Features, Friday Night Dinner Discussions

Taylor Swift’s Red: A Discussion

One fateful evening in 2012, kismet pulled Reina and Gauraa into a porch conversation about Bishop Allen. They realized, despite having grown up 8,657 miles apart, they had listened to the same records, subscribed to the same podcasts and shared the same pretensions. Separated by distance again, the two have decided to pull all the stops necessary to preserve their insular culture of staying in and overanalyzing music. You can read their first dinner discussion here. Tonight, Reina and Gauraa cancel their plans to discuss one of the records that brought them together, Taylor Swift’s 2012 release Red.
taylor-swift-red

Gauraa: Mumbai has been struck by a thunderous wave of monsoon. While it certainly seemed tempting to do my crying in the rain, I decided, instead, to cancel all my plans this week, to stay in and lose myself in Springsteen’s Born To Run. Serendipitously, he, too, talks about lightning storms in the book: “Someone once made the mistake of telling me the safest place in a lightning storm was in a car because of the grounding of rubber tires. After that, at the first sound of thunder, I caterwauled until my parents would take me in the car until the storm subsided. I then proceeded to write about cars for the rest of my life.” I then thought to myself, hey, you know who else writes songs about cars? Taylor Swift. With new Maseratis, dead-end streets and reckless paths, whose music better to deconstruct ourselves to than Swift’s on this fateful Friday night? What plans did you cancel tonight Reina?

Reina: Tonight, I was supposed to go to a middle school reunion. To give you an idea of the bullet that I dodged, I went to a Catholic all-girls school with a graduating class of 40 people. So that’s around 40 people, give or take a few, that I haven’t spoken to outside of “Happy Birthday!” posts on Facebook for the past 8 years. I was totally going to go until I found out that the only people who were for sure going to be there were the girls who were “popular” and not the nicest, so obviously I would rather stay at home and analyze my anxiety and explain all my feelings using Taylor Swift songs. But enough about me. You want to tell them why we chose this album this week, Gauraa?

Gauraa: Well, we’ve been indulging my twenty-and-world-weary playground philosophies this whole time so I certainly don’t see the need to alter the narrative now. Please allow me:

We had been in the car for the past seven hours.  We were sixteen thousand feet above sea level, overlooking unbearable steepness on one side, unforgiving sharpness on the other. Our sturdy four-wheeled drive hesitated the climb of thrill-hills, presumably cautioning us against the treacherous slopes that would, statistically, be the end of us. With every bump, I closed my eyes and dug my nails into the boy next to me, the boy who had just told me he loved me, probably because he thought it was an important thing to declare before the car skidded off the road and flipped into a gorge with a screech of a tire. Before we’d leave our mark next to the innumerable existing dents in the road rails and join the rest of orphaned, tattered wheels and other ramshackle automobile remnants down below. Our car bounced along, somewhat miraculously, resisting the adversity. We made it: before us, holy ground. I unclenched my fingers, and pretended I hadn’t been summoning a quick, painless death this whole time. Hilariously cavalier, even more so at a time of near-death, I requested a change of tune, if, perhaps, to keep us distracted between dangerous precipices. Taylor Swift’s Red, playing here—in the Himalayas! —of all places. There was protest. A friend in a Jethro Tull t-shirt, arbiter of all tastes rock and roll and good, demanded to know why, how, I, requester of Leonard Cohen, Steely Dan, The Beatles and Indian Ocean, could demand such an atrocity. In the Himalayas, no less! Red was not the album I thought I would want to listen to before I die, either. But here I was preparing to defend it: “You need Taylor Swift most when you’re falling in, and out of, love,” I said, after rehearsing the line in my head a couple of times. To add profundity, I begged my case: “When you’re on the floor, unable to get up, unable to peel yourself out of heartbreak, or, when you’ve finally mustered the courage to pull yourself out of bed, or, when you’re two months and three hundred miles away from the perpetrator of Hurt, or even when you’re in the car next to someone who might overwrite the Hurt, that’s when you need Red. The same way you need Leonard Cohen, or The Beatles.” The parallel wasn’t received as well as I’d hoped. I was deemed a woeful poptimist, but, somehow, they were convinced enough to let me play the album all the way through. Seventeen songs through! The car remained quiet from “State of Grace” through “Begin Again,” except for the sounds of unsuspecting voices humming along. I’m not sure what sort of insular narratives played themselves out in their heads, but I’d like to believe they were those stories that we all reflexively tend to superimpose upon and tie to Taylor Swift’s songs.

