Lover: A Track By Track Review

Everything is Taylor Swift and nothing hurts. This was literally the album I have been waiting for. And I LOVE IT! Taylor’s sixth album, reputation, did grow on me over time. However, Lover ranks up there with 1989 as my favorite album so far!

Time to go into a deep dive, track by track review. Every song will be ranked on a scale of 1-13, 13 being the best.

  1. I Forgot That You Existed: This picks up right where reputation leaves off. Any Swiftie worth their salt knows who this song is about, but I won’t name names cuz Taylor doesn’t! I related to this song as soon as I heard the chorus. It reminds me of that time in my life when I finally let go and forgave the people who put me in a bad state of anxiety for years. I was waiting YEARS for this song! But Taylor is so right. Forgiveness can sometimes be indifference. And I LOVE IT! Favorite lyric: “I forgot that you existed/It isn’t love, it isn’t hate, it’s just indifference.” 12/13
  2. Cruel Summer: This song is a definitely a bop that takes you to Bridge City. Definitely a summer love track with the beat. Think “Blank Space” meets reputation at the beach. It describes falling in love in spite of dealing with hard times. I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor makes this a single as she has been dropping the title of this song as an Easter Egg in a few places. Definitely like the song, but LOVE the bridge because it captures Drunk Taylor in love! Favorite lyrics: “I don’t wanna keep secrets just to keep you…And I screamed for whatever it’s worth/’I love you.’ Ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?” 10/13
  3. Lover: Can I slow dance with someone to this song, please? This is such a beautiful 60’s style doo-wop ballad. I can easily see people dancing to this at a wedding or at prom. And the music video captures the story of the album as a whole. Love is shown as imperfect, but it’s still beautiful and worth fighting for. Side note: Can we just appreciate that Taylor FINALLY has someone she can celebrate her birthday and Christmas with? Favorite Lyric: “Ladies and gentlemen, will you please stand?/With every guitar string scar on my hand.” 12/13
  4. The Man: THE SHADE OF THIS SONG! This is definitely a feminist anthem. As harsh as the lyrics sound, I have seen this kind of double standard. Nobody blinks an eye at say, John Mayer or Adam Levine when it comes to their love lives and writing songs about their exes, but Taylor Swift’s dating life has been scrutinized and questioned. I also think this puts the whole Scooter Braun deal in a new light, too. If Taylor was a man, I don’t think Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta would shortchange her. Favorite Lyrics: “They’d say I hustled, put in the work/They wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve” 12/13
  5. The Archer: This is one of my personal favorites. I loved this song as soon as I heard it. For me, it captures how I feel when I deal with anxiety and how I try to ground myself down. Favorite lyric: “Help me hold onto you.” 13/13
  6. I Think He Knows: Another 60’s style summer love bop. I swear this could be sung by a girl group, especially with the chorus. Postmodern Jukebox, GET ON IT! I can literally dance and skip down the street to this song! (Incidentally, this picture from her Vogue photo shoot comes to mind.) Favorite Lyric: “He got my heartbeat/Skipping down 16th Avenue”13/13
  7. Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince: Imagine if “You Belong With Me” transitioned into “Dear John,” blends with “I Know Places, and “Wildest Dreams” and meets the beat of “So It Goes.” The girl in the dress cries the whole way home and finds love in the midst of the scary times of 2016. Basically, this song captures Taylor’s past six albums in four minutes and I LOVE IT. Can there be a music video for this song, please? Favorite lyric: “The whole school is rolling fake dice
    You play stupid games, you win stupid prizes” 13/13
  8. Paper Rings: A throwback to Grease’s “You’re The One That I Want.” I could dance all night to this song. Incidentally, this song personally makes me think of the main characters of one of my WIPs. Yes, this is another 60’s summer love BOP with lots of awesome little details that takes you to Bridge City again. Favorite lyric: “I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this.”
  9. Cornelia Street: This sounds like a sequel to “Delicate” and there’s evidence that ties Delicate to this song. It also has Red vibes with verses that remind me of “State of Grace,” “Holy Ground,” and the autumn aesthetic. Favorite Lyrics: “And baby, I get mystified by how this city screams your name/And baby, I’m so terrified of if you ever walk away/I’d never walk Cornelia Street again.” 12/13
  10. Death By A Thousand Cuts: This is a classic case of lyrical dissonance (sad lyrics, happy beat) a la “The Story of Us.” According to what I gathered, Taylor was inspired by the Netflix film Someone Great. Unfortunately, I never watched that movie. I can see Taylor going crazy on the piano with this, though. I definitely like it, but it’s not one I particularly relate to and I know for sure that it’s not where Taylor is now. Favorite lyric: “You said it was a great love, one for the ages
    But if the story’s over, why am I still writing pages?” 10/13
  11. London Boy: Do I care if this is probably inaccurate to actual London geography? NOPE! Because all I can think of is a British guy I have a crush on with killer cheekbones and how much this reminds me of said hot British man with his blonde Slayer. SPUFFY FANS LISTEN TO THIS STAT! Favorite Lyrics: “He likes my American smile, like a child when our eyes meet/Darling, I fancy you.” 12/13
  12. Soon You’ll Get Better: This tearjerking track throws everyone back to the Fearless era and talks about Andrea Swift’s battle with cancer and Taylor’s fears of possibly losing her mother. The thing is, though, this can apply to dealing with any loved one who’s battling a disease or even losing them. Favorite lyrics: “And I hate to make this all about me/But who am I supposed to talk to?/What am I supposed to do/If there’s no you?” 11/13
  13. False God: Sorry, Taylor, but this is a track I’m skipping. Tying in religious imagery with sex or making your relationship your idol always turns me off, personally. I understand why some people would like this song cuz it kinda throws back to “Don’t Blame Me.” It sounds nice, but the lyrics unfortunately rub me the wrong way. Lyrics I liked: “Hell is when I fight with you/But we can patch it up good/Make confessions and we’re begging for forgiveness.” 5/13
  14. You Need to Calm Down: Taylor’s most blatantly political song aside from “The Man.” Taylor covers a lot of different stuff people deal with in this song and I definitely like the music video. Seriously wish people could stop saying Taylor is anti-Christian, though. Yes, she swings left and she includes anti-gay protestors in the music video here. I don’t agree with all of her politics, but did we just forget that Westboro Baptist Church exists? Favorite Lyrics: “I’ve learned a lesson that stressin’ and obsessin’ ’bout somebody else is no fun/And snakes and stones never broke my bones” 10/13
  15. Afterglow: Taylor hinted in her “Lover” music video that this song ties into “King of My Heart.” And I can hear the connection. This is a relationship making-up song. What comes to mind for me is Spike and Buffy towards the latter end of Season 6 and all of Season 7. This song points out that relationships can fall apart and that Taylor can own up to her mistakes. Favorite lyrics: “I’m the one who burned us down/But it’s not what I meant/I’m sorry that I hurt you.” 11/13
  16. ME!: I loved Taylor’s first single as soon as I watched the video! The aesthetic alone was just beautiful. And I love that it’s an anthem to loving yourself as you are. Favorite Lyric: “I’m the only one of me. Baby, that’s the fun of me.” 12/13
  17. It’s Nice to Have A Friend. Is it just me or does the music sound Chinese/Japanese? I know that steel drums are used, but the song just gives me shojo light novel anime vibes. It’s the most innocent song on the album. No lyrics stand out to me in particular, though. I like it, but I don’t love it. 7/13.
  18. Daylight. As soon as Taylor shared an Instagram picture with the caption: “Step into the daylight and let go,” I knew I would love whatever song the lyrics came from and I was right. This is the song I relate to the most on here. The chorus and the outro are the best parts and, arguably, the most important thing Taylor ever wrote, IMHO. 13/13.

