Taylor Swift – I Knew You Were Trouble (IKYWT) | Lyrics Meaning & Song Review

One could argue that Taylor Swift’s fourth studio album ‘Red’ is possibly one of her best and most popular works to-date. There are certainly a handful of songs from the album that would stand witness to this statement. One such prominent track from the album, and her entire catalog, is “I Knew You Were Trouble” often shortened as ‘IKYWT.’ The catchy and upbeat lyrics pushed this song to be a commercial success and a frequent act during live performances.

“I Knew You Were Trouble” was released as the third promotional single from Taylor Swift’s fourth studio album ‘Red,’ on November 27, 2012. The song was written by Max Martin, Shellback, and Taylor Swift herself.

In the first week of release, “I knew You Were Trouble” sold over 416,000 copies, and debuted at #3 on Billboard Hot 100. This made Taylor Swift the first artist to have two singles selling over 400,000 copies in the opening week. The other song is “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” also from the ‘Red’ album. By January 2013, ‘IKYWT’ was triple-platinum certified by RIAA. As of now, the song has sold over 7 million copies in the USA, and over 1.2 million copies in the UK.

Taylor Swift spoke about “I Knew You Were Trouble” as being inspired by her personal life. She talked about the song in an interview with MTV; “[the song is] about like knowing the second you see someone like, ‘Oh, this is going to be interesting. It’s going to be dangerous but look at me going in there anyway. I think that for me, it was the first time I ever kind of noticed that in myself, like when you are curious about something you know might be bad for you, but you know that you are going to go for it anyway because if you don’t, you’ll have greater regrets about not seeing where that would go.”

Watch “I Knew You Were Trouble” Music Video by Taylor Swift


Download ‘Red’ Album on Apple Music & Amazon


“I Knew You Were Trouble” Lyrics Meaning and Song Review

The song, as the title suggests, is about a relationship that was not meant to be. And the singer knew this from the start, but still went ahead with it for the possible regrets of not giving it a chance at all.

In the first verse of the song, Taylor Swift describes how she met the guy in the subject of the song. Taylor Swift is known to have a ‘long list of ex-lovers’ and she does not hide the fact in this song either; “Once upon a time, a few mistakes ago.” This lyric suggests that Taylor has been on to a few more ‘troublesome’ relationships since what she sings about in this song. The two of them met in the most abrupt ways and she fell for him instantly.

And as is the case with most ‘instant’ ups, the downs are instant too. Her lover took a step back from their journey, and not with her. She realizes that he is “long gone” even when he is right next to her. This is when she decides to evaluate her decision-making!

Taylor Swift realizes that no one else is to blame for this failed romance. She had more than just a hunch that this relationship was going to go down in flames even before she made a commitment to it. So, she places the blame on her for jumping in for all the wrong reasons.

Watch Taylor Perform ‘IKYWT’ Live in 2019

In the second verse of the song, Taylor Swift hints at why this relationship failed eventually. She heard through the grapevine that this guy has already moved on to newer prospects, and prospects being girls. When she tried to confront him about this, he plays the denial card which only makes the situation worse. Now he is not just a cheater, but a liar too.

In the bridge of the song, Taylor Swift sings that this guy was incapable of commitment and possibly love too. She realizes that he keeps on moving from heart to heart, breaking them. Most likely than not, she did see all of these red flags before she got into a relationship with him. But she did anyway. She had a glimmer of hope that this time would be different. Hope is a dangerous thing!

Who is “I Knew You Were Trouble About”?

Since Taylor Swift confessed that the song is based on her personal experience, there have been many different theories as to who the song is about.

The most famous assumption is that “I Knew You Were Trouble” is about the former OneDirection star Harry Styles. The two were supposed to have had a “fling” in April 2012 which lead to the inspiration behind the song. Taylor Swift seemingly confirmed this link when she said “It’s not hard to access that emotion when the person the song is directed at is standing by the side of the stage watching” about her 2013 BRIT Awards performance of “I Knew You Were Trouble,” and was attended by Harry Styles as well. Watch the live performance below.

Other, not so popular, speculations are of Taylor Swift’s previous boyfriends John Mayer (December 2009-February 2010), and Jake Gyllenhaal (October 2010-January 2011).

Keeping aside the real-life inspiration for “I Knew You Were Trouble,” the song has been a massive success among fans and critics alike. If these boys wasted her time, why not make a song about them and rake in a few million dollars as compensation?!

Let us hear what you think about this song in the comments below. Check out the complete lyrics and further meaning breakdown on Genius.

Adam McDonald

Hi! I am the founder and lead author and editor of Justrandomthings music community. A vast range of personal interests from Hip-Hop to Country to Hard Rock and Punk music will keep you entertained.

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