Taylor Swift battles bullies, critics, and silent movie villains in new 'Mean' video: Watch it here

Taylor Swift‘s “Mean,” the latest single from her multiplatinum third album Speak Now, was originally written in response to a music critic who wrote not-nice things about her. But in the just-premiered video for the song, Swift spins the stripped-down country tune into an outsider anthem starring herself, her honky-tonk combo, a gay teen, and at least one old-timey bad guy tying her to a railroad track. Check it out after the jump.

Sonically, “Mean” is one of the best tracks on Speak Now, eschewing any sort of modern pop spit-shining in favor of a stripped-down, almost bluegrass sound (even on country radio, it’s rare to hear a song that centers specifically around a banjo). The hook is deceptively sticky, and without a giant chorus to shout through, Swift’s voice floats gently in and out of the delicate melody.

While she nobly takes an anti-bullying stance in the clip, the message does get a little mixed. Is she really equating a professional critic questioning her ability to sing at an awards show to getting bullied because you’re different? Swift is only 21 years old, but it seems as though her skin should be a little bit thicker now that she has sold millions of albums, toured the world, and become one of the most recognizable faces in pop culture. She’s clearly the winner in this scenario, and playing the victim does tend to devalue actual victimhood.

Am I way off base on this? Does that aspect of the video bother you, or does it work for you? Sound off in the comments below.

Read more on EW.com:
ACM Awards: Miranda Lambert dominates, but Taylor Swift wins Entertainer of the Year
Taylor Swift passes 20 million album sales, but what ’00s artist still has her beat?
Review: Taylor Swift, Speak Now

Comments (163 total) Add your comment
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  • flicketyflack

    “While she nobly takes an anti-bullying stance in the clip, the message does get a little mixed. Is she really equating a professional critic questioning her ability to sing at an awards show to getting bullied because your different? Swift is only 21 years old, but it seems as though her skin should be a little bit thicker now that she has sold millions of albums, toured the world, and become one of the most recognizable faces in pop culture. She’s clearly the winner in this scenario, and playing the victim does tend to devalue actual victimhood.”

    I completely agree with you (except the “your” typo). I can’t get behind the song because of exactly what you said. Taylor Swift’s 21 years old with a huge marketing and PR machine behind her and it shows a real lack of perspective that she could compare a critic saying she can’t sing to kids being mocked and bullied in school.

    Also there’s a lot of self contradiction in the song. It’s hypocritical to say “the cycle ends right now” or whatever but then go on and call the target a “liar, and pathetic, and alone in life.” That’s not the cycle ending. That’s Taylor being mean in return.

    There’s also the line early in the song when she’s talking about pointing flaws as if she doesn’t see them. The person isn’t a liar if the flaws are real.

    It’s too bad she ruined such a catchy song with amazing country production with the lyrics.

    • whatevs

      Taylor’s not being mean by saying the bully is pathetic and alone in life. That is often the reason why people are bullies, to compensate.

    • j

      I don’t think she is responding to the music critic claiming she can’t sing, but more the terms the particular critic used when writing about her. His opinions have been hateful at times.

    • Lisa Simpson

      I agree, flickety. She mistakes criticism for bullying, which are two different things. Everyone gets criticism – at school, in their jobs, in their public creative endeavors. Part of growing up is learning to handle criticism, and growing up certainly does not involve name-calling in return (which is more akin to bullying than anything the critic is purported to have done in the song). Criticism, in essence, is based on performance. Bullying, on the other hand, is based in who a person is – usually because that person is perceived as ‘different.’ To mistake the two shows a lack of maturity.

      • Princess Pippa

        @Lisa Simpson She clearly states another time that there is critisism and then there is mean. It isnt the same, I do believe this is about “joesulub” the youtube “Critic” and he isnt actually mean, hes hateful and he is just causing himself to be hated actually and also it does not show lack of maturity. Its as simple as that, if it is, you are immature. She isnt talking about critism here! She is talking about something way beyond that into hateful slurs and she is showing that hateful critisizing and bullying are the same thing and she is showing you can rise above it.

      • susan

        Jealous much? How would you write the video?

