Would’ve Could’ve Should’ve

This song is the more truthful version of Dear John. Now that she can see things clearly from an older perspective, we get more of a ruthless, honest take from her. Something that I think is absolutely fascinating is the idea that would’ve could’ve are in the verses of this song but should’ve is not. Should’ve is in the song of Dear John, but not in this song besides one time in the chorus.

The girl in the dress, cried the whole way home, I should’ve known

The girl in the dress wrote you a song
You should’ve known, you should’ve known
Don’t you think I was too young? You should’ve known

-Dear John

So basically, there are no more should’ves with this perspective. She would have and could have done something different if she saw the signs, but she’s not gaslit any more – she didn’t have to do anything differently because he shouldn’t have put her in that situation.

Lyrical Interpretation

If you would’ve blinked then I would’ve
Looked away at the first glance

If you would have made a mistake, I would have walked away. If you didn’t pretend that you saw me, when I was relatively new in this industry, I would have walked away. But you saw me, and that was all I ever wanted.

If you tasted poison, you could’ve
Spit me out at the first chance

you could’ve spit me out. I think this is so important. You could have walked away, but you didn’t You should have walked away if you knew this wasn’t a fit. If you thought I wasn’t good enough you could’ve walked away, found someone more fitting, not make me feel less than your expectations.

If I was some paint, did it splatter
On a promising grown man?

Paint splattering on a canvas already promised for a future- an artwork already established getting paint thrown on it, ruins the artwork. Did she ruin a future for a grown man? Did his actions cause him regret and a future once the truth came out? Or better worded, did he make choices that ruined his own image because he involved himself with someone he had no right doing so.

And if I was a child, did it matter
If you got to wash your hands?

Even if she was too young – did he get to wash his hands and walk away like it never happened? Or did the crimson stain him red? Forever. I also think about the idea of helping a child wash their hands. Children don’t wash their hands properly on their own – if at all. So I feel like this is a way to say he got to wash his hands but she didn’t, or he didn’t help her. He left her to defend herself [from bacteria, which was him? or the public eye].

Ooh, oh
All I used to do was pray

This song has many references to her religious past. Echoes of religion being tainted because of her experiences. All I used to do was pray, for happiness, for love, for this to work. But praying wasn’t good enough.

Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve
If you’d never looked my way

I would have, could have, should have continued to stay on my knees instead of getting up, looking with you and dancing with the devil at 19. But you distracted me. Like a siren. This is the only time she says should’ve in the song – to me this is saying this is the part she takes responsibility for. I am responsible for getting distracted and walking away from what I knew.

I would’ve stayed on my knees
And I damn sure never would’ve danced with the devil
At nineteen

I think this is interesting because in Dear Reader she references when you shoot at the devil, make sure you don’t miss. Which is the song after this on the album. She regrets dancing with the devil and if Dear Reader is an indication of the truth, then she shot at him and did miss.

And the God’s honest truth is that the pain was heaven

The pain made me feel alive. The pain made me forget who I was. The relationship was like an addiction because at first, it was everything I ever wanted. Maybe walking away from what she knew felt freeing, but it was like an addiction.

And now that I’m grown, I’m scared of ghosts

Hey Anti-Hero.

Memories feel like weapons

I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about my trauma – similar to Maroon. Memories trigger me – how I was wronged make its way into my current relationships. I wake up thinking about my past mistakes, my heart aches, the things I should have done differently if given the chance.

And now that I know, I wish you’d left me wondering

Why didn’t you just leave me alone?

If you never touched me, I would’ve
Gone along with the righteous

Another religion reference. I would have stayed ‘pure,’ untainted, and carried on as naive as I was.

If I never blushed, then they could’ve
Never whispered about this

For the first few years in fame, Taylor did have to learn how to protect her privacy – which at first didn’t do very well. People found out who she was dating, or interested in. She was very naive at first, as we all would be. She references and discusses this a lot in Miss Americana. Even within the topic of politics she kept herself quiet in fear of being rejected and torn apart. The moment she blushes, is the moment the tabloids and fans talk. But she has been quoted that even if she talks to someone for a second people will theorize that she’s been in a relationship with them or its a loaded conversation, when in fact it was just a friendly 2 minute interaction.

