Taylor Swift’s new song “Only the Young” speaks to the fear around school shootings—listen here
Taylor Swift’s much-anticipated Netflix documentary Miss Americana premieres today, January 31st. With it, Swift is debuting “Only the Young,” a powerful song reflecting her fears about the rash of school shootings in America, and the state of the political landscape generally.
Swift told Variety that she wrote the song in the wake of the 2018 midterm elections, which “dashed the hopes” of so many young people (including herself) who put their faith behind leaders whom they believed could change things for the better.
“It was hard to see so many people feel like they had canvassed and done everything and tried so hard, she said. “I saw a lot of young people’s hopes dashed. And I found that to be particularly tragic, because young people are the people who feel the worst effects of gun violence, and student loans and trying to figure out how to start their lives and how to pay their bills, and climate change, and are we going to war—all these horrific situations that we find ourselves facing right now.
Recently, Swift hasn’t exactly been a wallflower when it comes to speaking out about difficult issues. For instance, she’s been incredibly vocal about her ongoing legal battle with former manager Scooter Braun, whom she accused of “bullying” when he purchased the rights to her masters. She only entered political activism recently when, for the first time ever, she publicly endorsed two Democratic candidates (Phil Bredesen and Congressman Jim Cooper) in the 2018 midterm elections.
But Swift hasn’t yet channeled her candor into a song as distinctly political as “Only the Young,” which absolutely refuses to sugarcoat.
Right off the bat, the opening verse recounts the horror and confusion so many people experienced upon learning the results of recent elections: “You did all that you could do / The game was rigged, the ref got tricked / The wrong ones think they’re right / You were outnumbered—this time.”
Then the song moves on to speak directly to one, particularly “horrific situation.” Written from the perspective of a fearful student and backed by a children’s choir, in the song’s second verse Swift sings:
“So every day now / You brace for the sound / You've only heard on TV / You go to class, scared / Wondering where the best hiding spot would be.
But the pre-chorus morphs into a rallying cry, urging everyone who feels defeated (*raises our hands*) to continue to fight for what we believe in—because no one’s gonna do it for us.
“They aren’t gonna help us / Too busy helping themselves / They aren’t gonna change this / We gotta do it ourselves / They think that it’s over / But it’s just begun.”
Ultimately, Swift ends on something of a hopeful note, placing her belief in younger generations to effect the change so many of us desperately need to see in this country: “Don’t say you’re too tired to fight,” she sings. “It’s just a matter of time / Up there’s the finish line.”
You can watch the lyric video to “Only the Young” on YouTube or listen to it on streaming platforms (or in the documentary, which we’ll be doing ASAP). We’re so curious to see how Swift will continue to leverage her newfound political platform.