Showing posts with label taylor swift. Show all posts
Showing posts with label taylor swift. Show all posts

Friday, October 13, 2023

The Eras Tour

I've only been a Swiftie for a good six or seven years. I always kinda question my stance in the fandom, given that I'm not afraid to speak out against things that I disagree with and haven't been following her career since the beginning (which I guess earns some the 'real stan' badge or something on social media). But the depth of my admiration for her springing out is not something that I'm genuinely aware of until I pretty much become the resident Swiftie in close circles. With the 1989 re-recording on the way, and much of the publicity this year for the Eras Tour, Speak Now re-release, and the hubbub with the NFL, has been giving me overexposure vibes via 2015 right before she got cancelled. Going into this, and being a big lover of concert films in general, I was very much giving neutral energy just to keep my expectations at bay and mostly expecting to have a nice day out from my hellfire workplace. And, what in turn ended up happening was feeling like not only was I back seeing the concert in person earlier this summer but just completely absorbing everything that was happening on stage as if for the first time.

A journey of her albums from one to the next, takes us through as promised, seventeen years of unflinching inventive, vulnerable, and catchy entries into country, pop, and indie-folk history. With some of her past concerts ranging from getting a gold star for trying (Fearless), and hardcore 'someone edited this on shrooms' (1989) to the solid production of finding light and love in the world's white noise  (Reputation), director Sam Wrench simultaneously lets us settle in for the night as if we're in the stadium seeing it in person and also drop kicks us into the imagination that is Taylor Swift. By taking the concert running time from 3 1/2 hours to 2 hours and 48 minutes (with 30 minutes of "trailers"), unfortunately someone's favorite song is gonna get cut. But with those cuts still encompasses a concert movie where every song is treated like it's only mini-production complete with costume changes and succinct set details you might never be able to pick out unless you memorize the whole concert - dancers taking golf clubs to the famous Blank Space car and smashing it to pieces or performing in the glass cages during Look What You Made Me Do, the tracks on the stage while witches cast a spell in Willow - and a performer at the highest of all her heights thus far. Wonderful cinematography and smooth editing makes it possible to accompany Taylor and her co. on stage, that is a real lavish visual treat that neither leaves you with whiplash or deprived of getting the full scope of the production design.

Though the running time is bound to have casual viewers running away - there is no behind the scenes documentary footage or intermissions - the pacing of over-the-top hits to softer vulnerable tracks offers a nice balance between the heartracing highs and slow-sway lows. At the center of the concert is a performer who invites you into her radio-ready Grammy winning life-spanning diary with an expressive presence that wields both an nostalgic appreciation for her longest-running hits and a mature artist on top of the world. Rather than showcasing a presence that feels implicity only 'on' for the cameras, she makes you feel as if she's performing just for you whether you're in the nosebleeds and first row at a massive stadium, or row five in the a movie theater. It's a real fantastical feat. Even though I've seen the concert in person and streamed it on social media, and knew what to expect, there was so much that I felt like I was just absorbing, and other times I'm pretty sure I just Winnie The Pooh-esque ascended to another plane of existence - it might've been wanting to go anywhere my Lover goes, having a marvelous time ruining everything with the last great American dynasty, or committing revenge with only a chair and some hardcore Chicago vibes like my life depends on it. By the end, it's tough to trace back exactly when a smile that breaks out on your face or the awe you've just witnessed. Maybe it's been there the whole 3 hours. Regardless, like everything Taylor touches, this is a joyful and heartfelt spectacle that proves why she's a mastermind and we're all so lucky to live in a world where we can take it all in and go along for the ride.

Rating: ★★★★

Sunday, November 14, 2021

All Too Well (2021)

All Too Well could be considered 'the song' for Taylor Swift's fanbase. It's tough, but not impossible, to find fans who voice an opinion for it above okay. If they do, they're certainly outdone by the legions who have been singing, nay screaming, the lyrics back to Swift for the past ten years. With Taylor working on the re-releases of her past albums, there are expectations of more songs from her vault to come. But none have accomplished the hype for one of her most popular ballads. It's this special  reverence - about a seemingly casual break-up that provokes cruel and painful memories - that has had fans begging Taylor to release an extended ten minute version, and now she's finally delivered.