    • Mars

      @Lisa she said that she gets that she will be criticized always. she gets that. but when a person goes BEYOND critiquing a person, that’s being mean. when you start attacking everything about a person, that’s being mean.

      You can be bullied everywhere and in any age.
      oh god, this song is so relevant right now. you know who you are.HAHA

    • Flicketyflack Sucks

      Let me guess “Flicketyflack” you are just a bully trying to justify your actions. I guess you are one of those people who love calling people names but as soon as someone defends themself against you, you run away crying. Mean is a wonderful song. It is a song that has meant the world to me. As someone who has dealt with a bully at work, I totally understand where this song is coming from.

      • qwerty

        This song is a positive look for (nerdy)kids who are being bullied by kids that are really “cool” right now but aren’t going anywhere so stop bagging on Taylor!

      • just myself

        I’ve been bullied a lot myself but I agree with Flicketyflack ‘It’s hypocritical to say “the cycle ends right now” or whatever but then go on and call the target a “liar, and pathetic, and alone in life.” That’s not the cycle ending. That’s Taylor being mean in return.’
        I don’t believe in confrontations like that.It”s pretty rich of you to just make an assumption about someone you’ve never met that they can only feel that way because they are a bully.

    • Flinstones!

      OH My Effing G. Is this what you do in your free time. Waiting for something about Taylor Swift to come up so you can criticize her. It’s not that deep. I think it is funny how people watch every little detail that Taylor does in her life and judge her for it. Flicketflack, are you jealous because it kind of sounds like you are a little bitter. By the way, there is no contradiction. When a person takes constant bullying, there is nothing wrong with telling the bully how you feel. No one should have to deal with a bully’s verbal abuse. By the way, the critic went past criticizing her on her music to the point where it was just hateful. GET FACTS STRAIGHT HATER!!!!!

      • Star

        I totally agree with you Flinstones! stop watching what she does and says. BTW by saying the bully is pathetic is true. anyone who enjoys bagging on someone deserves to be called pathetic…………I mean arent they?

    • Electric Acid

      In Taylor’s mind, bullying = not drinking the Kool-Aid.

    • wuggie

      The lyrics are wonderful. They are child-like ON PURPOSE — because so much bullying starts on the playground or school.
      And the country sing-a-long style and sprightly tempo keep a very serious topic from becoming overbearingly melodramatic and pretentious.

      And I think flicketyflak misunderstands just how much ALL the characters in this song … are Swift!
      When Taylor was in junior high, she WAS the little girl who had to eat in the bathroom because nobody would speak to her or let them sit with her.

      How did she deal with it? By immersing herself in her music and in her own dreams, and going to see concerts featuring the female artists who were HER role models — just like the little girl at Taylor’s concert. That IS Taylor.

      And while she wasn’t saving for college, or being teased by the football team, she WAS teased for being and dressing differently — for her love of Country Music and cowboy boots. She has said, in concert and in interviews: “Being DIFFERENT might make you you unpopular in junior high; but it can get you a record contract when you get older.”

      That’s a POSITIVE message. That’s refusing to let someone’s taunts lead you down the road to negativity.

    • julie

      even she has to know she can’t sing, her live perforances at award shows? Lucy Ricardo and Edith Bunker sound better.

      • Princess Pippa

        This song is about you :) (CYBERBULLY)

    • nick

      haha you guys are blowing it. its a song that many people can relate to. she needs to get over herself? then why are you taking time to leave a comment. obviously ur not over her either if ur taking time out of your life to be so concerned about what shes doing. youre a joke. also just because somebody points out true facts doesnt mean they cant also be a liar and pathetic. people can be multiple character traits. most of you are very very ignorant. and if she wants to incorporate criticism with bullying…..guess what….its her song and it meant something to her a made her a bunch of mopney. and guess what else….if you were doing the things shes doing you wouldnt hsave to worry about getting bad radio reception, to whatever stupid person said that. oh it was allison. if tswift is that bad to listen to then turn the station or stop being lame and complaining

  • Michelle

    She needs to get over herself…

    • UGH


    • Amy

      She said she writes songs about her life. This was a part of her life, she wrote about it. It is her decision, no one is forcing you to listen to it. You need to get over the fact that this girl can write a song about ANYTHING and sell a million records. Don’t be mad haters.

