Every time a new Taylor Swift album comes out, hoards of eager fans rake through the songs and lyrics, piecing clues together in desperate attempts to discern for whom each song was written. After some reading, I understand that industry leaders and, allegedly, Taylor herself, have said that most of the new album is about Harry Styles (whoever that guy is).
After giving the album a good, thorough, six or seven listens, I have one thing to say to the artist: good cover, Taylor. You’re brilliant, you truly are, to have written an entire album on seemingly obscure content and then spin it to sell millions of albums to the uninformed. But I’m onto you. There are too many clues, too many signs, parallels and overt descriptions for the album to be written about anything other than cross country skiing. I know, you thought no one (at least outside of Scandinavia) would figure it out. Don’t worry, you’re secret’s safe. Not that many people read my blog (at least until I hashtag 1989).
For those of you at home shaking your heads in doubt, I too have combed through songs and lyrics and have prepared proof of my suspicion. What’s more, I’ve collaborated with a nationally renowned Swiftologist, pop culture doctorate candidate and teenage love PHD, Anne Hart. Additionally, I’ve sought the knowledge of Taylor Swift body double Erika Flowers, also born in 1989 (because college taught me to refer to experts). Below, we have detailed, song by song, how Taylor’s new album links to skiing.
1. Welcome to New York
AP: Upon first listen, I thought that this song was about the city’s decision to not host 2015 city sprints.
AH: Which was a nice try–and I understand–but I have to disagree. I think the whole vibe of the song is too positive to commemorate an event that actually didn’t occur. Welcome to New York is so clearly about the first fall US Ski Team training camp in Lake Placid, New York. “When we first dropped our bags/ on the OTC Floor/Took our broken bodies/put them in the recovery room/Everybody here wants something more/and you can race super fast/Roller ski tracks and really long skis”
2. Blank Space
AP: JO’s dance anyone?
Nice to meet you, where you been?
I could show you incredible things
Magic, madness, heaven, sin
Saw you there and I thought
Oh my God, look at that face
You look like my next mistake
Love’s a game, wanna play?
AH: Or, you know, Spring Series, World Juniors, J1 trip, World Cup Finals.
AH: Do you know what really never goes out of style? Winning. This song is clearly about a racer’s relationship to victory. It comes and it goes, other people get it when you want it but it’ll never go out of style.
4. Out of the Woods
EF: I’ve got this one. Has anyone ever skied at Stowe? Practically the entire race is in the woods, and all you want is to be is in the clear. “Remember when you hit the brakes too soon?” Remember when you went way too hard and you blew up and died in the first three K? I do. The whole song itself is an uncertain questioning of if you’re ever out of the woods. At Stowe, when you break the tree line, you still have an uphill finish. You’ll never know how the ride was until you cross the finish line. You just won’t.
5. All You Had To Do Was Stay
AP: When I first heard this song, I knew that it was written for me (and skiers like me).
Let me remind you, this was what you wanted
You ended it
You were all I wanted
But not like this
Not like this
Not like this
Oh, all you had to do was stay
Hey, all you had to do was stay
Had me in the palm of your hand
Man, why’d you have to go and lock me out when I let you in
Stay, hey, now you say you want it
Back, now that it’s just too late
Well could’ve been easy, all you had to do was stay
As an athlete still suffering from PTSD from coaches leaving skiing, I’m still like, man, all you had to do was stay.
6. Shake It Off
EF: I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say this is about SMS T2. I’m not going to go into detail, and you can read what you want in the lyrics, and we’ll just shake shake shake it off.
AH: What she said.
7. I Wish You Would
I wish you would come back
Wish I’d never hung up the phone like I did, and I
I wish you’d know that I never forget you as long as I live, and I
Wish you were right here, right now, it’s all good, I wish you would
AP: This song really puts into words the emotional roller coaster that is ski racing. Taylor allegedly wrote this song after a bad string of races. It’s unclear what race in particular, but it’s rumored that these lyrics came after placing out of qualifying in the Birkie City sprints. Regardless, the song is remorseful of good times past, she’s looking back to glory days filled with podiums and prized mugs and just begging them to come back. By the end of the song, she’s standing with the “you” that is glory again, which gives us hope that her game came back.
8. Bad Blood
AH/AP/EF: We will let you make what you want out of our alleged rivalries.
9. Wildest Dreams
Say you’ll remember me
Standing in a nice dress, staring at the [sweat stains], babe
Red lips and rosy cheeks
Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams
AP: This one goes out to all the illicit lovers (those from conflicting regions) during their last song at the JO’s dance.
AH: Yes, in my studies for my teenage love PHD, we had an entire seminar on the final moments of the dance and it seems to me quite astute to have made that connection between Taylor’s lyrics and the stinking load of emotion there.
AP: What did you write your thesis on?
AH: Fashion trends and their connection to blue wall stains of the 21st century.
10. How You Get the Girl
EF/AP: We hate this song. Next.
AH: It makes sense that you wouldn’t like this song because this actually written about training plans and coaching. It’s a play on Matt Whitcomb’s “How to Coach Women” powerpoint. Taylor hasn’t actually seen the presentation, so she’s missing some important physiological information, but in general she speaks to the importance of communication, sensitivity and openness to create successful athletes.
11. This Love
EF: Spring break!
AP: Or just about the love of skiing. The highs are high and the lows are low. Real low. “This love is good, this love is bad/This love is alive back from the dead/these hand had to let it go free/and this love came back to me.” No matter how bad it gets, it always comes back.
AH: You’re both right. It’s about spring time training, reflecting on the highs and lows about the season and taking a break. She talks about “Tossing, turning, struggled through the night with someone new” before her love came back, that’s her depiction of roller skiing and wanting the real thing.
EF: You’re a real know-it-all, Anne.
AH: That’s because, when it comes to Taylor Swift, I actually know it all.
12. I Know Places
AP: Finally, an anthem for low snow years! When all of the foxes are chasing us around 700 meter loops, it’s handy to, you know, know places.
Baby I know places we won’t be found and they’ll be chasing their tails tryin’ to track us down
Cause I, I know places we can hide, I know places
EF: I can tell you the first stanza of lyrics are about klister and kick wax covering your skis like a wine stained dress I can’t wear anymore. I’ve lost many a glove to those stupid torches.
The drought was the very worst….
It was months, and months of back and forth
You’re still all over me like I wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore…
AH: Nailed it! The entire song is a tribute to the feeling of pulling your hands out of gloves after a long klister-y ski, how the stick magically disappears! That, and when your coach takes control of your fleet and finally cleans last year’s carnival wax off your bindings.
14. Bonus Track! Wonderland
We found wonderland
You and I got lost in it
And we pretended it could last forever
We found wonderland
You and I got lost in it
And life was never worse but never better
AH: This one is certainly timely. It’s about the place that is simultaneously exciting and draining, both new and old, busy and lonely, vast yet small
AH/EF/AP: West Yellowstone.
I think we can all agree, for the entire album, PROVEN. Even if you still doubt, can you prove that it’s not written about skiing? Didn’t think so.