“Pushed from the precipice,
climbed right back up the cliff,
long story short, I survived.”long story short – evermore, Taylor Swift
How can Taylor Swift continually create albums that not only perfectly reflect how I feel, but come at the time when I need them? Red (Taylor’s Version) came out on Friday (12th November) just when I need a new album to soothe me as I navigate this new world and grapple with my past. I need an album I know that, in a few months, or a year, I’ll listen to again and I’ll be transported back. The knowledge that this will happen implies that I’ll get through it, and that’s what I need more than anything. This is a power that only an album has, with all the nuances between tracks, the hopeful, the sad, the all encompassing, only such variety can reflect a period of life.
There have been two times in my life where I have driven around places carelessly – recklessly – in an utter state of despair, contemplating a relationship I knew was not serving me well. Reputation came out in the first instance – it was empowering and female driven (Bad Blood music video anyone?) and made me feel like fuck it! I can do this! So I did on a sort of whim. I walked down the seafront of my hometown; the garish arcade lights blinking to my left, the sea an inky blackness on my right, the horizon perforated by the minuscule lights of what lay on the other side. In the air was Christmas which was a few weeks away and all that that meant; unprocessed grief, sadness, accusations, discomfort. I chose to find out what that alternative looked like, away from the garishness, the fakeness. I found out quickly that without the falsity there was nothing, and I didn’t have the strength to face up to all the obstacles that stood in my way, all the pain that I had to work through to conjure up my identity, work that I’d have to do alone, as I had no one. So I fell backward with little decision making. A few years passed uncomfortably, enter Lover. This fantastic moving image of happiness; of love; of laughter and friendship that I didn’t have. So I started to drive around again aimlessly losing myself in the songs wishing I could feel what she felt, starting to understand that what I had, I didn’t want. I didn’t really know what I wanted. Now when I listen to Lover I’m reminded of how that longing, that absence, is now filled: that I know what I want and I have it. I listen to Reputation and that courage, although short lived, it was that little spark that eventually saved me.
Then came Folklore like a beacon in the darkest of nights which I listen to when I want to be reminded of the process of falling in love. Not just a romantic love or a platonic love but a falling in love with myself, a finding out of who I am that enabled romantic and platonic love to grow. It came out in maybe the second worst period of my life when I had gone from someone suffocated, to someone completely unstuck and, now I realise, free. I first listened to it with my best friend as I drove us back from Manchester; our first trip away together in our new budding friendship and my first trip away as a single woman in years. My tears ricochet felt like my fight song, like the “I can do this!” anthem that I needed. Only a month or so later I would find myself listening to folklore with the man I met online, the man I had texted back and forth for months while we sat in lockdown unable to meet. He would then text me as he drove along the North East coast of Scotland delivering baked goods, as the sun cast the sky in an orangey hued pink as it rose, to say he’d heard one of the songs on the radio, and thought of me. That album encapsulates that transitionary period of my life so well, from so completely and utterly lost, to found.
Evermore came out at a junction in my life. Where I could decide to move onwards, embrace a new future, let in new people. I’d listen to Evermore as I showered at my partner’s parents house where we stayed for 4 months over the winter lockdown. I’d sit and soak in a bath three times my width as snow fell outside and all I could see for miles was white. I’d listen to Taylor’s words like poetry which held me while I contemplated whether I deserved this. How I deserved this. How I’d come to find a functioning family unit which I could let myself get into, I could open up too, when I’d thought all possibility of this for me was dead. For the first time in 4 years I had a good Christmas. When I listen to Evermore I’m reminded of that happiness that I let in, and that I should continue to open up to it. That I deserve it.
I guess the magic of Taylor Swift really lives in Taylor’s Versions and the ability to experience an album with a doubleness not only in the action of re-listening, but in the fact that it has been re-recorded and, the most powerful part, reclaimed.
I first listened to Fearless when I had my first boyfriend, I did an art project for GCSE inspired by Love Story in that weird sort of era when the Twilight films were out too and love was more obsession than the healthy supportive love I know now. I listen to Fearless (Taylor’s Version) as a woman who has a complicated relationship with love. It came out when I was alone for the final few weeks in my old house and I needed to be reminded of the love I had found while I was waiting for you to come and move in with me, while we waited to move into our new home together. A reminder of that romantic love that grows from something platonic and real, based on friendship and mutuality not power. When I listen to it now I remember that short period of time of solitude where I acknowledged the strength of what I had found, said goodbye to my old life and came to a place where I am safe.
Now enters Red (Taylor’s Version) when I have the strength, the foundation, and the support to work through everything. To decide what and who I take with me into this new chapter, and what I can leave behind. If Taylor Swift can sift through her work, revise, revisit and reclaim, then so can I.