Safe & Sound (Taylor Swift song)

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"Safe & Sound"
Cover artwork of "Safe & Sound"
Promotional single by Taylor Swift featuring the Civil Wars
from the album The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond
ReleasedDecember 26, 2011 (2011-12-26)
GenreIndie folk
Length4:01
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)T Bone Burnett
Music video
"Safe & Sound" on YouTube

"Safe & Sound" is a song by the American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift featuring the American musical duo the Civil Wars from The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond, the official soundtrack to the 2012 film The Hunger Games. Swift and the Civil Wars wrote the track with T Bone Burnett at his house within two hours. A sparse folk ballad, "Safe & Sound" has lyrics about the Hunger Games protagonist Katniss Everdeen's empathy and compassion for other characters, even as she fights to survive in the eponymous Games. Swift sings lead vocals with a high-pitched vibrato, and the Civil Wars provide vocal harmonies.

Big Machine Records released "Safe & Sound" for download via the iTunes Store on December 26, 2011. A music video for "Safe & Sound", directed by Philip Andelman and filmed in Watertown, Tennessee, was released on February 13, 2012. Music critics described the production as haunting and eerie and generally praised the songwriting on "Safe & Sound", which won Best Song Written for Visual Media at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards in 2013. The song charted in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and it received certifications in the last three countries.

Following the 2019 dispute over the ownership of Swift's back catalog, she re-recorded "Safe & Sound" and released it as "Safe & Sound (Taylor's Version)" on March 17, 2023, via Republic Records. "Safe & Sound (Taylor's Version)" was included in The More Red (Taylor's Version) Chapter, an extended play (EP) also containing other songs from Swift's 2021 re-recorded album Red (Taylor's Version).

Background

T Bone Burnett produced The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond, the soundtrack to the 2012 film The Hunger Games. He recruited other artists to write and record songs for the soundtrack, including Taylor Swift and folk duo the Civil Wars.[1] While on a Los Angeles concert in fall 2011, the Civil Wars were invited to Burnett's house; there, they and Swift together wrote "Safe & Sound" during a two-hour session. Swift had spent two days reading the book to understand the story; the song is told from Katniss Everdeen's perspective. For Swift, who had mostly written autobiographical songs inspired by her personal life, writing from a fictional character's viewpoint was refreshing.[1] The Civil Wars' Joy Williams described the session with Swift and Burnett "an amazingly soulful, organic, productive time."[2]

On December 22, 2011, Swift posted a portion of the song's lyrics via her Twitter account and said that "Something I've been [very] excited about for a [very] long time is going to be happening very soon."[3] Four days later, the song was released digitally on iTunes Store, through Big Machine Records.[4]

Composition and lyrics

Lionsgate, the producer of The Hunger Games, wanted Burnett to create music that evokes "what Appalachian music would sound like in 300 years".[5] To this end, "Safe & Sound" features folk-inspired production, congruent with the story's setting in the Appalachian region.[5] Billboard described it as a folk ballad, with Jason Lipshutz commenting that it evokes a melancholy atmosphere.[6][7] NME's Hannah Mylrea characterized it as indie folk,[8] and Rolling Stone's Monica Herrera found the production reminiscent of alternative country.[1] In American Songwriter, Evan Schlansky described the track as relying on "a swelling melody, and is built around an escalating run of notes".[2] Swift described Burnett's production as "a lullaby".[1] Written in the key of G major, the track has a tempo of 72 beats per minute.[9] It features Swift on lead vocals, singing with a high-pitched vibrato, and the Civil Wars on harmony vocals.[10][11] The production is driven by acoustic and pedal steel guitars.[12] Swift's vocals span from G3 to D5.[9] In hindsight, critics commented that the song's folksy production laid the groundwork for the sound of Swift's 2020 albums, Folklore and Evermore.[8][13]

The lyrics, according to Swift, are about The Hunger Games protagonist Katniss's empathy and compassion for other characters in different parts of the story.[5] She said of the novel, "I thought it would be an action-adventure type of thing, but it's so much more emotional than that. There's a huge amount of sadness."[1] According to the film's marketing executive, "Safe & Sound" evokes the moment when Katniss realizes her ally and friend Rue has been killed.[5] The narrator tells her loved ones to hide away as "the war outside our door keeps raging on".[14] She grows protective of her loved ones, entreating them to "Hold on to this lullaby even when the music’s gone."[15] Christopher John Farley from The Wall Street Journal described the lyrics as soothing, albeit laced with an undercurrent of hurt and dread: "Just close your eyes/ The sun is going down/ You'll be alright/ No one can hurt you now."[3] Slant Magazine's Jonathan Keefe suggested though the narrator sings promises of a better tomorrow, the dropping of the instruments in the hook give the impression that the narrator does not believe it herself.[16]

