What is Taypreciation?
It’s a little thing I started with a dear friend, fellow Swiftie as you might guess, to discover the earlier work of Taylor and to combat the late autumn dread and loneliness. We had our first session on 28th October and we have weekly phone calls where we appreciate the album like fancier people appreciate wine. It’s a great bonding experience and I full-heartedly recommend discovering albums with friends in such a way, you can learn a lot about each other and yourselves. (I already have a BTSpreciation lined up for next year :D)
How is the blog edition different?
Sometimes in folk tales when the heroes are pursued by a witch, they throw a handful of seeds behind their backs and the witch can’t come after them until she has counted all the seeds. I have the same curse. In museums I can’t leave an object until I read all the description. In projects if I start, I have to go all the way, into minute detail or I’ll start to have all kinds of problems.
When I first had the idea of writing up the things I said during the Taypreciation phone calls I thought it was going to be a quick, light-hearted project. (Ha. Ha.) I should never believe myself when I say that.
The posts here will be a mixture of fangirling, literary analysis and personal essay. So be warned. There will be a lot of things about Taylor and there will be some things about me too. It’s been a shit year. Everybody needed a lifeline and to me Taylor and her music have definitely been one. She is a consolation and inspiration to me, so it would be very difficult not to be personal.
The magic of an artwork, be it text, music, or painting always happens half way between its creator and consumer. Of course, there exists an objective value, but (most of the) beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Things that resonate with us do so because they touch on memories or experiences that formed us.
With her later albums (starting with Red, I think) I feel like Taylor knows exactly what is in my head. It is probably because she is operating more with images and metaphors not a concrete (often one-layered) story. It is always easier to find our own meanings in the symbols. Just think of tarot for example. The cards have their own meanings but their interpretation and finding their relevance to your own life is up to you.
I have already written about Taylor as my muse you can read it here.
I also started a reading challenge based on Lover, but I didn’t get very far. You can read the post here. (it’s in Hungarian but you can at least check out the book covers)
I didn’t really know anything about Taylor Swift before we started. I’d heard Teardrops on my Guitar but that was about it. I was a bit afraid because I’m not that into country. On the whole however it was a pleasant discovery, I liked it quite enough. It might even be my favourite from the early year albums… but I’ll tell you after Speak now if I still think the same.
Wikipedia tells me that: Taylor Swift (2006) £was the longest-charting album of the 2000s on the Billboard200. Its third single, “Our Song“, made her the youngest person to single-handedly write and sing a number-one song on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.”
Wow Taylor, well done.
1.Tim McGraw (single)
“But when you think Tim McGraw,
I hope you think my favourite song
The one we danced to all night long
The moon like a spotlight on the lake
When you think happiness,
I hope you think that little black dress.”
I hadn’t known who Tim McGraw was – it’s always good to learn something new! It’s a pleasant song, but it’s too teen –and too American – for me to really form a connection. By too American I mean that there are things that culturally don’t resonate with me because that’s not what I grew up in. (The same way if I talked about famous Hungarian artists that marked my formative years, they would probably not do much for non-Hungarians.) So this song doesn’t go straight to my heart like her later stuff does. (But that’s not a problem at all.) There are a lot of cars in the songs of this album, but I’ll muse on them later.
This song reminds me of a book I read in the summer – Open road summer (Fun summer read. Liked the love interested, was annoyed by the MC.)
When listening to “Tim Mcgraw”, I can imagine the mood of country dances. I like the banjo behind the chorus and the violin that joins the last chorus.
There is already the returning to her hometown motif that comes back in later songs such as “All too well” or “‘tis the damn season”.
2. Picture to burn (single)
This one somehow resonated with me more, the chorus sometimes pops into my mind randomly. It reminds me a little bit of Avril Lavigne, who was by the way, the soundtrack of my middle school years.
