The Story of Us (song)

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"The Story of Us"
An image of Taylor Swift standing alone in a dark crowded room. She is wearing a white shirt and is looking aside. She is hugging herself while the light hits her upper body. Below her the words "Taylor Swift" and "The Story of Us" are written in white and gold colors respectively.
Single by Taylor Swift
from the album Speak Now
ReleasedApril 19, 2011 (2011-04-19)
LabelBig Machine
Songwriter(s)Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift singles chronology
"The Story of Us"
"Sparks Fly"
Music video
"The Story of Us" on YouTube

"The Story of Us" is a song written and recorded by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift for her third studio album, Speak Now (2010). Produced by Swift alongside Nathan Chapman, the song was sent to mainstream radio in the United States on April 19, 2011, as the fourth single from Speak Now. Described as a pop-punk and dance-pop song, Swift composed "The Story of Us" regarding the time when she encountered an ex-boyfriend of hers at the 2010 CMT Music Awards. At the event, the two attempted to ignore each other, which inspired Swift to compose the song.

"The Story of Us" was met with generally mixed reviews from critics, some of whom suggested that Swift is strongest when she lets her country roots shine. Prior to its single release, the song debuted and peaked at number 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and number 70 on the Canadian Hot 100 due to strong digital sales. It re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 98 after its single release.

The music video of the song was directed by Noble Jones which took place in Vanderbilt University. It premiered on May 24, 2011. The music video was met with mostly positive reception among music critics for its departure from the usual high school setting of Taylor Swift's previous videos. "The Story of Us" was performed live in The Ellen DeGeneres Show and it was also included in the Speak Now World Tour set list. The performance from the tour was included on Swift's first live album, Speak Now: World Tour Live.

Background and release[edit]

At the 2010 CMT Music Awards, held in June, Swift encountered an ex-boyfriend of hers.[1] The two were seated a couple of seats away from each other, but were unwilling to speak to each other, although they both had much to say. As a result, they both pretended to be heavily engaged in conversations with those surrounding them, individuals who Swift noted to be practically strangers.[2] Swift had the desire to confront him and ask him if the experience was as painful for him as it was for her. However, she did not do so because they both had "silent shields up".[1] "We're sitting six seats away from each other and just fighting this silent war of ‘I don't care that you're here.' I don't care that you're here.' It's so terribly, heartbreakingly awkward", she said.[3] She recalled it to be a miserable experience.[2] When Swift arrived home, she spoke to her mother about the encounter, sitting at her kitchen table and said, "I felt like I was standing alone in a crowded room." She then stood up and ran towards her bedroom to compose "The Story of Us", something Swift's mother was already accustomed to.[1][2] "The Story of Us" was the last track Swift composed for Speak Now, claiming that upon completing the song she knew she was done with the album.[1] The song's subject was revealed by Swift to be the same for "Dear John", which in an interview musician John Mayer confirmed that he was the song's subject. Furthermore, Swift and Mayer both attended the 2010 CMT Awards.[1]

The song was released to mainstream radio on April 19, 2011.[4] An exclusive package was released to Swift's official store including a "Speak Now" Black Leather Bracelet and an individually numbered "The Story of Us" CD single. Only 2,500 copies of the CD single were made.[5] The single was later included in another package that is exclusive to Swift's official store. The package includes the Target exclusive deluxe edition of Speak Now, a free pair of headphones, and the choice between either the "Sparks Fly", "The Story of Us", or the "Mean" CD single.[6]


"The Story of Us" is a song with a length of four minutes and 28 seconds.[7] Scott Shelter of AOL Radio praised the musical element of the song, writing "with a vibrant beat, electric guitars and a fast-paced chorus, the song edges closer to the pop side of country-pop."[8] Critics describe the song in varying genres; Jon Caramanica of The New York Times thought that the song was a pop-punk[9] song, while Village Voice reviewed the song, concluding that it plays around with "glammy dance-pop."[10] According to sheet music published by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, "The Story of Us" is written in common time with a tempo of 138 beats per minute. Set in the key of E major, it follows the basic chord progression of Cm7–E–A, while Swift's voice spans from F3 to B4.[11] Matt Bjorke of Roughstock commented that the song is one of many outwardly pop-leaning songs on Speak Now.[12]

