folklore/evermore with English Teacher KP (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1, where KP and I talk folklore/evermore, The Barbie Doll poem by Marge Piercy, art being a reflection of the society around us, and the idea of “perspective is reality.” Check it out here.

Kristina: I think our entire world needs transformation right now, and that may be why Taylor’s music is resonating with people so deeply.

KP: I have been trying to do a epiphany analysis for like four days in a row, but it’s difficult. The imagery and themes are just so relatable, especially now as the Delta variant of COVID is sweeping through the country. I have a young son, but I’m terrified of him getting sick. All of the war imagery, people dying on beaches, the connection between gloved hands… all of that imagery draws up so much emotion. I think that is why her music transforms us, because we get so emotional when we listen to it.

Kristina: I think when we become so emotional, it awakens some of our subconscious in a way that allows us to make a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. For me, much of Taylor’s music has a way about it that invokes that heavy emotion.

KP: It can be intense and heavy, but I think we do need a reminder sometimes. epiphany is such an important song. You worked in healthcare so you know, it is like a war zone out there.

Kristina: Agreed. I think epiphany will always be a hard song for me to listen to and talk about.

Changing gears, let’s talk about the idea of the “invisible string” we see throughout folklore and evermore. There are many references of an “invisible string” in literature, such as in Jane Eyre, with the idea of a “cord of communion” connecting hearts. There is also a Chinese parable about the Red Thread of Fate, a string that connects people and larger groups of people throughout time. It has spiraling branches… kind of like the willow tree.

KP: It’s interesting. I view the invisible string as something that’s just there. You didn’t make the choice to be connected with someone via an invisible string, you just are. It’s like fate or destiny. It’s like something is pulling you to something else. In willow, she follows the golden string out. But in contrast, Taylor loves to talk about choices. She often brings up the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. It’s funny that she talks so much about choices but also has the idea of an invisible string throughout the albums.

Kristina: I think there are some deep philosophical themes encoded here. In our own lives, we have to somehow juxtapose the idea of free will with fate. It’s like the Butterfly Effect in the way that your choices do play a role in the outcome of your life. But, there is a bigger picture too and there are bigger forces that work on you that help lead you towards your truest path. I don’t know, it’s a hard thing to understand.

KP: It is, but it’s such a beautiful thing to think about. Sometimes it feels like we’re faced with impossible choices. What do I do? Do I choose this path, or this one? But, it’s sort of comforting to think that there’s a bigger picture that we can’t see at the moment. “Everything happens for a reason,” is a really comforting idea.

Kristina: It really is. Otherwise, things can really just seem like a tragedy. I think that’s another theme in folklore/evermore, but more specifically folklore. It’s funny, because folklore was written at the same time I was also feeling the tragedy of it all… it was the thick of the pandemic/lockdowns, so many of us probably were. It was a time where I looked at the world around me and felt hopeless. I felt like… if life is all just a tragedy, what’s the point? I see a similar kind of theme in folklore

My book, Lucky, is the story of Rebekah Harkness. I learned through my research just how tragic Rebekah’s story is. Maybe that is why Taylor is so drawn to Rebekah’s story.

I think tragedy very often befalls the hero-type. It’s kind of like, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Taylor, being in her position in life… like, in The Lucky One, she talks about wanting to go to a garden far away from it all. But, during the pandemic, Taylor may have realized that isolation is not the answer, because we are all connected. The things happening in the world around us still have an impact on us wether we are apart of them or not. It’s especially interesting from her perspective, because she could have easily chosen to say “I’m done” with all of the tragedy/trauma she went through during her career.

KP: It’s so true. She could have so easily quit, and we wouldn’t have blamed her! “We understand girl, you do what’s best for you!” Going back to mirrorball, she talks about how her tragedy was put on display for everyone to see. It was almost for our entertainment. That had to have trauma. Then going to evermore, and long story short, were she talks about how traumatic the journey was… but then says, “long story short, I survived.”

Kristina: Yes! That’s so powerful. long story short is one of the most iconic songs. It’s so fun but there are so many literary references and so much deep meaning. One of my favorite lines from that song is when she says “I always felt I must look better in the rear view.”