I wanna be defined by the things that I love
Not the things I hate
Not the things that I’m afraid of, I’m afraid of
Not the things that haunt me in the middle of the night
I, I just think that
You are what you love

Taylor Swift’s reputation: Love It or Hate It?

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I’m having a love/hate relationship with reputation era Taylor Swift. So lemme get all the “hate” out of the way first. I had no knowledge of her big scandal/feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. I trust Taylor Swift way more than Kanye and Kim. What I don’t trust Taylor Swift on right now is her love life. This album isn’t exactly “telling it like it is.” And I’m not gonna go into a tirade about how disappointed I am that Taylor is “not that innocent” anymore. Someone else did it for me.

That said, I still love Taylor Swift. In the end, I want her to be happy and I want to believe that once she properly deals with her issues instead of being insecure and drinking too much, she will finally find the happiness she has been looking for.

This blog post won’t be a moral tirade of how Taylor needs to change, though. Instead, I want to tell you whether this album is worth your money on a track-by-track basis. You can buy the individual tracks on Amazon or just listen to the promotional singles on YouTube, but it’s ultimately up to you whether this album is worth your money.

After listening to the album from beginning to end, only two out of the 15 tracks are ones that I can guarantee that everyone will love: “Call It What You Want” and “New Year’s Day.” The rest…well, read on and decide for yourself.

fifteen taylors

There’s also a theory that each of the fifteen Taylors from the end of the “Look What You Made Me Do” represents one of the tracks on this album. I’ll be guessing which Taylor the song might be about.