As a certified Swiftie, All Too Well is one of my favorites of hers. It's not my most beloved song, but it's cathartic to listen to, to shout-sing when I'm left reeling by the world or a person in my life. And though I follow along with fun updates and crazy-ass theories with the fandom, I can't say for sure I ever wanted the extended version. It'd be fun to listen to, sure, but I mostly wandered if it would add anything new. It'll be blasphemy to say - in comparison to the rest of the internet - but Taylor's Version of All Too Well was reasonably good enough on a first listen. The added imagery heightened the lyrics and will also simply take some getting used - since like so many, I know the original track forwards and backwards, sideways and diagonal. I love the addition of several new lines and metaphors here and there, but I was still left wondering what was new that added to the song that made my emotions echo everyone else the second this version dropped online.

And, that answer really came with the short film starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O'Brian.

"I walked through the door with you, the air was cold / But something 'bout it felt like home somehow / And I left my scarf there at your sister's house / And you've still got it in your drawer, even now /" as well as "Autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place / And I can picture it after all these days" sets the stage - a familiarity of a new relationship starting, a blossoming of love when Mother Nature is going into hibernation, the adventurous innocence and hope of something to live for. Swift starts by taking the audience upstate, exuding the long road ahead of ups and downs. On the surface it seems like nothing can go wrong; surely, this will have an happy ending. As we lean into the 2 minute mark, things divert into a horror movie. Bright dispositions are laced with passive-aggression. Sink might be wrapped O'Brian's arms but the embraces are practically empty. Passion seems to boil with the slightest sign of affection, but withdrawing it all leaves her dead in her tracks and questioning everything. 

Instead of moving the film's settings along at the same pace of the song, Swift cleverly avoids making this another music video. It's simultaneously a vignette of memories but also a story that's progressively moving forward. For the first two acts, she focuses more on the relationship between herself and Jake-Gyllenhaal-Or-Not-Jake. There's no real need for the lyrics to line up exactly with the imagery. Yet, at the video's most poignant moments, she manages to do both without feeling too forced or rushed. She's not strictly going by her own words to tell the story to build up the bridge, but at the same time she is.

As director and writer of the song she wrote about her life, it could be easy to take that personalization a little too far - to not see the forest from the trees. The best places where Swift casts distance between herself and the story is the casting. Sink creates the balance of being a young girl becoming increasingly aware of how broken and twisted this relationship is; she's not a blank canvas but she's not an impersonation of Swift either. And, O'Brien, I hate to say it, immediately captures the essence of a douchebag with his anger-driven expressions in the eyes practically casting aspersions towards her, the mocking apologies, and white-man-hipster bruised ego. They hold down the story where Swift's attention to detail is both a strength and a hindrance.

For the back-half of the song, however, Swift struggles to keep up her own pace. Most of the 'script' navigates her lyrics without being too on the nose. But, her inclination to spell out what's happening on screen can be distracting. Here, she uses title cards to mark the various beats she's already hitting naturally. On their own, they're just harmless title cards. But as the story wraps up between 'the breaking point, the reeling, the remembering', the newer verses (3 and 5 in particular) feel rushed. Taylor initially uses the song to show that this moment in her life is impossible to forget, yet proved that pain could be forged creatively and take on new meaning. She loosely shows the connection between the characters so they aren't screaming the meaning of the lyrics at us. As the new additions pivots to the "nameless" heartbreaker remembering the relationship, we're left to wonder why he wouldn't just return the scarf and make amends. Does he recognize the heartbreak he caused too much to do anything about it after all this time, or still just to ignorant to be anything but an observer from the sidelines? Has too much time passed now to even try to make up for what was lost? The ending doesn't focus on vague imagery anymore, but it's trying to squeeze in both narratives that the film doesn't have enough room for.