KP: That’s a powerful line. You feel for her! I always try to separate the art from the artist, but that was one of the songs where I couldn’t separate it at first. At the beginning of the song I was so sad for her, but by the end, I was so proud of her. I felt like I have been on a journey with her for 15 years, and she DID survive.

I think that’s why I think about the Barbie Doll poem. The narrator is subject to much ridicule and judgement just because she was a woman. We all know, Taylor Swift has been there and bought the t-shirt! One thing I love about folklore/evermore was that she threw out the need to have radio hits. Her word choice, diction, content… those songs won’t get played! She didn’t care, because she wanted to have an album about where she’s at right now.

Kristina: That reminds me of one of her bonus tracks on evermore, right where you left me. Let’s talk about the bonus tracks… I think how Taylor released the album and bonus tracks is significant.

First, she released folklore and the story began. Then, the lakes came out, delayed and added more to the story. Then evermore came out, and it added more. Finally, the bonus tracks came out and added even more to the story.

KP: You know, I had never really sat down and mapped it out like that. I haven’t thought about it, but I’m wondering if this is a new frontier in releasing music and how music will be released. I’ve never seen someone do something like that. You would know more about this from a story teller’s perspective, but it really does seem significant.

Kristina: I noticed it first with the lakes. So, folklore ends with hoax. With that song, she’s saying “I’m done.” I mean, she says, “stood on the cliff side screaming, give me a reason.” What is the reason behind all of this tragedy?! She seems done. Then the lakes came out, and it was sad but almost hopeful…

KP: Yeah, almost… that’s a really good point because you think that’s it. With hoax, it’s almost like you’re standing at the edge of a cliff, waiting to be pushed off, waiting to fall to your death, ready for this to be over. But, with the lakes, it’s different. It doesn’t need to be over. It’s like, “actually, let’s channel your inner Romantic poet instead.”

I need to look at the track list order, because I haven’t done that. With all of her other albums, I have the actual CD. With these though, because I was doing live reactions for YouTube, I can’t trust myself not to listen to the whole album if I had it.

Kristina: I cannot believe you have enough self control to wait to listen to the album in order to do those live reactions.

KP: It’s very difficult. I have to not think about it. With evermore, I really hadn’t thought too much about it because I was still so focused on folklore. I was listening to some songs on folklore over and over and over again. Once I started listening to evermore songs though, it became harder to hold back. I can’t wait to get the album and listen to it all the way through.

Kristina: For sure, you should! Going back to the bonus tracks, the bonus tracks on evermore were also a very interesting pick. right where you left me talks about someone being frozen in time; but then in it’s time to go, she is saying “let go of what isn’t right for you, take the risk.”

Sometimes it’s riskier to do nothing if you are in a bad situation, a situation that isn’t right for you. it’s time to go was one of my favorites on evermore, and very soon after hearing that song, I quit my job at the nursing home. It was really hard for me to quit. It felt like I was one of the only people that cared about my patients so I felt really emotionally attached. I almost needed someone to tell me it is okay to choose yourself sometimes, because you never know what is going to happen to you. You need to look out for you because everyone else is looking out for themselves.

KP: Exactly, doing the thing that is right for you can be difficult. I felt a similar way before leaving the classroom. I always say, “leaving the classroom wasn’t without tears.” It was very difficult. It just wasn’t working anymore with COVID and my son getting older. At some point, you realize you are sacrificing a part of your self, and then you think “at what cost?”

I think Taylor does a really good job with both album, what is the cost of your circumstance and choices? Are you willing to pay that cost? I guess we’ll have to answer those questions at some point.

Kristina: That makes me think about the idea of karma, too. I think that’s another theme we see throughout the two albums. You will pay for everything that happens in life in some form or another. Maybe that is why Taylor seems to be so enthralled with the idea of tragedy… because she is so great. The opposite side of the coin of epic greatness is often times epic tragedy! That’s a scary thing to think about, especially when you’re sitting in the position Taylor is sitting in.

Click here to read Part 3, where KP and I talk season imagery, poetry, Blue Blood/Rebekah Harkness references in the album, and legacy!

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