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  • Ceridwen Christensen 1:30 pm on 2019/10/28 Permalink
    Tags: 1999, , , music, parade, piano & a microphone 1983, portrait of the artist, , , ,   

    Your Soundtrack to Prince’s The Beautiful Ones 

    The night that Prince died, I went for a walk through my neighborhood in Minneapolis, the city of his birth. It was late April—a time when, Prince once sang, snow might still surprise—but it was a perfectly beautiful evening. There were people on porches and congregated in alleys, and I could hear Prince’s music coming from everywhere, the soundtrack of my movement through a place suddenly, inexplicably without of one of its fiercest and most vital voices. My neighbors were filling up this unfathomable loss with what he’d left behind: his music.

    Three months before his death, Prince met with publishers about producing his memoir, to be called The Beautiful Ones after one of his complicated love songs. He chose Dan Piepenbring as his co-writer in a project envisioned to surprise, provoke, and motivate. “The book would allow him to seize the narrative of his own life,” Piepenbring wrote. It would center Prince in his own story. The book was to be something new and surprising: an autobiography that pulled lessons from Prince’s lived experience that would illuminate issues in the world—race and class; art and the business of making it—and do so not just in words, but in pictures, the records of conversations, and a catalog of the ephemera of Prince’s life, covering the period from his birth to his iconic Superbowl concert in 2007.

    Prince’s untimely death left the project unfinished, the text limited to several dozen pages now augmented with countless rare images and objects from the Artist’s life and times. These are essential artifacts: consider the scan of a paper bag with the lyrics to “Do Me, Baby” scrawled on it; Prince had a tendency to write on whatever was at hand, a palimpsest of prose against the prosaic. (This is a habit he shares with other American poets: The Gorgeous Nothings records Emily Dickinson’s poems written on envelopes.) The thing missing in this memoir and retrospective, then, is Prince’s music, the very thing we turned to when he died. Here are 10 albums to serve as your soundtrack to The Beautiful Ones.

    Prince (1979)

    Though self-titled, Prince isn’t Prince’s first album; that was For You, released a year earlier, in 1978. Both albums are synthesizer-heavy, sung almost completely in Prince’s signature falsetto. His chunky guitar, which will be so characteristic of the “Minneapolis Sound” when it comes together just a few years later, isn’t really present; this is music worked out on a piano, something which Prince will come back around to only later. “I’m sick of playing the guitar, at least for now. I like the piano, but I hate the thought of picking up the guitar,” he told Piepenbring at their first meeting.

    Notable cover: Chaka Khan recorded a rendition of “I Feel for You” in 1984, the same year Prince’s Purple Rain dropped.

    Dirty Mind (1980)

    For You and Prince are often dreamy and romantic, laced with a gauzy sexuality. The only song to chart from the former was “Soft and Wet,” a funky but courteous seduction; even the album cover is in soft focus. Dirty Mind strikes a drastically different tone. The cover is stark black and white. Prince poses before the springs and structure of a mattress, wearing a studded jacket, a bandana around his neck, black underwear, and nothing else. A pin on the jacket reads “rude boy.” The photo is raunchy and direct, a perfect wrapper on the album. In Dirty Mind, Prince messes with gender, sexuality, culture, and history in weirdly peppy, upbeat three-minute pop songs. One would think that a song titled “Sexuality” would be dirty, but instead its lyrics call out issues of race in America. (“We don’t need no segregation, we don’t need no race/New age revelation, I think we got a case.”) A case could be made that in 1980s America, this stuff was dirtier than sex. Dirty Mind shows Prince beginning to play with both image and music, an effort that will bloom into full flower in Purple Rain.

    Notable cover: Cyndi Lauper retools “When You Were Mine” for her debut album, She’s So Unusual, as pure New Wave.

    Controversy (1981)

    I just can’t believe all the things people say
    Controversy
    Am I black or white, am I straight or gay?
    Controversy
    Do I believe in god, do I believe in me?

    After the success of Dirty Mind, Prince begins to clap back at the speculations about him. He always courted ambiguity, and here he really begins to play it up. He also explores issues in ways more overtly political—not just positioning sex as liberation, your typical dance track hedonism—to mixed results. “Ronnie Talk to Russia” is part of an embarrassing collection of ’80s songs tackling denuclearization (Sting’s cringe-worthy “Russians” being an exemplar of the form). But “Annie Christian” has a strange poetry to it, mixing imagery of the Atlanta Church bombings and John Lennon’s assassination into a story of a woman named Annie Christian. Full advantage is taken of the allusive possibilities of such a moniker, and the track offers no easy interpretations. It almost reminds me of fellow Minnesota native son Bob Dylan’s rambling biographical songs.

    1999 (1982)

    Starting in 1979, Prince began experimenting with a backup band. Over the next few years, the lineup changed often. Some personnel changes were due to religious convictions, as members left to pursue spiritual callings, as well as the usual sort of personal and creative conflicts that are hard to parse from the outside. Though 1999 doesn’t officially count as the first Prince and the Revolution album—that will be Purple Rain—it sits right there on the cusp of becoming. The words “and the Revolution” are even visible on the cover, written backwards and superimposed over the “I” in Prince. Other than the replacement of Dez Dickerson by Wendy Melvoin, the Revolution lineup is intact. Moreover, Prince begins to sound like Prince. Maybe it’s the backing of a group of talented musicians, maybe it’s inevitable evolution; either way, it all begins to come together on 1999. This is the first Prince album I remember really getting into, poring over the lyrics and acknowledgements on the backs of the two slipcases. Though Controversy was the first album incorporating Prince’s signature sensational spelling —U for you, 2 for to—because it didn’t have a lyric sheet, the effect was blunted. 1999 includes complete lyrics, and I was mesmerized.

    Purple Rain (1984)

    Everything comes together in Purple Rain: Prince’s self-mythologizing and eye for the dramatic, all riding on a personal musical style that has synthesized into something unique. The acting and the writing in Purple Rain, the film, is hokey and amateurish, but the concert sequences, which constitute a sizable amount of the running time, are electric. The song that gives his memoir its title, “The Beautiful Ones,” is performed in the movie after Prince has started wooing the fair Apollonia; his rival for her affections is Morris Day. Prince plays the song after Morris makes his pitch. Apollonia’s reaction shots say everything. He swings from seduction to accusations and despair, ending prone on the stage and screaming. She’s not a great actress, but she really hits her marks here. There’s almost too much to say about Purple Rain, the film and soundtrack that launched Prince into superstardom. I saw the movie when I was 10 years old, in a seedy theater in downtown Minneapolis. I was already a fan, so I convinced my indulgent fathr to take me to the R-rated concert film. It is one of my favorite memories, and I am positively vibrating with excitement to listen to the album as I read what Prince had to say about its genesis.

