Well, it’s true: There’s a “Better Than Revenge” lyric change on Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).
The 2010 song is one of the most controversial of Swift’s career, with lyrics that people have called “slut-shaming” for years. As the song has aged, however, it’s also developed a culty appreciation, the kind of song you scream-sing at karaoke with a winking admission that it’s kind of fucked up. (See also: Paramore’s “Misery Business.”) Of course the song is petty with some low blows to its subject, but Swift was also writing from the raw emotional minefield of teenagehood.
“I was 18 when I wrote that,” she told The Guardian back in 2014. “That’s the age you are when you think someone can actually take your boyfriend. Then you grow up and realize no one take someone from you if they don’t want to leave.” In 2015, Hayley Williams of Paramore would echo Swift’s 2014 words about her own “antifeminist” song. “Those words were written when I was 17…admittedly, from a very narrow-minded perspective,” Williams wrote. “It wasn’t really meant to be this big philosophical statement about anything. It was quite literally a page in my diary about a singular moment I experienced as a high schooler…and that’s the funny part about growing up in a band with any degree of success. People still have my diary. The past and the present. All the good and bad and embarrassing of it!”
It turns out growing up, for Swift, can mean rewriting the past. The song as a whole is more or less in tact; it’s still a sharp-edged callout of a woman who “stole” her boyfriend, with cutting asides about her snooty vintage dresses and pseudo sophistication. But gone is the most oft-criticized line: “She’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress.”
In its place is a softened admonition: “He was a moth to the flame, she was holding the matches,” Swift sings on “Better Than Revenge (Taylor’s Version).”