Swift can be and is recognized for having a reputation of extremes - taking what the critics say and proving them wrong; reaching unexpected places with every new album or era; hinting countless easter eggs that fans sort through and predict her next move. Not many artists would probably consider dropping a whole short film for an old-new song, but Taylor does. While I'm a huge fan but not always on the same page of extremes the fandom goes to, or Swift herself, I think she did a good job here with creating a short film that puts into context the extent of the pain of All Too Well  emanates- especially for those like me who might not automatically relate to the extended version or understand its vision.

Swift's film directorial debut is a gift for the fans, but where Swift saves face is not by crowding it with so many easter eggs that it's alienating to non-fans. Swifties can still watch this and pick it apart, or pass it onto non-fans to say 'hey check this out' without needing an advanced degree in her career or the song itself. It can be the new starter park to becoming a Swiftie or another familiar tune in a long list of familiar tunes by her. This, in itself, will make the song an even grander masterpiece to be remembered all too well.

Rating: ★★☆

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Evermore (2020) is a fitting sister album for folklore

During the summer of the 2020 apocalypse, nothing surprised Swifties more than when Taylor Swift dropped a surprise album. folklore received some of the best reviews of the year and her career so far – inspiring fans and critics about the type of art that can spring out of such a crushing pandemic. And then fast forward half a year later, and Swift with Aaron Dressner dropped an early holiday bombshell with a sister album called evermore.

If folklore showed Taylor Swift in all of her folksy might, evermore takes a twist for a mix of old-fashioned whimsy and witchiness-inspired country. Evermore doesn’t quite pick up where folklore left off – it’s not copying or continuing stories from her previous album but parallels can be drawn between tracks if you want to dig deeper - and us Swifties have been trained to dig deep. This time around her music takes more of an upswing than a haunting melancholy with tales about Hollywood stars coming home for the holidays (tis the damn season), a small town crime between friends (no body, no crime), and bandits falling in love (cowboy like me). She also uses a similar storytelling technique with heftier imagery sprinkled throughout the chorus and verses, and packing in the bridges with everything she’s got.

To describe the two albums together, I’d say folklore feels like a foggy winter morn. It’s an album of reflection and reminiscing about rage, euphoria, young love, and trying to find stability in the middle of jagged relationships and crazy times. It maintains a 1970s feel in a lot of ways like Joni Mitchell and Carole King, where her cadence blends in with the beat and one-of-a-kind melodies. Evermore, on the other hand, captures melancholy in the summer as it fades into fall, describing stories in the present moment rather than looking back with as much woe or angst. At first, it doesn't feel like a country album, but over time, it will become more obvious just how much it can be considered a more mature sibling to Red. Evermore might still maintain a running theme of unrequited love or broken relationships, but the rhythm allows the lyrics to mold to the beat or act as poetry over the music. The two together are a dynamo duo - it's only a question of which on you prefer.

Though the two share a lot of similarities, the biggest difference for me is how it's taken me longer for evermore to resonate. When folklore dropped, I was instantly emotional about several songs on the initial and subsequent listens. Even though my top 5 rankings are much the same, I don’t skip any tracks and even my least favorites have grown on me. It's a perfect album. That type of progress is a  struggle with evermore. The themes of yearning for a loved one, the fundamental differences between two people that divides them, finding closure, etc. with self-recriminating insight starts to feel repetitive no matter how many poetic ways Taylor expresses herself. Half of the album become definite re-listens, while I don't seek out other songs or might skip halfway through them.

Swift and Dressner manages to produce a sound that is light on the ears as well as in-depth storytelling that makes you reconsider all of the different angles, and will certainly define the holiday era of the pandemic. And that's perhaps the hiccup evermore runs into - Taylor's so ahead of her own curve it becomes a sphere, where a lot of the tracks hit a comfortably catchy groove but don't land as surprisingly or as uniquely as folklore. In true companionship fashion, plenty of songs fit alongside each other but you'll left wondering how the runner-up compares to the original. While it's harmless to want more of a great thing, it doesn't mean it will be great itself.

Have you listened to evermore? What did you think?

