Treacherous (Taylor Swift song)

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"Treacherous"
Song by Taylor Swift
from the album Red
ReleasedOctober 22, 2012 (2012-10-22)
Studio
  • Ballroom West (Los Angeles)
  • Instrument Landing (Minneapolis)
  • Marlay (North Hollywood)
Length4:02
LabelBig Machine
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Dan Wilson
"Treacherous (Taylor's Version)"
Song by Taylor Swift
from the album Red (Taylor's Version)
ReleasedNovember 12, 2021 (2021-11-12)
Studio
  • Ballroom West (Los Angeles)
  • Instrument Landing (Minneapolis)
Length4:02
LabelRepublic
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Dan Wilson
Lyric video
"Treacherous (Taylor's Version)" on YouTube

"Treacherous" is a song by the American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, taken from her fourth studio album, Red (2012). Swift wrote the track with its producer Dan Wilson. Blending styles of country and pop, "Treacherous" is a slow-burning ballad that builds up into a finale. Its lyrics are about a narrator's attempt to protect a fragile and dangerous relationship. A demo of the song was included in the tracklist of Red's deluxe edition.

"Treacherous" peaked at number two on the United States's Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 and number 65 on the Canadian Hot 100. The track has been performed on three of Swift's concert tours, including the Red Tour (2013–2014), where it was included on the regular set list. Critics who picked the song an album highlight praised Swift's songwriting and the production. Retrospectively, they have regarded it as one of Swift's better songs.

A re-recorded version, titled "Treacherous (Taylor's Version)", was released as part of Swift's second re-recorded album, Red (Taylor's Version) (2021). It peaked at number 42 on the Billboard Global 200 and entered on national charts in Australia, Canada, Singapore, and the US.

Background[edit]

Dan Wilson co-wrote and produced "Treacherous".

The American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift released her third studio album, Speak Now, in October 2010.[1] She wrote the album and co-produced it with her long-time collaborator Nathan Chapman; Speak Now expands the country pop production of its 2008 predecessor Fearless.[2][3] On the album's follow-up, titled Red, Swift wanted to experiment with other musical styles.[4]

To this end, Swift approached producers outside of her career base in Nashville, Tennessee.[2] In an interview with USA Today, Swift said that she chose the producers because she liked their style and wanted to learn from them.[4] One of them was Dan Wilson, whom Swift was inspired by his work with the Minneapolis-based rock band Semisonic.[5] Their sessions resulted in two songs for Red, which were "Come Back... Be Here" and "Treacherous".[6]

Production and release[edit]

Swift performing "Treacherous" on the Red Tour

"Treacherous" has a duration of four minutes and two seconds.[6] In an interview with Taste of Country, Swift stated that the track was inspired by a conflicted feeling of being at risk every time you fall in love.[7] It was written alongside a number of other songs due to bursts of productivity; Swift and Wilson wrote the song in ten minutes in his studio, with Swift "full of excitement" according to Wilson.[2][8] He was impressed with Swift for the clarity in her songwriting and noted that she had "a very high level of positivity", which he deemed rare.[9] The song was recorded at Ballroom West in Los Angeles, Instrument Landing in Minneapolis, and Marlay Studio in North Hollywood, Los Angeles. It was mixed at Larrabee Studios in Universal City, California, and was mastered at MasterMix in Nashville.[6]

"Treacherous" was released as the third track on Red on October 22, 2012, by Big Machine Records. A demo of the song was also released as a deluxe-edition bonus track.[10] "Treacherous" debuted on both the United States' Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 and Hot Country Songs, with peaks of number two and number 26 respectively.[11][12] The song reached number 65 on the Canadian Hot 100.[13] Before the album's release, on August 13, Swift performed an acoustic rendition for her "YouTube Webchat" in Nashville.[14] To promote Red, Swift embarked on the Red Tour (2013–2014), in which "Treacherous" was included on the set list.[15] She performed the track as a "surprise song" on select dates of the Reputation Stadium Tour (Philadelphia, July 2018)[16] and the Eras Tour (Tampa, April 2023; Paris, May 2024).[17]

After a dispute with Big Machine over the sale of the masters of Swift's first six studio albums, she re-recorded Red as Red (Taylor's Version). Released by Republic Records as Swift's second re-recorded album on November 12, 2021, the re-recorded version of "Treacherous" is titled "Treacherous (Taylor's Version)".[18][19] It has the same length as the original and Wilson returned as the producer. The song was recorded at Ballroom West, Instrument Landing, and Sterloid Sounds. Swift's vocals were recorded at Kitty Committee Studio in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The track was mixed at MixStar Studios in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and was mastered at Sterling Sound in Edgewater, New Jersey.[20] Upon the album's release, "Treacherous (Taylor's Version)" entered on national charts in Singapore (30),[21] Australia (38),[22] and Canada (41).[13] In the US, the song reached number 54 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 15 on Hot Country Songs.[23][11] On other charts, it peaked at number 67 on the United Kingdom's Audio Streaming Chart and number 42 on the Billboard Global 200.[24][25]

Music and lyrics[edit]

