A couple of weeks ago, I met a baby. It was the first time I had ever met a baby (except for when I was also a baby) and I cannot recommend it enough. I love babies - they are my favourite genre of people - but I’d never actually met one before, mainly because it’s logistically difficult and often frowned upon to meet babies you aren’t related to.
I am related to this particular baby so I had the great pleasure of meeting him. I did what I do with every new boy I meet and immediately asked if I could hold him in my arms. Because it was the first time I had ever met a baby, it was also the first time I had ever held a baby. It was magical - this incredibly fragile, sensitive being, who just won’t stop crying, getting to hold a baby!!
I had such a wonderful time meeting this brilliant little baby boy, and now my heart is full of nothing but overwhelming joy. I am, quite frankly, and disgustingly, bursting with the stuff. Unfortunately, I am devastated to report that this means my brand is totally fucked.
I’ve been thinking I might be approaching a fork in the road for a little while now, because unlike my love for my favourite new person, the hate I have to give is finite - and well, the well has run dry.
I have almost completely exhausted telling you about everyone who has ever wronged me, and I have spent the last few weeks brainstorming which direction I could and should take this blog in. Actively searching for things to hate for the sake of content is a rather unhealthy way to live one’s life, so I shan’t be doing that. Besides, I’ve always been rather old-fashioned about the whole thing anyway - I think if it’s meant to be, it will be. I’m not on the apps (twitter), and I think you’ll only find real hate when you’re not looking for it.
You might have noted that I have said that I have ALMOST completely exhausted sharing the list. There is one story that I have written that will perhaps never see the light of day. This is because I have decided against sharing it. It is a piece I wrote about a person who hurt me worse than anyone else ever has - it was very recent, and I really didn’t see it coming. I have written personal essays upon (tragic) poems upon PhD studies about what went down, but I can’t bring myself to publicly share any of them.
They say that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I think the pen can often feel like a double edged sword - I have sometimes felt like being vulnerable in my writing can open me up to even more pain. I would say that choosing to respond to someone mistreating you by writing about it could be best described as bringing a double edged sword to a gunfight.
The thing is, writing is simply better if you are honest and detailed - but the other thing is, the more honest and detailed your writing is, the easier it is for others to figure out exactly what and who you are writing about. I’m speaking very generally and being very vague right now and this is quickly becoming some of my worst writing! See what I mean?
I’ve alluded to this dilemma in previous blog entries and there are countless think pieces on the internet about it, but I am still not sure exactly how to navigate it. I have been back and forth deciding whether or not to be a good or bad art (ex) friend, and whether I should or shouldn’t share what I have written. On one hand the story is deeply personal and it is my story to share, and devastatingly it contains some of the most structurally sound jokes I’ve ever written. On the other hand, it’s not just my story.
The person I wrote about is a comedian and it is impossible to tell the story without providing my readers with that fact, which introduces quite the dilemma. Other comedians might read such an entry and gossip about what happened in an attempt to try to figure out which sociopath I am talking about. Unfortunately, if my writing is any good, which I hope it is, they’ll be able to figure it out. Trying to figure it out is not necessarily malicious, but it’s not something I want - because if I chose to share this story about one of the worst things someone has ever done to me, it could be viewed as gossip and I really don’t like gossip.
So, for now, I have decided to put these pieces of writing in the vault, which means today I am going to do something I said I would never do - talk about something I love. Because this is my 13th entry, because today is the 12th of November which means Red (Taylor’s Version) is out and because I’m very excited about being able to be sad for 10 minute intervals and not have to change song during that time period, I’m going to talk to you about Taylor Swift. I have made no secret of this fact - if you’ve met me, or read my blog before, you already know this all too well - I love Taylor Swift.
The reason I love Taylor Swift so much is because of her lyrics. I’m not claiming that I am necessarily proud of this, but I reckon I actually could be one of the most knowledgeable people on the planet when it comes to Taylor Swift’s work. If I went on Mastermind, Taylor Swift's work would be my expert topic, and if I were hired to run a Masterclass (I don’t know why!), I could talk for days on end about Taylor Swift’s work. When it comes to discussing her work - I could go on and on, and I will! (that’s a Taylor Swift lyric by the way and I am so sorry I am like this).