  1. ...Ready For It? : 6/10. I love the music video for this song more than the song itself. The lyrics are dangerous and provocative. Also, I so don’t believe the line “I’m so very tame now.” Not with the way you’re talking in this track, Taylor! I think the Taylor in the fishnet stockings fits this song because of how Taylor dressed when she performed it on SNL.
  2. End Game (featuring Ed Sheeran & Future): 7/10. This is a hip-hop/rap track that I have to admit is fun and catchy, but Future’s presence is honestly unnecessary. I kinda swoon over Ed Sheeran’s voice, though. I think the “Shake it Off” ballerina Taylor fits this song because it’s reminiscent of 1989’s sound. Best line: “I swear I don’t love the drama. It loves me.”
  3. I Did Something Bad: 3/10 because the bridge was the only part I liked. You know the Taylor in the velvet leotard with the word “rep” at the center? This one embodies her. A dark and twisted song with a chorus that basically embodies the nature of sin: It starts out feeling good, but you kinda resign yourself to it. “This is how the world works” is the most telling lyric. Also, they didn’t burn witches in the Salem Witch Trials.
  4. Don’t Blame Me: 1/10. This song is basically Blank Space 2.0, represented by the bank robber Taylor who’s wearing a sweater that says “Blinded by Love” and got compared to Harley Quinn. Comparing your love to a drug is too Ke$ha 2009. Can’t you be more like present-day Ke$ha who’s singing about praying?! The most telling lyric: “Baby for you, I would fall from grace.”
  5. Delicate: 6/10. This song is almost authentically vulnerable, which is why I think it corresponds with the sparkly dress Fearless-era Taylor. Meeting a new guy, being uncertain of whether this will work? Hoping that someone will love you for who you truly are? That I can relate to. Inviting him up to your room and saying “I don’t wanna share”? Not so much. Basically, I like the pre-chorus, chorus, and bridge more than the verses. “Is it too soon to do this?” Honey, I think it’s too late.
  6. Look What You Made Me Do: 3/10. There are many reasons why this song doesn’t work for Taylor. The biggest reason is that this is a villain song and even though she tried with the whole Snake Queen look, Taylor is not a villain. She’s just majorly flawed. That said, somebody made an AMV to this song using Death Note and it is perfect.
  7. So It Goes…: 1/10. I don’t like this track. It sounds good, but…let’s just say that the Taylor in the giant birdcage is a great indicator of the state of Taylor’s soul right now. (And yes, I know I said it before. It bears repeating.) This and a few other songs on here can easily fit on a 50 Shades soundtrack, with lyrics like “You know, I’m not a bad girl, but I do bad things with you” and “scratches down your back.” And that’s not a good thing.
  8. Gorgeous: 8/10. I loved this song when this came out, but upon listening to it more, it’s starting to sound like a mixed bag. The song is relatable because everyone has probably found someone attractive even though they were in a relationship with someone else. Acting on those feelings is another story. Best line: “Guess I’ll just stumble on home to my cats.” I think Met Gala Taylor represents this song cuz the dress is gorgeous.
  9. Getaway Car: 6/10. I’m pretty sure this song is about Calvin and Tom. The way that Taylor is telling the story, it paints Tom as being her “rebound guy” from Calvin and the relationship in this song sounds like it didn’t last long, doomed from the start. Biker Girl Taylor is the best candidate for the representative for this song as Taylor compares herself and the person in the song to “Bonnie and Clyde.”
  10. King of My Heart: 9/10. I love the song conceptually. The idea of finding real love after thinking you’re done with it, not to mention wanting a more simple life? More of this please! Just cut out the line “We rule the kingdom inside my room” and this song would basically be perfect. Also, the chorus of my song is MY LIFE! It takes me to Heaven and back! The “You Belong With Me” Taylor in the Junior Jewels shirt definitely fits this song!
  11. Dancing With Our Hands Tied: 5/10. I have no clue who this song is about. On the one hand, I want to pick the Out of the Woods zombie Taylor because the song is about uncertainty in the midst of a relationship, but a lot of Swifties compared this song to “Holy Ground,” which means it’s more like the Red Era Circus Ringmaster Taylor. I don’t like the title of this song, either, cuz…well, the image that comes to mind is very 50 Shades of Grey.
  12. Dress: 2/10. This song is the most 50 Shades aside from “Don’t Blame Me.” Give this song an R rating for explicit, provocative lyrics! (That was not a compliment.) My best friend thinks that it could work if you think that the dress is a wedding dress, but this song is far from being romantic, even if it sounds ethereal. This song isn’t “deep and tender,” as Taylor claims. It’s just one big “F#$& Me” song. Also, I have no clue which Taylor fits this song.
  13. This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: 5/10. The Taylor dressed in a cheetah print coat talking about “getting receipts” fits this song because this is a good-sounding, bitchy, condescending song that gives a big middle finger to Kanye and Kim. This is the song that comes to mind when I think of “complaining about being famous” songs. I really hope you forgive Kanye and Kim someday, Taylor, because forgiveness isn’t a “nice thing to do,” it’s a necessity if you really want to move on and be happy. That said, she should have made this her first single because it’s honestly clever.
  14. Call It What You Want: 9/10. This song is such a huge mood whiplash from the previous song. But I loved this song from the moment I heard it and still love it. The idea of having someone in your corner in the midst of all the hard times in life is something I love. But Taylor definitely seems happy in the lyric video for this song. Since the Taylor in the background is standing on a plane, I can’t help but hope that this is the song that represents the Real Taylor.
  15. New Year’s Day: 10/10. If there’s one song that I think everyone should buy, it’s this one. The lyrics are basically “relationship goals” in song form: spending time with the one you love and cleaning up after a party, planning for the future, promising forever, being with him/her for better or for worse. I love that Taylor plays the piano because it just sounds beautiful. This is the best sounding track, musically and lyrically.  This is also one I think represents the Real Taylor, the one standing in the back.

I hope Taylor’s next album will be one I can love with all my heart and sound more like the last two tracks. As it is, I’ll just live with the “Dark Taylor” and pray that this is just a phase.

“…Ready for It?” No, I Was NOT!

ready for it

I was really worried that I wouldn’t like Taylor Swift after all the anger she unleashed in her first music video “Look What You Made Me Do.” When I listened to her second single, “…Ready For It?” I still had doubts because it’s her most mature song, implying erotic dreams and having this dark bass beat. I felt a little better when listening to “Gorgeous” because it had actual music on the track, not just synthetic beats, but I wasn’t sure if I could love all of “reputation.”

Then Taylor dropped a teaser of a music video for “…Ready For It?” And I screamed like I just won Hamilton tickets. And when the music video dropped last night, I couldn’t sleep. I watched it multiple times.