"Treacherous" is a slow-burning ballad that blends country and pop styles.[26][27] It starts with mandolin, slow guitar strums, and percussion.[28][29] As the acoustic and electric guitar intertwine, background vocals harmonize at each iteration of the refrain.[30] Towards the end, the song builds up into a finale that Mary Kate Carr from The A.V. Club described as "complementary crescendo that could sweep anyone away".[28][31] For Pitchfork, Ivy Nelson wrote that whereas the beginning is "relatively motionless, frozen in time by all the tension in Swift's voice", as the track progresses, "the guitars and drums melt into dark, wet echoes like pelting raindrops".[32] Sam Lansky from Idolator likened the production to that of U2's song "With or Without You" (1987), specifically due to the "aching guitars".[33] On the re-recorded track, it is musically identical to the original recording like the rest of Red (Taylor's Version), but with a more mature voice from Swift.[34][35]

The lyrics are about a narrator's attempt to protect a fragile and dangerous relationship that has broken. On the song's meaning, Swift said, "[...] I tend to feel like when you're looking back on the things that have hurt you in life, I look back on them and think if it made you feel something, it was worth it."[36] Some critics noted the lyrics, "I’ll do anything you say / If you say it with your hands", as the first time Swift explicitly incorporated sexuality in her lyrics.[34][36][37] Chris Willman from The Hollywood Reporter compared the song's lyrical narrative to that of Sheryl Crow's "My Favorite Mistake" (1998) and opined that the track's sensuality is also due to Swift's "nearly whispered vocals" that "neatly put across the tentativeness of her sensuality in falling for a bad boy".[38]

Critical reception[edit]

In reviews of Red, a number of critics picked "Treacherous" as an album highlight. Willman said that it contains some of the most poetic lyrics on the album,[38] and Lansky considered the musical direction of the song an example of Swift's "diversions into sonic experimentation that wouldn't fare as well on the radio, and they feel even more exciting".[33] American Songwriter's Jewly Hight selected it as one of the tracks that showcase Swift's talents at capturing emotions in tangible detail.[39] Nelson labeled the song a "masterclass in dynamics from arrangement to lyric", and highlighted how the production complements the lyrical sentiments.[32] Jonathan Keefe of Slant Magazine was impressed by Swift's songwriting for "expressing genuine insights into complex relationship dynamics".[40] Mesfin Fekadu from the Associated Press considered the song "a good one" from an album that he deemed mediocre.[41] In a less positive review, Billboard said that the instrumental build-up "steers away from the hushed, confessional beauty" of the initial verses.[28]

In retrospective reviews, critics have considered "Treacherous" one of Swift's better songs. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone said that she "braves the ski slopes of love, with a seething acoustic guitar that finally detonates halfway though".[42] The Musicologist James E. Perone deemed its musical approach an evidence of "increased maturity in Swift's work as a songwriter and performer".[43] Billboard's Hannah Dailey said the song has "some of her most gorgeous poetry" and thought it was "overlooked by the general masses".[44] Sputnikmusic was amazed by Swift for her reflections of love and life on Red, and cited "Treacherous" as an example because of how she "vividly captured forbidden lust and temptation".[45] Time ranked the song as the album's second-best track—Samantha Cooney considered the song "criminally underrated", and Annabel Gutterman said it was a "gorgeous song" and a "beautiful ballad about risking your heart when you know things might end badly".[27] Alex Hopper from American Songwriter deemed "Treacherous" a highpoint from Red,[46] and Michael Savio of PopMatters selected it as one of Swift's "finest, most pensive" songs, among other album tracks.[47] In a review of "Treacherous (Taylor's Version)", Mary Kate Carr said that the song introduced a "haunting, newly mature singer-songwriter vibe" to Swift's artistry.[31]

Personnel[edit]

"Treacherous"[6]

  • Taylor Swift – lead vocals, songwriting, acoustic guitar, background vocals
  • Dan Wilson – songwriting, production, background vocals, electric guitar, bass, piano
  • Andy Thompson – electric piano, synth strings, guitar, recording
  • Aaron Sterling – drums
  • Manny Marroquin – mixing
  • Chris Galland – mixing assistance
  • Delbert Bowers – mixing assistance
  • Hank Williams – mastering
  • John Rausch – recording
  • Eric Robinson – recording

"Treacherous (Taylor's Version)"[20]

  • Taylor Swift – lead vocals, background vocals, songwriting
  • Dan Wilson – background vocals, songwriting, production, guitars, bass
  • Andy Thompson – keyboards, electric guitar, recording
  • Aaron Sterling – programming, drums, percussion, recording
  • Sara Mulford – piano, synth, recording
  • Serban Ghenea – mixing
  • Bryce Bordone – mix engineering
  • Randy Merrill – mastering
  • Christopher Rowe – vocal recording
  • John Mark Nelson – recording

Charts[edit]

"Treacherous"[edit]

Chart performance for "Treacherous"
Chart (2012) Peak
position
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[13] 65
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[11] 26
US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard)[12] 2

"Treacherous (Taylor's Version)"[edit]

Chart performance for "Treacherous (Taylor's Version)"
Chart (2021) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[22] 38
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[13] 41
Global 200 (Billboard)[25] 42
Singapore (RIAS)[21] 30
UK Audio Streaming (OCC)[24] 67
US Billboard Hot 100[23] 54
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[11] 15

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c Bernstein, Jonathan (November 18, 2020). "500 Greatest Albums: Taylor Swift Looks Back on Her 'Only True Breakup Album' Red". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on December 4, 2020. Retrieved December 25, 2020.
  3. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Speak Now – Taylor Swift". AllMusic. Archived from the original on November 5, 2017. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
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Sources[edit]