By Kendyl Brower
My favorite poet is Taylor Swift. Like any other established poet, her works include various literary devices, thought-provoking rhyme schemes, and carefully chosen diction that elevate her songs from radio hits to true art. Though her melodic tunes and beautiful voice always hit the mark, thoughtful lyricism sets her apart from the rest. Taylor, a storyteller since her self-titled debut album, implements nuanced characters, intricate story arches, and compelling poetic devices in her pieces. In her bonus track from 1989, “New Romantics,” Swift’s incomparable talent proves most prominent. Though many hardcore fans and music critics argue that Taylor peaks with the dramatic, “All Too Well,” off of Red, the critical generation commentary and perfect allusions on “New Romantics” is truly unbeatable.
Reflecting on her past fairytale-like hits (“Love Story” on Fearless and “Enchanted” on Speak Now to name a few), Taylor critiques her naïve former self and a generation of hopeless romantics. In this brilliant song, she makes sarcastic remarks on the nature of many adults who romanticize the good, the bad, and the ugly of relationships, ultimately remaining ignorant to failing love. Softly singing, “Please take my hand and/ Please take me dancing” Taylor wishes for a beautiful, healthy relationship, but ironically continues, “Please leave me stranded/ It’s so romantic.” Absurdly describing an abandoning lover as “romantic,” Taylor reveals that relationships contain more than cheery dancing and puppy love, but a deeper layer of betrayal and lack of commitment— a fact that romantics know but willingly choose to ignore. Viewing a relationship with such rose-colored glasses never works, Taylor argues the disingenuous ignorance fails to truly ease the hardships. Moreover, she gleefully belts, “Heartbreak is the national anthem/We sing it proudly,” further highlighting the odd justifications of romantics, who put on an unphased facade in the face of hard breakups. “New Romantics” is Taylor’s strongest song because her overall take on romanticism is unique, compelling, and refreshing. It is not a delicate love song or an angsty breakup song, rather, a comment on the topic of ignorance in love, which is not often discussed in music.
After taking AP Language and Composition, I can only offer the amazing teacher Chris Haskett one piece of advice: analyze “New Romantics” for a rhetorical analysis essay! Taylor scatters brilliant allusions throughout the song, one even referring to an AP Lang read, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. “We show off our different scarlet letters” Swift sings, hinting at the classic novel in which an unfaithful woman must wear a scarlet “A” representing her adulterous sins. Swift juxtaposes the original shame that accompanies the scarlet letter with the pride some romantics have in their offenses. She continues, “trust me, mine is better,” proposing that people romanticize and display their unfavorable decisions in a competitive manner. Comparing the shame and pride that stem from the scarlet letter, Swift pokes fun at how ignorant romantics hold no remorse in the very actions they know should be frowned upon. Brilliant! Taylor Swift packs “New Romantics” with genius lyrics that one can analyze for days, easily making this her greatest, most layered song. Additionally, Swift alludes to the romanticism era of literature of the 18th century. Characterized by imaginative beauty over scientific rationalization, romanticism— you guessed it— romanticized society. Taylor follows this trend, writing, “I could build a castle/ Out of all the bricks they threw at me.” Here, Swift takes the harsh realities of life, ie, the bricks, and creates an imaginative castle, possibly a reflection on her past fairytale-esq songs. The romanticism era and Taylor both emphasize beauty and emotion; in reality, every rose has thorns, and such inspiration is impractical. Lastly, the titular lyric, “new romantics,” refers to the New Romantic pop culture movement of the eighties, defined by androgynous, flamboyant fashion and synth-driven pop music. Inspired, Taylor pays tribute to these artists of the eighties with synths and drum pads, which Rolling Stone Critic Rob Sheffield claims is “the most authentic tribute to the 1980s synth-pop on 1989.” Taylor’s allusion to this 80s cultural movement contributes to a larger theme on her album: her switch from country to pop. To confirm her new genre, Taylor connects pop greats of the 80s to her own work. Absolutely genius.
“New Romantics” is everything a song should be— lyrically strong, melodically catchy, and full of compelling literary devices. Personally, I see this piece as a carefully crafted poem, and Taylor’s best, most nuanced work to date. If you have not already, I highly recommend giving this track a listen in order to fully grasp Taylor’s ingenuity.