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Goo All Over Me: Dirty Metaphors from the Vault


The Basics

In You All Over Me, Taylor Swift compares a past relationship to dirt that she cannot remove. Even though the relationship has been over for a while, “no amount of freedom gets you clean / I’ve still got you all over me.”


Literary Device: Metaphors and Similes

The first verse of You All Over Me contains an abundance of figurative language, with alternating metaphors and similes. The song opens with “Once the last drop of rain has dried off the pavement / Shouldn’t I find a stain, but I never do.” In this metaphor, Taylor Swift compares a hypothetical version of herself to pavement. She is expecting that there will be some residue left on the pavement after a traumatic storm (her breakup) but is surprised to find that it is clean.


In the simile that follows immediately afterwards, Swift explores a relationship that did not end so cleanly: “The way the tires turn stones, on old county roads / They leave ‘em muddy underneath / Reminds me of you.” Unlike the rain storm that did not have a lasting impact on the pavement, these tires reconfigured the road, physically moving and muddying the individual stones. Taylor Swift is the road and she is jumbled around and dirtied by her boyfriend.


In a second metaphor, Swift compares herself to a stall in an old public bathroom (bleak!) “You find graffiti on the walls of old bathroom stalls / You know, you can scratch it right off.” Unlike the pavement after a storm, the bathroom stall is left dirty by the graffiti that has been carved into it. However, with some effort, the graffiti can be scratched off. The bathroom stall isn’t left clean, but the offensive graffiti has been removed and replaced with a scratch. In this scenario, Swift will be forever altered by this relationship, but at least she can convert it into the equivalent of a small scratch rather than the exact wound that her boyfriend left. Maybe someday she’ll even paint over it!


Finally, Swift writes, “But like the dollar in your pocket, it’s been spent and traded in / You can’t change where it’s been / Reminds me of me.” In this instance, Swift compares herself to dirty old money coated in the grime of repeated transactional use and then shoved unceremoniously into a pocket.*


Analysis

Taylor Swift paints an increasingly grim series of portraits of herself after a relationship: she is the pavement, muddy stones, a bathroom stall, and a dirty dollar bill, dirtied and/or altered by her relationship. Swift uses the two metaphors as fantasy – she grasps for a framework to understand her relationship as either not having caused permanent damage or having caused damage that can be mitigated with some effort, a theme she will explore to great effect in her masterpiece Clean. In contrast, Swift uses the two similes to represent her actual scenario, making the comparison explicit with the phrases “reminds me of you” and “reminds me of me.” These scenarios are irreversible and reflected in the overarching metaphor “No amount of freedom gets you clean / I’ve still got you all over me.”



*See Tied Together with a Smile for a similar figure


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