      • UGH

        I’m not mad. I can’t get over the fact that such mediocre singing sells records.

      • eatyourheartout

        And this has to do with you how? Are you forced to buy them? Are you forced to listen to her songs on the radio? Poor baby.

      • Allison

        Actually, if you happen to be somewhere with poor radio reception then you might be forced to hear her songs, if no other stations come in well. Just sayin’.

      • OMG

        @allison, there’s a “next” button or turn off your radio. just saying.

    • qwerty

      How ’bout YOU try to one of the most famous singers at age 21! Not so easy, is it? She has to write about something!

    • just myself

      I don’t blame her for writing about her pain but I do feel like some of her songs lack maturity in the lyrics.I suppose it’s okay for this because as ‘wuggie’ put it bullying does often start at school.

  • malvinder kaur

    nicely designed video… simple shoot not much cutaway angles.. lyrics ok… if it is to teach lesson to meanies.. well they always burn their own gall sooner or later!

  • Andrew M.

    I love the message, especially as a father to a little girl, however the skeptic in my finds it hard to believe that Ms. Swift ever had such problems. I could be way off and totally wrong, but she was probably the most talented and the tallest and leggiest and blondest and most beautiful girl in her school/town/state, so the victim role just doesn’t suit her. Just like in “You Belong to Me,” I doubt she ever had trouble getting boys to notice her ever, I mean, just look at her, you could probably tell from day-one that she was something special.

    But again, the message is a positive one and we need music and artists like this, because there’s so little out there that doesn’t make me cringe as a parent. “Whips and Chains Excite Me?” Ahh yeah that’s fine for 20-30 year olds, but I don’t want my little ones bopping their heads to that smut in the car on the radio. I know it’s my job to censor it and teach them right from wrong, but that stuff is literally everywhere.

    Taylor Swift is truly an American Sweetheart.

    • j

      Actually she got bullied badly when she was about 13. She occasionally mentions it in interviews. She even references it in ‘the best day’ from fearless, the song written about her mom who she said was her only friend at some points when she was being bullied.

    • Carrie

      Yes, I’ve also heard/read about how she was treated badly by kids in junior high and high school. I believe it because kids at that age can be downright cruel. The fact that she was working toward a recording deal probably made her the perfect target for that kind of treatment. Kids get very jealous and try to tear down the person who is getting the most attention. They probably thought she was stuck up or full of herself because she wanted to be a professional singer.

  • Loyalty

    Her version of bullying – seems to allow her to whine and weep about how unfair her life is. Addressing serious topics is not part of the bubble gum poppy tunes she sings. Take her a little less seriously – turn down the music and read a book. Everyone deserves to say what they want – but Taylor’s music seems to be getting “MEAN”

  • relax grammar queen

    Don’t be a grammar queen.

    On topic, Taylor’s lyrics are not showing any maturity.

    Jennette Mccurdy is by far the better rising country singer

    • MJ

      It’s the first thing I noticed. Mistakes like that are very unprofessional and embarrassing. Has nothing to do with being a grammar “queen.”

    • Daw Johnson

      Completely mis-guided on the maturity point.

      Not saying you’re wrong, but the simple, direct, “diary entry” songs are what Taylor Swift does best. They’re what made her famous.

      Some of the songs from her new album are more generic Diane Warren-style love songs, and they just don’t resonate.

      Taylor’s best serve STICKING to basic stories about boys and meanies than she is trying to write the same love songs everyone else is writing.



      • Princess Pippa

        Why you gotta be so mean? Just confronting you on your bullying her :) Why not keep the coments to yourself? Just trying to analyze bullying from the bully’s POV.

    • Oreo

      @ernie well battling bullying is as news worthy as battling bulimia. just saying

  • Elizabeth (a Catholic)

    Yes, I wish she would’ve solved all the bullying problems and sufficiently addressed the whole issue with her critics in less than 5 minutes too…

    Was that little Ramona?

    • Ralph

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who saw that! I think it was the girl who played Ramona.

      And I teach in a high school, and the lyrics of this song are incredibly relevant right now, regardless of to whom they were written, and anyone’s opinion of Taylor’s voice.