    Ice Cream Castle, The Time (1984)

    This album, released concurrently with Purple Rain and including several songs from the film, stands on this list as more of placeholder for all of the artists Prince worked with over the years, particularly during this especially fertile period in his career. Both tracks from the movie—”The Bird” and “Jungle Love”—are dance numbers that positively slap. (I pledge allegiance to the Time, indeed.) This album and Sheila E’s The Glamorous Life have shown the most staying power of any of the Purple Rain-era Prince disciples, probably because they’re all standout musicians in their own right. Albums from Vanity 6—and the reconstituted Apollonia 6, after Vanity and Prince parted ways—are well out of print these days, which is almost a shame, as they are so charmingly inept.

    In addition to the Purple Rain adjacent albums, Prince penned a variety of songs for other people (or which were performed by others, but which he never recorded himself): The Bangles’ “Manic Monday,” Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” Sheena Easton’s “Sugar Walls,” Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back,” and many, many others.

    The B-Sides (1993)

    It doesn’t necessarily feel like it was released that long ago, but given the subsequent upheavals in recording technology—tapes to CDs to mp3s to streaming—I should probably explain what a b-side is. Prince released a lot of singles: 45 rpm records highlighting a standout song like “When Doves Cry” or “Let’s Go Crazy.” The other side of the record—the b-side—would feature a previously unreleased track. Maybe it was perversity, maybe it was Easter eggs for the faithful, but many of the songs Prince relegated to the b-side were astonishingly good. “17 Days,” the b-side of “When Doves Cry,” counts the days after the loss of a lover. It’s in the same vein as “Nothing Compares 2 U,” but the music is peppier, an ironic contrast with the sentiment. “Erotic City,” the b-side of “Let’s Go Crazy,” is perfect sexy funk. It has received a fair amount of airplay, despite ambiguity as to whether Prince was saying “funk” or the other f-word.

    Parade (1986)

    Though The Beautiful Ones only covers the period up to Purple Rain, this list strikes past that period; Prince had much more to say before his untimely death. Parade is the soundtrack to Prince’s second movie, Under the Cherry Moon, which is deliriously, perfectly bad. (I have no idea why the album is called Parade, and not Under the Cherry Moon.) Shot in black in white, Under the Cherry Moon tells the story of the doomed romance between high class gigolo Christopher Tracy (played by Prince) and spoiled heiress Mary Sharon (played by Kristin Scott Thomas, in her film debut). It features one of the most self-indulgent death scenes of all time.

    But weirdly, the album is excellent: in particular, “Sometimes It Snows in April” is an achingly lovely ballad, and evokes all the emotions the movie fails to. Which is not to say that I don’t love the film inordinately; I can quote you so much dialogue from myriad viewings in my misspent youth.

    Prince would continue to be drawn to cinema through his career. The less said about Graffiti Bridge—the sequel to Purple Rain, and major fiasco—the better, but his contributions to a couple soundtracks, including Tim Burton’s Batman and Spike Lee’s Girl 6, are both perfectly respectable albums. On the Batman soundtrack especially, the dualities and dialectics suggested by the source material dovetail with prevalent themes in Prince’s work.

    Sign ‘O’ the Times (1987)

    After spending a couple albums deep in the weeds, Prince comes back to it in Sign ‘O’ the Times. This album is his most multi-faceted to date, with everything from slamming dance numbers like “Housequake,” to shattering love songs like “Adore,” to the hard to characterize “Ballad of Dorothy Parker.” (My kids don’t have much patience with their mother’s love of Prince, but they both love “Starfish and Coffee,” which he performed on Sesame Street.) The album also includes his first song recorded at a live show, “It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night.” The liner notes credit the backup singers as members of the band along with “6000 Wonderful Parisians.” Prince’s music had a global impact—a fact that became apparent after his death, as monuments as far flung as the Eiffel Tower in France, the Melbourne Arts Centre in Australia, and Niagara Falls in Canada were bathed in purple light in memoriam.

    Piano & a Microphone 1983 (2018)

    Piano & a Microphone 1983 is the first Prince album released posthumously. It consists of a demo album produced in a single take, found on a cassette in Prince’s Vault, and includes five previously unreleased songs. It gives us a small glimpse into Prince’s creative process; he tries things out, remixes, and samples. Some of the songs wouldn’t find their way onto an album for years. Due to unfortunate circumstance, much of The Beautiful Ones had to be assembled from archival materials, which makes this a fitting choice to end this list. I’m sure we can expect more recordings like Piano & a Microphone 1983, as the voluminous contents of his vault are vetted and remastered. But we’re not going to get anything else like The Beautiful Ones, which includes his most recent thoughts and impressions of some of his most important works. He’ll never write anything new again, and I still can’t quite believe it.

    Prince’s The Beautiful Ones is available on October 29.

    The post Your Soundtrack to Prince’s <i>The Beautiful Ones</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Ross Johnson 1:00 pm on 2019/10/23 Permalink
    Tags: , carly simon, , , face it: a memoir, home work: a memoir of my hollywood years, , , music, , songs of life, , touched by sam: my friendship with jackie   

    Your Guide to a Star-Studded Season of Music Memoir and Biography 

    A oft-repeated aphorism, frequently misquoted or mistakenly attributed, tells us that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” the implication being that attempting either is a fruitless endeavor. But if that were truly the case, there would be little use for the nine fascinating books below—first person memoirs and rigorously researched biographies exploring the lives, minds, and, yes, music of some of the most iconic musicians of the past 50 years, all newly arriving in bookstores this fall.

    Me, by Elton John
    It’s  hard to believe Sir Elton has never produced an autobiography until now. With a career that spans more than a half century, the one-time Reginald Dwight has plenty of stories to tell—some relating to the excesses and pitfalls that have plagued so many rockers, many others having to do with his run-ins with some of the most significant figures of our time, including Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth. The suburban kid from Pinner grew up to be one of the most shocking and outrageous figures in glam rock, and soared to the heights of respectability as an icon, and also a father. This is the story of a living legend, told in his own words.

    The Beautiful Ones, by Prince
    Another equally significant, but very different musical visionary has a new memoir out this month, this one a bit more poignant. The autobiography begun prior to Prince’s death in 2016 is the first-person account of a Minnesota kid who created some of the most visionary pop and funk ever recorded, cultivating a mystique very different from what his upbringing would have suggested. Prince’s own recollections of his childhood and early growth as an artist make up the first part of the book, while writing and candid photographs fill in the major events from the rest of his storied career. Finally, the Artist’s own handwritten treatment for “Purple Rain” is included in its entirety. Though sadly truncated, this is an essential portrait of The Artist: Prince sought to retell his own story as a mythic and funky adventure, and succeeded.

    Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years, by Julie Andrews with Emma Walton Hamilton
    Her first memoir, Home, chronicled Julie Andrews’ difficult childhood and emergence as a singer and stage performer, while this follow-up discusses her Hollywood career from its earliest days and offers insights into her biggest successes in her own words. Co-writing with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, Andrews not only dives into the stories behind roles in films like Mary PoppinsThe Sound of Music, and Victor/Victoria, but deals with her own transition into worldwide superstardom, and the effect it had on her marriages and children. For an accounting of Andrews’ earlier years, you’ll want to read Home Work alongside her previous book Home: A Memoir of my Early Years.

    Horror Stories, by Liz Phair
    The title alone reveals that this book to be a musical memoir of a different order: like Liz Phair’s emotionally candid music, her book traces some of the most difficult moments of her life and career, stretching back to the release of her groundbreaking debut album Exile in Guyville, analyzing critical junctures, reconsidering poor choices, and poring over the seemingly mundane moments she’s been unable to leave behind. Her point isn’t to wallow in the dark times; Phair is aiming for something more universal—a confessional work revealing that even a rock star experiences moments of self-delusion and shame. In exploring her own horror stories, Liz Phair explores the ways in which we all cope with regret, and how we might reclaim our power over our darkest moments.

    Rhianna, by Rihanna
    Considering she is one of the biggest musical mega-stars of our time, there’s really no better title for this book than simply Rihanna; the name says it all. This impressive and hefty art book serves as a visual autobiography of the singer, designer, actress, and businesswoman. Taken together, the collection of photos showcase every facet of her extraordinary life and career—1,050 full-color images spread across over 500 pages, many of them never published before, and representing her experiences in stagecraft, design sketches, fashion, and music. The book also includes several fold-out images, as well as a removable poster, making it not only a unique look at Rihanna’s life from her own perspective, but a very impressive package, highly giftable item for fans (and who isn’t?).

    Touched by the Sun: My Friendship with Jackie, by Carly Simon
    Another book from a musical legend, this one less about Carly Simon’s music than about her relationship with another American icon: following a chance encounter at a party in Martha’s Vineyard,  Simon and Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis developed a relationship somewhere between that of best pals and a mother and daughter. When Simon write children’s books in the 1980s and ’90s, it dovetailed with Jackie’s late-career move into the publishing world, and she became Simon’s editor. The friendship lasted right up until Jackie’s death in 1994. Here, Simon shares the intimate story of their unique bond.

    Janis: Her Life and Music, by Holly George-Warren
    Each generation seems fated to rediscover Janis Joplin for itself, with this new (and already acclaimed) biography from George-Warren representing a new opportunity to take a fresh look at the singer-songwriter/queen of rock and roll. Growing up in the 1940s and ’50s in a conservative oil town, Joplin refused to play by the rules of gender and sexuality, and developed the racially progressive views that lead her to approach and appreciate the blues music of black Americans. Though the tragedy of her struggle with addiction and her eventual death color our view of her life and career, the author makes clear that Joplin was a complex person, and worth much more than the sum of her demons: she was sensitive, a perfectionist, and a true romantic, and she changed music forever. Writing with unprecedented access to archives and interview subjects, George-Warren has created a definitive portrait of a legendary figure.

    Sweat the Technique: Revelations on Creativity from the Lyrical Genius, by Rakim
    During rap’s golden age in the 1980s, when the form was just coming into its own in the mainstream, Rakim was at the forefront among MCs proving that there was art to be found in hip hop. His complex lyrics and layered rhymes changed the way things were done—are still being done—earning him a reputation as the Thelonious Monk of rap. Even in this new memoir he breaks with convention: yes, he offers a rare glimpse into his private life, from his childhood on Long Island to his rise to the top of the music scene, but first and foremost it is an exploration of his process—a guide, perhaps, for those looking to be better writers, and an exploration of the craft for everyone else. Rakim’s masterful mingling of words, music, and rhyme to create and tell stories can impart lessons useful for any artist, or anyone who’s ever tried to tell a great story.

    Face It: A Memoir, by Debbie Harry
    It’s obviously a huge season for musical memoirs, and it’s impossible to overstate the importance of each of the talents with books out this fall, but none of them rocks harder than punk icon Debbie Harry, who led the band Blondie, a fusion of rock, punk, disco, and hip-hop incarnate. The deeply private artist’s new memoir revisits the gritty music scene in 1970s New York, an era when some of the greatest bands of all time were on the verge of becoming legends. Through drug addiction, heartbreaks, and breakups, Harry evolved from rock star to activist to icon, busting down barriers and making great music all the while.

    What’s your favorite musical memoir or biography ever?

    The post Your Guide to a Star-Studded Season of Music Memoir and Biography appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Dave K. 8:52 pm on 2019/10/03 Permalink
    Tags: a charlie brown christmas, , harry connick, jr., music, seasonal favorites, ,   

    The Best New Vinyl To Spin in October 2019 

    Start off spooky season the right way this year by picking up some new records from the Vinyl Store! We’ve got two Peanuts soundtracks (including It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, just in time for the big orange guy’s annual visit), the soundtracks for The Lion King 2019 and Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, and more! Read more about our October releases below (many of them available as Barnes & Noble exclusives), and grow your collection with us.

    A Charlie Brown Christmas, by Vince Guaraldi (Barnes & Noble Exclusive picture disc)
    It seems the Christmas push comes earlier every year, doesn’t it? Still, for many people, it’s not truly Christmas without A Charlie Brown Christmas, so best be prepared. A good way to get yourself ready for the season? Pick up the soundtrack to the animated Peanuts cartoon of the same name. Arranged by jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, the music for what’s essentially a kid’s cartoon is surprisingly adult and sophisticated; Guaraldi’s smooth bossa nova compositions are as precocious (and iconic) as the Peanuts characters themselves. Holiday favorites like “O Tannenbaum” and “What Child Is This” are presented in Guaraldi’s quirky style, but “Linus and Lucy” is the definitive Peanuts theme, with a deceptively simple piano arrangement laid over a rock-solid rhythm section. Order it from the Vinyl Store as an exclusive picture disc LP.

    It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, by Vince Guaraldi (Barnes & Noble Exclusive colored vinyl)
    A Charlie Brown Christmas isn’t the Peanuts gang’s only contribution to the holidays, nor is it Vince Guaraldi’s. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is another set of groovy instrumentals by Guaraldi and his sextet. “Linus and Lucy” appears here too, of course, but the best track on this album is “The Great Pumpkin Waltz,” which accompanies the scene of Linus writing to the Great Pumpkin in the cartoon. It’s as smooth and urbane as jazz gets, and frankly we wish more children’s programming had music of this quality. “Graveyard Theme” and “The Red Baron/Military Drum March” are excellent as well. Grab the yellow moon-colored vinyl pressing of this Halloween classic exclusively from Barnes & Noble.

