Hannah’s Guide to “Lover”

(also published on Buzzfeed Community here)

Look, I think we can all agree Lover is Taylor’s most ambitious album. I mean, it’s got 18 AMAZING songs!! But where do each of them actually rank? Don’t worry, I’ve been listening to them all on repeat, so I’ve decided for you. I present to you, the definitive ranking.

18. ME!

Everyone seems to agree on this one. I love Brendan Urie, but this song just didn’t work with him. The “spelling is fun” part was so cringey they had to cut it. Plus I just don’t think it’s at all representative of the album! Why was this your first single Taylor??

17. Daylight

It’s a good closing track; there’s just nothing that special about it. Also, it sort of feels like it could’ve been on Red.

16. Cruel Summer

Don’t @ me. I know people love this one. But the chorus sounds a lot like “Cool” by the Jonas Brothers.

15. Afterglow

I love the lyrics of this one. I love whenever Taylor sings about her mistakes in relationships; I think it’s so human. It’s good, it’s just not great. And on a super long, AMAZING album, that earns it a lower spot.

14. I Think He Knows

This is a good signature Taylor song, but nothing special. It’s got a good bridge, though!

13. Cornelia Street

Something about this song is insanely catchy and sticks in your head, and it fits well into the album. It’s sweet, but not necessarily relatable.

12. You Need to Calm Down

Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE both the video and the message. I also love scream-signing this song while drunk. But musically, it’s not her strongest. It’s more of a guilty pleasure.

11. London Boy

This just feels like classic Taylor and it’s a ton of fun. It’s very relatable for all of us who are obsessed with British accents.

10. The Archer

This was the first single Taylor released that I really loved. I feel like it’s really representative of her new sound (which she does a great job of integrating with her old sound on this album). It’s also just insanely personal and has amazing lyrics. It’s a testament to the album that it’s so low in ranking, because I love this song.

9. The Man

Taylor’s been vocal about this idea before, but putting it in a song is a new stroke of genius. I feel so vindicated when I listen to this. Even though it’s about her being a female celebrity, I think every woman can relate to the judgement we receive.

8. I Forgot That You Existed

This is a such a great intro to the album, because it perfectly bridges Reputation and Lover. This album feels completely new, which I love – but this song still acknowledges where she’s starting from, which is important. It’s also a great anthem for those who have crossed you, which is something I loved about a lot of the songs on Reputation.

7. It’s Nice to Have a Friend

I love when Taylor goes kind of out of her normal sound a bit and this feels like that, but it’s also really cohesive with The Archer and Lover and Soon You’ll Get Better. I like that it doesn’t so much have a chorus. I’m just always intrigued by it.

6. False God

This was one of the first songs I really loved, because it just stuck out to me on the album. It feels like it has a similar theme to her earlier songs but sexier and more grown up, and something about it reminds me of “I Don’t Want to Live Forever” which I loved. Honestly I just love the lyrics and the pacing of it.

5. Death By A Thousand Cuts

Maybe I just personally relate to this song, but I’m obsessed with the lyrics. I also love any song that sounds really jaunty and fun, but is actually sort of dark and sad. It’s also got an amazing intro and bridge.

4. Paper Rings

Everybody loves this song, right? It’s just so FUN. If this doesn’t make you crazy-dance in your pajamas by yourself, you’re not doing it right.

3. Lover

This song is so beautiful and authentic. It’s an anthem to every realistic romantic out there, because the lyrics feel so simple and relatable without being clouded in imagery and metaphor (which can also be great, as seen in the next song on the list). The tone and sound of the song are also very representative of the album, making this work perfectly as the title track.

2. Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince

This is definitely in the top 5 of best Taylor Swift songs of all time. It’s a bit Lana del Rey esque, but still true to Taylor. I love me some high school imagery, as well as the deeper themes this song suggests. This song is just sort of eerie while still being fun and containing classic Taylor elements.

1. Soon You’ll Get Better

This has got to be the best Taylor Swift song of all time. It is so painfully beautiful. It’s fittingly reminiscent of Ronan and The Best Day, but also really fits with her new sound on this album. I also love the Dixie Chicks, so that helps. I know it’s about Taylor’s personal experience with her parents having cancer, but something about it still feels really relatable. Anyone who has dealt with someone they love battling any kind of illness feels this song deep in their heart. I would listen to this on repeat, all day, forever, if I didn’t want to cry every time I listened to it.

Video: Key

co-written, co-produced, and co-directed by moi!
Hitchock-inspired

Hannah’s Guide to Euphoria Makeup

So I’m no longer cool (okay, I never was), but it seems like everyone and their mother nowadays is doing bright, sparkly makeup. AKA, the look popularized in the HBO series Euphoria.