When you listen to Red, memories of memories unravel, and you watch yourself, in the past, falling out of love, remembering the times you were in love. Past a certain point, listening to Red isn’t quite about listening to an album anymore; it’s about implanting your own stories to revisit later. You listen to Red, in part, to take off into the first-glance feeling: green lights, coffee, New York, dates. You listen to Red to flashback and echo into the grey: the sudden but lingering end, the casually cruel breaking of hearts and promises alike. You listen to Red to remember that “on a Wednesday, at a café,” or perhaps, if I may dare say so, in the backseat of a car, in the Himalayas, you can watch it “begin again.”

Wasn’t it, after all, Taylor who said, “Nothing safe is worth the drive?” The Himalayas were beautiful, by the way. Do you bleed Red, Reina?

Reina: The other day, I was driving home from work, listening to Red in the car. “I Almost Do” came on right as I pulled into my driveway. I parked my car and just sat there, really listening to the first few lines of the song: “I bet you think I either moved on or hate you/ ‘Cause each time you reach out there’s no reply/ I bet it never ever occurred to you that I can’t say “Hello” to you/And risk another goodbye.” Everything I’d kept bottled up about my breakup from 4 months ago started rushing back and I just sat there in my car, crying, through the song.

That’s the effect this album has on a lot of people, isn’t it? The songs, they remind you of memories of heartbreak, of love, and everything in between. It’s less about the fact that it’s an album by Taylor Swift. It’s an album by someone who has experienced falling in love and having her heart broken, and learning to fall in love again despite being hurt, and I think that makes this album relatable. I never really listened to this album when it first came out, as I was still happily in a long-distance relationship with my high school boyfriend. It wasn’t until we broke up that January, when I was reeling from all the hurt and the sadness that I really listened to this album, and listened to what Taylor was saying.

10 months later, I was listening to Red again as I found myself falling for someone new. “I’ve been spending the last eight months/ Thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end/ But on a Wednesday in a cafe/ I watched it begin again.” It’s like there’s a phrase on this album for every phase of love. There’s a color for every part of falling in love too. I think more than anything, this album helped me fall in love with the process of falling in and out of love. Whenever I listen, I can take a step back and see it all, like a timeline. All the heartbreak, but all the happy memories too. All the times someone walked away, and all the times they stayed. Red covers it all and is unapologetic about depicting the beautiful parts and ugly parts of love. I’m going to try hard not to cry all over again as I listen to the album and revisit all my memories.

“State of Grace”

Profound Genius annotation: In Greek and Roman mythology the “Golden Age” was the first age of the world. There was great, peace and happiness and prosperity. In this romance they are either in the beginning stages of a wonderful romance (which would make sense as this is the beginning track of the album) and everything is still golden, or Taylor feels that their relationship is at its strongest point, having gone through certain hardships.

Best lyric: “This is the golden age of something good and right and real”

Gauraa: Here is romance, at first blush: “And I never saw you coming/ And I’ll never be the same.” Here is the golden age of love, the beginning: “Up in your room and our slates are clean/ Just twin fire signs, four blue eyes.” Immediately, you’re zapped into Taylor’s narrative, she hands you down her credo: love is a state of grace, a worthwhile fight, a  “ruthless game unless you play it good and right.” This is the perfect beginning to a perfect album.

Reina: “Busy streets and busy lives/And all we know is touch and go.” I feel this more than ever. Everything is so busy and I feel like I haven’t had a meaningful exchange with anyone I’ve seen in person lately. Even with my “friends” it’s always touch and go and there’s never any stability, you know? I actually feel like this is my first time listening through this album in a few years, and I’m noticing all these different parts that I never really focused on before.

Gauraa: As all great books and albums, Red is one you can keep coming back to discover something new, and find that it is reflective of you.

“Red”

Profound Genius annotation: Maserati is a popular Italian sportscar manufacturer. Her love for him evoked an adrenaline rush similar to driving towards a sudden halt. She was quickly enthralled by him, however her emotions were soon to be cut short by the demise of their relationship.