  • Michael

    For those of you who don’t know her story, she WAS bullied in middleschool. That’s what triggered her whole songwriting era. I love this song! Love hearing it on the radio. My daughter and I sing along to it all the time. And it’s directed towards a specific critic who went beyond the line of just constructive or professional criticism over and over again! It was down right spiteful and MEAN. I think some of you guys need to grow up.

    • K.Y.

      finally someone who’s in their right mind and know Taylor .

    • Kate

      And Swift needs to grow up if she wants to be in show business. Critics have no responsibility to be “nice” and save her feelings (for example, she really really can’t sing live, so to be upset about being criticized for sucking live… well, either sing better live, get a thicker skin, or get out of show business. It’s not going to get better, and singing about how “mean” they are just makes her sound like an infant. Does she really think huge stars make it to the top without unnecessarily harsh criticism? She’s living in a fantasy.

      • whatevs

        Writing a song about it means she needs to get a thicker skin? Just because other people hide their hurt feelings in public doesn’t mean they have thicker skin. They could be bawling their eyes out home for all you know.

      • Michael

        Well I see it as a song that is relatable to many people, young and old who have been bullied in life or just know that their present situation won’t last for always. The song can take on many meanings for different people and for various scenarios. That’s what I like about it. If it makes one person feel better, I say mission accomplished. FYI, seen her live and she rocked the stage. She has improved so much from when she started touring in 2006 as a 16 year old. As a dad myself, I think she’s a great role model. Give her a break.

      • Prey

        She gets that whatever she do she will get millions opinion about it good and bad but she also knows when a person is being mean for the sake of being mean.

        sorry to say but if you’re a millionaire it doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and sunshine. see the famous people who ended in rehab. they are people who feel the things we “normal” people do.

        I love this song. I could sing this to a couple of people. HAHA

      • Brittney

        But that’s the great thing about writing about your feelings isn’t it, the fact that it can be relatable to other people? I don’t know, what is so bad about reacting to something that bothered you if the result is that other people can relate to it and connect with exactly what the artist is saying? I think that’s the beauty of the song..

    • Kate

      And seriously? A critic whose job it is to criticize goes too far (in her opinion, again, it’s hardly the worst I’ve heard from critics – read what Anthony Lane wrote about Star Wars Episode III – it’s hilarious, but really “mean”)is comparable to someone being picked on for their sexual orientation, how they look, etc, when all they want to do is go to school and survive (as opposed to trying to push albums)? The more I think about it, the more I think Swift really needs to grow up.

      • Michael

        Well everyone’s entitled to their opinion. ;)

      • Brooke

        how bout yall grow up this song has inspired thousands and i am one of them

    • mplsmom

      You go Kate!

  • Everlee

    I completely agree with having a problem with the mixed messages of this video- I like this song but the video left me feeling a little nauseous. It felt like Taylor was patronizing actual victims of bullying by putting them in the broadest possible strokes and not really taking the problem seriously- kind of taking the stance of “Aw the little gay kid wears a bowtie and reads fashion magazines! Bless his little heart!” and “Aren’t poor people just so precious having to work to go to college?” Ugh. And I’ve always disliked the part of the song where she goes off on how “pathetic” and “alone” the music critic guy is. Okay, Taylor, we get it, you’re pretty and successful and he’s old, drunk, and alone. That’s not taking the high road- that’s just returning bullying with more bullying. And I’m not sure a music critic doing his job and critiquing your music is the same as getting called out for your sexual orientation, financial situation, etc etc. Yes, he could have done it in a nicer way. But having a mean review of your multiplatinum music career doesn’t make you the poster child for being victimized. The entire video felt immature and off-base, and while the song is catchy and well-done musically, this kind of turns me off to the message behind it.

    • Lisa Simpson

      Those were my thoughts as well. The music is catchy and well-done. The lyrics are off-base for all the reasons you stated.

    • Jill

      Those were my feelings too. I wish the video had been less hokey. Because the girl getting laughed at and then sticking money into her college piggy bank put tears in my eyes, but Taylor on the tracks made me cringe. Having not known the song was about a music critic, I love the lyrics. I think they’re appropriate for a lot of people (kids and adults) who put up with derision every day, and I wish the video had reflected that message instead of going for the cheap laugh.