     Lion King 2019 Original Soundtrack (Barnes & Noble Exclusive)
    Disney’s live-action remake of The Lion King has Elton John and Tim Rice reprising their roles as songwriters, but as you’ll hear on this official soundtrack album, they’ve got some more help this time around. None other than Hans Zimmer joined the team to arrange the film score, while South African composer Lebo M provided African vocal and choir arrangements, and Pharrell Williams produced five of the songs. Their combined efforts lends all the original songs more depth, and Tim Rice even contributes a new track, “Never Too Late,” for the film’s end credits, performed by Elton John. Pick it up exclusively from Barnes & Noble; the album comes with a collectible art insert.

     Once Upon a Time In Hollywood Original Soundtrack
    Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is about the golden era of Hollywood, which means Quentin Tarantino truly had a wealth of classic material to choose from as he crafted the soundtrack, and he’s plucked some real gems from the golden era of American rock and pop music to accompany his latest film. Rock out to classics like Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Hungry,” Deep Purple’s “Kentucky Woman” and “Hush,” Bob Seger’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” and Mitch Ryder’s “Jenny Take a Ride” on this collectors’ edition, yellow vinyl pressing of this double LP, presented in a double gatefold jacket packaged with an 11-by-17-inch map of Hollywood. This is a must-own for film buffs and 1960s pop enthusiasts alike.

    Rockin’ Holiday, by Dcappella (Barnes & Noble Exclusive green vinyl)
    If you’re unfamiliar with Dcappella, they’re Disney’s official a cappella group, formed in 2018 after a nationwide talent search. As one would expect, they’re all immensely talented performers, a fact you’ll experience for yourself on this collection of Christmas pop tunes. “Jingle Bell Rock, “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,” and “Feliz Navidad” are our favorites, and as an added bonus, this record—a Barnes & Noble exclusive—is pressed onto translucent green vinyl. If you’ve already heard and loved Dcappella’s fun, high-energy versions of classic Disney songs, consider this a holiday season must.

    True Love: A Celebration Of Cole Porter, by Harry Connick Jr
    Cole Porter, whose songs set the standard for American pop songwriting, poses a challenge for modern musicians: if you’re going to take on Porter’s songbook, you’d better be good, and you’d better bring something new to the table. Harry Connick, Jr. manages both on his upcoming album True Love: A Celebration Of Cole Porter, showing off his chops as a pianist, singer, and arranger. From his dreamy vocals on “In The Still Of The Night” to the big band swagger of “Anything Goes,” it’s clear that Connick—who’s never really done a deep dive into someone else’s repertoire like this—is taking the matter very seriously indeed.

    What new vinyl are you picking up in October?

    The post The Best New Vinyl To Spin in October 2019 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2019/09/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , music, , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    A Book for Every Song on Lover, Taylor Swift’s New Album 

    TS7 is finally here! If you’re like me or any of the millions of Swifties out there, the arrival of this next era is just as exciting as a brand-new bookshelf full of reads you get to experience for the first time. After listening to the album on repeat all weekend, I decided to celebrate Lover with a book roundup inspired by each of the songs (since it’s the only thing I’ll be listening to for the foreseeable future, don’t @ me.).

    1. “I Forgot That You Existed” (Best Friends Forever, by Jennifer Weiner)

    You heard it from Taylor first: indifference is the new vengeance. This solid album-opener is upbeat and poppy, a nice contrast with the lyrics about the (final?) end of a broken relationship, friendship (or feud), when you actually forget that the person you once had so much ire for still lives. She transitions from “Your name on my lips, tongue-tied/Free rent, living in my mind” to “ forgot that you existed/and I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t” with ease. But of course, insisting that you forget someone existed while singing about them.introduces interesting tension, and would into any relationship. It reminded me of Jennifer Weiner’s Best Friends Forever, about what happens when a former friend shows up on your doorstep in a crisis, insisting you’re the only one who can help them out of a tight spot (when you’d rather do anything but).

    2. Cruel Summer” (Do You Want to Start a Scandal, by Tessa Dare)

    Lyrically and sonically, this is one of my favorites on the entire album (it’s so good it should have been a single!) It’s got an Out of the Woods meets Getaway Car vibe in terms of the melody. Wistful, a bit haunting, but also a total bop. “So cut the headlights, summer’s a knife/I’m always waiting for you just to cut to the bone” describes a low point in Swift’s life (Summer 2016, ugh), juxtaposed with the high of discovering new love. There are so many books I could have picked for this, but “I don’t want to keep secrets just to keep you” reminded me of the Regency romance trope where the heroine has a secret, or finds herself in a situation where her reputation is at stake, but is still tempted by a handsome rogue who might lead her into temptation and true love. (Sound a bit familiar?) Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare feels like the perfect accompaniment to this song about a woman who must prove her innocence in the face of a sullied reputation or be forced to marry a man she doesn’t think she could ever love.

    3.Lover” (Roomies, by Christina Lauren)

    The title track (and the one I’ve been singing in the shower for days) is a swoony daydream of a couple in complete harmony, as Swift spins wedding vow-like lyrics such as “With every guitar string scar on my hand/I take this magnetic force of a man to be my…lover/My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue/all’s well that end’s well to end up with you/swear to be overdramatic and true/to my…lover.” But Swift is all about balance in her songs, so imagery of keeping up the Christmas lights in “our place” is juxtaposed with suspicion that “everyone who sees you wants you.” This track reminded me of Roomies by Christina Lauren, with its musician main character and the trope of having to share a space while inevitably falling in love.

    4. The Man” (The Whisper Network, by Chandler Baker)

    The double-standards between men and women have been explored in songs and novels since both art forms existed. Swift has already confronted the media’s perception of her as a victim, as a girl who goes on too many dates but can’t make them stay, etc. But in “The Man”, she more directly confronts how different she’d be treated if she were the opposite gender. How could I not think of the new thriller The Whisper Network, about a group of women who come forward about their male boss’ behavior of harassment in the workplace. Instead of continuing to suffer in silence, they tell the truth, resulting in an explosive conflict and an ending I sort of saw coming, but was very glad I was right.

    5. “The Archer” (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)

    Another slower, lyric-driven track on the album with gut-punching truths about love, friendship, and holding on to the one who has your heart. “The Archer” is associated with being a Sagittarius (which Swift is), but also her dynamic with the world. “Who could ever leave me, darling?/But who could stay?” is self-aware in a new way for Swift, as is “I never grew up, it’s getting so old” or “I see right through me.” This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, as Swift confronts her cultivated image as both archer and prey of fame and of love. Listening to the rising energy of the track as it builds to a anti-fairy-tale crescendo plus Swift’s lyrics made me think of Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet is forced to acknowledge how her own prejudices have made it difficult for others to love her, but that she is deserving of an imperfect love. (And how could “All of my enemies started out friends” not remind you of awful Mr. Wickham?)