Best lyric: “Loving him is like driving a new Maserati/ Down a dead-end street”

Reina: I love the intro to this song. What is that? A banjo and a steel guitar? Those first three plucked notes make my heart skip a beat sometimes when I’m feeling intensely emotional. It’s like all of the times in my life when all I saw was red come rushing back and flashing before my eyes. I know that sounds like an intense reaction to a Taylor Swift song, and I know it’s cliché to say that Taylor Swift says everything I couldn’t put into words, but it’s kind of true isn’t it? She’s living through the same love and loss that we’re all going through and painting that picture in bold colors. I most definitely love in shades of red, I think.

Gauraa: It’s a banjo! Goes without saying, the relatability of her music is what makes her so successful. The way those first three notes are struck out at first to linger, the way they gain momentum, weaving themselves into the narrative almost forebodingly–it’s so perfectly constructed because the banjo adds a southern softness that a steel guitar, or any kind of guitar, for that matter, wouldn’t bring to the table. “Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you’ve never met” is one of those lines that send you to a place of drawn out thoughts where, if you close your eyes hard enough, you begin to see tiny violet spots. An impossible love, impossible to forget.

“Treacherous”

Profound Genius annotation: She is desperate to see him even though she knows it’s not a good idea–she just can’t get his name out of her mind. She justifies her braving this danger by saying that “nothing safe is worth the drive,” both continuing the car references and explaining that even though their relationship is treacherous, the way she loves him makes all their trouble worthwhile.

Best lyric: “And I just think you should think you should know/ That nothing safe is worth the drive/And I will follow you follow you home”

Gauraa: “Put your lips close to mine/ As long as they don’t touch/ Out of focus, eye to eye/ Till the gravity’s too much.” God, this song kills me. Kills me. Songs about asking someone to stay, even though you know you’re better off with them gone are dime a dozen, but this one I come back to time and time again. It’s a beautiful, vulnerable plea.

Reina: Ah, falling for the one you know isn’t good for you. It’s a mystery to me that Taylor knows when someone is no good for her because in my experience, you never realize that someone is a bad idea until they’ve come and gone.

Gauraa: I feel as though a lot of us (read: me) have had their fair share of people they knew were bad for them, but fooled themselves into hoping for a different ending. I feel like when you’ve already invested so much of yourself into something, it’s easier to second guess and feed yourself lies than to walk away. Of course, once they’re out of the picture, you’re finally able take a step back and recognize people for what they were, and what they brought you: trouble.

“I Knew You Were Trouble”

Profound Genius annotation: She sees that the relationship was over before it even began. She is scolding herself for not realizing sooner that he would eventually leave her, and now knows the joke was on her the whole time. Taylor has blamed herself for not predicting the end of a relationship in multiple songs, including “Dear John.”

Best lyric: “He was long gone when he met me/ And I realize the joke is on me, hey!”

Reina: Again, she somehow knows that he’s trouble from the moment he walks in. That’s such a mystery to me. Even when my friends knew that someone was trouble, they never mentioned it to me until after the fact. It’s always “I always thought he was no good.” Why couldn’t I see it before? Why didn’t anyone tell me? Taylor, how do you know when someone is trouble when they walk in?

Gauraa: I think the part where you know someone is “trouble” is sort of a gut feeling you keep to yourself? Like, you wouldn’t explicitly tell yourself he’s trouble (at least I don’t think I’m honest enough to tell myself so); instead you’d say, “I’m reading too much into things,” “this ten year age gap isn’t going to matter,” “John Mayer isn’t as bad as they say he is, I’m sure,” etc.

Reina: Also, can we talk about the fucking monologue in this music video? “How can the devil be pulling you towards someone that looks so much like an angel when he smiles at you?” I just…no. I know what she was trying to go for here, but sorry Tay, Rihanna did it better in her “We Found Love” video.

Gauraa: Agreed. Rihanna wins over both Tay and Lana here.

“All Too Well”

Profound Genius annotation: Jake [Gyllenhaal] called Taylor with the sole purpose of hurting her feelings, rather than being upfront about his intentions. He said that he called her just to be honest about what the way he saw the relationship but it wasn’t his actual intention.