I am deliberately saying “Taylor Swift’s work” because I don’t know Taylor Swift, but I could also tell you more than I should know and more than I am proud of knowing about her personal life. In my defence, one reason for this is because Taylor actually dated one of my first loves and actually it’s quite common to keep tabs when someone you have loved starts dating someone new. Calvin Harris worked in M&S in Dumfries with my Aunt before he was Calvin Harris, and I had a very big crush at the time - it didn’t work out though, because I was seven. However, I no longer feel the way I used to about Calvin (Adam to me!) and the main reason I continue to know so much about Taylor Swift’s personal life is because I love her work and her work is personal.
Despite the fact I can tell you things about her personal life that I really shouldn’t know, things that appear in tabloid gossip, I really must insist that I have no interest in tabloid gossip, I am solely interested in her work. However, because her work is personal, and because there exists a symbiotic relationship between her narrative storytelling about her life and the media coverage of it, where she often directly addresses the latter in her writing, it is impossible to completely ignore her personal life if you listen to her music. Her work also gets better the more you know about her and her life.
Once again, and I am not proud of myself for this, but I could tell you that in 2008, Joe Jonas broke up with Taylor Swift over a 27 second phone call. I could tell you what the tabloids reported, and what the pair’s respective heartbreak ballads appeared to confirm about what went down between them. It seemed Jonas met someone else, and left Swift for her. I could tell you that, along with his brothers and a team of 35 co writers, he went on to pen “Much Better”, a truly terrible song, which starts with the line “get a rep for breaking hearts, now I’m done with superstars, and all the tears on her guitar”, referencing both Swift’s songs ‘Superstar’ and ‘Teardrops on My Guitar’, and actually, rather impressively, her album ‘reputation’ that would come out almost a decade later. This opening line was followed up with the line “but I’m not bitter”, which became slightly less convincing as it was sung repeatedly throughout the song. Adding “but I’m not bitter” even once to any statement rarely makes you sound “not bitter“. After insisting he isn’t bitter, Jonas rather harshly, goes on to describe the new girl in his life - and how she is “much better”.
After this song came out, Jonas was interviewed and (rather inappropriately) asked how he was doing without Swift - he answered that he was “perfectly fine”. The girl he had moved on with and described as “so much better” was also (inappropriately) asked in an interview how she felt about the song and if she was worried about Taylor Swift penning a song in response, she replied “I know what I am doing”.
Once more, and seriously, I am really not proud of myself, but I could tell you that a few months later, in direct response to Jonas’ “Much Better”, with a greater grasp of the English language, Swift penned the significantly superior “Better Than Revenge”. In this song, Taylor sang about how the new girl might have the boy, but she will always get the last word. Towards the end of the song she says “Do you still feel like you know what you’re doing? … let’s hear the applause, cause you’re so much better right?”.
I like how her work also contains more subtle nods to her personal life. I think the line “think about the place where you first met me” is a bit more interesting if you know she met the subject of the song at the Met Gala. I think her work gets better the more you know and I like how layered her work is. I really enjoy seeing how she takes what has been said about her, and I like watching how she addresses it and takes back control of her own story. She was portrayed as a serial dater who wrote songs in a deliberate effort to achieve a form of emotional revenge on ex boyfriends and responded by writing ‘Blank Space’, a satirical song written from the perspective of the absurd character the media had created.
I like that the more you know about her earlier work, the better her later work is. I think her work can only be studied and appreciated as a complete body of work - and again I will happily run the classes!! I think one of her best songs is ‘coney island’, because it has so many call backs, and man, I fucking LOVE a call back! ‘coney island’ is a great song on it’s own, but it is far more interesting if you know Swift’s earlier work - because then you will notice that each verse is written from the perspective of all the men she has previously written about - for example, she asks “were you standing in the hallway, with a big cake, happy birthday, did I paint your bluest skies the darkest grey?”, a response to ‘The Moment I Knew’ where she sang about the person who meant the most to her not turning up to her 21st birthday.
