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Lyrics with Liv: Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me? - A Lyrical Analysis

By Olivia Sukari



Intro:

Hey everyone! Welcome to the second article in my Lyrics with Liv series! Today we’re analysing the song “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” by Taylor Swift from her most recent album “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT” or “TTPD” (for short). This will include both genuine annotations and unserious comments. All annotations will be in italics and bold. Enjoy!


Analysis:

The who's who of "Who's that?" is poised for the attack

But my bare hands paved their paths


You don't get to tell me about sad 

- female rage>>>


If you wanted me dead, you should've just said

Nothing makes me feel more alive 

- I feel like this was both an iconic line but also a reference to “Honey I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time” and “‘cause she’s dead” in her song “Look What You Made Me Do”. Whether this is a hint towards “reputation (Taylor’s Version)” or just a nod to the song to show the energy of this one, we’ll never know.


So I leap from the gallows and I levitate down your street 

- “gallows” are structures that used to be used for hanging. There are famous gallows on “Gallows Hill” in Salem, where it was believed multiple innocent people were hanged during the Salem witch trials. This line could be a nod to both “They’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one” in her song “I Did Something Bad” and “When it’s ‘burn the *****’ they’re shrieking” in her song “Cassandra”.


Crash the party like a record scratch as I scream

"Who's afraid of little old me?" 

- some people theorise this to be a reference to a movie called “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” which stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. She has mentioned this duo previously in “He can be my jailor, Burton to this Taylor” in her song “...Ready For It?”


You should be 

- THIS WAS INSANE


The scandal was contained

The bullet had just grazed


At all costs, keep your good name 

- yet another nod to her “reputation” era, when all her hard work of being seen as “good” came crashing down.


You don't get to tell me you feel bad 


Is it a wonder I broke? Let's hear one more joke 

- a parallel lyric to “The jokes weren’t funny” in her song “You’re On Your Own, Kid”.


Then we could all just laugh until I cry

- this lyric has a double meaning. Usually “laughing till you cry” means to laugh so hard you form tears, but in her case she’s referring to real tears, caused by the jokes, covered up by a laugh.


So I leap from the gallows and I levitate down your street

Crash the party like a record scratch as I scream

"Who's afraid of little old me?"


I was tame, I was gentle 'til the circus life made me mean 

- this has multiple meanings. Starting with a reference to “When they called off the circus, burned the disco down. // When they sent home the horses and the rodeo clowns.” in her song “this is me trying”. Another reference is to her “Red” tour which was circus-themed. This could link to the idea that the industry is a circus where she is put on display and exploited, making her bitter.


"Don't you worry, folks, we took out all her teeth" 

- ouch.


Who's afraid of little old me?

Well, you should be

You should be

(You should be) You should be

You should be (you should be)

You should be (you should be)

You should be


So tell me everything is not about me

But what if it is? 

- she’s so me core


Then say they didn't do it to hurt me

But what if they did?


I wanna snarl and show you just how disturbed this has made me 

- for some reason, this line really gets to me because it shows the level of anger that is almost animalistic and the way that the industry has made her “disturbed” pushes that idea even further.


You wouldn't last an hour in the asylum where they raised me 

- SO. MANY. THINGS. TO. SAY. First of all, a reference to a timetable promotional video (link here: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/RlDSGLHcZy0 ) where the “camera” moves down a hallway to get to the Tortured Poets Department, but the hallway looks like a hospital or a psych ward. This is furthered in her Fortnight (ft. Post Malone) music video (link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3zqJs7JUCQ ) where she is seen in an asylum of sorts, and is given medication. The asylum mentioned in this line could be referring to the industry itself, telling people that being in her position isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and is very physically, mentally and emotionally demanding and draining. The idea of the industry being an asylum gives the impression that the people inside it are insane or in a negative place they can’t escape. It also encapsulates the idea that the industry drove her insane, or that the media paints a picture of her being insane.


So all you kids can sneak into my house with all the cobwebs


I'm always drunk on my own tears, isn't that what they all said? 

- a reference to the stereotype that she and so many other women have received of being too emotional to make rational decisions.


That I'll sue you if you step on my lawn


That I'm fearsome and I'm wretched and I'm wrong 

- the way she sings this line scratches an itch in my brain.


Putting narcotics into all of my songs

And that's why you're still singing along 

- she references the many (completely insane) theories that people have made about her putting some kind of d*monic or subliminal sound in her songs to make them addictive (they’re just mad her songs are stuck in their heads).


So I leap from the gallows and I levitate down your street

Crash the party like a record scratch as I scream

"Who's afraid of little old me?"

I was tame, I was gentle 'til the circus life made me mean

"Don't you worry, folks, we took out all her teeth"

Who's afraid of little old me?

Well, you should be

You should be

(You should be) You should be


'Cause you lured me (you should be)

And you hurt me (you should be)

And you taught me 

- this causes me severe emotional and physical pain. I just wanna hug her.


You caged me and then you called me crazy 

- a reference to “they told me all of my cages were mental” in her song “this is me trying”. This could also mean that she was trapped or manipulated (*cough* Kanye cough) and then accused of being crazy.


I am what I am 'cause you trained me 

- the industry trained her to be “little miss perfect”


So who's afraid of me?

Who's afraid of little old me?

Who's afraid of little old me?

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2 Comments


Guest
May 29

I know ur sister Olivia Sukari. She goes to Prouille.

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Guest
May 29

Well done Liv!

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