There is no way that I could analyze this video completely. I can’t read the Chinese characters in the background. But I’ll do my best to give my own take on this.

The video begins with Taylor with electric blue eyes, wearing a black cape/hoodie, walking through a dark alley surrounded by robots. She pushes some buttons on a keypad and opens up a large room that has another Taylor, looking like a mix of Tron and Ghost in the Shell, trapped in some kind of glass box.

The first thing Swifties on Tumblr have pointed out is that Dark Taylor, the one in the hood, is her reputation in the media. The Dark Taylor is who everyone thinks Taylor is.  The Taylor in the glass box is the Real Taylor.

In the second verse, the Dark Taylor sings to Real Taylor while dressing her up as a cyber-warrior, with black armor.  Real Taylor calls Dark Taylor her “jailer.” This particular moment reminds me of the birdcage scene in “Look What You Made Me Do.” When I saw Taylor in the giant birdcage, I felt like I was looking at the state of her soul, trapped by everything that she’s been experiencing. Dark Taylor also personifies temptation, talking to Real Taylor about how boys are “Burton to this Taylor,” how “you’ll never be alone,” and “no one has to know.”

Another note: The different images that Real Taylor tries on in this video remind me of her music videos from 1989. The armored robot? Totally “Bad Blood.” Then in the 2nd pre-chorus, she’s on a white horse, reminding people of “Blank Space.” In the 2nd chorus, Taylor is holding a blue orb and then she’s surrounded by tiny blue lights, floating in midair, reminiscent of “Out of the Woods.”

As the song goes into the bridge, Real Taylor starts to channel lightning, as if she was a futuristic version of Frankenstein’s monster. I can’t help but think that it’s also a shout out to when she co-wrote Calvin Harris and Rihanna’s “This Is What You Came For,” since there’s a line about how “lightning strikes every time she moves.”\

My favorite part of this video, though, is when Real Taylor and Dark Taylor stand face to face. As the song goes into the third chorus, Real Taylor screams and breaks the glass. The shards cut into Dark Taylor’s skin, revealing her to be a robot. Towards the end of the video, Real Taylor walks up a stairway while Dark Taylor stands on another stairway, being struck by lightning as other robots run towards her. According to Tumblr Swifties, this represents Taylor taking back the narrative, killing off everything that the media has said about her. The video ends with Real Taylor smiling at the death of her reputation and then staring into the camera and asking the audience “Are you ready for it?” as her eyes glow that electric blue one last time.

I was basically waiting for this video. It blows “Look What You Made Me Do” out of the water.

There are some parts of the video that scare me, such as when Real Taylor is covered in snakes (I think) for half a second in the first pre-chorus. And the part where she channels lightning is almost demonic and I didn’t like the phrase on the stairway that Dark Taylor stands on that says “They’re burning all the witches!” I guess it’s supposed to mean that Taylor’s reputation became a witch hunt, but with the term “witch” becoming a badge of honor in liberal feminist circles, I don’t want Taylor embracing the idea of being a witch.

Nevertheless, there’s something in this video that “Look What You Made Me Do” didn’t have: Hope. This video is giving me hope that Taylor is starting this new era with love and happiness and not a desire for revenge and retribution.

Crush the heads of those snakes, Taylor. Grace will be coming for you.

Resurrection vs. Retribution

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Ever since 2006, when I first heard “Picture to Burn” on my local country radio station, I have been a “Swiftie.” Taylor Swift’s songs always resonated with me. However,  I recently started feeling a dissonance between how I saw life and how Taylor saw hers. This dissonance was most profound when I listened to her latest single “Look What You Made Me Do” and watched the music video that debuted on Sunday night. To me, it didn’t sound like Taylor at all aside from a few lines here and there. I know that Taylor has been through a lot in the past few years, but I wondered why she chose to portray herself the way she did in her music video.

“Look What You Made Me Do” starts out with Taylor crawling out of her grave, looking like a zombified version of how she looked in “Out of the Woods,” which was my favorite music video from her thus far. But her face reminded me of Anya Jenkins, who started out as a vengeance demon on Buffy:

anya demon face

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is copyright to Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox. Image is used for editorial purposes only.

The prechorus of the song goes: “I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time. Honey, I rose up from the dead. I do it all the time.” Why did she show herself coming back from the dead as a zombie? I see it as a distorted version of the Resurrection. Zombies, vampires, and other versions of the undead are all dark, perverted types of “resurrections.” To quote Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she came back wrong.

Taylor has written songs about revenge in the past. But at the same time, she also wrote songs about forgiveness as well. So why does she choose to use revenge now?

A few telling lines from the second verse give the answer: “The world moves on, another day, another drama drama. But not for me, not for me. All I think about is karma.”

I recently read an article from Bishop Robert Barron about the difference between karma and grace. In the most simplistic terms, karma is about retribution. “Do good things and you get good in return. Do bad things and you will suffer.” Taylor is driven by revenge in the hopes that everyone who did her wrong will get what they deserve.

The last significant line in the song is this spoken line and it’s the one that Taylor puts on all her social media: “I’m sorry. The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh. ‘Cause she’s dead.” In the video, this is shown by all of her past selves falling down into a dark chasm, with the new Taylor standing on top of a hill with a giant T behind her.

The old Taylor is definitely dead. But instead of embracing grace and forgiveness, Taylor chose to be the bad guy, bent on revenge and retribution.