Best lyric: “And you call me up again just to break me like a promise/ So casually cruel in the name of being honest”

Reina: “And I know it’s long gone/And that magic’s not here no more/And I might be okay/But I’m not fine at all.” Jesus. I’m not crying, you’re crying. There are so many moments from different relationships that I remember all too well. I could picture the scene at the drop of a hat. Everything from what I was wearing to what the weather was like. And I’m not sure if we ever completely get over heartbreak, or if the wounds just eventually turn into scars that have stories.

Gauraa: A few years ago, I was roped into meeting the parents of a boy I was seeing. I was apprehensive. I didn’t know where we were headed, if we were headed anywhere at all, but nobody had gone out their way to introduce me to their parents before. This song will always remind me of that encounter, the warm feeling of “you taught me ‘bout your past thinking your future is me.” It’s funny how Taylor’s songs bring you to such specific junctures, narrowing fine detail to the point that what came before and after seems trivial, insignificant, almost as it it never happened at all. Then, there’s that cruel reminder that cools you back into placid reality: “After plaid shirt days and nights when you made me your own/ Now you mail back my things and I walk home alone.” Love is brutal and memory, unforgiving. This is my favorite song on the album.

“22”

Profound Genius annotation: Here Taylor is saying how tonight is the perfect night to pretend to be someone else – reality is too hard to face, so they will party to take away the stress. Also, since Taylor is so famous she must hide her appearance in order to go into public without getting mobbed. The reason Taylor said they should dress up like hipsters is that hipsters do things before it becomes popular. Taylor is tired of the same old things and being confined in a box.

Best lyric: “It feels like a perfect night to dress up like hipsters/ And make fun of our exes, uh uh, uh uh”

Reina: I’m in my last few weeks of feeling 22, and it’s true, I’m happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. I don’t want to remind myself that apparently everything will be alright if you keep dancing like you’re 22, but no one likes you when you’re 23.

Gauraa: Worst. Song. On. The. Album. Don’t get me wrong, I love this album to pieces. Except for this song. Sure, to feel “happy, free, confused, and lost at the same time” is poetic and apt but not in a song that begins with “It feels like a perfect night to dress up like hipsters.” Even that too-trying cutesy pajama set video sets me off. Just no. No, no, no, no. No.

Reina: Barf. But you have to admit this song is an amazing shitfaced karaoke singalong song. And I can already imagine you screaming along to this in a shitty karaoke bar after having too many drinks and falling in love with strangers when you turn 22. But I’m excited to be there right there with you.

Gauraa: I know it’s inevitable but please, god, let’s try to stick to the Get Up Kids’ “Overdue” for when I turn 22.

“I Almost Do”

Profound Genius annotation: Taylor comes close to asking for a do-over, but she doesn’t want to put herself through the hurt she felt again.

Best lyric: “I wish I could run to you/ And I hope you know that/ Every time I don’t/ I almost do”

Reina: Stop it. This song is giving me goosebumps because it’s almost a perfect reflection of my past few months. You and I both know that I had to talk myself out of almost doing a lot of things after my ex and I broke up. “I bet you think I either moved on or hate you/’Cause each time you reach out there’s no reply/I bet it never ever occurred to you that I can’t say “Hello” to you/And risk another goodbye.” I swear I’m not crying. You’re crying.

Gauraa: What I do like about the relationships Taylor Swift portrays is that they all have a clear-cut ending. No break up drags on for too long; it’s never too messy. The strength to “almost do” is one that I do not possess, but sometimes I wish that I did. I remember listening to this song a few years ago, convincing myself it’s a classier thing to do, to not call. I called anyway. I always call.

“We Are Never Getting Back Together”

Profound Genius annotation: When she refuses to get back together with her ex, he seeks help by talking to not only his own friends, but hers as well, but this time it doesn’t matter who he tries to go through to get to Taylor: they are never, EVER getting back together.

Best lyric: “You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me/ But we are never, ever, ever, ever getting back together/ Like, ever”

Reina: This song is so fucking annoying, but at the same time, I preach this song forever. It’s like Taylor Swift discovered feminism as she was writing this record and realized that letting people back into your life after they treat you like crap isn’t actually cool. “I still love you.” “This is exhausting. We are never getting back together. Like ever.” Cheesy? Yes, but iconic.

Gauraa: “When Taylor Swift discovered feminism” is actually a watershed in the history of popular music now, isn’t it? Um, I hated this song when it came out, and I think we started listening to it drunk and ironically. Then I was dumped via Facebook chat at the ripe and tender age of seventeen and then, well, drunk irony became my reality. That’s when I listened to this song 9,392,208 times. It’s just the right temperament for a Facebook chat breakup.

