Songwriting: Taylor Swift versus Ally McBeal

By no fault of my own, I am on a Taylor Swift kick. The 10-year-old loaned me her “Speak Now” CD, and it has been in my car (and I feel it’s important to establish blame.) But I have also been on a songwriting kick, and I’ve found myself analyzing her songs as I listen. She is, after all, a well-known and successful songwriter. I do realize that her target market is females under the age of 18, and that as a 35-year-old woman with at least five gray hairs and semi-permanent laugh lines, I’m supposed to think she’s too cutesy and bubble-gum for my taste. But whatever the my opinion about an artist, as a fellow songwriter, I would be remiss not to analyze the success of her songs and learn from them.

You know what I noticed in my analysis? Taylor Swift songs remind me of Ally McBeal.

Remember Ally McBeal? She had random, hilarious mental visions that she would never share aloud because decorum forbids it. One of my favorites happened right after a cute man asked her out for coffee. Flash forward to Ally and Cute Man lounging together in a bubble bath shaped like a giant coffee mug topped with foam.

Taylor Swift as a songwriter has a knack for putting into words what you wish you could say, but never would because of cultural etiquette. She captures those moments when you find yourself biting your tongue, and then shapes them into songs filled with wit and charm. In “Back to December,” she and her ex small talk, but her mind is screaming that she wants to take back her mistake, and that if he would just give her another chance, she would do it right this time. In “Enchanted,” Taylor begs enchanting man she just met for the first time, “Please don’t be in love with someone else.” In the title track, “Speak Now,” the songwriter tells the groom, “Don’t say ‘yes,’ run away now,” begging him not to marry the wrong girl and instead to flee with her, all after observing that the bride’s dress is shaped like a pastry.

And after listening to the Speak Now album at least a dozen times, I find that I enjoy cutesy and bubble gum songs. For your information, I’m also Team Jacob. Sue me. After this Spongebob episode is over.

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