    6. “I Think he Knows” (The Duke and I, by Julia Quinn)

    After a slower song, this heats things up a bit, describing the early sizzle of a relationship before it even starts. For an entire album that sings the praises of a man, I liked the moment in the pre-chorus where she says “He’s so obsessed with me, and boy, I understand.” Own your worth, girl! The bridge was my favorite part of this song (as it often is with Swift; girl knows how to bridge) as it played with tempo and rhyme. “Lyrical smile, indigo eyes, hand on my thigh/We can follow the sparks, I’ll drive.” Swift explores the tension of the moment between seeing someone and initiating contact—songs like these always sting with a bit of danger, too, because the man knows she wants him but neither of them say anything in public about it. She’s whispering in the dark, which gives me serious secret romance vibes. The Duke and I by Julia Quinn is about Simon, who is planning to propose to his BFF’s sister even though he doesn’t actually love her. It’s an arrangement that suits them both, but before they both know it, Daphne is giving Simon serious “I Think he Knows” vibes.

    7. Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” (The Cheerleaders, by Kara Thomas)

    If you don’t get the oft-spoken metaphor “politics is like high-school”, this song takes the metaphor to the next level. Subtly political but 100% heartbreaking, Swift re-imagines the political sphere (and her role in it) as a high school romance, moving from “American glory, faded before me”, painting the democratic 2016 election loss as a ripped-up prom dress (from Miss Americana, who assumed she would win.) Oozing drama and storytelling the way only Swift can, I love the moody elements of the brokenhearted girl contrasted with the new riff on a cheerleading chant (Go Fight Win!). This song is about mourning loss and then finding the strength to say “I know we’re going to win”, but it’s haunting melody and lyrics led me to pick a Cheerleader-inspired thriller. The Cheerleaders is about a string of cheerleaders murdered in a small town five years ago…and just when everyone thinks it’s time to move on, one girl becomes the center of a mystery that never truly died.

    8. Paper Rings” (The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan)

    I’m on my fourth listen of the album and this might be my favorite track on it (though that changes minute by minute, with an album as dynamic as this—and just to further accentuate this, by the time of posting this piece my new favorite might be I Think he Knows?). It’s a totally retro, 60’s style song, a totally new sound for Swift, and one that fits perfectly with her new aesthetic. (Makes me wonder why this wasn’t one of the singles released before the record.) It is a gold-mine for Swiftian lyricism, with so many gems I can’t possibly call them all out, and it moves so fast (like a good read) that you both want to cascade over them and pause to hear each line at least 5x before it passes you by. It’s an unabashed love song, relishing in the joy of knowing you’re with the one you love so much that “I like shiny things, but I’d marry you with paper rings”. The line that stuck out the most was “I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this”, which made me think of when Bex Porter goes to Oxford and, completely by accident, falls in love with the heir to the throne.

    9. Cornelia Street” (Passion on Park Avenue, by Lauren Layne)

    “Cornelia Street” is sort of the antithesis to I Think He knows. It’s about remembering the early days of a new relationship (“We were a fresh page on the desk/filling in the blanks as we go”) and being more than willing to give up all the good that comes with fresh starts in order to settle into something real. It aches with melancholy, because any time we give something up should be a little sad—but it brims with hope and Swift’s trademarked optimism about love. “I hope I never lose you, hope it never ends/I’d never walk Cornelia Street again/ That’s the kinda heartbreak time could never mend.” I had to pick an NYC-set story for this, like Lauren Layne’s Passion on Park Avenue. The city is another character in the romance between a successful jewelry-business owner and the son of the woman her mother used to work for.

    10.Death By a Thousand Cuts” (Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better, by Madisen Kuhn)

    Inspired by the Netflix movie Something Great, this is one of the few sad songs on the record, about a girl going through a breakup who can’t help but linger in happier memories. (For the record: “I dress to kill my time” is genius, as are so many of these lyrics.) Only Swift is so good at pairing such devastating messaging with a pop beat you can’t help but want to sing. This song was the hardest one to pick a book for (especially because it’s already inspired by a movie) so I decided to go with a poetry collection! Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better is all about the aches and sun rays of growing up, told in a staggeringly relatable voice that will make you want to curl up on the couch and cry your eyes out.

    11. London Boy” (Red, White and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston)

    This is 100% about Joe Alwyn, but also…Taylor dated at least two Brits that we know of before him, so this song is about what we already knew (“the rumors are true”): she has a penchant for London Boys. Essentially a road map of her favorite places in the city, this indulgent ditty trades “Tennessee Whiskey” for “A gray sky, a rainy cab ride” and of course, her man by her side. Red, White, and Royal Blue is the perfect pic for this song, about two boys who fall in love (after a rough start where they were almost enemies) amidst those gray, rainy skies…but one of them happens to be the son of an American President, and the other, the current Prince of England.

    12.Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)” (Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell)

    Of all the songs on the album, this one gave me the most vintage Swift vibes. There’s no denying that she is an astonishingly talented songwriter, especially when you listen to what is essentially her greatest fear laid bare, on the track with just a bit of guitar and the Dixie Chicks harmonizing in the background. Here, the story shines: Swift’s mother has been sick for a number of years, and while they’ve mostly kept the details of that battle private, this is the most vulnerable moment of love for her mother on an album mostly about finding true love. “Holy orange bottles, each night I pray to you/Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus, too.” A friend of mine recently lost their mother just after getting married, and it made me marvel at how life often delivers us highs and lows to grapple with simultaneously. While all of this was going on—Kanye and Kim, Joe and London, another world tour, another album—in the background, Swift has been terrified of losing her mother. This song made me think of Swamplandia!, a novel about a young girl living in a gator-wrestling theme park where her mother used to be the main event until she passed away. Now, in the wake of her death, she and her siblings must grapple with her legacy as a competing business rises up to swallow the success she built on the swamp.

    13.False God” (City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert)

    Is that a saxophone in the background of a Taylor Swift song? This slow, jazzy number is all about love and desire—and how we come back to it even when the world around us (and sometimes we, ourselves) put it in jeopardy. “And I can’t talk to you when you’re like this/Staring out the window like I’m not your favorite town/I’m New York City” and other lyrics referencing New York seem to be the grounding force in an otherwise tumultuous relationship. Multiple times on this record Swift has alluded to rough patches in her current happiness, but connection is always the solution to fixing it. She seems to say that if you treat your relationship like it’s your religion, you can get through anything. This is one of the sexier songs on the album, but it’s also got serious NYC vibes, so I’m picking City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: a novel all about relishing romance in the glitzy 1940’s New York Theater scene, but also how desire can either set us on the road to ruin, or redemption.

