Reviewing music, it’s easy to skip straight to the liner notes and judge the material strictly based on the names behind the songs without even listening to them.
Little Big Town didn’t let that happen with “Better Man,” the lead single from their upcoming album The Breaker (out Feb. 24).
When they released the song on Oct. 20, they decided to wait at least two weeks for fans to live with the song before revealing that it was a Taylor Swift original.
“We played it for her after we finished it, and she was really excited,” the band’s Karen Fairchild said in a recent radio interview. “We said, ‘Hey, you know we’re not just gonna blab this that you wrote this immediately.’ She said, ‘You know what? That’s the greatest honor as a songwriter you could ever give me is that you don’t want anybody to know that I wrote this.’”
Fairchild adds it was challenging keeping the author information under wraps.
“It was a hard question to dodge for a while,” Fairchild admitted. “The only reason why we didn’t say is because we wanted you to hear the song for what it’s worth, and it’s a beautiful song. And at her heart, she is the biggest pop star in the world, but she’s a songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee, and she likes to tell a story, and we didn’t want you to have any subtext there, other than to hear this song.”
Sounding nothing like the popular mid-nineties Pearl Jam anthem of the same title, Little Big Town’s “Better Man” has the lead character longing to forget the good times in a previous relationship and losing sleep over wondering if the love would have lasted if it wasn’t so dysfunctional.
The first verse cuts straight to the chase: “I know I’m probably better off on my own/Than loving a man who didn’t know what he had when he had it/And I see the permanent damage you did to me/Never again, I just wish I could forget when it was magic.”
But in the second verse, the lead ultimately knows that moving on was the right thing to do. No one should settle for a love that’s anything less than what they rightfully deserve.
Fairchild sings, “I wish it wasn’t 4 a.m., standing in the mirror/Saying to myself, you know you had to do it/I know the bravest thing I ever did was run.”
The sentiment is driven home with Swift’s clever use of the idiom “like the back of my hand,” which means to have a very good detailed knowledge of something.
In the chorus, the band sings, “And I know why we had to say goodbye like the back of my hand/And I just miss you and I just wish you were a better man.”
The “Better Man” release fell on the same week as the 10th anniversary of the release of Swift’s self-titled debut album, which landed on Oct. 26, 2006, when she was 16 years old. She wrote and co-wrote every song on the 11-track collection and since then, the album has sold more than 5 million copies.
An all-new episode of CMT Hot 20 Countdown will celebrate Taylor Swift’s 10th anniversary on Saturday (Nov. 12) at 9 a.m. ET/PT and again on Sunday at 9 a.m. ET/PT.