Devastating: All Too Well
This song was birthed smack bang within the throes of heartbreak, and boy, it shows. When Taylor sings, “You call me up again just to break me like a promise, so casually cruel in the name of being honest,” it just hurts. It opens up our wounds and transports us back to those days we woke up panicked because our person was no longer beside us and “there was nothing else” we could do. All Too Well is the story of a relationship from its beginning (the hope) to its end (the holding on too long to what is lost) and trying to understand where it all went wrong. There are so many candid lines, and we could go on forever about how they put to words the complex feelings we have been unable to name. She sings, “I’d like to be my old self again, but I’m still trying to find it,” and we wince because we lost our “wide-eyed” selves too. Before this becomes an essay, let’s just leave it here… because this song is “rare.”
Depressed like Juliet: Sad Beautiful Tragic
We have all written that "long, handwritten note" that perhaps we didn't hand over but still lurks in the back of our brains. Taylor sings, "good girls, how hopeful they will be and long they will wait," and damn, let that sink in. The lyrics for this one aren't just sad, they are mourning, and by the end of the song, she ruminates over the "distance, timing, breakdown, fighting" that marred the sweet nectar that can be found in love, if only for a moment.
The knowing sorrow: State of Grace
Taylor sings about an imperfect relationship that she “never saw” coming, which was raw, miss-matched, ill-fated, and left them with “mosaic broken hearts.” It’s an ode to the people we date who were not what we expected to want, but when we had them, they changed our minds and the world around us was not the same. The song evokes a sense of deep longing that flickers through our downcast minds.
Restrained longing: I Almost Do
This song is the anthem for whenever you don’t call back, double text, or unblock and message your ex (friend, partner or whoever), except it isn’t celebratory; no, it’s mournful, sad, and so so desperate just to let go of all inhibitions and that message. You “almost do” because you wish you could “run” to them. But you know that there is no use in making that rash call because the outcome you want will never happen. Taylor sings, “I confess, babe, in my dreams you’re touching my face and asking me if I wanna try again with you,” it encapsulates how that longing desire can make us dream up alternatives that only cause us more pain. But we don’t call though… because we “can’t risk another goodbye.”
Gut punching nostalgia: Red
Taylor didn't name this Red for any old reason; it alludes to the messy passion that comes with loving someone fiercely who can only offer you "dark grey" loneliness. But despite the pain, you just can't forget them. There is a chasm between who you were before them and who you are now. Because of this tune's juxtaposing upbeat sound, it makes you want to fist bump the air, but when you give it a real listen, it pangs at your chest.
Endless pining: Come Back… Be Here
We told ourselves, “Don’t get attached” too, Taylor, but they also “went on that plane,” and we kinda haven’t recovered. This song is about a long-distance relationship, and thanks to Covid, more people than ever can relate. After all, millions around the world have been far from their family, friends, and partners. Taylor shared, “This is falling in love in the cruellest way,” and “I don’t want to need you this way,” but we really do, and the longing is chronic.
Treacherous is a poem about falling for someone you know you shouldn’t but letting yourself get “swept away” for the thrill of it all. It’s asking a red flag to “stay” because why would you want something “safe” anyway? The best love stories of all time are chaotic, dangerous, scary, and “reckless.” Taylor is following this man home, even though she knows heartbreak is a song away.
Shattered: The Moment I knew
So, Taylor experiences literal trauma when her boyfriend doesn’t go to her birthday. Literal trash. Hopefully, it is not a situation many have had to navigate, so most people come out of this song feeling shattered for Taylor. After all these years, we still can’t believe someone Jake did this to her (and we have hate watched Donnie Darko EVER SINCE).
That feeling before disappointment: The Last Time
This duet with Gary Lightbody is about a guy who keeps failing to come through but wants one last chance to make it work. It’s his “last chance”, and Taylor is going to give it to him, but he hasn’t been putting her name on “the top of” his list. We usually give second chances nervously, and until they prove themselves, we are teetering between hope and disappointment; it’s a weird feeling, and it’s evoked here.
Foul and disgruntled: Girl at Home
This song tells the story of a coward man who tried to cheat on his girlfriend with Taylor, and she is not having it! It’s an OOF moment when she sings, “You’re the kind of man who makes me sad,” and so self-aware when she croons, “I might go with it if I hadn’t once been just like her.” So, potential cheaters don’t look at us because Tay got us pre-pissed off at you since 2012.
Anxiety: The Lucky One
This song is rumoured to be about Joni Mitchel, who essentially stepped away from the bright lights of fame. Taylor is anxious about her career here and "all the young things line up" to take her place. She doesn't understand why Joni threw away her fame until the song's end, when she can finally see its trappings. We can't relate to fame, but it speaks to the messiness of growing older and realising why adults share their uncomfortable warnings.
Frustration on rewind: I Knew You Were Trouble
It’s a story as old as time; she was smart, and he was edgy, so she put away her gut instincts for a joy ride, only to get burned in the process. The line “He’s long gone when he’s next to me” is a painfully accurate description of men who check out well before they leave. Why do they do that? But really, like Taylor, we only have ourselves to blame when we date the bad boy (or in its 2021 manifestation, indie arty soft boy).
Faithful: Begin Again
This is literally about beginning to love again. It's discovering while on a date that your old pain is behind you. It's realising someone does think you're "funny," likes your "high heels", and makes you feel like "a little kid". You hesitate a little before completely relenting to the process, but you're going to need some faith to really watch it "begin again."
Butterflies: Everything Has Changed
Ed Sheeran and Taylor sing about falling in love and their love interests’ eyes feeling like “coming home.” After all, isn’t that what love is? Pure, unadulterated comfort. They are stripping down their walls, opening up, and welcoming a new adventure. It stirs up the same delectable feelings of having a crush that you know likes you too.
Endearing: Holy Ground
Once enough time has passed after heartbreak we can kind of remember the “holy ground” we stood on with that person in our “brand new dress” spinning around “in a big new city,” and “darling, it was good.” Sure, we are still a mess, and damn most of the memories are bad, but between them all is a sliver of what got you into the mess in the first place.
Newfound confidence: We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
This song is all about flipping the bird at that person who made you feel small and becoming bigger, brighter, and more self-assured than ever – and thanks to Taylor’s writing chops, we can feel that vibe through us as we listen. Because stuff that person who thinks their “indie records” are better than your 1989 record (because sir, one is a cultural reset and the other is a sad white dude with a guitar).
Hopeful: Stay Stay Stay
In Taylor’s line notes, she reveals this song is about her dream relationship, and she really wraps us up in a world where people stay, are gentle with each other, and just have the best time. The dude in this song “stays,” he took the time to memorise her, and he isn’t a “self-indulgent taker.” Where is this man? We still don’t really know, but like Taylor, we have hope hope hope.
Marilyn Monroe happy: Starlight
Taylor dated a Kennedy, and in case you forgot, this song is all about that. It's the 60s, there is a yacht party, there is nothing to lose, and they're going to have "ten kids" and teach them "how to dream." You can't help but dance to this song and pretend you're as whimsically effortless as Marilyn, or Rita, or even Greta.
Okay, so the use of the word “hipsters” totally transports us to 2012, when the world was free from pandemics, climate change was yet to become REAL REAL and dump Trump wasn’t something we could have predicted. We were just “dancing like we’re 22” at 16 years old, and it was “miserable and magical.” So when Taylor says, “Tonight’s the night when we forget about the deadlines,” we screamed with her because our history assignment was due the next day at 8 am. You have to get rowdy to this song; there is no other way to listen.
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