3. Teardrops on my guitar (single)
„He’s the reason for the teardrops on my guitar
The only thing that keeps me wishing on a wishing star
He’s the song in the car I keep singing”
A nice song about pining after someone who doesn’t notice you. Taylor has a few songs on this topic. In this theme my favourite is “You belong with me” – I prefer the active, sort of ragey songs (Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne or “Misery Business” by Paramore) than the cry in my pillow ones.
Could I see myself as a teenager slow dancing to this with someone cute? Totally.
4. A Place in This World
“I don’t know what I want
So don’t ask me
‘Cause I’m still trying to figure it out
Don’t know what’s down this road
I’m just walking
Trying to see through the rain coming down”
I’m thirty and I still feel like this most of the days. I think growing up and finding our (real and only) place in the world is a myth people tell us so that we don’t get freaked out by the truth that everything is always changing. (Moi, the philosopher :D) One of the surprise discoveries and probably my favourite from the album. It was such a perfect fit for Juniper, the protagonist of my Nanowrimo novel, Our Best Friend’s Alien Boyfriend.
5. Cold as You
“You have a way of coming easily to me
and when you take, you take the very best of me.”
“And you come away with a great little story
of a mess of a dreamer with the nerve to adore you.”
I liked it on our first listening because it fit my mood. I still like it, but again she has later songs in the same vein that speak to my experience more.
6. The Outside
I read that Taylor wrote “The Outside” when she was twelve, the year she began writing her own songs. Wow, girl.
Brace yourself, this is going to be the lit. analysis one. What prompted me on this lengthy comparative journey is the line:
“I tried to take the road less travelled by, but nothing seems to work the first few times.”
I remembered the term “the road less travelled by” from “illicit affairs” I had listened to a few years ago. (It is of course a clear reference to the Robert Frost poem, one of the most famous works of classical American poetry. I’m sure Taylor learnt about it in school and it stuck with her as you will see it stuck with me too.
So I went back to “illicit affairs” where we had “take the road less travelled by” “a drug that only worked the first few hundred times” There are multiple words echoing from the earlier song. She returns to the same idea in “‘tis the damn season” with “The road not taken looks real good now”
Let’s see some of the original:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I think Taylor’s life story sets us a perfect example that even if there’s the easy, sunlit road that everybody expects you to take – you have to listen to your heart and take the darker one. That’s where the adventures happen.
Fun fact and this is where the highly personal part comes in: I have a poem from 2007 that is called „The road you didn’t take” (It’s originally in Hungarian.)
I was dreading to reread it, afraid of finding some embarrassing teenage nonsense but honestly…it’s not bad:
Aztán bonyodalom voltál, kétely, a rögösebb út,
sok áttöprengett óra, álmatlan éjszaka ,
veszélyekkel kavargó feneketlen kút,
és megszólalt a lelkem kétkedő szava.
Bolygóként keringtem , s te voltál Napom,
mi, mint két egymással táncoló atom.
De aztán a vonzás megszűnt hirtelen,
pályámról letértem, s elnyelt a végtelen.
És neked az éjszaka , mintha azt súgná:
„Mondd te megsiratod az utat, amire nem lépsz rá…?”
In rough translation:
“Later you were complications, the bumpier road
Hours spent wondering and sleepless nights
a bottomless well full of danger
and doubts arose in my soul. (okay, this is a bit heavy handed for example :D)
I orbited like a planet and you were my Sun / two atoms dancing
but the gravity suddenly disappeared
and infinity swallowed me”.(this however is very Fanni 2020 in its theme. Well done, teen me.)
“And the night whispers to you
: do you mourn the road not taken?”
I’d like to believe that this is a proof my soul and Taylor’s is a little bit made of the same material 😀
7. Tied together with a smile
“But you don’t tell anyone
that you might
not be the golden one
and you’re tied together with a smile
but you’re coming undone.”
“I guess it’s true that love was all you wanted,
‘cause you’re giving it away like it’s extra change,
hoping it will end up in his pocket,
but he leaves you out like a penny in the rain,
it’s not his price to pay.”
This is also one of those songs that I like a lot when I’m listening to it, but then I don’t think of it anymore. I like how soft the banjo is in the beginning. Taylor sounds like a friend.
