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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer

‘Are you ready for it?’: A Taylor Swift song draft


It’s been a long year. 

Last March, in the absence of college basketball, we put our favorite songs up against each other in a Taylor Swift song bracket that almost rivaled the upsets of the 2021 NCAA tournament, and if you think that was challenging, just wait. In that innocent time, back when masks were a suggestion and we were on an extended spring break, we could never know Swift would pull a Shakespeare and release two new albums, plus a rerecording of her 2008 Grammy-winning record “Fearless,” in just 12 months.

But this year, hope is on the horizon. We can see the “Daylight” and are almost to the “Afterglow.” The sun is shining, we’re allgetting vaccinated and Taylor Swift is revisiting her past work. It’s time for something new, and that idea came to us through “Every Single Album: Taylor Swift” on the Ringer Podcast Network. Inspired by podcast hosts Nora Princiotti and Nathan Hubbard’s 10-song Taylor Swift draft, we decided to host our own — this time including works from Swift’s three (!) albums that have come out since last March. After all, keeping up with Taylor Swift is our favorite sport. This showdown proves fiercer than the star-studded “Bad Blood” music video.

Here are the rules: Modeling the podcast, we went with a traditional draft, where each participant gets to choose songs from Swift’s cavernous catalogue. Since 13 is Swift’s lucky number, we decided to up the ante from The Ringer’s 10 to our 13. Once a track is picked, it is officially off the board. However, to switch it up slightly from Princiotti and Hubbard’s exercise, we decided to add a twist: Our final lists had to include one song from each of Swift’s nine studio albums plus one bonus track from any album, one live performance, one song featuring Swift by another artist and one song we’ve had on repeat lately to produce two final 13-song drafts of Taylor Swift excellence.

We joined via Zoom for the showdown. Dessi won the (virtual) coin toss with a call of tails, so she got the coveted first pick. Let the games begin!

Round One:

Dessi: “Holy Ground” (“Red”) — The tempo of this song alone gets me going. I just want to spend a moment “having coffee all alone” and reminiscing with Swift. The nostalgia of the “Red” album can be summed up in this song, and the way she captures the excitement of a new relationship with lines like “Spinnin’ like a girl in a brand new dress” appeals to any hopeless romantic.

Claire: “All Too Well” (“Red”) — To quote my friend Sophia Kartsonas, “Jake Gyllenhaal may not survive the re-recording of ‘Red.’” To quote myself, “I may not survive the re-recording of the 10-minute version of ‘All Too Well’ (From the Vault.)”

Round Two: 

Dessi: “Getaway Car” (“reputation”) — I stole this banger from Claire in the very beginning of our draft, and I would trust “Call It What You Want” as its alternate. But this was such a big moment in Taylor Swift history, and if you watch the song on the documentary, you can feel the adrenaline that it captures. Rest in Peace, Hiddleswift, but thank you for this song.

Claire: “august” (“folklore”) — Swift wrecked and revitalized me with her surprise summer release of “folklore,” and from that, we got “august,” a dose of pure serotonin and heartbreak perfected with a touch of the signature Jack Antonoff pop production genius. Simply delicious.

Round Three:

Dessi: “my tears ricochet” (“folklore”) — Of the emotionally branded track fives that Taylor has made tragic on almost every album, this one might be the most devastatingly beautiful. I find it empowering, and it’s a strong message to those who ever make Swift cry.

Claire: “Cruel Summer” (“Lover”) — Taylor Swift must have been an architect in her past life, because her bridges are both well-constructed and stunningly beautiful. And yeah, this one is the collection’s crown jewel. It’s not too late for “Cruel Summer” to be the song of summer 2021 — in fact, I’m manifesting it. 

Round Four:

Dessi: “Blank Space” (“1989”) — I made a Prezi presentation about this song for a class my sophomore year. Swift’s reclaiming of her serial dater image in this anthem is so powerful, and you have to watch the music video along with it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: “Blank Space” walked so “The Man” could run.

Claire: “Enchanted” (“Speak Now”) — Sometimes, theft is not a crime — when I’m the one who’s stealing. I felt kind of bad about taking “Enchanted” from Dessi, but honestly, not bad enough not to do it. Another card-carrying member of the Taylor Swift iconic bridge collection, this song’s only flaw is that it was allegedly written about the lead singer of Owl City (thanks to “Every Single Album” for this surprising tidbit). Inspiration arises from unexpected places, I guess.

Round Five:

Dessi: “Long Live” (“Speak Now”) — Claire took “Enchanted” from me, but once I found out that song was about meeting the lead singer of Owl City, it lost some of its luster for me. “Long Live” was almost my eighth grade graduation song, and the imagery is just prime: “band of thieves in ripped up jeans got to rule the world.” Cue the nostalgic highlight reels of our youth.

Claire: “Our Song” (“Taylor Swift”) — This track may not be the most iconic song from Swift’s debut (that has to be “Teardrops on my Guitar”), but it’s definitely the most fun. Any song that starts with the lyrics “I was riding shotgun / with my hair undone” is 100% meant to be played for all summer car rides forever and ever. I don’t make the rules.

Round Six:

Dessi: “Death By A Thousand Cuts” (“Lover”) — Again, I feel like a lot of my song selections follow the thread (or “invisible string” one might say) of storytelling skills. The glittery, glimmery piano sound combined with the imagery of “chandeliers still flicker in here,” as well as the bridge that encapsulates her whole relationship in a rollercoaster of intimate moments makes this a top 5 song for me. I’m out of breath just thinking about Taylor nailing the bridge.