Now flip the script and take a look at my life recently. In the past few years, I went through my share of bad dating experiences. I was one guy’s rebound date. I went speed dating, but never really connected with anyone. I even dated someone who turned out to be a narcissist!

But at the same time, I kept writing. I worked on my novel and got to share it with other writers at a couple of conferences. I went to Chicago on my own! My first real grown-up adventure! I have been finding my writing voice, this clear, resonating bell that people can hear and listen to. I learned what forgiveness actually feels like and how to persevere in the face of adversity. In other words, I became stronger.

What gave me my strength? Grace. By rooting myself with God, He gave me strength I never knew I had. Even now, as Hurricane Harvey flees Texas, I have found the strength to overcome the anxiety that was building up within me since the storm hit. Grace is not something that I deserved because I was good. God’s strength was given to me because I needed it. Grace is a gift, one that we need to share with others. Through grace, we find the strength to forgive and renew ourselves. We find the strength to persevere. We die to ourselves and live again through Christ.

“It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

And grace is the difference between having a personal resurrection and being fueled by the revenge from the death of your reputation.

*mic drop*

What St. Margaret of Cortona Can Teach to Women

Calvi_J._A._Estasi_di_santa_Margherita

In recent months, I discovered a saint that I never met before: St. Margaret of Cortona. I first learned her name while I was browsing my parish’s Lighthouse Catholic Media kiosk. There was a CD about her paired with Saint Augustine as a saint for sinners. Given how familiar I was with Augustine’s story, I had to wonder how this other woman could’ve compared in terms of flagrant sinning and heartfelt penance.

It’s a brand new year and in the story of my life, I begin a new chapter as I turn 27 years old. When people reach their birthday, they often reflect on the previous year. In many ways 2016 to me was a year of friendship. I came to value my friends in Heaven, in the city that I call home, in my old hometown, and online. St. Margaret of Cortona became one of these new friends. At the same time, my friendship with two other ladies fell apart. These friendships were with Rory Gilmore and Taylor Swift.

I know what you’re thinking. Rory Gilmore is a fictional character and Taylor Swift is a celebrity. I’m not actually friends with either of them. That is true, but for the longest time, I felt like these two females were like best friends to me. Rory Gilmore was the friend I had in middle school, back when Gilmore Girls was on TV. I related to Rory because she liked to read, she went to a school where everyone wore uniforms like I did, and she wanted to go to college and be a journalist, which were my dreams at the time. Taylor Swift felt like my best friend when I started living in Texas. Her songs of the boys who broke her heart resonated with 16-year-old me and she stayed with me as I transitioned from high school to college and from college into young adulthood.

2016 changed all that. I started binge watching Gilmore Girls in anticipation of the new mini-series revival coming to Netflix in November. (Incidentally: Spoilers ensue for Year In The Life.)

Initially, I felt nostalgic, seeing Stars Hollow and watching Rory survive Chilton and make her way to Yale. When she got started at Yale, though, I started feeling disappointed in her. She was still in love with Dean to the point that she slept with him, even though he was married. She hooks up with Logan in Season 5 and decides to drop out of Yale when she steals a boat as a reaction to Logan’s father telling her she’s not cut out to be a journalist. I skipped Season 7 and jumped straight into Year In The Life in the hopes that things would get better, but the mini-series turned out to be a mixed bag. Rory’s character regressed from bad to worse.

She was perfectly happy being Logan’s mistress until she realizes that he was going to honor his “arranged marriage.” And mind you, I actually liked Logan for a while. I also didn’t like her “struggles” in making a living as a freelance writer. She didn’t put much effort into chasing stories that would land her a byline. The only story she did pursue bored her to death and she slept with a guy dressed as a Wookie in the process. There was a website that wanted her to write for them, but she showed up to the interview completely unprepared and later lashed out at the website’s owner when she gave the job to someone else. Then, of course, was the end of the mini-series. I don’t want to spoil for those who didn’t watch. All I can say is I rolled my eyes and went “Here we go again.”

As far as Taylor Swift went, she started 2016 off well, but the pedestal I had for her shook when she broke up with Calvin and started having a feud with him. Bad news in regards to Taylor Swift kept coming. I hated that she dated Tom Hiddleston and felt happy when they broke up. I was hoping she’d start making a new album, as she did every two years, but instead, towards the end of 2016, she released a song she did from former One Direction band member Zayn for the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack.

It felt like a stab in the back. I looked the other way when she became friends with Lena Dunham and tried to make peace with her removing her songs from Spotify. But for someone who claimed to be a feminist, contributing a song to a movie that continue to glamorize an abusive relationships was the last thing I wanted her to do. What’s worse is that the lyrics are sad, and not in the sad, beautiful, tragic way some of her other songs were. “I Don’t Want To Live Forever’s” lyrics capture a state of despair and co-dependent tendencies. I wanted Taylor to be happy and thought that she was after releasing 1989 and being in a relationship with Calvin. The Taylor I knew doesn’t exist anymore.

So back to Margaret of Cortona. What does she have with these two ladies? Well, like Taylor Swift, her life was sort of like the beginning of a fairy tale. She had a tumultuous relationship with her father and a stepmother who could give Lady Tremaine or Regina Mills a run for their money. Margaret, however, had an independent spirit, which gave her the strength to stand up to her wicked stepmother. Unfortunately, she was also “by nature one of those women who thirst for affection, in whom to be loved is the imperative need of their lives,” according to Fr. Albert Goodier. She became willful and reckless and eventually left her family.

