During her preview of the song on GMA, Swift described the song as such: “I wrote this song about when you first fall in love with someone — the possibilities, kind of thinking about the different ways that it could go. It’s a really big sound. To me, this sounds like the feeling of falling in love in an epic way.”
The song was lauded by critics upon its release. Entertainment Weekly, like many reviewers, noted the song's "Brit rock" sound and U2 influence. "On “State of Grace,” which Swift released yesterday, she sounds heavily influenced by U2 (or even Switchfoot)" reports Grady Smith, "ethereal guitars and moody overtones ring out over a driving midtempo drum beat as she delivers a lyric you could imagine Bono singing: “This is a state of grace/This is a worthwhile fight/ Love is a ruthless game unless you play it good and right.” While Swift’s songs are usually quite lyrically driven (and this is a good thing), “State of Grace” is more about the build — that dawning sense of triumphant wonder that accompanies love — and the extended instrumental breaks provide a more forceful, mature impact than Swift’s standard sass." Jenna Hally Rubenstein, writing for MTV's Buzzworthy Blog, was very positive about the song, feeling that "both melodically and lyrically, Taylor delves deep as she sings about true love's free fall." Placing it somewhere between We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and Red in terms of genre, she also noted that "[State of Grace]'s sparkling production and powerhouse vocals definitely has the record in the realm of pop, but Taylor's country twang isn't too far behind either." Spin reporter Marc Hogan identified State of Grace as "the one Rolling Stone previously described as a "howling, U2-style epic with reverb-drenched guitars,"" and went on to praise Swift's take on the sound: "but what had gone unmentioned is how brutally effective it is. More "whoa-oh"-ing than literally "howling," but streaked with unexpected feedback, Swift recognizes that Joshua Tree-era U2 is as traditional now as country, anyway, and adapts its melodramatic uplift to her own first-person romantic observations."The Los Angeles Times thought the track was Swift's most arresting and promising song yet. "It's the least obviously "re-inventing" single from the album so far," August Brown of the Times commented, "[but] this song might be the most effective." The article offered this elaboration on that assessment: "[The song] has a strong U2 streak to it, with feedback- and echo-drenched guitars and some of her most for-the-rafters vocals yet. Despite Red being tipped as a "breakup album," this one is all love-struck optimism, a setting she's worked well in before." Adam Graham of The Detroit News raved about the song's "epic" production and mature feel. "“State of Grace” — the opening track on Red — feels like something of a game-changer for Swift," he says, "a big-time, grown-up rock anthem that feels like it’s wrapping its arms around the top row of the cheap seats. [...] The song’s best bit comes in the second verse when the bass drops out entirely, a moment of solemnity as Swift sings, “we are alone, just you and me/ up in your room and our slates are clean.” She’s creating moments of intimacy within the booming sonics of the song, and showing a flare for dynamics we didn’t know she had in her."