songwriting done right

I used to write songs, quite a few decades ago. I don’t think much about the process anymore, but I still have an idea of how difficult it is to do really well.

As you may have heard, Taylor Swift released a surprise album back in July called “folklore.” Then there was a documentary, including live performances of all the songs, and then, another surprise album called “evermore“.

I’m enjoying both albums, and the soundtrack of the documentary (which is basically folklore with less production), but this is the standout for me (and for a lot of other people — I’ve already seen it hailed as either the best song Swift has ever written, or #2 behind “All Too Well”):

the last great american dynasty

I’ve listened to it many times, and at the end of the bridge, when it shifts from being a song about Rebekah Harkness to being a song about Taylor Swift, I confess I always laugh out loud.

They say she was seen on occasion
Pacing the rocks staring out at the midnight sea
And in a feud with her neighbor
She stole his dog and dyed it key lime green
Fifty years is a long time
Holiday House sat quietly on that beach
Free of women with madness
Their men and bad habits, and then it was bought by me

The confluence of old money, new money, New England, and mad, loud women. I think my mother, who knew a lot about all of those things, would have liked it.

(With story songs like this, it’s not uncommon to hold back the chorus until after the second verse, so you’ve already made the case for whatever the chorus is saying about the story as a whole before you deliver the chorus, but Swift doesn’t do that here. She asserts “the maddest woman this town has ever seen; She had a marvelous time ruining everything” before actually showing all the “madness” and “ruining” that was going on. That goes very nicely with the overall attitude of the song.)

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