Swift wrote “Mean” in response to music critic Bob Lefsetz, who gave her a cruel review after a February 2010 performance with Stevie Nicks. Lefsetz claimed that Swift “can’t sing” and that the performance “shortened her career,” but she ultimately proved him wrong.

Swift released the song as a single in March 2011, and its accompanying music video was directed by Declan Whitebloom, who also directed the music video for “Ours.” The video includes cameos from actress Joey King and singer-songwriter Presley Cash, who both play people experiencing bullying.

The song received positive reviews from outlets like Entertainment Weekly, and won two Grammy awards — Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance.