Youtube has a (new?) feature that creates video playlists based on your viewing history. I decided to give it a try the other day and the following two videos were included:
Taylor Swift Style
True Widow A.K.A.
Upon first listen to each of these songs (or 100th listen with the Taylor Swift Song depending on your radio habits) they don’t really “go” together. This apparent divergence in my listening habits brought me to two realizations:
- I’m about to admit I like some Taylor Swift Songs.
- There must be some element in both these tracks that resonates with me.
In which I analyze a Taylor Swift Song:
The song “Style” finds our protagonist in a pseudo-groundhog day situation. She finds herself in a cycle of repeatedly participating in a destructive relationship with a really cool bro who has nice t-shirts (same as the Bill Murray movie, right?). This song has an underlying thread of despair running through it despite the pop structure that surrounds it: she is helpless to repeat the same mistake despite knowing better.
A.K.A. by True Widow hold its despair on its sleeve, at least musically. We have a dirge like riff that repeats itself through the song. Slow, cyclical, and plodding, like the riff is struggling to move along its simple progression. The lyrics in this song are not as easily decipherable as Taylor Swift. They aren’t meant to tell a story so much as they are to color in the picture of helplessness to act that the music creates. The following lyrics, however, show the singer and the person the song is directed at aware of something (bad?) that they are unable or unwilling to stop:
Your cantilevered heart
Could stop the oncoming plot
And my will stands still
Both of these songs convey the helplessness and despair that we can find ourselves in when trying to break self-destructive habits and behaviors. I’d call these self-destructive habits and behaviors sin.
I don’t know that Taylor Swift or the members of True Widow are in any way religious, but as a Catholic I can not help but look at all things (including music) through a Catholic lens. Helplessness on our own in the face of sin flies in the face of the rebranded pelagianism that the modern world operates under. It takes more than our will alone to become free. These songs of despair remind me of my fallen nature, though they do not offer any solutions. Sometimes it’s good to remember that we are lost on our own.