A Love Letter to Taylor Swift

Ella Shattock 11 November 2021
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

It is difficult to write an article when all you really want to say is that you are in love. I fell in love this August. Her name? Taylor Swift.

As my flatmates can testify, I am struggling to contain my excitement at the prospect of writing this article. Where do I even begin my ode to the Queen who has given us everything, whose lyrics have patched up our broken hearts again and again and again? And how do I get an article that is unashamedly a love letter to Taylor past a music editor who, last week, ill-advisedly turned to me and expressed that, while he prefers her to Kanye, “all her songs sound the same”. Off with his head.

One morning in early summer, I impulsively made the decision to lie on my kitchen floor and listen to folklore from start to finish. It was a rollercoaster.

I can’t really describe what it was like to experience folklore for the first time, except to say that it was dream-like. folklore is fairytale-esque, an anthology of songs speaking to each other in the overlapping voices and perspectives of James, Betty, Inez, Rebekah, Augustine, and unnamed others. It is easy to become lost in its melodies. She takes her listener by the hand, and we follow her into the woods of the album’s cover. As we wander, time itself is ‘sipped away like a bottle of wine’.

There are moments in this album that are just too much. She writes in ‘the lakes’, co-authored with Jack Antonoff, that: ‘I want auroras and sad prose / I want to watch wisteria grow right over my bare feet / ‘Cause I haven’t moved in years.’ Her lyrics tread an endless tightrope between joy and hurt.

With the hymn-like ‘epiphany’, she captures the exhaustion of pandemic healthcare workers through the heart-wrenching image of a hand held ‘through plastic now’ – but she colours this with her grandfather’s memories of ‘crawling up’ the blood-soaked beaches at Guadalcanal in 1942. This is storytelling that is honest and beautiful.

Little did I know, as I lay in the sunshine of my kitchen on that nondescript August morning, that I was falling down a rabbit-hole. To my brother’s dismay, I spent the rest of the summer drowning in the sea of Swift, sinking beyond the nostalgia hits of the 2013 school disco and swimming into the lesser-visited corners of her nine studio albums.

I fell in love, the kind of obsessive love of which her songs would disapprove. When, in ‘Lover’, she sings: ‘With every guitar string scar on my hand / I take this magnetic force of a man to be my lover’. Ugh, the emphasis on the first syllable of ‘magnetic’ is so good that it hurts. The internal rhyme that she manipulates into ‘London Boy’ with the pause in: ‘You can find me in the pub, we are watching rugby with his school friends’, is mastery incarnate.

She is my religion. At the moment, the line that rips my heart from my chest every time I hear it (and I blame TikTok for this) comes from ‘Last Kiss’ on Speak Now. ‘So I’ll watch your life in pictures like I used to watch you sleep/ And I feel you forget me like I used to feel you breathe’ – it aches. Oh it aches.

What’s more, no one writes bridges like Taylor Swift. The audacity she has, to destroy us with bridge after perfect bridge, is staggering. It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge ‘Getaway Car’ here – does anyone else chant the studio conversation between Swift and Antonoff recorded in Netflix’s Miss Americana a little too often on a night-out? – and, of course, honourable mention for the award of ‘Best Bridge’ must be given to 1989’s ‘Out of the Woods’ (‘remember when you hit the brakes too soon…’). Nonetheless, and I am confident that this is not an unpopular opinion, the bridge to end all bridges has to be from the ‘champagne problems’ – the evermore tearjerker co-written with Joe Alwyn (cue: heart eyes). The whole section, lasting from ‘Your Midas touch on the Chevy door’ all the way to ‘She’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred’ is out of this world. If you listen to it, I bet you’ll agree.

The release of lover, folklore and evermore were all musical breakthroughs – and now we come to the re-recordings. I think that what makes the Taylor’s Version re-releases of her early music so exciting is that we have the Taylor who sang on the Lover track ‘Daylight’ that ‘I once believed love would be burnin’ red / But it’s golden, like daylight’ singing again that: ‘loving him was red.’ Taylor’s Version songs are characterised by the self-awareness and retrospection of an artist looking back on her career. They are love letters to her younger self, imbued with the hope that things will get better in the end.

Which brings us back to this weekend. Have your umbrellas ready because Storm Taylor is on her way with a torrential downpour of tears and a short film. Don’t let me down, Cambridge. I expect ugly-crying in Mainsbury’s, aggressive theory-swapping in the queue for Café Nero, and frankly it would be a disappointment not to see an undergrad lying in a puddle on King’s Parade murmuring about being a ‘crumpled-up piece of paper’. That would be a guaranteed Crushbridge.

My dad has always said that listening to The Eagles takes him back to the hours he spent listening to their music with his roommate in 1989 – and I think I know what he means now, because the happiest memories of this time in my life have become so interwoven with the music of Taylor Swift. So, ride out those Week 5 blues a little longer. Red (Taylor’s Version) is on its way to fix up our chaotic, coffee-soaked lives with a soundtrack of rustling autumn leaves, lost scarves, and heartbreak.