performance, Swift kept her piano playing simple, staggered and sparse, letting that fragility shine during the bridge when each chord rang out beneath her quickening lyrics."[61] She also performed "Out of the Woods" as the opening number to the 58th Annual Grammy Awards on February 15, 2016.[62] The song was included as the penultimate song on the regular set list for the 1989 World Tour, a tour Swift launched in support of 1989.[63] During her 2018 Reputation Stadium Tour, Swift performed an acoustic version of the song at the shows held in Toronto, Canada, and Auckland, New Zealand.[64]

Rock singer Ryan Adams recorded a soft rock and alt-country cover of "Out of the Woods" for his track-by-track cover of Swift's 1989.[65] Yahoo! writer Oscar Gracey said that the cover "makes us want to hike through a forest, find a clearing, and mourn the relationships that didn't quite work out".[66] The A.V. Club's Annie Zaleski viewed that the acoustic production of Adams's cover "exacerbates the song’s uncertainty about a relationship's status".[67]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits are adapted from the liner notes of 1989.[9]


Peak chart positions for "Out of the Woods"
Chart (2014–16) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[45] 19
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[68] 64
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[69] 50
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[44] 8
Canada AC (Billboard)[70] 13
Canada CHR/Top 40 (Billboard)[71] 13
Canada Hot AC (Billboard)[72] 9
Denmark (Tracklisten)[73] 23
Finnish Airplay (Radiosoittolista)[74] 90
Finland Download (Latauslista)[74] 24
France (SNEP)[75] 70
Hungary (Single Top 40)[76] 37
Israel (Media Forest TV Airplay)[42] 1
Italy (FIMI)[77] 97
Mexico Airplay (Billboard)[78] 47
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[43] 6
Poland (Polish Airplay Top 100)[79] 43
Scotland (OCC)[80] 48
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[81] 22
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[82] 136
US Billboard Hot 100[38] 18
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[83] 20
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[84] 11
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[85] 12


Certifications for "Out of the Woods"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[46] Gold 35,000double-dagger
Canada (Music Canada)[86] Gold 40,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[47] Platinum 60,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[87] Silver 200,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[41] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]