    14.You Need to Calm Down” (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid)

    This song has done what Swift does best: inspire conversation and a bit of controversy. Acknowledging that it was past time for her to be an outspoken ally for the LGBTQIAP+ community, YNTCD tackles the various ways communities are pitted against one another (especially on the internet.) The first verse examines her personal haters (“Say it in the street, that’s a knock-out/But you say it in a Tweet, that’s a cop-out), the second calls out homophobes (“Shade never made anybody less gay”), and the third examines how her relationships with her female contemporaries have often been antagonistic, something she herself has been responsible perpetuating in the past with songs like “Bad Blood” and “Better Than Revenge” (“We all know now, we all got crowns/you need to calm down.”) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is about a famous actress who hid the great female love of her life behind multiple male partners and uses her platform to tell the truth (all while hiding one last devastating secret). While Taylor herself has not come out as part of the LGBTQ community, she has come out as an ally, and this book made me think about the issues of privacy, platform, allyship, and identity that the song also confronts. If there’s more to the story of Swift’s relationship to the LGBTQIAP+ community, she’s going to share it on her own terms.

    15.Afterglow” (Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams)

    This song ranks high on my favorites from the album, and it’s a rare genre from Swift: the apology song. The other famous one is Speak Now’s “Back to December”. In this mid-tempo song with slamming drums and a breathy falsetto, Swift yearns for the partner she pushed away to meet her in the moments after the fight ends. “It’s all me, in my head/I’m the one who burned us down/ but it’s not what I meant,” she insists. There’s still hope here though, as opposed to earlier songs on the record that signal the doom of a friendship or a breakup after-the-fact. Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams, is a novel about a girl coming to terms with her role in a failed relationship, a career she can’t seem to succeed in, and friends she unknowingly betrays. “Why’d I have to break what I love so much?” is a question asked in this song’s chorus, and one Queenie must answer in order to find real, lasting happiness.

    16. ME! (feat. Brendon Urie)” (Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan)

    This self-love anthem is bubblegum sweet and full of earworms, the “Shake it Off of the TS7 Era. It makes me think of lightning fast beach reads that you can’t put down and that feel so good to read but also have a deeper meaning to them. Just because it’s not the most lyrically advanced of her songs doesn’t mean this bop doesn’t deserve to be celebrated— it reminded me of how romances constantly get a bad rep (lol, see what I did there?) about being somehow lesser than other genres. But I love that Taylor doesn’t care about what other people think and is 100% focused on being her authentic self— just like the heroine of Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel Chu. When confronted with the wealth and expectations of her boyfriend Nick’s family (who don’t think she’s good enough for him), she insists it’s her individuality that makes her the perfect partner for him.

    17. It’s Nice to Have a Friend” (This Love Story Will Self-Destruct, by Leslie Cohen)

    This track might be my second favorite? It’s so different (Ukulele? Trombone? Is that what I’m hearing?) and such a contrast to the beginning of the album, the opener closes the door on a once meaningful friendship. It’s also a deceiving song, in that I’m still not 100% sure what it’s about (on third listen.) I think though, Swift is exploring the importance of friendship in all its forms: in childhood (“School bell rings, walk me home”) to adolescence “Something gave you the nerve/to touch my hand”) to romantic love (“Church bells ring, carry me home/rice on the ground looks like snow”). Ultimately, she may be saying that the most important thing about a romantic partner is that they make you feel like you have a friend—when you’re young, the thing that matters most is feeling seen by other people. If your lover is also your best friend, then you know they always have your back. A love story that takes place over two characters’ twenties, This Love Story Will Self-Destruct is about the missteps, betrayals, beautiful moments and connection that forms between two people over a decade.

    18.Daylight” (Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes)

    “My love was as cruel as the cities I lived in.” What a way to begin this album closer. Swift’s last tracks have a tradition of being the ones that are most emblematic of her current state of mind, but they also have developed certain themes over time. Renewal, starting over, self-reflection, and hope are all subjects Daylight sheds a little light on. She acknowledges past failings (“I wounded the good and trusted the wicked”) and what she wants for the future (“I once believed love would be [burning red]/but it’s golden”). A book that feels like daylight on your skin is what’s needed for this song, and I think Evvie Drake Starts Over is the perfect pick: a story about a woman still grieving the loss of her husband but who finds herself moving on with a former major league baseball player. Both of them have pasts they are healing from, but together, they find hope for the future. “I’ve been sleeping so long in a twenty-year dark night/and now I see daylight.”

    And, unlike (I think?) any other song in her catalogue, she speaks in the end, not sings, in a direct appeal to her audience. Her very last words are “You are what you love.” Well, I love Taylor Swift. I love a good song lyric to sink my teeth into, or to sing. I love love. And I love a good story, whether it comes from a song or a book, and when you’re done with the album, I hope you find some here. Leave a comment below with which books you’d pick for your fave Taylor songs!

    The post A Book for Every Song on <i>Lover</i>, Taylor Swift’s New Album appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2019/09/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , music, , , , , , , , , , , , , , this love story will self-destruct   

    A Book for Every Song on Lover, Taylor Swift’s New Album 

    TS7 is finally here! If you’re like me or any of the millions of Swifties out there, the arrival of this next era is just as exciting as a brand-new bookshelf full of reads you get to experience for the first time. After listening to the album on repeat all weekend, I decided to celebrate Lover with a book roundup inspired by each of the songs (since it’s the only thing I’ll be listening to for the foreseeable future, don’t @ me.).

    1. “I Forgot That You Existed” (Best Friends Forever, by Jennifer Weiner)

    You heard it from Taylor first: indifference is the new vengeance. This solid album-opener is upbeat and poppy, a nice contrast with the lyrics about the (final?) end of a broken relationship, friendship (or feud), when you actually forget that the person you once had so much ire for still lives. She transitions from “Your name on my lips, tongue-tied/Free rent, living in my mind” to “ forgot that you existed/and I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t” with ease. But of course, insisting that you forget someone existed while singing about them.introduces interesting tension, and would into any relationship. It reminded me of Jennifer Weiner’s Best Friends Forever, about what happens when a former friend shows up on your doorstep in a crisis, insisting you’re the only one who can help them out of a tight spot (when you’d rather do anything but).

    2. Cruel Summer” (Do You Want to Start a Scandal, by Tessa Dare)

    Lyrically and sonically, this is one of my favorites on the entire album (it’s so good it should have been a single!) It’s got an Out of the Woods meets Getaway Car vibe in terms of the melody. Wistful, a bit haunting, but also a total bop. “So cut the headlights, summer’s a knife/I’m always waiting for you just to cut to the bone” describes a low point in Swift’s life (Summer 2016, ugh), juxtaposed with the high of discovering new love. There are so many books I could have picked for this, but “I don’t want to keep secrets just to keep you” reminded me of the Regency romance trope where the heroine has a secret, or finds herself in a situation where her reputation is at stake, but is still tempted by a handsome rogue who might lead her into temptation and true love. (Sound a bit familiar?) Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare feels like the perfect accompaniment to this song about a woman who must prove her innocence in the face of a sullied reputation or be forced to marry a man she doesn’t think she could ever love.