“Stay Stay Stay”

Profound Genius annotation: Taylor doesn’t want this boy to leave despite back out after a fight. In her track by track breakdown, she explains how not every relationship is perfect, but it is worth working at and not giving up on

Best lyric: “I’m pretty sure we almost broke up last night/ I threw my phone across the room at you/ I was expecting some dramatic turn away but you stayed”

Reina: I completely forgot about this song! Aww, this song is so cute. I can’t believe I forgot that it existed for a second. It’s the perfect country/pop crossover. Also, this line: “Before you, I’d only dated self-indulgent takers/That took all of their problems out on me.” Damn, if that’s not true. I guess even when you’re Taylor Swift, you can’t weed out the self-indulgent assholes.

Gauraa: Seriously. I love this song. The chorus is cute and playful and happy, almost childlike. “And you carry my groceries and now I’m always happy” makes me feel nice. Like there’s hope.

“The Last Time”

Profound Genius annotation: Taylor thinks about all the times the same situation came up: the guy showed up at her door with an apology, she accepted it and let him walk into her life again only to kick him out soon after. She doesn’t want to be hurt anymore but she doesn’t want to give up on him either since she loves him deeply.

Best lyric: “This is the last time I’m asking you this/ Put my name at the top of your list/ This is the last time I’m asking you why/ You break my heart in the blink of an eye”

Gauraa: So, like, what were the odds of Taylor Swift doing a duet with the guy from Snow Patrol? Also: remember when liking Snow Patrol determined your #indie status?

Reina: I remember this moment in the summer before my freshman year of highschool, I met this super weird boy on a camping trip and he told me he really liked Snow Patrol, so I saw some potential there. But then next thing I knew, he was singing “Chasing Cars” in a terrible falsetto and though I want to reflect on it as an “endearing” moment, nothing about that was charming in any way. But all bizarre Snow Patrol memories aside, Gary Lightbody’s voice is like butter, isn’t it? It just melts beautifully, especially in the pre-chorus/chorus of this song. Also, surprisingly enough, Taylor is the queen of unlikely duets like with Ryan Tedder and Jack Antonoff, and even that guy from that band that sang “Closing Time”.

Gauraa: Wait, hold up just a second: Taylor Swift sang a duet with Semisonic’s Dan Wilson?! Why did I not know about this?!?!

Reina: “Treacherous!” This song is a little bittersweet though. They both say that it’s the last time, but they still let their lovers in. And we both know that when you say it’s the last time, it’s never the last time.

Gauraa: Ugh, it’s so true.

“Holy Ground”

Profound Genius annotation: The relationship was nice. Neither of them looked back at any other relationship when they were together, despite the pain and heartbreak. They focused on what they had, and that made it magical.

Best lyric: “And darling, it was good never looking down/ And right there where we stood was holy ground”

Gauraa: Arguably this song was the one that pulled me into the Red craze. I was skeptical at first, especially given the country/pop label brandished by Taylor Swift’s iTunes page back in 2012, but Jeff Bhasker is one of my all-time favorite producers and knowing he was involved made me shift gears and buy the album immediately. And, fuck, the production on this song is so slick. Right from the get-go, the intro verse, those drums are perfectly centered. Everything little detail is perfectly in place, compressed. What a sound. I just love the pace of this song as well, it matches the pace of the beginning: the first steps, running towards something.

Reina: I have a vivid memory of us jumping around, screaming along to a cover of this song in a living room show at a shitty, rundown house in Syracuse. Right there where we stood was truly holy ground.

Gauraa: Wait, I think I remember what you’re talking about. And, what you said, right there, is the Urban Dictionary definition of poptimism: screaming along to a Taylor Swift cover in a living room show at a shitty, rundown house in Syracuse.

“Sad Beautiful Tragic”

Profound Genius annotation: “Good girls” tend to be thought of as naive, and here she points out that they fall in love easily and often, and still long for love when love has been lost.

Best lyric: “Good girls, hopeful they’ll be and long they will wait”

Gauraa: “Words, how little they mean, when you’re a little too late.” Oof!

