track 5 storytelling

who is surprised that i’m writing another taylor swift blog? hopefully no one. today i’ll be talking about not only the track 5 songs from every album, but how they intertwine with each other. these songs are known for being her most personal and intimate, and it’s very clear why.

cold as you – debut
debut doesn’t get nearly the recognition it deserves, and this song is living proof. at just 16 years old, she was writing about things like love, regret, and having the strength to do the right thing and feel good about it. there’s a line in the chorus that says, “you came along with a great little story about a mess of a dreamer with the nerve to adore you.” this line really encompasses her naivety in thinking things would go in her way, yet they never seem to. she directs it to someone in particular, using second person point-of-view a lot to focus her energy. she understands that even though she was the one being left, it wasn’t her fault, and something better will come of it.

white horse – fearless (taylor’s version)
this fifth track focuses more on the ideas of moving on and growing up than its predecessor, but it has a lot of the same “notes” in terms of content. her fear (and reality) of abandonment appears again, and it focuses much more on the ideas of recovering from that and knowing that it will hurt her in the end. still, she shows her strength and will to say “no” whenever someone (who doesn’t deserve it) asks her for a second chance. it’s very much a track of coming to terms with who you want to be and where you want to go in life, and i think everyone who has been let down can relate to this in some way.

dear john – speak now
after my infamous blog about john mayer, my thoughts on this are… pretty clear. however, lyrically, this is still a masterpiece. they encompass everything wrong with an “unnamed man” in regards to how he interacts with someone romantically. in an interesting turn of events, she is the one to walk away and realize that this “unnamed man” is not deserving of her time, even though she’s still heartbroken. it shows the real, complex feelings of a breakup with someone so much older who has more power, both in the industry and the world. it also relates to her song “ours” from the same album. “ours” has the lyrics, “seems like there’s always someone who disapproves; they’ll judge it like they know about me and you,” but “dear john” follows up with, “i’ll look back and regret i ignored when they said ‘run as fast as you can.'” 

all too well – red (taylor’s version)
widely speculated to be about jake gyllenhaal, “all too well” is about reminiscing an old relationship and remembering every single detail, even when you don’t want to. the track is 5 minutes, cut down from the original 10, which was released as a vault track on taylor’s version. it feels very bittersweet, thinking about the past and realizing that you’re not living it anymore. it features lyrics like “i forget about you long enough to forget why i needed to,” but it also turns around and recognizes that the blame mostly falls on the other “unnamed” person who decided to pursue a relationship that he knew wouldn’t work out to begin with.

all you had to do was stay – 1989
nobody would expect this to be a track 5, for being so upbeat in the introduction of her first true pop album. however, this is where the overall track 5 storytelling comes through. she talks about how “it could have been easy, all you had to do was stay,” which relates to the abandonment themes seen in the previous tracks. however, the actual music suggests a more nuanced thought process of moving on and getting ahead of the game. it reminds me a lot of the song “clean” on the same album.

delicate – reputation
the first lyrics make the most sense when talking about vulnerability and abandoment, the themes we’ve been referencing to all this time, “my reputation’s never been worse, so you must like me for me.” it’s a very romantic song, talking about the beginning of a relationship and being under the scrutiny of the public eye at the same time. however, it’s the turn that the other tracks have speculated up to now. it’s vulnerable in that she’s coming to terms with a type of relationship she’s never had before, where she’s valued based on herself as a person, not the status she can give. it’s new for her, and it’s a lovely change of pace for her lyricism.

the archer – lover
the most jarring lyrics from this track are, “who could ever leave me darling, but who could stay?” because up until “delicate,” the most common thematics revolved around the pain felt by people leaving. now, she’s asking why people would stay? overall, the song is a lot about moving on, introspection, and analyzing what makes people who they are, especially with references to her own body image issues in a few of the verses. these are real issues that real women face, and it’s a wonderful follow-up to “the man” as track 4, which is all about what society expects from women. 

my tears ricochet – folklore
again with understanding complex relationships, this song is widely speculated to be about a relationship gone awry. it details betrayal, choice, and regret. the toughest lyrics are in the bridge. in my opinion, it definitely has a connection with “right where you left me” from the evermore album, especially with the inclusion of different regret elements. in the bridge, she talks about how this situation is still affecting her feelings, still influencing her decisions, still getting under her skin. to regard this song as “just another taylor swift song about a boy,” would be so disgraceful in neglecting the very real feelings that so many people struggle with on a daily basis. 

tolerate it – evermore 
the most recent (new) track 5 has two different accepted interpretations. the first is the theory that, like the other track 5s, surprise surprise, it’s about a relationship. the second is that it’s about a child whose parent or parents don’t appreciate all of the efforts that the child goes through to maintain their relationship. regardless of what kind of relationship the song describes, it closes out her current track 5 discography with the worthiness aspect of “i know my love should be celebrated, but you tolerate it.”

overall, taylor’s music is about so many more things than just her “boy problems.” everything she writes about connects to the inner psyche, feelings of worth, value, vulnerability, and transparency. her music connects to multiple generations of people who feel like their dreams and desires should be put on the back burner. fifth tracks are the through-line of her entire discography, and they make the most sense to people who have been in her shoes before. 

now, for those of you who say i am slowly turning you into a swiftie, hopefully this convinces you fully. 

Author: Sara Hebert

welcome :) my name is sara, and i hope you enjoy reading along with me in this little corner of the internet.

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