Women Lead a Renaissance of Song

Kimberly:  I am beside myself with all the excellent music that has come out since our last article! In my opinion, we are in the red-hot-middle of a New American Renaissance of creativity (comparable to the Harlem Renaissance of a century ago, or the first American Renaissance of the mid-nineteenth century). This time, the dominant art form is the popular song and the leaders of the movement are women. Since our last column, we have seen the release of Beyonce’s Cowboy Carter, Taylor Swift’s double-album The Tortured Poets Department and Billie Eilish’s Hit Me Hard and Soft. I’ve already written about how much I loved Cowboy Carter in my Tandeta Newsletter on SubStack. The Billie Eilish album is too new to comment on yet! So, let’s talk about The Tortured Poets Department.

Sofia: It’s an amazing album from so many perspectives. If you’re new to Taylor’s work, it can be a great introduction. It also shows existing fans a different aspect of her art. In some ways it’s less immediately accessible, because she uses some less common vocabulary. She also makes historical references in the album’s title track (which talks about Dylan Thomas, Patti Smith and the Chelsea Hotel) and in Clara Bow (whose title is the name of a silent film actress). There are some things people might have to look up, but it is totally worth it. Taylor’s whole career has been about constantly expanding into new dimensions of music and TTPD continues that.

Kimberly: It treats some serious themes, doesn’t it? For instance, I think So Long London is about the experience of loving someone who suffers from depression. The Manuscript tells a poignant story of a young girl having an affair with an older man and looking back on it later with very mixed feelings.

Sofia: The form of “The Manuscript” is really interesting as well. Taylor is famous for her bridges, but “The Manuscript” doesn’t have one. It’s just one extended poem talking about that experience. I agree there are a lot of songs with serious themes, but it’s striking that many of them are not quiet or slow. One example is the up-tempo I Can Do it With a Broken Heart which she’s incorporated into her Eras Tour playlist.

Kimberly: Yes, there are a lot of songs you can dance to! My current play-it-on-repeat-favorite is But Daddy I Love Him which reminds me of Taylor’s country origins.

Sofia: TTPD also has great collaborations, which are another theme of all Taylor’s work. The most famous is Fortnight, with Post Malone, but I also really love Florida, featuring Florence & the Machine. We’ve just scratched the surface of this 31-track double album. If readers want to mention their own favorites in the comments, we can talk about more of them next month.

kimberly and sofia jackson
Kimberly Jackson is a longtime contributor to KOM’s Poetry Corner. Sofia Jackson, her daughter, is a longtime Taylor Swift fan and a rising junior in high school. Together they attended the 13th concert of Swift’s 2023 Eras Tour. They can be reached through Kimberly’s website.

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