I like that sometimes her work is blatantly self-referential with lyrics like “I once believed love would be burning red, but it’s golden” referring to an entire album of songs about how love is ‘Red’. I think the line “I’m crazier for you than I was at 16, lost in a film scene” is more interesting if you know she sang a song called ‘Crazier’ in a film when she was 16. I think that the line “time, wondrous time, gave me the blues, and then purple pink skies” is better if you know that the colour blue was a main theme in her album ‘reputation’, and then purple pink skies were the aesthetic of the album cover of ‘Lover’ - I think it’s a really clever way to say that in spite of her reputation, she found love.
Her stuff is more impressive the more you know about things from outside her personal life too. In “You Need To Calm Down”, the line “taking shots at me like it’s Patron” could sound like she used patron as the shot of choice because it simply fit the rhyme, but given she is talking about Donald Trump, who wanted to impose higher taxes on goods imported from Mexico including patron, it’s slightly more layered. I think the line “we’re so sad, we paint the town blue, voted most likely to run away with you” is more interesting if you have the background to know that the song is a metaphor for how she grew up as America’s sweetheart and people speculated that she was secretly a Trump supporter but she has since publicly stated that she has always voted Democrat.
Her work is also more interesting if you’ve read literary classics or poetry. I don’t think you should necessarily have to do any pre-reading to enjoy any piece of art, but I love stuff that references other stuff. It’s kinda like having in-jokes with your pals (I’m very lonely). I think Taylor Swift is one of the best when it comes to this. If you’ve read ‘Rebecca’, you can clearly see it is the inspiration for her song ‘tolerate it’. There are countless references to ‘The Great Gatsby’ throughout her discography too. In ‘the lakes’ she sings about going to where poets go to die, and questioning what are her words worth - a reference to William Wordsworth. On the same album, ‘folklore’, there is a love triangle involving a character called Betty. Wordsworth also has a poem involving a character called Betty. It’s called “Idiot Boy”, and I think calling a boy an idiot via cryptic poetry references is the sickest burn of all time.
I also like that she is leaning into fictional storytelling now - and I like that she is writing about other people’s lives and using their stories as metaphors for her own. She has talked about how this was an inevitable and necessary choice, because opening yourself up to being constant tabloid fodder is unsustainable. It’s something I am beginning to understand. I have significantly less fame (none) but I am making similar decisions with my work. But that doesn’t mean that the vault can’t be opened at some point in the future.
The song “Marjorie” is about her grandmother and is my favourite song. It’s about losing a loved one but still feeling that they are still around, still alive - at least in your head - and still watching over you - even if you don’t necessarily believe in any of that stuff. I think it’s significantly more impressive if you know that her grandmother was an opera singer and old recordings of her are what provide the backing vocals - it makes lyrics like “if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were singing to me now” and “I know better, but you’re still around” so much more poignant.
She is incredibly self-aware and self-referential, and you can see her growth and how she has changed her perspective on love and life throughout her career. I like that she sings “you don’t need to save me, but would you run away with me?” because it can be seen as a reference to, and a more mature look at love than, her earlier “Romeo, save me, I’m tired of being so alone”.
In ‘invisible string’ she similarly shows a lot of maturity and growth. She sings “cold was the steel of my axe to grind for the boys who broke my heart, now I send their babies presents”. A few months later, however, she started releasing her re-recorded albums, and these albums include songs of hers that, for whatever reason, she didn’t decide to release at the time. One of these songs happened to call a boy “Mr. Perfectly Fine” many times throughout it. Exactly 27 times, to be precise.
Currently my life is too full of love to share anything about hate, and I too, am spending my time sending babies presents. So, for now, the person I have been (not) talking about needn't worry - as I'm sure she knows what she's doing, and I’m not bitter - but who knows when I might choose to open the vault ;)