Reina: Yaaaawn. Am I the only one that totally skips this song every time I listen to this album? Maybe I just need to give it another chance, but I don’t know, it’s just… boring, you know?

Gauraa: I understand where you’re coming from, it’s just that all these songs become so specific over time in terms of the stories you associate them with–it’s almost as if I cherish this song because it reminds me of the time I played by the rules, tried my best to be “good,” and ended up sincerely heartbroken. “In dreams, I meet you in warm conversation/ We both wake in lonely beds, different cities” is a line that calls upon the haze of half-asleep nights, reminds me of this this gut punching, absolute, physical pain from the end of a relationship.

Reina: Wow. I guess I just never really listened to this one, since my first impression of the song wasn’t great. I’ll have to re-listen and sit down with the lyrics and a box of tissues or something, because I’m sure that it might make me cry to really take it in.

“Everything Has Changed”

Profound Genius annotation: From their meeting the day before all they know is each other’s names, but they both feel a strong connection to each other despite the brevity.

Best lyric: “All I know is you held the door/ You’ll be mine and I’ll be yours/ All I know since yesterday is everything has changed”

Gauraa: Ah, the duet with Ed Sheeran. Not the biggest Ed Sheeran fan, but I’m not averse to this.

Reina: I never really gave him a chance before, but my god, his voice is so gorgeous.

Gauraa: And, according to DJ Khaled, Ed’s party game puts even him to shame. Bless up.

Reina: Whoa. Major key alert! I played myself by not playing more Ed Sheeran. It did always kind of bother me that Taylor Swift kind of displayed him as some kind of platonic arm candy, if that makes sense? Like she was all over him on social media and at events and stuff, but you could always be sure that there was absolutely no romantic attraction from Taylor’s side.

Gauraa: Taylor Swift probably isn’t into gingers with bad tattoos, quite frankly.

Reina: He’s like the ultimate example of a boy that got friendzoned by the pretty, nice girl. Or “nice guys finish last”, if you will.

Gauraa: Truly. Even in this music video, they two boy/girl narratives are seen through the perspective of little kids, and in the end, Taylor and Ed walk away as parents (?) to said little kids, but not together. At least he’s loaded now, though, right?

“Starlight”

Profound Genius annotation: “Starlight is a song I wrote actually after seeing a picture of um, Ethel and Bobby Kennedy when they were seventeen. I saw this picture about a year a half ago, and I didn’t know anything about like, what they were doing or what was going on in the picture, but I just thought ‘They look like they’re having the best night.’ And, um, and so I wrote this song about what the night might’ve been like. And um, I ended up meeting Ethel and going and playing it for her and she just loved it. It was such a fun moment when she was just in love with the song and so happy about it and um, it’s just this adorable picture that to me, it just like brought forth all these potentials for how that night could’ve been.” —Taylor Swift

Best lyric: “He was trying to skip rocks on the ocean saying to me/ Don’t you see the starlight, starlight?/ Don’t you dream impossible things?”

Gauraa: I love so much that this song is written from the perspective of Ethel and Bobby Kennedy. That’s beautiful.

Reina: I’m going to go ahead and admit that I can’t ever get past the fact that this song sounds just like 3OH!3’s “Don’t Trust Me”. And as a semi-reformed pop punk enthusiast, I’m obviously team 3OH!3. I remember us sitting on your floor in our house on Ackerman going back and forth, sharing songs that sound like other songs, and we ended up talking about this song for so long. Though I’m not too keen on this track, that’s a nice memory that comes along with this song.

Gauraa: Okay, yes, this undoubtedly sounds like 3OH!3’s “Don’t Trust Me,” which is also a great song.

“The Lucky One”

Profound Genius annotation: The song is about a star who had it all- and who was also exposed to all, the tabloids, lights, and cameras. After her secrets were being leaked all over the world she was done. She moved away to a life of solitude and nobody knew where she had gone. The song ends with Taylor understanding why the star chose that path.

