Meaning of “Innocent” by Taylor Swift

“Innocent” is a song that originally came out on 15 September 2010, being part of the playlist of “Speak Now”, which was Taylor Swift’s third studio album. With the re-recorded re-release of that project on 7 July 2023, that means that fans were more recently treated to “Innocent (Taylor’s Version)”, i.e. a re-rendering of the original song, which Taylor was compelled to drop due to beef with her former label, Big Machine Records, through which the original Innocent was made public.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Taylor Swift's Innocent at

Swift produced Innocent with Nathan Chapman. However, Chapman is apparently someone she hasn’t worked with since her Big Machine days (seemingly getting indirectly caught up in all the drama). As such, Christopher Rowe acted as her co-producer on “Innocent (Taylor’s Version)”, which was put out through Republic Records. And both times around, Swift is credited as the song’s sole writer.


Perhaps the most (in)famous incident in the history of MTV’s annual and heavily-watched Music Video Awards came in 2009. That was when, upon Taylor Swift winning Best Female Video (for “You Belong to Me”), Kanye West bogarted the stage to rather espouse one of the other nominees, Beyoncé (for Single Ladies (“Put a Ring on It“)). 

Making that move more or less commenced the era of Kanye being viewed as a bad guy or more specifically, someone who may be too cocky for his own good. For instance the President of the United States at the time, the generally-peaceful Barack Obama, responded (off the record) by labeling Yeezy a “jackass”.

In other words, West dealt with a serious backlash for treating Taylor Swift – who’s, as an A list musician, is perceived as being about as harmless as they come – like that. But instead of throwing fuel on the fire Tay Tay, being who she is, used the opportunity to write Innocent. 

This penning was not the result of the type of spontaneous bursts of inspiration that has largely defined Swift’s songwriting career. Instead, authoring this song reportedly took her six months in total, with most of the time being dedicated to processing the Kanye West incident, a matter which took over her social life, to begin with.

And with that being said, despite not being issued as a single Innocent did very well for itself chart-wise, such as breaking the top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100 and peaking at number 2 on the US Country Digital Song Sales chart.



But the above explanation is not to imply that the lyrics of this song are completely innocent in and of themselves. For instance, the first verse into the pre-chorus reads a lot like Taylor is dissing the addressee, first as someone who, most simply put, has self-control issues and secondly as not having a fully-matured mind. But the actual chorus alters her stance, from one of pity and empathy to sympathy. 

Put otherwise, despite the addressee’s flaws, the vocalist still looks up to him. Or taking this as a message from Swift to West, it’s as if she’s saying that even though he shot himself in the foot interrupting her at the VMAs, she remains a fan of his artistry nonetheless.

“It’s alright, just wait and see
Your string of lights are still bright to me, oh
Who you are is not where you’ve been
You’re still an innocent
You’re still an innocent”

Meanwhile the second verse, especially when taken in conjunction with the bridge that comes a few passages later, possesses what can be interpreted as more of a general applicability. And what the latter part of the song is premised on is the fact that not only have we all done things we’ve become ashamed of but furthermore have the tendency to commit those acts again regardless. 

So in relation to Kanye, it can be taken that Taylor is implying that he’s not a bad person but rather addicted to showing off, in a manner of speaking. But going back to the general applicability of this piece, as put forth in the bridge it would be Swift encouraging us listeners to turn a new leaf. Simply put, bad habits can be conquered.

But before closing out, Taylor makes what can be taken as the only direct reference to Kanye, so to speak, when she refers to the addressee as being “32 and still growing up”. So as with the pre-choruses, she is once again implying that he has maturity issues. 

Perhaps that is why Swift proceeded to defend him as “innocent”, i.e. being under the impression that West was childlike. And indeed, the way he jumped up there to advocate Beyoncé without fully considering consequences thereof was sorta like a little kid defending his big sister, if you will, against what he perceived as an injustice.

But more to the overall point is that, as Taylor conclusively puts it, “it’s never too late to” regain “your balance”. Or as another, more popular adage states, where there’s life there’s hope, meaning that a person can always change for the better.

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