  • K.Y.

    sorry not going to happen because she’s not like that LOL

    • KC

      Haha. I got censored. Please.
      The above is in regards to my comment that I wonder when Taylor will be truthful in her songwriting about sleeping around so much. That’s a nice way to put it.

      • Oreo

        haha I’m sure you and Taylor are so close cause you know what goes down her personal life. you sure knows who she dates and who she sleeps with.
        HAHA you’re funny………NOT!

      • KC

        Wow. You’re so 1990’s.

      • Shannon

        Just because she’s dating around doesn’t mean she’s sleeping around. I don’t know what she was thinking going out with John Mayer, though. I don’t get why so many women are into him. I’m a chick and was turned off the second I heard “Your Body is A Wonderland”. Bleh..

  • Music critic?

    How are you sure she’s referring to a music critic saying she can’t sing and not a loser ex-boyfriend? More than one person can make that comment…

    • K.Y.

      because she said that’s it’s for the critic who crossed the line several times and goes beyond critiquing her. he was being mean.

    • Daw Johnson

      Some loser critic who thinks he’s a bigger deal than he is, forget his name because he’s absolutely not a big deal, “reacted” to the song being about him as if it was common knowledge.
      Kind of reminded me of the “You’re so Vain” deal.

    • Loser Critics

      Yes the song was written in reference to a music critic. A writer for some news organization posted a letter that the critic had written about Taylor and it was harsh. It was out of bounds and very hurtful. The man is twice Taylor’s age and more than likely has the mind of a 2 year old. I wonder if that dude is on this website typing hateful comments about her right now.

  • UGH

    Critic: “Taylor, what did you do with the money?”
    Taylor: “What money?”
    Critic: “The money your parents gave you for singing lessons!”

    • candacetx

      ZING! For the win!

      • eatyourheartout

        well…to be fair…she sang pretty damn well at the ACM awards last time awards. she is trying to improve- i can only give her props for that.

  • Tom

    Well she can’t sing. There’s a difference between “mean” and critical analysis.

    I guess she hasn’t been dumped recently, so she’s going topical in her lyrics. I don’t know, I keep thinking Taylor Swift might get better when she grows up. But that doesn’t seem to be happening.

  • redwine

    Oh, Taylor. I’m growing somewhat bored with her writing songs about people hurting her feelings. And calling bullies “pathetic?” How about, instead of diminishing their existence to being drunkards who will amount to very little, she could encourage them to change their behavior. I do think she’s really playing up her “victim” role. Not everyone is going to think you can sing. Get over it.

    This song just sounds like she’s whining and using bullying as a backdrop for her “poor me/I’m better than you” fest.

    • whatevs

      When critics cross the line of constructive criticism to just be mean, you imply her “poor victim” mentality is pathetic. But when she says something about bullies in her song, she is diminishing their existence and thinks she’s better than they are.

      That’s not unreasonable at all.

  • u

    Vastly more talented musicians have faced much worse criticism, and they don’t whine about it to the extent that Taylor does. Someone tell this KID to grow up and stop complaining about insignificant things, the world isn’t a fair place, and she’s a hell of a lot luckier than most. I’m sure you’re living the good life when music critics doing their job are your biggest problems.

    • Oreo

      oh please that’s why many musicians ended up in rehab. if they don’t “whine” about it, doesn’t mean they are not affected by it. get real. being a millionaire doesn’t mean you become invincible.

      • u

        If a music critic’s opinion sends you to rehab, you have far deeper problems than that. I’m pretty sure that’s not what drives most musicians to rehab.

      • OMG

        @u you don’t know what’s like to be criticized to your every move so i think you don’t have the right to judge those who are in the “spotlight”.

      • Desmond’s constant

        @OMG-Oh please. This girl has wh0red herself out to the public to a dizzying and nauseating degree-so much so that I’m surprised she dcesn’t have a camera in the gyno examining room and later post the video on her facebook page-‘I’m trying to stay accessible to my fans!’ If this girl cannot handle the spotlight, maybe she should maintain a bit of privacy instead of baring herself to the public and taking advantage of every media outlet.

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