In which Daniel unpacks his complex emotions regarding the new musical ventures of the pop star Taylor Swift.
Dear Taylor Swift,
My darling Tay, dear Tswizz, Tswizzle, Swisscheesizzle, Tswift of the swiftest Taylors. When first I listened to your new album 1989, I was a different person. I dismissed it with a certain amount of derision and laughter. And yet I still felt compelled, perhaps because of my allegiance to trashy pop music, to download your album onto my iPod and listen to it on repeat. Over and over again, I listened to the songs, with the assumption that I would eventually remove it from my music library, but to my surprise, the awkward, almost juvenile manner by which the songs were constructed became charming to me.
Many of the lyrics first struck me as bizarre, as if they were a stream-of-consciousness first draft. The best two examples are from the song “Bad Blood”, describing a grievous offense by a past friend:
1) “Don’t think it’s in the past; these kind of wounds, they last and they last.” So, Tay, not only do these wounds last… they ALSO LAST AGAIN. Could you think of no other phrasing wherein you didn’t use “last” twice?
2) “Time will heal, but this won’t; so if you’re coming my way… just don’t.” Again, Twizz, it sounds as if you just couldn’t think of anything better. Your ex-lover is approaching you and you tell him “What are you… could you… just… don’t.” I am heavily reminded of the phrase “Could you NOT?”
And yet I am simultaneously delighted by the ridiculous self-indulgence of so many of the album’s lyrics. Take the words of one of the bonus tracks entitled “New Romantics”:
1) “We show off our different scarlet letters; trust me, mine is better.” Let’s be real, for a second, Taylor; if someone is actively seeking and listening to your music, I doubt that they are wild enough to merit a scarlet letter from anyone. Mind you, I have no idea what the “crazy kids” listen to these days, but I have a strong suspicion it is not your music. That being said, the concept that any of your listeners might be wild enough to attract the derision and scorn that “scarlet letter” suggests is hugely over-dramatic, and therefore I am a massive fan.
2) “We need love, but all we want is danger.” Again, few true swifties would be inclined to seek out terribly dangerous activities, but still you offer the philosophy of “thrill over romance” in this song that is so clearly an over-dramatization that I can’t help but love it.
In no particular order, here are a few of my other favorite lyrical and musical moments of the album:
1) The line “The monsters turned out to be just trees” from “Out of the Woods”
2) The first bass drop during “Welcome to New York”.
3) The introduction of male vocals after the bridge of “Out of the Woods”.
4) The line “Darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream” from “Blank Space”.
5) The second bass drop during “Welcome to New York”.
6) The moment in “Out of the Woods” at 3:20 when the stacked vocals singing “Are we out of the woods?” (for the umpteenth time) form an Am add9 chord.
7) The third bass drop during “Welcome to New York”.
8) The line “Love’s a game; wanna play?” from “Blank Space”.
9) The retro guitar riff that carries most of “I Wish You Would”.
10) The sick arena-rock drum beat change during the chorus of “I Wish You Would”.
11) That ENTIRE section of talking in the middle of “Shake It Off”.
12) The use of head voice, rather than belting, in “Wildest Dreams”.
13) The arpeggiation of the EM7 chord in the background vocals at the end of “This Love”.
14) The line “It’s all fun and games until somebody loses their mind” from “Wonderland”.
15) The bass drop during the chorus of “Wonderland”.
16) The fact that the melody of “You Are in Love” only uses four pitch classes: A, B, C#, and E, and yet the song gets stuck in my head all the time and I do not find it unmelodic.
So, my dear Tswift, what I am getting at? I am saying that your album reminded me that life can be ridiculous and fun and, sometimes, you’ve just got a kitten and a cake full of blood and a gazelle, and when the time comes, you just have to stand on your white horse before your Long Island mansion and sing:
I mean, magic, madness, heaven, sin – what’s not to love? They tell us we’re insane, Tay, but we’ve got a blank space, baby…
With all due respect,