I think this song talks about an important problem of our society – the need to pretend that we’re perfect and everything is fine, but in the inside we’re falling apart. This year more than ever I’ve come to embrace the importance of sometimes saying “I’m a mess, but I’m doing my best. Anyway it’s okay to be a mess because we are human. And those who say everything is perfect all the time ARE.LYING. Or are machines.”
8. Stay beautiful
Sweet, first love small town song – I have very little connection with it other than I find Cory a cool boy’s name. The chorus is catchy and happy.
9. Should have said no
A fun, energetic song. “Girl at home” from Red feels like a sister song to it from the other girl’s point of view. It’s angry but in a fun way, in a motivating sort of way like “Picture to burn” It wants to make you go out for a run or work the treadmill, not to beat up/murder your ex. ( In any case, it’s always a good idea to channel these energies legally :D)
10. Mary’s song (Oh my, my, my)
“She said, I was seven and you were nine,
I looked at you like the stars that shined,
in the sky, the pretty lights.”
It is a very sweet song, but I’m more of a “Champagne Problems” kind of gal so stories of childhood love growing into a life-long marriage resonate with me less. Also family idyll with loving dads is just a trigger for me so… It’s objectively a lovely song, it’s not it’s fault it doesn’t touch me. (A.k.a. It’s me, not you.) (Interesting that she is seven –makes one think of seven). There is a lovely simplicity in this story that I think is in contrast with the later complicated/darker secret relationships (a.k.a all the songs I like 😀 “Dancing with our hands tied”, “Dress”, “illicit affairs”, etc.) and the headstrong heartbreaking women of “the last great American dynasty” or “champagne problems.”
It must be nice to know so full-heartedly where you belong, especially from such a young age.
I looked it up and apparently it was inspired by Taylor’s next door neighbours, an old couple who have been together forever. Okay, this made me cry. (Full disclosure: it also made me think of my grandparents who were married for more than sixty years. This song is a tear-trigger festival and I don’t like it :D)
10. Our song (single)
Sweet first-love song. Can’t really connect with it now and I don’t actually know if I could have connected with it when I was a teen. It has a definite American small town vibe to it. I just realised how a lot of the songs features the boyfriend’s car (this one, “Mary’s song”, “Picture to burn,” etc.) Hungarian high schoolers hardly ever have cars. I can remember ONE girl who had a car and I thought it was showoffy to come to school by car. I think it’s not that typical in university either. I’ve never dated anyone who drove regularly or came to pick me up in a car. Have I missed out on something?
(I’ve just watched the video clip. 1. Aw, baby Taylor 2. She has a preppy high school girl vibe – that usually scares me off, so I don’t know if I would have liked her. I was more the Avril kinda laidback girl.)
11. I’m only me when I’m with you
“Friday night beneath the stars,
in a field behind your yard.
You and I are paintin’ pictures in the sky
and sometimes we don’t say a thing,
just listen to the crickets sing.
Everything I need is right here by my side.”
Again a song I liked a lot when I listened to the album for the first time, but haven’t really thought of it since then. I was happy to hear it again.
It’s very sweet. Basically anything that has stars makes me think of Macchiatos, so…:D
“We could be a beautiful
instead of just invisible.”
“There’s a fire inside of you
That can’t help but shine through,
she’s never gonna see the light,
no matter what you do.”
Cf. “Teardrops on my guitar” and “You belong with me”
13. Perfectly Good heart
Sweet song about first heartbreak.
“Wake up and smell the breakup
Fix my heart, put on my make-up,
Another mess I didn’t plan.”
Incredibly fun catchy song, in the vibe of “Picture to Burn” Very energetic, a little bit tongue in cheek.
Okay, I’ve listened to it like ten times on loop, so I think it’ll be one of the surprise favourites from this album.
Thank you for bearing with me.
I’ll be back soon with the Taypreciation of Fearless! Until then, take care and listen to Taylor 😉