Taylor Swift and Romance: Modern Musical Magic

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“Fearless” album cover (2008)

Taylor Swift crafts excellent fairytales. She can capture both modern and medieval romances with many happy endings.

“Love Story” is the major fairytale in Swift’s Fearless album. This song echoes Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet but with a much happier ending. The song opens with Swift standing “on a balcony in summer air” watching a party unfold. She soon meets a boy, her Romeo, who is told by her father to “stay away from Juliet.” But she begs Romeo to help her escape, singing, “You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess/ It’s a love story, baby, just say, ‘Yes.’” Swift then builds a suspenseful climax, singing, “I got tired of waiting, wondering if you were ever coming around/ My faith in you was fading…” A touch of desperate violin amongst the music makes us anxious for relief. Suddenly, Romeo gets down on one knee and proposes to Juliet with an explosion of guitar chords: “Marry me, Juliet, you’ll never have to be alone/ I love you, and that’s all I really know/ I talked to your dad — go pick out a white dress/ It’s a love story, baby, just say, ‘Yes.’”

“Valentine’s Day” movie poster (2010)

Swift’s single, “Today Was a Fairytale” on the Valentine’s Day movie soundtrack is also quite romantic. In this dreamy song, Swift talks about love at first sight: “Fell in love when I saw you standin’ there.” She creates a blissful atmosphere by singing “time slows down, whenever you’re around,” and by noting the “magic in the air.” This song captures a fairytale in mere minutes.

 

"Speak Now" album cover (2010)
“Speak Now” album cover (2010)

“Enchanted,” a slow ballad from Speak Now, resembles the story of Cinderella. One night, a “silhouette starts to make its way” to Swift, rescuing her from yet another night of “forcing laughter” and “faking smiles.” Love at first sight is evident in the quote “vanished when I saw your face.” The epitome of the song, though, is the chorus: “This night is sparkling, don’t you let it go/ I’m wonderstruck, blushing all the way home. . .dancing around all alone.” Swift hopes that “this was the very first page, not where the storyline ends.” She then delivers these beautiful lines: “My thoughts will echo your name/ Until I see you again/ These are the words I held back/ As I was leaving too soon.” The ending is very bittersweet because it is hopeful, but we never find out what happens.

“Long Live” is another fairytale with many medieval references. Swift reminisces about being “the kings and the queens” with a boy who “held [his] head like a hero/ On a history book page.” The following chorus and verse definitely echo fairytale fantasies: “Long live the walls we crashed through/ How the kingdom lights shined just for me and you. . . I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you.” “And bring on all the pretenders/ One day, we will be remembered.” In the second verse, the boy heroically “trade[s] [his] baseball cap for a crown,” and “the cynics were outraged/ Screaming, ‘This is absurd!’/ Cause for a moment a band of thieves/ In ripped up jeans got to rule the world.” “Long Live” celebrates a coronation with a modern twist.

"1989" deluxe album cover (2014-2015)
“1989” deluxe album cover (2014-2015)

The sound of 1989 differs sharply from all of Swift’s past work. There are, however, two fairytales on the deluxe version. “New Romantics” sarcastically comments on fairytales: “’Cause baby I could build a castle/ Out of all the bricks they threw at me.” “And every day is like a battle” with the new romantics, and “every night with [them] is like a dream.” They are almost hopeless romantics, since “heartbreak is [their] national anthem.” The sarcasm is very evident in the lines, “Please take my hand and/ Please take me dancin’ and/ Please leave me stranded/ It’s so romantic.”

“Wonderland” reflects Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, a darker fairytale. Swift recalls how she “fell down a rabbit hole,” “found wonderland,” and “got lost in it.” Her beau “calm[ed] [her] fears with the Cheshire cat’s smile.” She sums up the song with the lines, “It’s all fun and games ‘til somebody loses their mind.” This is one of Taylor’s songs that does not end happily, as understood in the line, “And in the end in wonderland we both went mad.”

Overall, Taylor Swift is a great storyteller and a pro at constructing relatable, modern, musical fairytales.

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