My thoughts on the individual songs with a ranking of faves is below.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

folklore (2020) offers an enchanting escape from the dumpster fire that is 2020

folklore album review
When it comes to Taylor Swift, her most devoted Swifties always expect something to pop up around the corner. Known as the queen of meticulously dropping hints of what’s to come, she always manages to keep fans on the edge of their seat. With her seventh album Lover dropping less than a year ago, and a massive pandemic sweeping the world, very few could’ve expected to hear new music after a cancelled summer tour. The next era of her music felt like an eternity away, but only Swift could drop her eighth studio record out of nowhere and blast more of our expectations out of the water. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Miss Americana (2020) Shines A Light On the Swift Narrative

Miss Americana (2020) documentary review netflix
Everyone has an opinion on Taylor Swift. Millions of fans around the world have grown up with her music and followed her through the highs and lows. Outside of her loyal Swiftie community, the world over either loathes, ignores or maintains a bitter impression about Swift. Netflix's latest documentary Miss Americana (2020) strives to challenge what both fans and haters alike believe about the beloved yet divisive celebrity.

In 2016, after the massive success of her fifth studio album 1989, Swift reached a new height of media overexposure and a public feud with Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian. When #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty trended worldwide for 24 hours, Swift was effectively canceled. The musician thought the world wanted her to disappear, and so she did – for a year. The question on so many fans’ minds will center on where Swift went during that time she disappeared, and this is where the documentary steps in.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Lover (2019) Marks A New Beginning After A Winding Storm

Taylor Swift Lover Review
Very few artists in the music industry are known for their literal reputation. From a rising country star to a pop sensation, Taylor Swift became recognized for the drama – the men she was dating (or even seen with), feuds, the lack of using her voice in politics, and everything in between. Considering the number of records she’s broken and set, the awards she’s won, the genuine giving personality she’s known to have with her fans, her life in the public became more known than the music she was making.

Nothing could stop the apocalyptic summer of 2016, where her personal and professional life came to a head. Squeezed into a damn-if-she-did-damned-if-she-doesn’t corner, Swift reverbed the drama into her sixth album Reputation. A boisterous declaration against the black and white headlines, which spun opinions into facts and made no room for redemption, Swift simultaneously played into the persona of the witch getting burned as well as the torchbearer. Trying to regain some semblance of her career spiraling out of control, Reputation served all the rumors surrounding her image at that point up on snake-laden platter.

Despite fans recognizing that the Old Taylor was never literally dead, transitions between eras can sometimes lose fans along the way. Having become a bonafide Swiftie through Reputation, it’s hard to not be biased about its production and tone. A mix of angry and boisterous anthems, and vulnerable mellow confessions, it’s impossible to skip a track no matter how many times I’ve listened to it. But while watching the Reputation concert on Netflix the night before Lover released, I wondered if Taylor could handle losing the ‘swamp witch’ impression (as Taylor put it) and step into the daylight.

A long and winding career whirlwind, such as the one that Taylor endured, is not something most public figures – in film, music, or politics – emerge unscathed.

Except Taylor Swift.

And, this is where Lover comes in.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Stars I Love: Taylor Swift

If you had told me a year ago, let alone five years ago, that I'd be doing a whole post on Taylor Swift I wouldn't believe you. It's not that I was a certified hater. Her music was the inadvertent soundtrack of my adolescence, but bopping along in the car to her latest hits wasn't nearly enough to make me a bonafide Swiftie.

Other than being aware of her music growing up, one of the first memories I have was attending a sold-out showing to Valentine's Day. The theater was filled with lots of couples on dates, but it was also filled with teenagers my age. While I was convinced at the time it was the star-studded cast that might've attracted young adults to the movie, or the fact that it was a holiday, I look back and think now that it was all about Taylor. For a few reasons: that theater has never been that packed since (excluding superhero movies), and every time Taylor showed up on-screen, those different groups of girls were in full-fangirl mode - not just when her characters' boyfriend (Taylor Lautner) was on-screen but also when she had a few small individual moments of her own.  I was in the middle of Taylor's influence and didn't even quite realize it.

And, that's how the next several years of my life went: Taylor could be heard in every retail store, on the drives to and from school, seen on award shows and in movies or tv shows, but I didn't become hardcore about it.