Lyrically, the song narrates the awkwardness that takes place between two people after they break up. Chris Willman of Yahoo! Music thought the key lyrics of the song are "I'd tell you I miss you but I don't know how/I've never heard silence quite this loud" and also "I would lay my armor down, if you would say you'd rather love than fight."[13] In a different perspective, Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly considered these couplets from the song, ("I used to know my place was the spot next to you / Now I’m searching the room for an empty seat / ‘Cause lately I don’t even know what page you’re on"), as one of the best couplets from Speak Now sheet.[14] Jonathan Keefe of Slant Magazine claims that the song describes "a young woman who is at turns sharp and snide, but who is nonetheless defined by relationships."[15]

According to Swift, she wrote the song, "about an awkward situation where, well... Let me just preface by saying that I have happened to run into exes in strange places lately. This is about one of those situations where the strange place that I ran into him was an awards show. I was seated a couple of seats away from him and there was so much that needed to be said, and neither one of us was willing to say it. We were both acting like we were engaged in conversations with people that we don't even know. It was just miserable. I was telling my Mom about it later, and I said I felt like I was standing alone in a crowded room. And then I was like, "Gotta go. Bye!" And my Mom is used to that at this point so, that's what this song is about."[16]

Critical reception[edit]

"The Story of Us" was met with mixed reviews from critics. While reviewing Speak Now, Dave Heaton of Pop Matters observed that the album is built upon conflicting stories which result in a discrepancy between those stories and the way life turns out. He added that "'Story of Us' makes this explicit, by presenting the verses as 'chapters', within a song where the story isn’t being written the way [Swift] wants it to, turning into a 'tragedy' she didn’t imagine."[17] Liz Stinson of Paste was not impressed with the song and she likened Swift as the "annoying cousin" of Katy Perry for trying to embrace her pop side. Nevertheless, she felt that "Swift is strongest when she lets her country roots shine through."[18] Theon Weber of The Village Voice chastised the song as "giddy and bombastic (...) which plays around with glammy dance-pop."[10][dead link] Amanda Hensel of Taste of Country praised the song by claiming that it's "upbeat and fun, and even a bit rock-y".[19] Rahul Prabhakar of The Oxonian Review felt that it was "fast-paced and destined for girls’ gym mixes, but otherwise boring."[20] Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone stated that fans could "tell what chick flicks Swift has been watching from the song title[s]."[21]

Commercial performance[edit]

Following the release of Speak Now, on the week ending November 13, 2010, "The Story of Us" debuted at number 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 which became its peak position;[22] it became one of the songs to make Swift the first act to have ten songs debut on the Billboard Hot 100 in the same week.[23] Following its single release, the song re-entered Billboard Hot 100 at number 98 on the week ending May 28, 2011.[24] Since then, the song has peaked at number 66 on the week ending June 25, 2011.[25] This is Swift's first single to not have peaked within the top 40 on the Hot 100. "The Story of Us" is also her first single to not have peaked within the top 20 in Pop Songs; it only peaked at number 21.[26]

Internationally, "The Story of Us" has had moderate success. The song debuted in Canada at number 70 on the week ending November 13, 2010.[27] The song has also peaked at number 15 on Belgian's Flemish Ultratip chart.[28]

Live performances[edit]

Swift in a golden sparkling dress
Swift singing "The Story of Us" on the Speak Now World Tour

"The Story of Us" was performed live by Swift on The Ellen DeGeneres Show which marked her televised premiere of the song.[29][30] During a break from the European leg of Speak Now World Tour, Swift played a live acoustic set for BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge including an acoustic performance of "The Story of Us".[31] Swift also performed the song during the Speak Now World Tour.[32][33][34] The performance was included on Swift's first live album called Speak Now: World Tour Live.[35] On September 8, 2018, she played the song as the surprise song at the Kansas City stop of the Reputation Stadium Tour.[36]

Music video[edit]

Development and release[edit]