Starved for love and being a woman who was quite beautiful, Margaret eventually became the mistress of a wealthy nobleman and ends up having his child. It’s not unlike how Rory Gilmore spent almost a decade being Logan’s mistress and feeling complacent in that relationship until he honors his marriage to someone else. But unlike Rory Gilmore, whose story arc in Year in the Life can be summed up as being the Poor Little Rich Girl, Margaret actually tried to make something of her life even after she leaves her love her and her family disowns her.

St. Margaret of Cortona went to live with an order of Franciscan monks who helped her take care of her kid. She dedicated the rest of her life to atoning for her former sinful life. Like Saint Francis, she worked for her meals and took whatever her employers paid her. Eventually, she would give her wages to those who needed it more. She founded a hospital, created a confraternity so that the hospital would always have employees, and eventually helped to restore a church.

So why am I writing about St. Margaret of Cortona now? According to Fr. Goodier, St. Margaret had her change of heart around the age of 27. As of right now, I am the same age as Taylor Swift and five years younger than Rory Gilmore. If there’s one New Year’s Resolution that I want to keep this year, it’s that I pick some better role models. I think St. Margaret of Cortona would be a good one for me, as well as for single moms and any other woman with relationship issues.

St. Margaret of Cortona, pray for us.

The Spiritual Journey of "Out of the Woods"

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Welcome to 2016 everyone! Like most people during this time of year, I want to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for 2016. But since, like most people, I watched Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin Eve in anticipation of the countdown, I got to watch the premiere of Taylor Swift’s latest music video “Out of the Woods.”

Out of all of the videos that Taylor has released from her 1989 album, this is by far my favorite since “Bad Blood.” It takes me back to the Taylor I knew: the Taylor who wore long, beautiful dresses and tried to figure out what love meant. The video itself is reminiscent of a spiritual journey.

It starts out with the words “She lost him” and opens with Taylor standing on the beach in a long light blue dress. As the song begins, a forest starts growing around her. This symbolizes the beginning of a spiritual journey, being led into a seemingly dangerous place where wolves (which could represent opposition or anxiety) and tangling vines (which represents sin) are out to get you at every corner. Day turns to night as Taylor weaves her way through the woods and runs from the wolves and through the tangling thorns. In the chase, she falls and her dress gets torn, representing the first stumbling.

All of a sudden, Taylor is on top of a mountain. The wolves are still chasing her. Taylor rips the necklace she was wearing off and tosses it over the mountain. Then she takes a leap and dives into the ocean below. This represents the second part of the spiritual journey: taking a leap of faith and letting yourself be submerged into an ocean of grace. I also saw her taking the necklace off as letting go of what you used to love in order to immerse yourself into a deeper love.

But just as Taylor is in the ocean, she’s suddenly in a desert. She touches a tree and then finds herself frozen in the middle of an icy forest, running from an avalanche. Both of these can represent spiritual dryness. Spiritual highs don’t last long and the dry periods of spiritual life can either feel as barren as a desert or as cold and bitter as winter. Either way, these dry periods prompt us to reflect and have faith in spite of how we feel.

The bridge of the song finds Taylor crawling through a muddy swamp as vines entangle around her in every different setting. This is the fallen state of grace, when we are covered in sin. Like the vines, sin paralyzes us. But as the song transitions towards the last chorus, little lights surround Taylor and even though she keeps getting thrown down and finds herself surrounded by fire, the vines don’t try to entangle her anymore. Instead, she gets up and gets out of the woods. The music video ends with Taylor back at the beach as the forest disappears behind her. Her dress is shorter, but her eyes are so much wiser. She sees her old self looking out into the ocean and reaches out to touch her.

Then these words flash on the screen: “She lost him but she found herself and somehow that was everything.”

The last part of the music video to me represents the sense of renewal which leads to finding the best version of yourself again. You return to where you started because God draws straight with crooked lines.

Fellow Swifties will recognize the words from the end of the video as the secret message from the song “Clean.” In a way, this message combined with the music video basically describes what 2015 was to me. I didn’t lose a person so much as ideas on what I thought my life should’ve been. I met with a lot of disappointments in 2015. And yet, through my own spiritual journey, I found myself again. I let go of all of my preconceptions on how things were “supposed to be” and took a leap of faith, entering into this new life where nothing’s quite as certain, and yet my faith and trust in God remain constant.

And somehow, that faith and trust was everything. It led to me making new friends. It helped me to grow as a writer. Most surprisingly of all, I became a more forgiving and hopeful person.

It’s hard for me to choose one word that will be my constant throughout 2016. Mercy is a good contender since this is the Year of Mercy. I’m reading Mother Teresa’s Come Be My Light, so light is also a potential word. I’m still on this spiritual journey towards finding my vocation, which makes the word “direction” quite appealing. However, what resonates the most with me right now is love. Bishop Robert Barron said that “Mercy is what the Divine Love looks like when turned towards the sinner.” Mother Teresa was called to be a light of love to the streets of Calcutta. And in this journey that I’m taking, I feel like love will be what will lead me to wherever I end up next.

I don’t just mean romantic love, although I find myself longing for that more than usual. I also want to learn how to balance love of God and love for myself in a healthy way. To be humble but at the same time be self-assured and hold my ground to protect myself from creeps and devils. “Love” also applies to my writing. I want to finish all of my writing projects, pour my love into every single word and share that love with the world. Most of all, I want to be able to get past my cynicism and be able to love my neighbor and see the best in them.

