Hidden Hits: Taylor Swift’s Orchestral Power Ballad “Haunted”

Here at CelebMix, we love a good hit single. However, some singles never achieve the success they truly deserved. And some amazing album tracks don’t get nearly enough recognition! Therefore, we present to you our latest weekly feature – ‘Hidden Hits’. Within this feature, we will discuss a ‘hidden hit’, discuss the success it achieved, the success it should’ve achieved and why it should’ve achieved that success. Last week we featured Mura Masa and Charli XCX’s banger “1 Night”. Today we will discuss “Haunted” from Taylor Swift’s third album “Speak Now”.

Taylor Swift may be the queen of hidden hits. From her debut, self-titled album released at 16 years old to her most recent venture Reputation, her albums never really have “filler songs”, which must make it difficult to choose which songs will be released as singles. That may be why 1989 had a whopping seven singles! But Speak Now, in particular, seems to have several songs that didn’t quite receive the attention they deserved. There’s the semi-pop-punk “Better Than Revenge”, the epic closer anthem “Long Live”, and the lengthy ballad “Last Kiss”. But we think that “Haunted” has the most hidden potential on the album by far.

It’s understandable why “Haunted” got pushed to the side. First of all, it’s song number 12 on the album! Secondly, it happens to be a breakup song on an album with quite a few other notable breakup songs. “Dear John” and “Last Kiss” are long, confessional songs that tend to rank a slight step above “Haunted” when it comes to lyrics that tell a story. However, “Haunted” has a great hook, which would work great as a single.

As for the breakup themed singles, “The Story of Us” is a whirlwind of pop-punk and book metaphors, making it a clear attention grabber. On the other hand, “Back To December” did incredibly well as a single. This is partly due to the effective use of an orchestra and the beautiful story told through the song, and partly because of the hype it got since it was the first time that Taylor apologized to one of her exes in a song. “Haunted” also got overshadowed by “Enchanted” which (deservedly) became a fan favourite and the theme song for Taylor’s perfume “Wonderstruck” despite not reaching single status.

Now let’s talk about the success “Haunted” did receive. At its peak on November 13th, 2010, it ranked #63 on The Billboard Top 100. However, it only charted for two weeks. It also ranked exactly in the middle of Rolling Stone’s impressive classification of all 129 Taylor Swift songs. On her Speak Now tour, Taylor put on a rather theatrical performance of the song, complete with dramatic bell-tolling and aerial backup dancers hanging from said bells.


“Haunted” has all the right elements of a hit. At its core, it’s a deeply sad song seeping with desperation and confusion paired with equally as dramatic and swelling instrumentals. Taylor is singing about the end of a relationship that she’s still holding on to and “haunted” by. If you look closer at lyrics like “don’t leave me like this” and “something’s gone terribly wrong”, and “never ever thought I’d see it break”, it seems like the breakup possibly left things unexplained. Taylor explained the song is about “the moment that you realize the person you’re in love with is drifting and fading fast”. The most relatable line, “something keeps me holding on to nothing” sums up this heartbreaking message of the song.

The buildup to the chorus of the song is nothing short of epic. This is really where the emotion in Taylor’s vocals hit their peak, and in our opinion, it’s a prime time for lip-syncing. The verses, intro, and outro are slightly toned down for contrast and a different emotional effect. If there’s anything that Taylor’s not in this song, it’s average. From start to finish we are on a rollercoaster of her genuine feelings towards this breakup. Isn’t that something more people deserve to hear?

Including the orchestra was so necessary to emphasize the dramatic lyrics. When speaking about the song Taylor herself said she “wanted the music and the orchestration to reflect the intensity of the emotion the song is about” and was looking for an “intense, chaotic feeling of confusion”.

However, we also appreciate the stripped back version of the song included in the Deluxe version of Speak Now. If “Haunted” was a single, releasing the acoustic version alongside it would’ve helped even more with promotion and sales.

It’s too bad that “Haunted” wasn’t as big a hit as it could have been. But as we’ve discussed, this is mostly because so many of the other songs on Speak Now were amazing as well! It’s no easy task for every song on an album to receive the commercial success and critical acclaim it deserves, especially if they’re grappling with each other in the process. So, “Haunted” will forever remain as an epic orchestral power ballad for nostalgic Swifties like ourselves to return to. We can live with that.

Like we said in our last post, there are hundreds of songs we can cover for this series. Come back next week to read about yet another Hidden Hit!

Are you a fan of “Haunted”? Do you have any suggestions for our ‘Hidden Hits’ series? Let us know on Twitter @CelebMix!

Written by Annemarie Cutruzzola

Canadian arts & culture writer and journalism student.