*Couple Thoughts on Speak Now:
Before the chorus kicks in, Taylor Swift’s Speak Now starts with the deep thought “wondering why we bother with love, if it never lasts.” Although the song, “Mine,” closes in somewhat of a happy ending, that’s a pretty loaded question. And tuck that into more tangible and bleak realities like fights, responsibilities (bills), and drifting away from the initial thing you set foot on. To remind you, “Mine” was a single and although the couple make up, it’s a tragedy more than romance.
Taylor Swift seems to poke at darker subject matter this time around and it’s not surprising. Being saddled with great fame and attention from millions to see what she would do next, Taylor Swift carried around a lot of stress around this time. Also, add in the fact she’s entering adulthood with different relationships, romantic and platonic, with different people. Inevitably, something blunt and heavy was bound to seep into her creative work around this time.
It’s bit of a bummer hearing some of the songs in Speak Now because her optimistic perspective on life seems shattered. “Never Grow Up” and “Innocent” is a darker version of “Fifteen” with Taylor Swift at the other side of aging, whispering a dark secret to teens that growing up isn’t pretty. Swift soaks in her own misery a little too much and gives up melodic sweetness, but in exchange she gets to directly speak to her fans through those two songs. Even if it may sound like moping, hearing Taylor Swift defeated with the guitar sounds painful.
“Never Grow Up” and “Innocent” throbs a bit too open. The difference between those two and the singles are Taylor Swift’s ability to arrange tragedy and sob stories into a sweet melodic narrative that carries listener away from the pain inside. “The Story of Us” is almost misleading if you don’t follow along closely as Swift breaks the fourth wall charmingly (“Next chapter”) and the upbeat power-pop chorus section twirls her words joyously. Bad thing on my part but when I heard it, as Taylor Swift concluded saying “the end,” I assume her and her lover was together happily ever after. But it’s a story of being distant to the point it’s uncomfortable to be even in the same room.
“Speak Now” is sort of misleading too as Taylor Swift basically steals a groom from his wedding because she thinks she’s better fit for him than the bride. I can’t confidently conclude whether “Speak Now” is Swift realizing her fantasy of a situation gone wrong or if it’s a song about doing the right thing even if it’s the “wrong” thing to do. Both options are selfish to a degree, but Taylor Swift convinces me well that this is the thing to place all bets on.
But before you start pointing fingers and bringing the content behind “Speak Now” and “Better Than Revenge” as proof of Taylor Swift’s negatives, don’t forget to listen to “Back to December,” one of Swift’s best singles. She admits wrong, which breaks away her publicly perceived tendency for vengeance. It’s a genuinely written apology song, a peaceful one at that.
If I had to pick a song similar to “Fifteen” — a core song that summed up Fearless quite well — for Speak Now, it would ironically be “Enchanted.” Although the song uses more of fairy tale image of the Fearless-era, it puts the storybook narrative in a different and more somber perspective. Taylor Swift is uplifted by a charming man as she lives in a mundane and exhausting lifestyle. Sounds typical, but the love and affection is temporary, and Taylor Swift is aware of that. Uncertainty lingers throughout with Swift unsure whether the moment will last, but instead of focusing on its end, Swift treasures the time she has.
Speak Now has Taylor Swift focused on, well, the “now.” Not only does the record expresses the problems and stress she was dealing then more specifically, but also finds a profound feeling for them too. Happiness and relief come from focusing more on the present amidst the struggle. “Back to December” hopes to mend a relationship by ridding of all regrets and grudges. “Sparks Fly” is an uplifting moment of love froze in time. “Mine” finds solace in forgetting past troubles and not minding what lies ahead.
Taylor Swift doesn’t find a solid answer for her big questions. She’s just getting by hoping to find them. And that’s a journey of adulthood I can relate to.
What did you think of Speak Now?