I have this weird thing where I will wake up with a song playing in my head. For the past week or so, it’s been “The Lucky One” by Taylor Swift. I’m not entirely sure why, but I went back to listen to it, and I’m again blown away by Swift’s incredible songwriting, making it #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.
Taylor Swift is one of the greatest songwriters there is. Since the release of her self-titled debut album in 2006, Swift has been knocking my socks off with her ability to created incredible melodies, hooks, and stories. When I first heard her song “Teardrops On My Guitar,” I remember putting it on repeat and just being kind of in awe. I’ve always had a passion for stories and music, but I never really realized that songwriting was putting them together. My musical training only dealt with classical music (I’ve been playing the violin and cello since I was five), and my definition of music was pretty much going to orchestra and playing music from the 1600s (or whenever Bach and Mozart were alive). I didn’t live a sheltered life; my parents were exposing me to all types of music since my birth (I still remember being like two and my mom playing a Pat Benatar record for me), but I never fully realized that pop/rock/country music was in fact…music. I know, it sounds incredibly stupid. But, Taylor Swift is one of the few artists who writes all her music, and every song she writes is it’s own story. She’s not here to make a political statement or preach to people on how to live their lives (like some other artists); she’s here to speak her truths through music. Which I think is beautiful.
“The Lucky One” is truly an example of Taylor Swift’s superior songwriting and story-telling ability. The story starts out describing a character moving out to L.A. in search of fame, and it actually working out. Fast forward a little bit, and the character isn’t so happy with their new found fame, especially with having to deal with the press and with “feel[ing] used.” We finally learn at the end that the character escapes fame, and “disappears.” It has been speculated that this song is about Joni Mitchell, a music goddess and one of Swift’s inspirations.
The intriguing thing about these lyrics is the fact that Swift has this pre-chorus that she modifies throughout the song to magnify the character’s changing attitude. For example, in the beginning, the character is excited about their success, and Swift sings “Another name goes up in lights, like diamonds in the sky,” (i.e. it’s a beautiful, incredible thing). Then, in the second verse, the character isn’t so happy, and Swift modifies this lyric to be “Another name goes up in lights, you wonder if you’ll make it out alive.” Finally, during the bridge, Swift relates to this character and sings, “Because now my name is up in lights, but I think you got it right.” It’s just cool that she’s keeping the lyrical content consistent but changing ever so slightly.
This song is also classic Swift because she manages to create unique, intriguing lyrics that subtly rhyme. Read the first verse:
Chasing fortune and fame.
And the camera flashes, make it look like a dream.
You had it figured out since you were in school.
Everybody loves pretty, everybody loves cool.
So overnight you look like a sixties’ queen.”