Note: 99% of posts I write on this blog take about an hour or two, and I post then and there and then go on my way. This one I’ve been working on for weeks, and now I have so much to say I could write a book on it. So, I’m just going to have to say what I can. Moral: I think I might be going crazy.
I have prepared better for this post than I think I prepared for any test in college.
Two years ago, I wrote T-Swizzle Does the Dizzle, writing about her beautiful album Speak Now. This album is far more controversial, and thanks to the fact that the number of times I’ve listened to the entire album uninterrupted is in the double digits (yeah, you do the math) and I spend a large portion of my day trying to understand how she’s feeling/where she is in life (hey, guys, I was supposed to be a psychologist and I manage online marketing. Sometimes a girls got to psychoanalyze) I have deemed myself immensely qualified to write this post. Rolling Stone, step aside, Jennifer is speaking.
3.5 stars out of 5
Why 3.5? Well, a lot of this album was “collaborative,” which means it wasn’t just hardcore T-Swift, and, well, you can feel it. In some ways it gives it a poppy essence that has made it possible for me to play it at work and not just bawl my eyes out, but in some ways I miss the extreme vulnerability of songs like “Last Kiss” (Speak Now) and “Breathe” (Fearless).
I’m going to be honest with you – at first I did not like this album. Was not a fan. I listened to “I Almost Do” and “The Last Time” about 1000 times (they were the only songs I liked right off the bat), and was actually physically, literally repulsed by 22, where she opens up by talking about hipsters (come on Taylor, you’re better than that). But, the good news is, after 100+ listens I’m completely obsessed with it and wake up with it in my head (the album, not the song 22. That still isn’t her strongest moment).
One of the interesting little pieces of this album is that in the audio book she capitalizes random letters that they spell out a hidden “message” for each song. So, we’re going to go through those here, too. Now, here we go, in no particular order (that’s a lie, I’m totally ordering them based on how much I like them. Because it’s my blog, and I’m the boss. I’m going to go into detail about my favorite 5, then I’ll just order the rest. Like a mini-Billboard Rankings! This could become a thing. “The Jen Ratings.” I like it).
1. All Too Well
Hidden message: Maple Latte
This is my favorite “Taylor” song of the album. What do I mean by the most “Taylor”? It means that in an overly “collaborative” album (music industry: we want less of your brilliant producer shit and more of Taylor just singing and playing guitar. Leave her alone), this one felt the most authentic to me, AND I’m obsessed with it. The perfect blend of Taylor and creepily wanting to put something on repeat for hours at a time. Do other people do that or just me?
Since I’ve definitely spent over 10 hours of my life listening to this song (hey, I multi-task, ok?) I have spent a lot of time figuring out every reference. Obviously, it’s about Jake Gyllenhaal, which is clear from the fall references (they dated over Thanksgiving) and the Upstate reference (he lived in NY), and the comment about his sister’s house (they would spend time at sister Maggie Gyllenhaal’s house). As for Maple Latte? They were spotted at Fido Cafe – a cafe hot spot in Nashville – around Thanksgiving 2010. I feel like that’s a little lame for a big hidden message, but hey – she’s the boss.
Obviously the silver lining of this whole thing is that no one wants a name like Gyllenhaal, which I will never, ever (ever, ever..) be able to spell without Googling first. On the downside, he sounded like the perfect disastrous love affair – adorable, loving, but confused and, well, “over it” when she thought it was forever. The majority of the album has been attributed to her relationship with Gyllenhaal, including the title song Red and the We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (which is so dumb I even deleted it from the album playlist on my phone. Sorry, but it’s the truth). But this song isn’t the break up song, or the intense song like Red, it’s just the real memory song where she re-plays their time together and it breaks my fucking heart. When she sings “You tell me about your past thinking your future was me” it evokes every single moment we’ve all had where it clicks and we think it’s going to last and then we just sit in the wreckage, days, weeks, or months later, and just try to make sense of it all. Then, there’s the playful, perfect memory of “dancing in the refrigerator light” and the sort of scandalizing moment of “nights when you made me your own.”
But, above all, the most beautiful part of the song?
“Time won’t fly, it’s like I’m paralyzed by it/ I’d like to be my old self again, but I’m still trying to find it.”
And then the perfect questions.
“Maybe we got lost in translation/ Maybe I asked for too much/ But maybe this thing was a masterpiece/ Til you tore it all up.”
2. The Last Time
Hidden message: LA on your break
The song is a brilliant fucking masterpiece. It’s Taylor + leading Snow Patrol signer Gary Lightbody. Well, yes fucking please. It’s amazing. The internet seems to believe it’s about Gyllenhaal, and after All Too Well I totally see that. In addition, the “we are never ever ever getting back together” clusterfuck is assumed to be about Gyllenhaal (makes sense, since in All Too Well she refers to him calling her up just to break her again) and this falls into the theme of “I’m in love with you, you spin me around and break my heart, we can’t do this anymore.”
All of that said, this is the most brilliant song on the album. It can’t be #1 since it isn’t 100% Taylor, she definitely takes a backseat to Gary, but it’s still fucking amazing.
“… And I you open your eyes into mine, and everything feels better.”
Ok, I’m going to go wash my mouth out with soap and move forward in this review process. Way too many fucks in that last one. But this song brings it out of me. It’s just so fucking amazing.
“You find yourself at my door/ Just like all those times before/ You wear your best apology/ But I was there to watch you leave
And all the times I let you in/ Just for you to go again/ Disappear when you come back/ Everything is better.”