Best lyric: “Now it’s big black cars, and Riviera views/ And your lover in the foyer doesn’t even know you”

Gauraa: I tweeted  a joke last year, wondering if/when Taylor Swift will include The Smiths’ “Golden Lights” as a prelude to “The Lucky One” in her sets. I still stand by that. On this song, Taylor questions the excesses of fortune and fame and wonders whether it is worth it. Written like an understanding letter to someone who came before, it’s almost sad and heartbreaking, the degree to which young Taylor is able to understand and relate: “They say you bought a bunch of land somewhere/chose the rose garden over Madison Square/ And it took some time/ But I understand it now.” It’s not my place to feel sorry for the successful, but it’s hard not to think about it, isn’t it? I just finished reading Imbolo Mbue’s Behold The Dreamers, a novel woven around two polarizing families, a Lehman Brothers exec’s and a Cameroonian migrant chauffeur’s, and it really helps to put things into perspective. Maybe it’s the rich and successful we should truly feel sorry for. Sad.

Reina: “She’s so lucky, she’s a star, but she cry cry cries in her lonely heart…” Right?  

Gauraa: In the words–word?–of the Frenchman from the “Begin Again” music video: “Vraiment.”

“Begin Again”

Profound Genius annotation: Taylor’s past relationships have left her hopeless about love, but after going on a date with this new guy she makes up her mind.

Best lyric: “And we walked down the block, to my car/ And I almost brought him up/ But you start to talk about the movies/ That your family watches every single Christmas/ And I want to talk about that/ And for the first time/ What’s past is past”

Gauraa: Jesus Christ, Reina, I’ve listened to this song about a gazillion times within the latter half of this year alone. I remember, a few years ago, after severe romantic turbulence, you played me this song, and we held it up as the ideal for the ultimate New Beginning. I love that, here, Taylor hasn’t been able to put aside her ex in a lifetime but when she hears her Wednesday date talk about the films his family watches every Christmas, she has to suppress the urge to talk about the one that came before: “For the first time, what’s past is past.” When the time comes, I suppose, “getting slipped away” isn’t a choice. Suddenly, your future is before you, and you watch it begin again.

Reina: I remember watching Taylor perform this on the CMAs our freshman year. We sat in our friend’s cramped split double and ate snacks, while we tried to figure out what part of this song qualified as “country.”

Gauraa: It’s definitely not country; that’s not even up for debate. Country breathes and dies with the first three mandolin notes on the title track of this album. I suspect dubbing this album “country” was a marketing trick, a way to easefully transition into a blowout pop album like 1989, while still securing her old fan base and to somewhat loosely qualify for country radio, which had been a huge help to her the first time around.

Reina: Also, how does Taylor meet so many people in different settings? Do these things happen to her because she is a pretty, blonde, white girl? Or is there some quality of openness to her that I lack, that makes people want to leave me alone in a café? I don’t even know how to get a date, let alone how to make someone throw their head back laughing like a little kid.

Gauraa: Did it ever occur to you that maybe you’re not going to the right cafes? Like, have you seen the music video to this song? “On a Wednesday at a cafe, I watched it begin again.” Honest to god, she’s not referring to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. First of all, it’s shot in Paris–the City of Love, etc. etc. Secondly, it features a delicate, frail Taylor riding retro bikes, shopping at high-end stores, eating petite pastries and writing postcards on Eiffel Tower printed paper. This is all before a twenty-something sexy, suave, debonair guy gets up from his table, interrupts her souvenir shop artistry, to, wait, behold: take pictures of her! This is not what Paris is like; if a Frenchman approaches you for a picture at a fancy cafe, you say no! It’s just a fanciful, slightly sophisticated, neutral-toned version of Avril Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty.” But I do love this song very much, despite all the high-end, incredulous Givenchy vibes it radiates onto us common people. I guess part of Taylor’s allure is that her songs, her image, is not dissimilar to aspirational TV. To a certain degree, even the kind of love she portrays is five hundred thread count, 100% pure Egyptian cotton. And maybe that’s what a lot of us want, too.

Reina: !!! I just watched that video for the first time and wow. That basically played out like a perfume commercial. But she is a vision in that purple dress. Her hair almost looks like when she’s wearing that purple (blue?) dress in the video for  “Our Song.” Praying for the day when I pay $5+ for a cappuccino and sit and draw pictures in a notebook at my local cafe, only to have a boy come up and take pictures of me and then walk with me and my vintage bike along a river that inexplicably runs through the town I live in.

Gauraa: Amen?

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Reina and Gauraa did not expect for it to be such an emotional Friday night. They insist they need to be alone now . You can find them here next Friday, getting excessively sentimental over Fall Out Boy’s From Under The Cork Tree.

September 30, 2016

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