The music video for "The Story of Us" was directed by Noble Jones, starring Taylor Swift and Caleb Campbell.[37] While many sources claim the video was filmed at Vanderbilt University's Central Library with additional scenes filmed in Vanderbilt's Alumni Hall,[38][39] the video was actually filmed in the nearby Scarritt Bennett Center.[40] Allison Bonaguro of Country Music Television complimented the setting of the video, writing "shooting it in a library was a smart way to make all the lyrics about "I don't even know what page you're on" and "I've never heard silence quite this loud" really shine."[41] A sneak peek featuring the first forty-four seconds of the music video was released on on May 20, 2011.[42] The music video premiered on May 24, at 7:53 p.m. ET on MTV and and was followed by Swift's interview session with Sway Calloway of MTV News for the "MTV First: Taylor Swift" segment.[43] During the interview, Swift revealed that the video shoot encountered some problems since tornadoes were hitting Nashville during the video shoot. She explained, "We had to hide. All of us, we had to hide in a room where there were no windows, so that was a little bit crazy. [But] other than that, it was incredibly fun."[39] Swift also shared her emotions with Calloway after watching the music video. She expressed:

"Anytime I'm onstage or watching the music video, the first thing that comes into my mind is the person I wrote the song about. It's like the first thing that you think of is the moment that inspired the song, which is that excruciating, awful moment when you run into an ex for the first time."[43]

Swift also added that the video is different from the rest of her music videos. According to her, "the biggest difference between the new video and all the other ones is that I love to make a happy ending happen, and with this video, it doesn’t happen."[44] Prior to the release of the video, Universal Music Group released a promotional music video featuring the European leg of Swift's Speak Now World Tour.[45]


The video begins with shots of the library and a book called "The Story of Us". Swift narrates the story while standing between two bookshelves, sitting on a desk, and lying across a table (and occasionally lying on top of "The Story of Us") with a stack of books next to her. We see scenes flashing back and forth between her and her ex-boyfriend, students and staff in the library, and her band playing the song. The scenes between her and her ex begin with a private meeting between the two in the library. Swift is then shown choosing a seat in the library, but finds her ex sitting across the table from her. She hides behind a book she is holding when she notices him, then looks away, pulling on her clothes and plays with her hair in an attempt to go unnoticed. She does not notice that he has noticed her and attempts to avoid her as well. They both eventually catch each other looking and pause, uncertain. The video cuts to a scene where we see a girl who first pulls Swift's ex into a make out, then pulls away as the librarian passes by. When the librarian passes, Swift's ex pulls the girl back and kisses her again. This is the cause for the fall out in their relationship. Swift eventually waves first, prompting her ex to return the gesture. Both get up to confront the other. The video ends with the students throwing away their papers as students and staff begin dancing to the song. Swift and her ex arrive face to face with each other, but eventually they both shrug and walk away. The last shot is of Swift closing the book of "The Story of Us".[46]


The music video for "The Story of Us" was met with mostly positive reception among music critics. Kyle Anderson of Entertainment Weekly praised the video for being "a lovely and clever bit of film for Swift" which could be thought of as a sequel to "You Belong with Me". He concluded that Swift "is good at telling sweet little tales of unrequited love rather than trying to be a symbol of young female empowerment."[47] Donna Kaufman of iVillage was amused with Swift's idea of what happened at a university library, which was portrayed in the music video, writing "it's all very cute in that patented Taylor Swift way."[48] Leah Collins of The Vancouver Sun complimented the video for its departure from music-video high school.[49] The same opinion was expressed by Carina Adly MacKenzie of Zap2it who noted that "Swift has graduated from the 'You Belong With Me' prom days to a world of dusty books and hipster glasses for 'The Story of Us'".[50]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Tidal.[51]

  • 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


Charts (2010–11) Peak
Belgian Tip Chart (Flanders)[28] 15
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[52] 70
Canada CHR/Top 40 (Billboard)[53] 44
Canada Hot AC (Billboard)[54] 34
Hungarian Airplay Chart[55] 33
US Billboard Hot 100[56] 41
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[57] 23
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[58] 31
US Country Digital Song Sales (Billboard)[59] 3
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[60] 21


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[61] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

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

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label
United States[62][63] April 19, 2011 Mainstream radio Big Machine Records


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External links[edit]