    3.Lover” (Roomies, by Christina Lauren)

    The title track (and the one I’ve been singing in the shower for days) is a swoony daydream of a couple in complete harmony, as Swift spins wedding vow-like lyrics such as “With every guitar string scar on my hand/I take this magnetic force of a man to be my…lover/My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue/all’s well that end’s well to end up with you/swear to be overdramatic and true/to my…lover.” But Swift is all about balance in her songs, so imagery of keeping up the Christmas lights in “our place” is juxtaposed with suspicion that “everyone who sees you wants you.” This track reminded me of Roomies by Christina Lauren, with its musician main character and the trope of having to share a space while inevitably falling in love.

    4. The Man” (The Whisper Network, by Chandler Baker)

    The double-standards between men and women have been explored in songs and novels since both art forms existed. Swift has already confronted the media’s perception of her as a victim, as a girl who goes on too many dates but can’t make them stay, etc. But in “The Man”, she more directly confronts how different she’d be treated if she were the opposite gender. How could I not think of the new thriller The Whisper Network, about a group of women who come forward about their male boss’ behavior of harassment in the workplace. Instead of continuing to suffer in silence, they tell the truth, resulting in an explosive conflict and an ending I sort of saw coming, but was very glad I was right.

    5. “The Archer” (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)

    Another slower, lyric-driven track on the album with gut-punching truths about love, friendship, and holding on to the one who has your heart. “The Archer” is associated with being a Sagittarius (which Swift is), but also her dynamic with the world. “Who could ever leave me, darling?/But who could stay?” is self-aware in a new way for Swift, as is “I never grew up, it’s getting so old” or “I see right through me.” This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, as Swift confronts her cultivated image as both archer and prey of fame and of love. Listening to the rising energy of the track as it builds to a anti-fairy-tale crescendo plus Swift’s lyrics made me think of Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet is forced to acknowledge how her own prejudices have made it difficult for others to love her, but that she is deserving of an imperfect love. (And how could “All of my enemies started out friends” not remind you of awful Mr. Wickham?)

    6. “I Think he Knows” (The Duke and I, by Julia Quinn)

    After a slower song, this heats things up a bit, describing the early sizzle of a relationship before it even starts. For an entire album that sings the praises of a man, I liked the moment in the pre-chorus where she says “He’s so obsessed with me, and boy, I understand.” Own your worth, girl! The bridge was my favorite part of this song (as it often is with Swift; girl knows how to bridge) as it played with tempo and rhyme. “Lyrical smile, indigo eyes, hand on my thigh/We can follow the sparks, I’ll drive.” Swift explores the tension of the moment between seeing someone and initiating contact—songs like these always sting with a bit of danger, too, because the man knows she wants him but neither of them say anything in public about it. She’s whispering in the dark, which gives me serious secret romance vibes. The Duke and I by Julia Quinn is about Simon, who is planning to propose to his BFF’s sister even though he doesn’t actually love her. It’s an arrangement that suits them both, but before they both know it, Daphne is giving Simon serious “I Think he Knows” vibes.

    7. Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” (The Cheerleaders, by Kara Thomas)

    If you don’t get the oft-spoken metaphor “politics is like high-school”, this song takes the metaphor to the next level. Subtly political but 100% heartbreaking, Swift re-imagines the political sphere (and her role in it) as a high school romance, moving from “American glory, faded before me”, painting the democratic 2016 election loss as a ripped-up prom dress (from Miss Americana, who assumed she would win.) Oozing drama and storytelling the way only Swift can, I love the moody elements of the brokenhearted girl contrasted with the new riff on a cheerleading chant (Go Fight Win!). This song is about mourning loss and then finding the strength to say “I know we’re going to win”, but it’s haunting melody and lyrics led me to pick a Cheerleader-inspired thriller. The Cheerleaders is about a string of cheerleaders murdered in a small town five years ago…and just when everyone thinks it’s time to move on, one girl becomes the center of a mystery that never truly died.

    8. Paper Rings” (The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan)

    I’m on my fourth listen of the album and this might be my favorite track on it (though that changes minute by minute, with an album as dynamic as this—and just to further accentuate this, by the time of posting this piece my new favorite might be I Think he Knows?). It’s a totally retro, 60’s style song, a totally new sound for Swift, and one that fits perfectly with her new aesthetic. (Makes me wonder why this wasn’t one of the singles released before the record.) It is a gold-mine for Swiftian lyricism, with so many gems I can’t possibly call them all out, and it moves so fast (like a good read) that you both want to cascade over them and pause to hear each line at least 5x before it passes you by. It’s an unabashed love song, relishing in the joy of knowing you’re with the one you love so much that “I like shiny things, but I’d marry you with paper rings”. The line that stuck out the most was “I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this”, which made me think of when Bex Porter goes to Oxford and, completely by accident, falls in love with the heir to the throne.

    9. Cornelia Street” (Passion on Park Avenue, by Lauren Layne)

    “Cornelia Street” is sort of the antithesis to I Think He knows. It’s about remembering the early days of a new relationship (“We were a fresh page on the desk/filling in the blanks as we go”) and being more than willing to give up all the good that comes with fresh starts in order to settle into something real. It aches with melancholy, because any time we give something up should be a little sad—but it brims with hope and Swift’s trademarked optimism about love. “I hope I never lose you, hope it never ends/I’d never walk Cornelia Street again/ That’s the kinda heartbreak time could never mend.” I had to pick an NYC-set story for this, like Lauren Layne’s Passion on Park Avenue. The city is another character in the romance between a successful jewelry-business owner and the son of the woman her mother used to work for.

    10.Death By a Thousand Cuts” (Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better, by Madisen Kuhn)

    Inspired by the Netflix movie Something Great, this is one of the few sad songs on the record, about a girl going through a breakup who can’t help but linger in happier memories. (For the record: “I dress to kill my time” is genius, as are so many of these lyrics.) Only Swift is so good at pairing such devastating messaging with a pop beat you can’t help but want to sing. This song was the hardest one to pick a book for (especially because it’s already inspired by a movie) so I decided to go with a poetry collection! Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better is all about the aches and sun rays of growing up, told in a staggeringly relatable voice that will make you want to curl up on the couch and cry your eyes out.

    11. London Boy” (Red, White and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston)

    This is 100% about Joe Alwyn, but also…Taylor dated at least two Brits that we know of before him, so this song is about what we already knew (“the rumors are true”): she has a penchant for London Boys. Essentially a road map of her favorite places in the city, this indulgent ditty trades “Tennessee Whiskey” for “A gray sky, a rainy cab ride” and of course, her man by her side. Red, White, and Royal Blue is the perfect pic for this song, about two boys who fall in love (after a rough start where they were almost enemies) amidst those gray, rainy skies…but one of them happens to be the son of an American President, and the other, the current Prince of England.