So here are some questions for you: Where are you on your spiritual journey right now? What do you think is your word for 2016?

I pray that God will help lead you out of whatever woods you happen to find yourself in. Happy New Year everyone!

Screenshots from “Out of the Woods” are copyright to Big Machine Records, Taylor Swift, and Joseph Kahn and are used for editorial purposes only.

Swift, Synod, and Second Hand News

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You might notice that I haven’t really been commenting on the Synod of the Family. I have a perfectly legitimate reason for doing so.

The Synod on the Family is basically like a giant Town Hall meeting. Keeping track of it would be like me watching C-SPAN. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m praying novenas and offering up decades of my Rosary for Pope Francis and the bishops, but that is it.

I don’t wanna hear about who people say is liberal or conservative. I thought Catholicism was above politics like that. Or at least it should be. I know for a fact that there won’t be any major, catastrophic changes nor will the Church “get with the times” the way that the world wants it to. If it changes, it will change in small ways. Just like how Pope Benedict changed the way that we say the Nicene Creed. It’s a change, but not a catastrophic one. In all honesty, I just wanna know when Pope Francis is gonna canonize the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux. The rest of what I hear about the Synod just feels like gossip.

Speaking of which…

You already know that I’m a Swiftie and that I am a strong supporter of Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris’s relationship. Rumors have spread of a breakup between the two of them. I refuse to believe them. Is the media just having a slow day for Taylor? She’s on the covers of GQ and Vogue and that’s not enough? I may not like how she’s dressed for these magazine covers or the unfortunate implications of “Wildest Dreams,” but I still want the best for her. She hasn’t exactly posed for a Victoria Secret photoshoot yet nor has she acted in an outright racy matter. She’s doing really well compared to other musicians I’ve grown up with. So for crying out loud, LEAVE TAYLOR ALONE!

I’ll leave you with a song I like listening to when I have to deal with news I don’t wanna hear:

Okay, So I'm Not So Above It All: On Taylor Swift and Christopher Lee

Swan goals.

A photo posted by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on Jun 10, 2015 at 3:25pm PDT

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I usually don’t care about celebrity news. I avoid anything relating to names such as Kardashian or Jenner or Clooney. But I’m still a fangirl at heart and when something extraordinary happens, I can and will freak out about it.

I may not be someone who keeps up with all the A-list celebrities, but Taylor Swift and Christopher Lee are my exceptions to the rule.

Last night, I was browsing my Instagram for the umpteenth time when I saw the pic that broke the internet. Taylor Swift on a swan float with Scottish musician Calvin Harris. I’ve seen them together before, but given how Taylor has been all about her female friends, I didn’t think much of it. After all, she’s also friends with Ed Sheeran and Jack Antonoff. But now?

I TOTALLY SHIP IT!

(Translation: Dear Lord, let them be married with babies like now!)

Why am I having such a freak-out about this?

For as long as I’ve been a Swiftie, I’ve seen her with a lot of guys. I related to her when she wrote about Sam and Drew in her first album. I was surprised but happy to see her with Joe Jonas, but they didn’t last. I wished that she went out with Adam Young from Owl City, but for some reason, they never got together. Then when she dated John Mayer and Jake Gyllenhall, I refused to believe it. They were way too old for her and it didn’t surprise me that they didn’t last long. I liked her dating Conner Kennedy and was sad that she eventually moved on to Harry Styles. I honestly hated that she dated Harry because he was too young for her. I was all “Thank you Jesus!” when I heard about them breaking up.

But throughout all this, Taylor had plenty of opportunities to share pictures of her with her significant other. Back when Myspace was a thing, people still uploaded pictures (mostly of themselves making duckface). There were also opportunities for pictures through Facebook and Twitter. As far as I’m concerned, this is the first time Taylor’s shared a picture of herself with someone she’s allegedly dating. Granted, they haven’t gone public about whether or not they’re with each other, but as they say “A picture’s worth a thousand words.”

Calvin is actually the right age for Taylor. Not too young, not too old. I don’t know much about him as a person, but he’s friends with all of Taylor’s friends, which is always of the good. Plus, I did some internet investigating (ie stalking Calvin’s instagram) and found a video of that same swan float as well as a picture of Taylor’s cats. To put it in Taylor’s words “You can see it with the lights out.”

This morning, however, was a little sadder. I woke up and found out that Christopher Lee had passed away.

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To my surprise, I feel a certain kind of sadness that comes only when someone you love has passed away. I feel genuine sadness for the passing of Christopher Lee in a way that I didn’t for Leonard Nimoy or Heath Ledger. I’m only a casual Lord of the Rings and Star Wars at best and I’ve never seen him in Dracula or any of the other Hammer horror films he was in. Nope. I know of Christopher Lee through a video game. Kingdom Hearts to be exact. He played a character named Ansem the Wise who appeared in the second Kingdom Hearts game.

I recognize Christopher Lee because of his distinctive voice. He sang heavy metal, for crying out loud! (And very well, I might add.) He’s an icon for fans of the horror genre and for geekdom as a whole. I love that he actually met JRR Tolkien and contributed his knowledge of the Lord of the Rings trilogy during filming. I loved that he was friends with Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, the other two kings of horror and how their lives seem to always revolve around Halloween and all things macabre.

