A Totally Serious Analysis of Taylor Swift's Genre-Defying 8 Seconds of Static, 'Track 3'

Oct 22, 2014

Searching for a sound they hadn't heard before, Canadian fans of Taylor Swift accidentally sent her 1989 song "Track 3" — eight seconds of white noise that went on sale after an iTunes glitch — to the top of the online store's charts. Many listeners were frustrated to learn that they had spent $1.29 on what seems like absolutely nothing. But lest they forget, Taylor Swift is an artist, not some manufactured pop product. Her more difficult works, like this one, require several listens before their thematic complexity and genre-defying soundscapes can be fully appreciated.

"Track 3" is perhaps her most ambitious track yet. Drawing inspiration from Trent Reznor and that new television she still hasn't quite figured out how to work since she moved to New York, "Track 3" demonstrates Swift's willingness to shed her squeaky-clean pop image and move her sound to a darker, industrial and more experimental direction. In other words, "Track 3" is a sign that 1989 will be the Yeezus of her career, and her "Bound 2" moment isn't far away.

Speculating about the subject of Taylor Swift lyrics is popular among both fans and the media, but it's clear from the way the static begins around a second in — representing the calm before the storm, obviously — that "Track 3" is also about a tumultuous relationship. Swift cuts the static at the six-second mark to suggest that she has emerged from the storm unscathed, but don't be fooled by the pop star's clever lyrical ploy here — we know from the following track, "Out of the Woods," that Taylor Swift's relationship status and geographical relationship to said woods are both murky. In fact, the static on "Track 3" may symbolize that Taylor is stuck in the woods right now and is desperately trying to walkie-talkie her way into safe shelter. Does anybody know where Taylor Swift is right now? Is she in danger? Does she need any help?

According to Taylor Swift's Instagram account, the real "Track 3" includes the lyrics, "I heard that you've been out and about with some other girl." Those words don't contradict the interpretation that this "Track 3" is about Taylor Swift trying to cut through the static and seek closure about an ambiguous breakup — perhaps from an ex who has blocked her calls and moved on with "some other girl" while Swift keeps leaving cryptic polaroids all over his apartment. Given the empowering nature of "Shake It Off," though, the opposite is far more likely: Taylor is hung up and tired of waiting on a dude who's now using new lady friends to make her jealous or get her attention. Sorry, she cannot hear you, bro, she's kinda busy.

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Ed Sheeran poses with Taylor Swift backstage before his sold-out show at Madison Square Garden Arena on November 1, 2013 in New York City.Anna Webber—Getty Images
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