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Who Is Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” About?

Who Is Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” About?

I Knew You Were Trouble is a chaotic tune that recounts feelings of frustration and shame from making the same mistake twice. 

We all know songwriters create from their hearts. So who was on Taylor Swift’s mind when she wrote the lyrics?

We’ve got the answer and a little more information about the hit.

Let’s dig in!

Who Originally Wrote I Knew You Were Trouble?

Taylor Swift wrote and co-produced all of the songs on her first three albums. But always working in the country hotbed of Nashville, she wanted to try other styles. So on this album, she collaborated with outside producer/writers Martin and Shellback.

Taylor Swift

Named after James Taylor, Taylor Alison Swift was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on December 13, 1989. After gaining an interest in musical theater at nine, she learned to play guitar when she was 12. The songs of Shania Twain and Faith Hill led to her interest in country music. At 14, her stockbroker father transferred to Tennesee to help with her career.

Illustration of Taylor Swift playing her guitar as if singing I Knew You Were Trouble.

Swift is known as one of the greatest songwriters of all time. She’s also considered the best of her generation. The list of awards she’s won is extensive, including such honors as 11 Grammy Awards, 34 Emmy Awards, and 58 Guinness World Records. In addition, Taylor has amassed over 50 million album sales and 150 million singles sales.

Max Martin

Born Karl Martin Sandberg on 26 February 1971, he’s known professionally as Max Martin. Hailing from Stockholm, Sweden, Max is a record producer, songwriter, and retired singer.

Gaining prominence in the late 1990s, he produced a string of hits for Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and NSYNC, to name a few. Only Paul McCartney and John Lennon have written more #1 singles. Additionally, he’s tied at 25 with George Martin for the most #1 songs as a producer.


Karl Johan Schuster was born in February 1985 and raised in Karlshamn, Sweden. Starting as a drummer in local bands at 19, he joined the hardcore-metal group Blinded Colony. This collaboration resulted in two albums. 

He met Max Martin through a mutual friend at 16. By that time, his taste in music was “too cool for school,” and his interest in pop music was nil. But ultimately, Martin convinced him to try his hand at pop music.

Along with Martin, he has written songs for Pink and Brittany Spears.

So Who Is I Knew You Were Trouble About?

Taylor Swift is known to write songs from personal experience. Some of these have been about relationships with famous people, and this one is no exception.

Knowing from the start that she was making a mistake, she began a relationship with former One Direction singer Harry Styles. After seeing photos of Styles in New Zealand kissing model Emma Ostilly, Swift penned the idea for I Knew You Were Trouble.

There were rumors the song was about Swift’s tumultuous split with John Mayer. However, at the 2013 MTV VMA’s, Taylor performed the song with Styles in attendance. When asked how she felt about that, she quipped, “Well, 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.”

What Was the Creative Process for I Knew You Were Trouble?

Attracted to his talent for writing a great chorus, Swift went to Los Angeles to meet with Max Martin. He and Shellback produced and co-wrote three songs for the Red album with Swift, including I Knew You Were Trouble. The recording took place in Stockholm, Sweden.

Swift says that collaborating with Martin and Shellback sent her ideas in new directions and challenged her as a songwriter. Swift co-wrote the lyrics with Martin and Shellback while the producer duo played all the instruments on the track.

The song was intended to be a slow ballad. However, the DJ and dubstep influences on I Knew You Were Trouble are a major departure from Swift’s early country-pop offerings.

This change exposed Swift to a more expansive audience and lifted her career to another level. Additionally, it created a broader appeal for both the DJ and dubstep genres.

I Knew You Were Trouble was #1 on the US charts for seven weeks and certified as a platinum recording seven times.

There have been over 35 covers of I Knew You Were Trouble. At least ten of these versions have been acapella. Artists include Future Idiots, What’s on Tap, and The Animal In Me.

Let’s take a look at the most popular versions.

Punk Goes Pop

Punk Goes is a series of albums where punk rock bands cover songs from other genres. They have released 19 albums. The genres include metal, crunk, acoustic, the 80s, 90s, and even Christmas tunes. 

Of these, there are seven volumes of Punk Goes Pop. I Knew You Were Trouble appears on volume six. The metal-core band, We Came As Romans performed it. The band has recorded five studio albums and two EPs since 2008.

Post Modern Jukebox

Founded by arranger and pianist Scott Bradlee, Postmodern Jukebox is a rotating musical collective known for recording versions of popular music into different genres. The songs are mainly swing and jazz.

They started as a small group of friends making music in a basement in Queens, New York. Now, the ensemble continues to tour on six continents and includes 70 different performers.

Postmodern Jukebox releases a new video weekly on YouTube. The band has covered songs by artists ranging from Lady Gaga to the White Stripes. 


A female R&B singer from London, U.K., Clash Magazine describes Eckoes as a multi-dimensional artistic entity. The singer loves artists like James Blake and SOHN and the experimental Electronic music they create that’s beautiful yet unpredictable. Additionally, she relies on her old-school R&B core in the style of Missy Elliott.

Accompanied by electric piano, her version of I Knew You Were Trouble gives a witchy new twist to the song. You can find her music on Soundcloud.

Why Does Taylor Swift Put 13 on Her Hand?

Taylor is superstitious and draws the number 13 on her hand. It’s not a permanent tattoo, but it has substantial meaning in her life for several reasons.

Though widely known as an unlucky number, for Swift, 13 is her lucky number. Its significance includes that she was born on the 13th and turned 13 on Friday the 13th. Her first album went gold in 13 weeks, and her first #1 song had a 13-second intro. 

But the coincidences don’t stop there. Every time she’s won an award, her seat was in either the 13th seat, the 13th row, the 13th section, or row M, which is the 13th letter.

What is Taylor Swift Doing Now?

Taylor signed a new deal with Republic Records in 2018. So far, she has re-recorded two albums for the label. Dating Joe Alwyn since 2016, the couple kept their relationship private. However, we know that two of her Folklore songs, and three from Evermore, were composed jointly with Alwyn.

She’s also an actress with a cameo in the new David O. Russell film, Amsterdam. Additionally, Swift is a philanthropist with an interest in politics and activism. Her charitable donations include disaster relief and music education.

Swift has even helped some of her fans with hospital bills.

Why Is Taylor Swift Re-Recording Her Songs?

The idea to re-record her previous albums is more about changing her business than changing the music. The move to a new label gives Swift more freedom. Updating her contract terms allows her to manage the means, production, and distribution of her art.

She started in 2005 as a young blond country singer with a guitar. When her contract expired in 2018, she switched labels to Universal’s Republic Records. Her previous record company owns the original recordings of her first six albums. In her new contract, Swift secured ownership of her future work. This autonomy is a great thing for any music artist.

Taylor Kicks Trouble to the Curb

From our perspective, trouble only seems to be a relationship issue for Taylor. For the most part, her life has been a fairy tale of success.

In addition to a laser focus on her career, she has made all the changes to her personal life that would make a song like I Knew You Were Trouble obsolete. Ultimately, Taylor Swift is one of the most successful performers in the world and consistently gives back to her community. 

Her music has always been relatable through the personal nature of her songs, so it’s no surprise that fans resonate with her. 

What’s your favorite Taylor Swift song? Let us know in the comments!