Taylor Swift’s “Fifteen” Lyrics Meaning
Taylor Swift is someone who began her professional development at a very young age. In fact her dad, Scott Kingsley Swift, even switched company offices to Nashville, the capitol of American country music, so that she could be at the center of the action. This transpired when she was reportedly 11 years old.
So even as a youngster, she had a better idea of her life’s trajectory than most of us would have at that age. And that reality is actually an important factor in this song (“Fifteen”).
Also as a result of moving to Tennessee (from her native Pennsylvania), she had to attend a local high school, that being Hendersonville High. And it was there where she met Abigail Anderson, the other main character in this song.
Lyrics of “Fifteen”
So the first verse commences with Taylor first entering the high school as a freshman. In her usual frank and skillful manner she is able to give the listener an effective taste of exactly how she felt at the time. For instance, she was nervous but not scared. Also she was fantasizing about catching the attention of “one of those senior boys”, who would then proceed to try to kick it to her. Or put differently she was very much interested in the prospect of dating an older student from the institution.
And it is with that idea in mind that the song transitions into the chorus. The implication, as the title suggests, is that the singer was 15 years old at the time. And fundamentally, we can perhaps conclude early that the thesis sentiment of the narrative centers on the songstress realizing, based on her own recollections, that such is a very-impressionable age for girls. For instance, if some dude tells a young lady like that he loves her, then she’s going to instantly believe it. In other words, this was a stage of life where Taylor and her peers were naïve. So they’re pretty much the typical high school freshman.
And as far as peers go, the second verse momentarily shifts focus onto the aforementioned Abigail. This is someone whom by chance Taylor ends up setting next to in class, which leads to them promptly becoming besties. They proceed to do things like gossip, if you will, about other girls from the school.
But as Taylor has explained later on, that particular practice was more of an outside-looking-in type of scenario, as she and Abigail were not part of the cool crowd.
Moreover she and her buddy do end up dating guys. And once again based on their aforementioned romantic naiveté, it’s kinda like they take relationships more seriously than they actually are. For instance, at the time, Taylor thought that her dating a dude “on the football team” was a really big deal. In her eyes, it was an experience she could never top. But of course she was viewing the world through her limited teenage experiences and knowledge.
But the reason many analysts consider this song to be more-personal in terms of Abigail’s past than Taylor’s is that in the bridge Swift implies that it is Anderson who was most hurt for thinking so innocently about boys. Well actually Taylor was also quite devastated in the process – on behalf of her friend.
In fact she has been so affected by what Abigail went through that Swift cried while recording this song, some years after the events featured therein had already transpired. For it was Abigail who actually “gave everything she had” to a particular boy. But unfortunately said dude “changed his mind” about her.
And of course that particular part of the narrative is expressed in very-general language. But what it suggests, basically, is that said boy thoroughly dogged Abigail out, with such experiences unfortunately also being part and parcel of high school life for many girls.
However the reason Taylor herself did not suffer a similar fate, despite initially coming off as being equally naïve at first, is because at the time she had a better idea of her future than her buddy did. Or put differently even at that young age she had a career path, as noted at the beginning of this post.
So the implication would be that being privy to such made her more focused. It also made her less inclined to get too caught in guys, even though she’s had her moments also.
What “Fifteen” is all about
At first the track comes off as if it is autobiographical. But by the time it ends, it reads like the tale of two girls. As featured, the narrator and Abigail are more personifications than they are actual characters. And being besties, they are more alike than different.
But what differentiates their freshman experience on the personal level is that one of them, ultimately to her chagrin, is a lot more trusting of her romantic partner than the other. And again, this is by-and-large due to the less-trusting one being more self-aware, if you want to put it like that.
So Taylor pretty much closes the track by letting freshman girls forevermore know that they also need to be courageous, if you will, in dealing with their male counterparts. And said lesson isn’t one that like jumps off the page at you. Rather, as a further testament to the exceptional songwriting at hand, it’s rather more like the underlying moral of an interesting story.
Roman White, a very prolific turn-of-the-century music video creator, directed the official clip to “Fifteen”. And Abigail Anderson is in fact featured in the video, portraying her own character. It went on to be well-received, i.e. earning a MTV VMA nomination for Best Female Video in 2010.
And to note White also directed the music video to the Tay Tay single which preceded this one, “You Belong to Me”.
Writing of “Fifteen”
“Fifteen” was written by Taylor Swift. And just to note, she did actually obtain Abigail Anderson’s permission to namedrop and reference her before releasing this song. And Anderson approved because she felt that if even if a single girl learned from her experience, then being namedropped in such a context is “totally worth it”.
It was actually the “Abigail gave everything she had to a boy” lines which Taylor Swift first penned in terms of in writing this song. And she went on to explain that the reason she wrote it in the first place is because up until that point Swift felt she ‘grew up more during her freshman year than any year in her life ’.
More Interesting Facts about “Fifteen”
Taylor also served as one of the producers of this song, with the other being Nathan Chapman.
The first time Taylor performed this track live, she did so alongside another young lady who would develop into an undeniable pop superstar, Miley Cyrus. That was at the 2009 edition of the Grammy Awards. And whereas Smiley Miley wasn’t 15 she was close enough, being 16 years old at the time. Meanwhile Taylor Swift concurrently about 19 years old.
In 2011 Taylor performed this song, alongside singer James Taylor, at Madison Square Garden. And yes, the two of them are in fact related. Swift was actually named after Taylor.
Taylor Swift embarked on a charitable campaign, in conjunction with electronic retail chain Best Buy, called @15 where, as its moniker suggests, this song played a major role.
“Fifteen” was a big hit in the United States. It was certified double-platinum by the RIAA and appeared on five different Billboard charts. It fared best on the Hot Country Songs listing, peaking at number 7. And globally it charted in a handful of nations, also being certified gold in Canada.
Release and Re-release
Taylor and her management originally released “Fifteen” on the 11th of August 2008. It was the fourth single that came out of her “Fearless” studio album of 2008.
Over a decade later, Taylor re-recorded and re-released her “Fearless” album. The re-recorded version of the album, which also contains the song “Fifteen” is titled “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)”. The original, 2008 version was put out by Big Machine Records. And the re-recording was made public by Republic Records.
Taylor Swift and Abigail Anderson
Taylor and Abigail have remained friends throughout the years. In fact Taylor served as a bridesmaid at Abigail’s wedding in 2017. So even if Anderson was heartbroken at the first, it would appear that she did eventually find true love. And an interesting side story is that Swift actually got booed at the wedding for trying to conceal herself from fans.