I know that he died at the age of 93, but it still feels too soon. Then again, I don’t deal with grief really well. All I know is that I’m really gonna miss his voice and seeing him

Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.

(And Lord, if it is your will that Taylor and Calvin will live happily ever after, please let it be done. If not, I will go down with this ship.)

 

My Year In Photos: October

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The month of October usually consisted of 2 things: 1) Prepping for Halloween and 2) watching lots of scary movies. But this year, Taylor Swift took over with the premiere of her latest album, 1989. I already went into detail about how I obsessed over Taylor Swift ever since her first album came out. And lately, it seems like each song from 1989 has been applying to things I’m experiencing now or plan to do in the future.

Today, I wrote my first song and I listened to some of the tracks to get the bridge done correctly. And like Taylor Swift, this song was inspired by love. All I need now is just to set it to music.

 

I Always Tell Myself

 

Lately I find myself constantly astonished

At the way you always smile at me

You come into my life and all of a sudden

Part of myself wants to run and flee

 

Pre-Chorus:

Because I’m not afraid of wanting you

Not scared of losing what I never had

But I’m terrified at the idea that

you could love me back

 

Chorus:

I always tell myself you gotta take chances

I always tell myself you gotta take risks

Even when I’m standing next to you

Feels like I can’t handle it but

I’m willing to see this to the end

Put my heart on the line again

Want to see if this goes well

I always tell myself

 

I have no idea how this all began

It’s like I had all these questions

But the answer’s in your hands

Just when I thought I was safely in isolation

I find myself off my guard, at a loss for explanation

 

Pre-Chorus and Chorus

 

Bridge:

Sparks make flames where love begins

Felt so warm when you let me in

Could love give me a second chance

make me happy once again?

 

Top 13 Reasons I Love Taylor Swift

Today is Taylor Swift’s birthday. Little known fact: Taylor Swift is exactly one month older than me. She was born December 13, 1989. I was born on January 13, 1990. This isn’t the first time I talked about Taylor Swift on this blog and it probably won’t be my last.

Here are the Top 13 Reasons Why I Love Taylor Swift. Why Top 13? Because 13 is her lucky number (as well as mine).

  1. She writes all of her songs. Excluding her cover performances and recordings, 99.9% of Taylor’s music was written by her and a handful of others. But these songs are never “written by committee.”
  2. She’s a fangirl. She loves cats and watches shows like Gray’s Anatomy and Law and Order: SVU. (I still remember my Law and Order phase.) And now she has a tumblr. But I really wish she could delve into tumblr’s geeky side and get into the craziness that is SuperWhoLock.
  3. She’s never afraid to be herself. With album titles like Fearless and Speak Now, Taylor had confidence that I wish I had back when I was in college. And she continues to show that same bravado now by writing off her critics and making fun of herself. Speaking of which…
  4. She has the kookiest sense of humor. Not only does Taylor love to laugh at herself, she goes out of her way to do so. Like her performance as Natalie on Jimmy Fallon’s late night show and taking on Tumblr’s joke about how she’s actually named Becky. I consider “Shake It Off” to be a comedy act in and of itself, especially the rap bridge. How is the rap bridge a joke? Because now that she’s fully in the pop genre, she’s poking fun of songs with the obligatory rap bridge without the need to rent a rapper to make the song sound tough. Plus, I can’t resist the line of “the fella over there with the hella good hair.”
  5. She knows how to turn a bad situation around. Back when Taylor performed with Stevie Nicks at the Grammy’s, her live performance was less than stellar. One particular critic was particularly scathing. But instead of giving up, she wrote a song. And then she won a Grammy two years later for that very song. And she performed that very song at the Grammy’s.
  6. Her secret messages. I love the secret messages. Each message told a story underneath the song it came from. But by far 1989 has the best hidden messages because for the first time, they tell a story of their own.
  7. The specific lyrics. Taylor is a master storyteller, plain and simple. And whenever I listen to her songs, I imagine a story in my head. Even the very pop-sounding “Shake It Off” tells a story in spite of the lyrics being less specific.
  8. Her fashion sense. Taylor is a girly girl and makes no apologies for it. I love that her outfits never tend towards the stripperific (excluding the most recent Victoria’s Secret concert). She dresses smartly and sensibly, but it’s never boring or trashy.
  9. She loves her fans. She always goes out of her way to make sure that each fan that shows up at her concerts gets a small moment with her. That being said, why are the tickets for the 1989 tour so gosh darn expensive?!
  10. She’s smart about money. Expensive tickets aside, Taylor has some business savvy. Her parents both work in the financial industry, after all. By removing her music from Spotify, it prompted fans to buy her album in its physical form. Taylor is currently the only artist of 2014 whose album hit platinum. Try beating that, Beyonce!
  11. She always represented women’s empowerment, even before she took on the label of feminist. She’s one of the highest paid singers in the industry. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to get it.  She stands up for herself and isn’t afraid to call people out on their actions.
  12. She’s not afraid to try new things. Her songs were genre-breaking, going beyond country and pop. Not to mention deciding to go full pop after 4 albums of being “country-pop.” She took a huge risk in moving to New York City and embracing this new image, but it paid off.
  13. She learns from her mistakes. In spite of what the media says, many of Taylor’s songs actually apologize for whatever she did. She failed so many times in love, but learned something from each heartbreak. And now she embraces the single life and focuses on making good friendships.