3. I Almost Do
Hidden Message: Wrote this instead of calling
This song breaks my heart. I love, love, love this song. Again, I think it’s about the Jakester. That man did a number on her, guys.
“And I just want to tell you/ It takes everything in me, not to call you/ And I wish I could run to you/ And I hope you know that, every time I don’t/ I almost do.”
Taylor, we’ve all been there. Don’t call. Don’t get sucked into the vortex of heartbreak. I have a strong belief that the real happy ending, in real love, doesn’t involve a hundred goodbyes in the middle.
Hidden message: Won’t stop til it’s over
This is probably the best written song on the album. It escalates beautifully, the lyrics feel very Taylor, and the whole experience is really powerful. I also want to point out that the lyrics “I’ll do anything you say/If you say it with your hands/And I’d be smart to walk away/But your quicksand” is pretty sexual for our little princess Ms.T.
Hidden message: SAG (“SAG could be short for Sagittarius, which is the astrological sign that Jake Gyllenhaal falls under. It could also be an abbreviation for Screen Actors Guild, which would work for the actor. However, that’s sort of boring, so we lean toward the stars to reveal who the title track is after. Swift is also a Sagittarius.” – via Taste of Country)
Hmmm… I’m getting lazy. Let’s see.. it’s about Jake. It makes you see how she fell in love with him (along with All too Well). It’s visual. It’s alive. It gets stuck in my head. I think this was one of the moments on the album where her collaboration with outside producers really did great things to her sound and produced something really powerful.
6. Begin Again
7. State of Grace
8. Sad Beautiful Tragic
9. Everything Has Changed
10. I Knew You Were Trouble
11. Lucky One
13. Everything Has Changed
I’m not going to go into the others in detail. I Knew You Were Trouble is really fun, and I love it when I’m getting tired at work and want to get pumped up again. 22 mentions hipsters in the opening lines which I think does it an enormous disservice, but once you get used to it it has its fun moments as well. The Lucky One is interesting – I like it – and I think it’s about Joni Mitchell (yes, I made Chase research this with me until we came to a consensus). Stay Stay Stay is a little – ok, enormously – shallow, and I’m surprised it made it to the main cd and not the bonus tracks.
Ronan & The Moment I Knew
Once I dove into the bonus soundtrack I fell madly in love with the acoustics (State of Grace and Treacherous) and the song The Moment I Knew. I asked on Facebook what everyone thought of the bonus tracks, and there was a general consensus that they weren’t as strong as the bonus tracks on Speak Now, but they were autobiographical and felt more “Taylor” than the main cd. I agree with that. I was shocked that no one was as obsessed with The Moment I Knew as I was. I love it.
So, The Moment I Knew (based on my research.. which basically involves pathetically scrolling through forums of pre-teen/teenage girls debating different parts of her songs. Debating is a strong word. Pre-teen girls trying to talk about things relating to Taylor Swift. Ok, that’s better) is about the moment she knew that her and Jake Gyllenhaal were over when he didn’t show up for her birthday. It’s a little cheesy, but very Taylor and very heartbreaking. Also, I’ve listened to it over 15 times in the last 24 hours, so… yeah. As dumb as this sounds, it made me understand the disaster that was “we are never ever ever getting back together.” He really, really broke her heart. He just really kept breaking her heart.
“He called me later and said I’m sorry I didn’t make it/and I said I’m sorry too/and that was the moment I knew.”
Then she broke my heart.
It isn’t quite Red, but it’s her latest single and I’m including it. Have you guys read about Ronan? Well if you haven’t, read this: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/17/a-childs-cancer-story-inspires-taylor-swift/
Then watch this:
Then read this:
Then I dare you not to bawl. Like I did. At work.
And then I dare you not to fall in love with her all over again.
Why You Can’t Give Up On T-Swift
I’m going to be honest – some are hits and some are misses. Tonight I was cooking dinner and had all her songs on shuffle, and some I skipped and some I listened to over and over. The thing is, we can’t give up on someone if everything they do isn’t perfect for “us.” It’s interesting, I had several facebook status updates over the last few weeks about this album, and everyone’s reviews were different. Some people’s favorite songs are the ones I don’t like at all. Some people thought this was her worst work ever, some people think it’s her best. The truth is, you can’t appease everyone, and some are hits and some are misses. But loving an artist and following them is about going through them and giving them the time and space to evolve. If you abandon me over one dumb/too analytical/not funny enough/insert adjective here blog post then.. well.. I’m screwed. Because the truth is, I don’t know what you want me to say, and I can’t always be funny/in love/inspiring. But I can be me, and I open myself up to make you part of my journey, and I know how hard that is to do. Taylor does it in front of millions of people. Millions and millions. You don’t have to love everything she does, but if you’re a fan, give her a chance. Don’t abandon her over “we are never ever ever getting back together.” Maybe for a day she just wanted to play.
Fun fact follow up to the previous T-Swift album, Speak Now:
John Mayer is PISSED about Dear John. Like, really pissed.
This album isn’t Fearless, which I think was her perfect moment. She had really learned how to write a song, she really knew her sound, and she was in this precious young vulnerable place where you’re experiencing so many things for the first time. It’s as rich as those years are to all of us. She wasn’t quite a woman, but she wasn’t a kid anymore. It’s a time where you’re your most vulnerable, you have so much power as a person yet so much niavety about life. Everything won’t be Fearless, and she’s experimenting a lot, but I’m still loving following every minute of Taylor’s journey.