Claire: “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” — Essentially:


Round Seven:

Dessi: “Tim McGraw” (“Taylor Swift”) — A song so good that Maggie Rogers covered it. I had to pick one of Swift’s breakout ballads, because this one built her foundation as a celebrity and singer-songwriter.

Claire: “champagne problems” (“evermore”) — How can you not love a song with a South Shore Line (“night train”) shoutout? It’s a yes from me, from the countless clear Notre Dame references to “maybe she’s f—ed in the head!” This song pairs well with champagne — and problems. Preferably, both at once.

Round Eight: 

Dessi: “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” (“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)”) — Rerecorded, this song is bigger and better — especially when she shortens the “Oh” on “Romeo” and adds a little spice to a mostly very sweet song. This song will play at my theoretical wedding one day.

Claire: “Delicate” (“reputation”) — In this case, theft is a crime. Yes, Dessi, I’m talking to you — I will never get over the way “Getaway Car” was stolen from me. It’s OK, though, because “Delicate,” an intricate yet low-key pop ballad which includes what is likely the first mention of William Bowery — I mean, Joe Alwyn — is a more-than-worthy consolation prize. Track fives for the win.

Round Nine:

Dessi: “marjorie” (“evermore”) — If someone could ever make me cry about the thought of losing my grandma, it would be Taylor Swift. The messages of wisdom passed from woman to woman in this song also deserve their own praise entirely. “Never be so polite, you forget your power, and never be so kind, you forget to be clever.” Pure gold in terms of advice for how women have to balance the line in society. This bridge also rivals those of “Getaway Car” and “Death By a Thousand Cuts.”

Claire: “Out of the Woods” (“1989”) — If “Cruel Summer” is the crown jewel of the Taylor Swift bridge collection, “Out of the Woods” is the empress wearing the crown on her perfectly-coiffed head. I also can’t possibly talk about this song without acknowledging that its lyrics almost certainly reference the Swift-Styles snowmobile accident, which is very personal to me, because it not only validates the rumors of a relationship in which I was deeply invested, but it proves celebs, are, in fact, just like us — they can be bad drivers, too. All jokes aside, I’m glad everyone involved was OK, and I’m glad this song exists to freeze the Haylor moment in time forever. 

Round 10 (Song by another artist with a Taylor Swift feature):

Dessi: “Half of My Heart” by John Mayer feat. Taylor Swift — From the very man who wrote a great song about Swift (“Paper Doll”) comes a duet between the ex-lovers. Pair with “Dear John” and you get the perfect trifecta of details from Swift and Mayer dating. I daresay this trio rivals the Betty, James and Inez love triangle on “folklore.”

Claire: “Gasoline” by HAIM feat. Taylor Swift — “I GET SAD!” Me too, Taylor. Me too. Full marks.

Round 11 (Live performance):

Dessi: “Enchanted/Wildest Dreams” (1989 World Tour) — This is how I can sneak “Enchanted” into my lineup. The images that played behind Swift as she performed this on the piano in concert (that I got to witness in person) were so beautiful that they are seared into my memory. The billowing bubbles underwater perfectly complimented Taylor’s ruffled dress as she sat like a queen on that piano bench.

Claire: “Cornelia Street: Live From Paris” — It’s sad that Lover Fest was canceled, but this performance’s existence definitely makes up for some of what COVID stole from us. This song was written to be performed as an acoustic version. Side note: Please email me re: Taylor Swift/New York/suitcase theories. Was Swift’s Cornelia Street apartment the genesis of suitcase-gate? I guess we’ll never know.

Round 12 (Bonus track):

Dessi: “it’s time to go” (“evermore: deluxe version”) — This song is a very personal one for me, and the strongest message I get from it is to trust your intuition and know when you need to set healthy boundaries for yourself. Way to go, Tay, for modeling what bravery has to be sometimes.

Claire: “New Romantics” (“1989: Deluxe Version”) — Essentially, the most iconic bonus track of all time, and I will never be “bored” or “tired” of it.

Round 13 (Taylor Swift song we’ve had on repeat recently):

Dessi: “Mr. Perfectly Fine” — This one might seem like a wildcard to those who don’t know me, but for those who know my Aries side, this song would make a lot of sense. My favorite part of the rollout for this song was Taylor telling us that she heard *in a goblin voice* “Releaseeee ‘Mr. Perfectly Fine’ from The Vault.” Sophie Turner’s acknowledgement of it makes it that much better in bringing back some tension with Joe Jonas — Turner’s now husband — that Swift will always hold onto in the form of “petty grace,” a concept I am taking from New York Times writer Joe Coscarelli, a critic of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version).”

Claire: “The Way I Loved You (Taylor’s Version)” — Who knew a song about a toxic relationship could be so freaking catchy? I don’t endorse toxicity, but I do endorse screaming the lyrics to this track at the top of your lungs. Catharsis is healthy.

Once again, thanks to Princiotti, Hubbard and The Ringer for inspiring this exercise, and if you read until the end of this manifesto, thanks to you, too. But most of all, thank you to Taylor Swift, who truly never stops giving us ways to cope with avalanches of emotion in tough times.