"Safe & Sound" is a song by Taylor and alternative country duo The Civil Wars, taken from "The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond", the official soundtrack
for the 2012 film "The Hunger Games". The artists co-wrote the track with its producer, T-Bone Burnett; the song was written at Burnett's house within two hours.
The song was released to iTunes in the US December 26, 2011, and was critically lauded, with critics praising Taylor's breathy vocals, the simplicity of the music, and its lyrics, some citing it
as a welcome return to form for her.
BACKGROUND AND RELEASE
"Safe & Sound" was written by Taylor, Joy Williams, John Paul White, and T-Bone Burnett. In summer 2011, Lionsgate required Burnett to record songs for "The Hunger
Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond", and he subsequently corralled a range of artists, including Taylor, Maroon 5, The Civil Wars, and Arcade Fire.
On a fall night in 2011, Burnett and the production team, as well as Taylor and The Civil Wars, came to Burnett's house in Los Angeles to write the lyrics. After two hours, the
song was finished. Taylor further elaborated, "The Civil Wars had a show that night in L.A., so they raced right over to T-Bone's house. There's so many things he could've done
production-wise to make that song bigger sonically than it is, but I think that would have possibly been a mistake. For him to have left the song as a lullaby is brilliant."
On December 22, 2011, Taylor posted a portion of the song's lyrics via her Twitter account and said that "Something I’ve been [very] excited about for a [very] long time is going
to be happening very soon." Four days later, the song was released digitally on iTunes Store.
During the first week of release, "Safe & Sound" entered the Billboard Hot Digital Songs at number 19 with 136'000 digital units sold. On the Billboard Hot 100, the
single debuted and peaked at number 30. Following the release of the song's music video, it re-entered the Hot 100 at number 56. In its eleventh week on chart, the song rose number 71 to number
35, prior to the release of "The Hunger Games" soundtrack. As of November 2017, the song has sold over 2 million copies in the United States.
The track also peaked at number 31 on the Canadian Hot 100 chart. Internationally, "Safe & Sound" attained moderate commercial success. The single peaked at number 38 on the
Australian ARIA Singles Chart and stayed on the chart for three weeks. It was more successful in New Zealand, peaking at number 11 on the New Zealand Singles Chart and
remained for five weeks. "Safe & Sound" also charted on the UK Singles Chart at number 67.
The song's music video, which is directed by Philip Andelman, premiered on February 13, 2012 at 7:54 p.m. ET on MTV. The video features Taylor, walking barefoot through a forest
in Watertown, Tennessee, wearing a long white gown. Between scenes, The Civil Wars are seen inside a cottage house sitting in front of a fireplace as they sing along to the song.
It contains multiple references to "The Hunger Games", including Taylor finding a mockingjay pin. The music video was shot in a cemetery, and features a scene of Taylor sitting atop the
graves of a couple who died in 1853.
During the Australian leg of the "Speak Now World Tour", Taylor added "Safe & Sound" to the tour's setlist. She
performed the track while sitting on a couch onstage, wearing a "sparkling, floor-length gown", which, according to Brittany Cooper of Taste of Country, was slightly reminiscent
of Belle from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" (1991). Cooper provided a positive feedback to the performance, writing that "[Swift] took the song with a whimsical air and gave
it all the mystique you would expect from the haunting ballad."
"Safe & Sound" received mainly positive reviews from music critics. Jody Rosen from Rolling Stone gave the song four out of five stars, calling it Taylor's "prettiest
ballad." In a review of "The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond", AllMusic's Heather Phares picked it as one of the highlights on the soundtrack, calling it "the most crucial"
track. Idolator praised Taylor's "breathiness that sounds more eerie than sweet", while Jason Lipshutz writing for Billboard commended the "non-Swiftian anthem that embraces the
folksiness of the soundtrack" and favored the guest appearance contributed by The Civil Wars.
At the 2012 Country Music Association Awards, "Safe & Sound" was nominated for "Musical Event of the Year". It also garnered a CMT Music Award nomination for "Collaborative of
the Year" in that year. The song was nominated for "Best Original Song" at the 70th Golden Globe Awards in 2013. At the 2013 Grammy Awards, "Safe & Sound" received a nomination
for "Best Country Duo/Group Performance", and won the award for "Best Song Written for Visual Media".