Critical reception

"Safe and Sound" received positive reviews from critics, who acclaimed its moody and haunting nature as a departure from Swift's catalog. Jody Rosen from Rolling Stone gave the song four out of five stars, calling it Swift's "prettiest ballad."[17] In a review of The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond, AllMusic's Heather Phares picked it as one of the highlights on the soundtrack, calling it "the most crucial" track.[18] Idolator praised Swift's "breathiness that sounds more eerie than sweet",[19] while Jason Lipshutz writing for Billboard commended the "non-Swiftian anthem that embraces the folksiness of the soundtrack" and favored the guest appearance contributed by the Civil Wars.[7] Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Darren Franich complimented the song's eerie atmosphere, writing that "there's no sense of triumph". He described "Safe and Sound" as sounding "more like a funeral dirge than a victory chant, especially as the song continues with light percussion that sounds like soldiers marching to their doom."[20] In Spin, Marc Hogan said that despite a disappointing first listen, he found Swift's vocals to be "terrifically gorgeous" later on.[21] Reviewing the soundtrack for Slant Magazine, Jonathan Keefe praised Burnett's production for bringing a "real sense of gravity".[16] In a 2019 review, Idolator's Mike Wass wrote: "With sparse, eerie production, 'Safe & Sound' is one of the Swift's most beguiling singles. Her breathy vocals have never been better utilized & the menacing lyrics are a testament to her songwriting versatility. It should've been bigger".[22] In June 2022, Insider ranked "Safe & Sound" as Swift's best soundtrack song.[23]

At the 2012 Country Music Association Awards, "Safe & Sound" was nominated for Musical Event of the Year.[24] It also garnered a CMT Music Award nomination for Collaborative of the Year in that year.[25] The song was nominated for Best Original Song at the 70th Golden Globe Awards in 2013, but lost to Adele's "Skyfall".[26] At the 2013 Grammy Awards, "Safe & Sound" received a nomination for Best Country Duo/Group Performance, but lost to "Pontoon" by Little Big Town, and won the Best Song Written for Visual Media.[27]

Commercial performance

Upon its release, "Safe & Sound" debuted at its peak of number 30 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 19 on the Hot Digital Songs chart with first-week sales of 136,000 digital units; it was the week's highest debut on the latter.[28][29] In August 2014, the song was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[30] By November 2017, the song had sold 1.9 million copies in the United States.[31] In Canada, it entered the Canadian Hot 100 on January 2012 and later peaked at number 31.[32]

Elsewhere, "Safe & Sound" reached on the charts in various Anglophone countries. It peaked at number 67 on the UK Singles Chart and was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).[33][34] In Oceania, the song reached number 38 on Australia's ARIA Singles Chart and number 11 on New Zealand's RMNZ Singles Chart.[35][36] In July 2014, it received a platinum certification from the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).[37]

Music video

The song's music video, which is directed by Philip Andelman, premiered on February 13, 2012, at 7:54 p.m. ET on MTV.[38] Parts of the music video were shot in a cemetery, including a scene of Swift sitting atop the graves of a couple who died in 1853.[39] The video features Swift, walking barefoot through a forest in Watertown, Tennessee, wearing a long white gown. Between scenes, the Civil Wars are seen inside a cottage house sitting in front of a fireplace as they sing along to the song.[38][21] It contains multiple references to The Hunger Games, including Swift finding a mockingjay pin.[40]

Awards and nominations

Year Organization Award/work Result Ref.
2012 CMT Music Awards Video of the Year Nominated [41]
Collaborative Video of the Year Nominated
Country Music Association Awards Musical Event of the Year Nominated [42]
[43]
2013 Golden Globe Awards Best Original Song Nominated [44]
Grammy Awards Best Song Written for Visual Media Won [45]
Best Country Duo/Group Performance Nominated

Live performances

During the Australian leg of the Speak Now World Tour, Swift added "Safe & Sound" to the tour's setlist.[46] Swift performed the track while sitting on a couch onstage, wearing a "sparkling, floor-length gown", which, according to Brittany Cooper of Taste of Country, was slightly reminiscent of Belle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991). Cooper was favorable towards the performance, writing that "[Swift] took the song with a whimsical air and gave it all the mystique you would expect from the haunting ballad."[47]

During the Brazilian leg of the The Eras Tour, Swift performed "Safe & Sound" in São Paulo as the first of two surprise songs during the acoustic part of the show. She stated to the crowd on stage that it had been a long time since she had performed the song live.

Charts

Chart performance for "Safe & Sound"
Chart (2011–2012) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[35] 38
Belgium (Ultratip Bubbling Under Flanders)[48] 62
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[32] 31
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[36] 11
Poland (Dance Top 50)[49] 44
South Korea International Singles (Gaon)[50] 42
UK Singles (OCC)[33] 67
US Billboard Hot 100[28] 30

Certifications

Certifications for "Safe & Sound"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[51] 2× Platinum 140,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[30] Silver 200,000
United States (RIAA)[34] 2× Platinum 2,000,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

"Safe & Sound (Taylor's Version)"

"Safe & Sound (Taylor's Version)"
Song by Taylor Swift featuring Joy Williams and John Paul White
ReleasedMarch 17, 2023 (2023-03-17)
Length3:59
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Audio
"Safe & Sound (Taylor's Version)" on YouTube

A re-recorded version of "Safe & Sound", titled "Safe & Sound (Taylor's Version)", was released by Swift on March 17, 2023, via Republic Records.[52] The song is part of Swift's re-recording plan following the dispute over the ownership of the masters of her older discography. Due to the Civil Wars having permanently split in 2014, its members Joy Williams and John Paul White are credited separately for their participation in the re-recording.

Personnel

Credits adapted from Tidal.[53]

Charts

Chart performance for "Safe & Sound (Taylor's Version)"
Chart (2023) Peak
position
Canada Digital Song Sales (Billboard)[54] 8
New Zealand Hot Singles (RMNZ)[55] 14
UK Singles Downloads (OCC)[56] 16
UK Singles Sales (OCC)[57] 16
US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard)[58] 4
US Digital Song Sales (Billboard)[59] 5

Release history

Country Date Format Label
Various March 17, 2023[60]
Republic

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