Exploring commitment anxiety in Big Red Machine and Taylor Swift’s ‘Renegade’

Analysing how the lyrisicm of 'Renegade' communicates messages relating to modern-day dating culture.

Exploring commitment anxiety in Big Red Machine and Taylor Swift’s ‘Renegade’

We live in a world filled with dating apps, yet few legitimately genuine-feeling people to date. A world where many are looking for love but going about it in all the wrong ways. According to current statistics, one out of every two marriages will end in divorce, and approximately 10.3% of adults [online] between the ages of 16 and 64 agree to engage with dating and friendship-based apps frequently. 

10.3% may seem small, but considering the Earth’s population and how much 10% of the digitally-literate world amounts to, that’s a lot. It is no secret to most young people within the contemporary world that dating apps, likewise to the false filtered world of social media, can cultivate toxic environments and negative attachments. And who better to explore such negativities with than renowned ex-heartbreak-anthem-songstress Taylor Swift?

Released in 2021 as a collaboration with the group Big Red Machine, Renegade undoubtedly is a piece which aims to communicate something profound - a profound message that I interpret to be relating to the toxicity of dating culture and commitment anxiety. Honestly, with divorce figures that high, gaslighting more common than people eating fruit and lies falling from tongues far too easily, holding anxieties about committing to somebody is understandable. But do people realise how unhealthy and prominent these anxieties can be once hearing them sung?

‘I tapped on your window on your darkest night / The shape of you was jagged and weak’.

How many readers will admit to turning into a detective when they like someone? To indulge in late-night sessions that comb through their interest’s social media pages, looking for potential red flags, exes or “competition”? Are you ‘tapping on their window’ in a virtual sense, hoping to tune into their world yet doing it in a stalker-esque sense as opposed to just talking to them? If we’re being open, most people do this. Is it a healthy habit? No. But do we do it anyway? Yes.

‘There was nowhere for me to stay / But I stayed anyway’.

Imagine being really into someone but simultaneously knowing that this person isn’t for you. There is nowhere for you in that person - no place within them that feels like home. However, you stay anyway due to your anxieties. Anxieties of not wanting to be alone, being afraid of change, or being afraid to commit to yourself. Commitment anxieties don’t just exist concerning connections with others but also regarding connecting and committing to ourselves and what we know is good for us.

‘And if I would’ve known / How many pieces you had crumbled into / I might’ve let them lay’.

This line could be referring to the way dating today holds a largely temporary feeling. When something begins to go wrong or ‘crumble’, many people are ready to leave instead of addressing the problem. When we see cracks, we think of broken beyond repair and imperfect as opposed to a potential space to communicate and grow.

Alternatively, these lyrics could be interpreted as an ode to people being unhealed and getting into new relationships too soon. If someone is highly ‘crumbled’ and needs time to heal, there is nothing wrong with taking that time. But for the other individual trying to date them, they may feel as though it would have been better to leave that person be.

‘Is it really your anxiety / That stops you from giving me everything? / Or do you just not want to?’

With the rise of commitment anxiety, it can be difficult to know whether somebody in a dating context is just nervous about something new and making something official or whether a person isn’t interested. So, ultimately, the best thing anybody can do is simply communicate. If you feel nervous about committing but care for someone, say so. Explain why you are feeling the ways you’re feeling, and remember that you are not alone.

Being worried about commitment is a feeling that most people on Earth must have felt at some point - including Taylor Swift herself! However, I do believe that the volume of people (being most people) who feel these anxieties should be seen as a cause for concern as well as one of sadness. It’s sad that we live in a world where people are so afraid of getting hurt by one another - sad to the point that writing therapeutic songs about it is a necessary avenue of expression.

Header Image Credit: Sarah Freemind


Ciéra Cree

Ciéra Cree Contributor

Ciéra Cree is a 22-year-old Media/Magazine Journalism student with a passion for creativity. She has undertaken many creative endeavours including becoming a Poet Laureate, being highly commended by The Royal Society of Literature and solo-running a publication (The Ruskin Journal). As someone philosophically minded, Ciéra enjoys the abstract and interpreting deeper meanings from works.

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