I’ve been thinking lately about how Taylor Swift uses Christmas (or, if you’re American, the “holidays”) to reference lost love.
In her more recent albums, especially folklore and evermore, Swift has written from fictional perspectives and situations which I’m sure were inspired by some element of truth. I find I’m drawn to these made-up storylines in her songs more than the ones that are more obviously about Taylor’s life. I think this is because they too feel real, but also I like hearing lots of different love stories. The good, the bad, the lost love, the regrets, the break-ups. I like feeling feelings.
An ‘ideal family Christmas’
The following two Taylor Swift songs are both about a lost love. right where you left me is about a person who is so devastated from a break-up aged 23 that she never moves on, even though everyone else around them, including their ex-lover, does. Midnight Rain is from the perspective of a person who broke someone’s heart when they were younger because their lover wanted to settle down in their hometown, while the singer wanted to chase their career.
In both songs the singer references Christmas as a way to show that their lost love has moved on, by having the stereotypical ‘ideal family Christmas’ they do not have in the present.
In right where you left me, the singer doesn’t even know if her ex-lover has got this ideal Christmas. They’re still stuck in the past and can’t move forward with their life, but they are convinced their ex has it all: a wife, children, and family Christmases. The singer is still waiting for their ex to come back.
right where you left me
I stayed there
Dust collected on my pinned-up hair
I’m sure that you got a wife out there
Kids and Christmas, but I’m unaware
‘Cause I’m right where
I cause no harm, mind my business
If our love died young, I can’t bear witness
And it’s been so long
But if you ever think you got it wrong
I’m right where you left me
While in Midnight Rain, the singer implies they can see their ex has this ideal holiday setup now. A postcard to me suggests they are seeing a social media post or equivalent, noticing their ex has this perfect life every day of the year. Unlike the singer in right where you left me, Midnight Rain‘s author is wondering if they would have had this, had they stayed behind and settled.
It came like a postcard
Picture perfect shiny family
Holiday peppermint candy
But for him it’s every day
So I peered through a window
A deep portal, time travel
All the love we unravel
And the life I gave away
It’s as if having this classic ‘family Christmas’ is the epitome of true success to these singers. Both songs have a melancholic yearning to them. Delusion or regret. Looking back at a time period and asking “What would be different if we hadn’t broken up?” or “What would be different had I stayed?”. Two different paths after a break-up.
It’s nice to experience such emotional responses to songs and for them to get into your mind.
There is a bonus Taylor Swift song about Christmas, and it’s one of my favourites.
In a way it’s a classic story, which I can visualise in my head so clearly like a movie. It feels real. Dorothea returns from Hollywood to her hometown, Tupelo Mississippi, for Christmas. During her stay she reunites with her high-school lover, someone she left behind to chase her dream, and they spend the weekend together: driving, staying in bed, all the while knowing it’s only for a short time.
I’d even argue this and Midnight Rain are about the same characters. ’tis the damn season is set 5 years after high school graduation and Midnight Rain is 10-15 years after this Christmas weekend.
’tis the damn season
So we could call it even
You could call me babe for the weekend
‘Tis the damn season, write this down
I’m stayin’ at my parents’ house
And the road not taken looks real good now
And it always leads to you in my hometown
I guess I blog about Taylor Swift songs now.