    12.Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)” (Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell)

    Of all the songs on the album, this one gave me the most vintage Swift vibes. There’s no denying that she is an astonishingly talented songwriter, especially when you listen to what is essentially her greatest fear laid bare, on the track with just a bit of guitar and the Dixie Chicks harmonizing in the background. Here, the story shines: Swift’s mother has been sick for a number of years, and while they’ve mostly kept the details of that battle private, this is the most vulnerable moment of love for her mother on an album mostly about finding true love. “Holy orange bottles, each night I pray to you/Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus, too.” A friend of mine recently lost their mother just after getting married, and it made me marvel at how life often delivers us highs and lows to grapple with simultaneously. While all of this was going on—Kanye and Kim, Joe and London, another world tour, another album—in the background, Swift has been terrified of losing her mother. This song made me think of Swamplandia!, a novel about a young girl living in a gator-wrestling theme park where her mother used to be the main event until she passed away. Now, in the wake of her death, she and her siblings must grapple with her legacy as a competing business rises up to swallow the success she built on the swamp.

    13.False God” (City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert)

    Is that a saxophone in the background of a Taylor Swift song? This slow, jazzy number is all about love and desire—and how we come back to it even when the world around us (and sometimes we, ourselves) put it in jeopardy. “And I can’t talk to you when you’re like this/Staring out the window like I’m not your favorite town/I’m New York City” and other lyrics referencing New York seem to be the grounding force in an otherwise tumultuous relationship. Multiple times on this record Swift has alluded to rough patches in her current happiness, but connection is always the solution to fixing it. She seems to say that if you treat your relationship like it’s your religion, you can get through anything. This is one of the sexier songs on the album, but it’s also got serious NYC vibes, so I’m picking City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: a novel all about relishing romance in the glitzy 1940’s New York Theater scene, but also how desire can either set us on the road to ruin, or redemption.

    14.You Need to Calm Down” (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid)

    This song has done what Swift does best: inspire conversation and a bit of controversy. Acknowledging that it was past time for her to be an outspoken ally for the LGBTQIAP+ community, YNTCD tackles the various ways communities are pitted against one another (especially on the internet.) The first verse examines her personal haters (“Say it in the street, that’s a knock-out/But you say it in a Tweet, that’s a cop-out), the second calls out homophobes (“Shade never made anybody less gay”), and the third examines how her relationships with her female contemporaries have often been antagonistic, something she herself has been responsible perpetuating in the past with songs like “Bad Blood” and “Better Than Revenge” (“We all know now, we all got crowns/you need to calm down.”) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is about a famous actress who hid the great female love of her life behind multiple male partners and uses her platform to tell the truth (all while hiding one last devastating secret). While Taylor herself has not come out as part of the LGBTQ community, she has come out as an ally, and this book made me think about the issues of privacy, platform, allyship, and identity that the song also confronts. If there’s more to the story of Swift’s relationship to the LGBTQIAP+ community, she’s going to share it on her own terms.

    15.Afterglow” (Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams)

    This song ranks high on my favorites from the album, and it’s a rare genre from Swift: the apology song. The other famous one is Speak Now’s “Back to December”. In this mid-tempo song with slamming drums and a breathy falsetto, Swift yearns for the partner she pushed away to meet her in the moments after the fight ends. “It’s all me, in my head/I’m the one who burned us down/ but it’s not what I meant,” she insists. There’s still hope here though, as opposed to earlier songs on the record that signal the doom of a friendship or a breakup after-the-fact. Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams, is a novel about a girl coming to terms with her role in a failed relationship, a career she can’t seem to succeed in, and friends she unknowingly betrays. “Why’d I have to break what I love so much?” is a question asked in this song’s chorus, and one Queenie must answer in order to find real, lasting happiness.

    16. ME! (feat. Brendon Urie)” (Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan)

    This self-love anthem is bubblegum sweet and full of earworms, the “Shake it Off of the TS7 Era. It makes me think of lightning fast beach reads that you can’t put down and that feel so good to read but also have a deeper meaning to them. Just because it’s not the most lyrically advanced of her songs doesn’t mean this bop doesn’t deserve to be celebrated— it reminded me of how romances constantly get a bad rep (lol, see what I did there?) about being somehow lesser than other genres. But I love that Taylor doesn’t care about what other people think and is 100% focused on being her authentic self— just like the heroine of Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel Chu. When confronted with the wealth and expectations of her boyfriend Nick’s family (who don’t think she’s good enough for him), she insists it’s her individuality that makes her the perfect partner for him.

    17. It’s Nice to Have a Friend” (This Love Story Will Self-Destruct, by Leslie Cohen)

    This track might be my second favorite? It’s so different (Ukulele? Trombone? Is that what I’m hearing?) and such a contrast to the beginning of the album, the opener closes the door on a once meaningful friendship. It’s also a deceiving song, in that I’m still not 100% sure what it’s about (on third listen.) I think though, Swift is exploring the importance of friendship in all its forms: in childhood (“School bell rings, walk me home”) to adolescence “Something gave you the nerve/to touch my hand”) to romantic love (“Church bells ring, carry me home/rice on the ground looks like snow”). Ultimately, she may be saying that the most important thing about a romantic partner is that they make you feel like you have a friend—when you’re young, the thing that matters most is feeling seen by other people. If your lover is also your best friend, then you know they always have your back. A love story that takes place over two characters’ twenties, This Love Story Will Self-Destruct is about the missteps, betrayals, beautiful moments and connection that forms between two people over a decade.

    18.Daylight” (Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes)

    “My love was as cruel as the cities I lived in.” What a way to begin this album closer. Swift’s last tracks have a tradition of being the ones that are most emblematic of her current state of mind, but they also have developed certain themes over time. Renewal, starting over, self-reflection, and hope are all subjects Daylight sheds a little light on. She acknowledges past failings (“I wounded the good and trusted the wicked”) and what she wants for the future (“I once believed love would be [burning red]/but it’s golden”). A book that feels like daylight on your skin is what’s needed for this song, and I think Evvie Drake Starts Over is the perfect pick: a story about a woman still grieving the loss of her husband but who finds herself moving on with a former major league baseball player. Both of them have pasts they are healing from, but together, they find hope for the future. “I’ve been sleeping so long in a twenty-year dark night/and now I see daylight.”

    And, unlike (I think?) any other song in her catalogue, she speaks in the end, not sings, in a direct appeal to her audience. Her very last words are “You are what you love.” Well, I love Taylor Swift. I love a good song lyric to sink my teeth into, or to sing. I love love. And I love a good story, whether it comes from a song or a book, and when you’re done with the album, I hope you find some here. Leave a comment below with which books you’d pick for your fave Taylor songs!

    The post A Book for Every Song on <i>Lover</i>, Taylor Swift’s New Album appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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