And if you never saved me from boredom
I could’ve gone on as I was

This is an interesting line to me, because she references religion in the beginning and then her boredom within her old life. She is basically saying he was a thrill – dancing with the devil was tempting, fun, but caused her a lot. Again – an addiction and freedom from the boxed idea she thought she had to be.

But, Lord, you made me feel important
And then you tried to erase us

You made me feel things I had desired – things I hadn’t felt – and I was so excited you saw me, but then you burned me and acted like it never happened. Especially with his name being so bright and her wanting to be that, as well as looking up to him, I’m sure this felt surreal.

I just finished a book titled “Grown,” and there is this gaslighting, and grooming that occurs to a young girl who badly just wants to be a singer. I found a lot of crossovers in this book as well as this song.

Ooh, oh
You’re a crisis of my faith
Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve
If I’d only played it safe

Your the ending of my faith – but not just in religion, in love, in relationships, and after this I had a hard time trusting, loving, accepting people in my life

Again, she is taking responsibility on this one – I should have played it safe.

God rest my soul, I miss who I used to be

Ironically she states God, after the last line.
I miss who I was, naive, trusting –

But interesting that during the time she wanted to break free from who she was, and now looking back she misses the naivety and the trustful person she once was.

The tomb won’t close, stained glass windows in my mind

The tomb won’t close – another Jesus reference – the tomb closes and a miracle happens, but the miracle can’t happen if the tomb is open.
Stained glass windows are pretty opaque, leaving no room for real light to enter. Light enters but it’s filtered and leaves the space still pretty dimly lit.

Also a side note is that John Mayer lived in an apartment with stained glass windows. So I think about trauma, PTSD, things seen during times of crises that replay in our mind.

John Mayer’s old apartment

I regret you all the time

I can’t let this go, I fight with you in my sleep

Fight with memories, nightmares that wake me up – keep my midnights as daydreams.

The wound won’t close, I keep on waiting for a sign
I regret you all the time

If clarity’s in death, then why won’t this die?

My old self died, but your memory keeps it alive – This is something that haunts me, creeps its way into my current relationships – stays alive in my nightmares

Years of tearing down our banners, you and I

I’ve spent years trashing your name in my mind, overriding your existence with others and new experiences, yet you still exist in my mind

Interesting she has this recurring reference of banners. Even in The Great War – she mentions taking down the banners and going underground – as if there are banners constantly in her mind as she is in a relationship that are unavoidable

Living for the thrill of hitting you where it hurts

Living for revenge, seeking your pain, writing coded songs to get at you just for what you did, attempting for you to hurt from my words, my fame, my success.

Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first

This line murders me. Especially the way she sings it. My girlhood could be taken in many ways. People read this as her ‘virginity’ but that would contradict the Red album and I bet you think about me, part that she included with the cherry that she did to play with the fanbase.

I personally read it as innocence, trust in others, and a situation that made her grow up far faster than she was ready for. She was 19-20, she didn’t need to become an adult with complex issues [more than she had], but she had to face many adult situations soon.

God rest my soul, I miss who I used to be
The tomb won’t close, stained glass windows in my mind
I regret you all the time
I can’t let this go, I fight with you in my sleep
The wound won’t close, I keep on waiting for a sign
I regret you all the time
Oh, God rest my soul, I miss who I used to be
The tomb won’t close, stained glass windows in my mind
I regret you all the time
I can’t let this go, I fight with you in my sleep
The wound won’t close, I keep on waiting for a sign
I regret you all the time

So typically once I cover a few lines in the chorus I don’t address them again, but the important part in this is HOW MANY TIMES she states I regret you all the time in a row in this closing chorus.

Image Representation

I’ve been thinking about this image a lot. Ideally I wanted to do this in a church but didn’t have access, however my best friend has stained glass windows in her home so I colored a flashlight and shined it from the outside. I was thinking about the ideas of false Gods, false lights. Things that we think are guiding us while actually destroying us. The idea of stained glass windows, which allow light but not the truth of the external scene is interesting to me. A person that portrays light, guidance, and seems like something good for us to be near, but really is full of deception, only specific colors and light they want us to see, while being darker when the night comes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.
%d bloggers like this: