Taylor Swift’s long awaited Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) is here, and the 33-year-old pop star has changed the lyrics to one of the album’s more controversial songs, “Better Than Revenge.”
Part of Swift’s original Speak Now album, which was released in 2010, the pop-punk track is about seeking revenge against a romantic rival. In it, Swift sings, “She’s not a saint and she’s not what you think/ She’s an actress/ She’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress … She should keep in mind there is nothing I do better than revenge.” The lyric now reads “He was a moth to the flame, she was holding the matches.”
Critics have called the original lyrics misogynistic, reading them as slut-shaming another woman. At the time of its release, the song was rumored to be about Camilla Belle, an actor who dated Joe Jonas shortly after he dated Swift. The singer has never confirmed who the song is about—nor has she ever acknowledged the criticized lyrics publicly.
But the song has remained a popular Taylor Swift track, a dynamic perhaps best explained by a viral TikTok in which the song is played alongside the text, “Feminism leaving my body for 3:37 minutes whenever I hear this song.”
Ahead of Speak Now’s re-release, buzz spread online about whether Swift would change the lyrics to read as less “woman-blaming,” as one Reddit user wrote.
Some fans were hoping nothing would change. “Feminism on pause, Taylor’s Better Than Revenge still hits hard even to this day,” one fan tweeted. “As problematic as it is, I do hope she doesn’t change any of the lyrics.” Another joked, “When Taylor changes the lyrics of Better Than Revenge to ‘He’s better known for the things that he does with my masters’ what then?” This joke references the singer’s overall project of re-recording her old albums, part of a larger effort of Swift reclaiming ownership of her discography after her master recordings with her original label Big Machine were sold to a private-equity group owned by music industry mogul Scooter Braun. Speak Now will mark Swift’s third re-recorded album.
Swift has yet to change any significant lyrics in her prior two re-recorded albums. In 2006, however, she promptly changed a lyric in the radio edit and future versions of her song “Picture To Burn” after criticism that it was derogatory. The lyric went from “So go and tell your friends that I’m obsessive and crazy/ That’s fine, I’ll tell mine you’re gay,” to, “That’s fine, you won’t mind if I say.” Swift was 16 at the time of the original album’s release and later told MTV News that now that she’s older, she reacts differently to being hurt: “Now, the way that I would say that and the way that I would feel that kind of pain is a lot different.”
Music critics have remarked on how interesting it is to hear Swift, now in her 30s, singing songs she wrote when she was much younger. In Pitchfork’s review of Fearless (Taylor’s Version), Dani Blum wrote, “Instead of cosplaying a caricature of her 18-year-old self, we get present-day Taylor in conversation with the Taylor of the past with a wrenching intimacy.”
Leading up to the album release, Swift had not addressed potential lyric changes and rarely comments on speculation. But at her stop in Minneapolis during the Eras Tour she spoke on her evolution, urging her fans not to jump to conclusions, seeming to refer to the song, “Dear John,” another popular track from the album thought to be about John Mayer. “I’m 33 years old, I don’t care about anything that happened to me when I was 19,” she said. “I’m not putting this album out so you can go on the internet and defend me against someone you think I wrote a song about 14 million years ago.”
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