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Taylor Swift Is Cold

Rahul Prabhakar

© Penguin Books Ltd.

Last night, Taylor Swift posted on her Facebook page that she “Got to rehearsal early. No one else is here yet. So……I’m in the production office making a necklace out of paper clips.” 8,000 people clicked “Like” within 12 minutes. At that level of fame, you can no longer credibly write songs about chasing boys in high school.

Instead, you write about turning them down. An hour after that Facebook status (I’m a follower), Ms Swift posted her latest music video, “Back to December” [1]. In November, I focused on this song [2], out of all the other worthy tracks on Speak Now. She chose to perform this [3] at the CMAs, and it may very well be her favourite song of the album. That last point is entirely speculation.

For all her Nashville fame, Ms Swift is a little bit New England (or actually, rural Pennsylvania). Her skinny-jeaned, crestfallen ex enters and leaves the video in silence, walking across a landscape of woods, barns, and baseball fields. Her listlessness, the bare trees, and snowy indoors all evoke what Frost wrote in “A Winter’s Eden”, an early description of Seasonal Affective Disorder:

An hour of winter day might seem too short
To make it worth life’s while to wake and sport.

The video is as carefully produced as the song, mixing wide shots, medium close ups, and cut-ins of Ms Swift and her ex, matching their gazes across frames, and blurring focus tastefully. She never makes eye contact with you or with him.

Oh, and did I mention that she also reads The Works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, which sits on her bookshelf next to Mastering Spanish. Personally, I prefer Locke and I’m “mastering” French, but hey, opposites attract, right?

Rahul Prabhakar [4] is reading for an MPhil in International Relations at St John’s College, Oxford. Rahul is a senior editor at the Oxonian Review.