It’s a look that defies traditional beauty standards and breaks all the basic eye makeup rules. You’re supposed to look natural; the swarovski crystals are anything but. You’re supposed to stay within your lid; many of the looks on the show include glitter streaming down the cheeks, angular lines on the browbone, and rhinestones on the eyebrows. You’re supposed to stick with neutral colors; half the looks on Euphoria include neon. If you wear statement makeup, your whole face has to be done up; Jules often wears a streak of bright eyeliner with no other visible makeup.

It’s wonderfully subversive and fun, the way that makeup should be – not as a necessary evil to not appear “tired” or “unprofessional” as a woman, but a means of self-expression.

It’s important to note that, like many of youth’s beauty trends, this trend actually comes from drag culture. Take a scroll down pinterest’s drag search and you’ll see plenty of neon, glitter, rhinestones, and coloring “outside of the lines”. It’s the exact opposite of natural. Obviously, as with all drag beauty trends that go mainstream (think of contouring or baking), it’s much more muted and subtle, and it’s got its own twist. But today’s culture is very much influenced by the gay and urban communities, without really paying tribute to them.

Euphoria at least tries to do so. The show’s makeup is appropriately donned by its leading female cast members of different sexual, gender, and racial identities. This is one example where the trend doesn’t feel quite as “stolen” as other Gen-Z trends; whether or not the members of Gen-Z actually realize where this makeup draws its inspiration remains to be seen, but at the very least the show seems to.

What Euphoria does well besides representation is a use of makeup to represent the different characters.

Rue hardly ever wears makeup – but when she does, it’s a slight trace of glitter, evidence of Jules’ influence on her and slight “brightening” of her life. Jules, meanwhile, is unabashedly herself. She knows exactly who she is; and her makeup reflects that. Maddie is the same way; however, we see her without makeup in times in crisis, whereas Jules still wears hers. This symbolize Maddie’s wavering sense of self as it relates to Nate.

Cassie (except when she’s ice skating, truly embracing herself) and Lexi wear very natural makeup – symbolizing the way that they prefer to blend in and go with the flow. Kat starts out natural, too, but changes drastically as she changes her style to what can be described as almost dominatrix. This symbolizes both her taking ownership of her sexuality, but also her putting on a sort of “mask” and not being herself.

Through the different characters, the show presents makeup as both an extension of ourselves and an obscuring of ourselves, depending on the character in the situation.

And so I have two warnings if you’re wanting to copy the looks seen on the show: 1) Know what cultures the trend is coming from and 2) Be careful that you’re not using makeup to obscure yourself, but rather to extend your personality.

That being said, here’s my guide to trying the makeup yourself (on a budget, of course)!

JULES

Jules goes with actually rather simple statement colors. You’ll want eyeliner of all different colors: Colourpop has a good collection. Jules rarely wears mascara, but when she does it’s a bright orange – there’s a good collection of colored mascara here. She’s also a fan of glitter. Colourpop has glitter gel (with larger chunks of glitter like Jules sometimes uses) here, and glitter pigment (used more often by Jules) here. If you want to go more hard core on the glitter, you’ll want to get festival glitter. There’s some options here, here, and here. You can also just obviously use glitter from Michael’s (if it’s going to be on your face – I would not recommend on your lids). Hair gel, vaseline, or a product like glitter fix will work if you want it to stick better!

MADDIE

Maddie is all about fake lashes, jewels, cat eyes, and purple.

There’s a good purple eyeshadow palette here. She also occasionally adds another statement color – get a palette with lots of bright colors here or here (bonus: you’ll probably have enough purple from these ones, too!) You can choose whatever liquid liner you prefer, but I like the NYX eyeliner marker for wings.

For the rhinestones you’re going to want face rhinestones like the ones here. Nail or craft ones work too if they’re not too close to your actual eye. You can find a guide to the best false lashes here – not to brag but I have super long lashes so I don’t use fake ones! You will want a really good mascara though – I actually love falsies or if you’re on less of a budget, Better than Sex mascara.

KAT

Obviously this isn’t Kat’s normal look, but it’s really just an exaggerated version of it.

Kat wears more traditionally “sexy” makeup, sticking with berry or red lips, cat liner, and a smoky eye.

My favorite cheap red lipstick is the Rimmel London Kate Moss lipstick in 111. People swear by MAC’s russian red or ruby woo. I still love the NYX marker for liner, and the subtle smoky eye can be achieved through Urban Decay’s Naked Smoky palette or the cheaper Revolution version. If you want to copy her Halloween look, a good red eyeshadow palette can be found here.

Tl;dr: Wear makeup because it’s fun, not because you feel you have to. That’s what Jules would want.

Hannah’s Guide to Growing Out Your Bangs

Alright, this is definitely the most annoying part about getting bangs: growing them out.

There’s not exactly any trick to it; it just sort of sucks. The easiest way to push them back is with a headband, but who actually wears headbands anymore? Not even Blair Waldorf, I’d venture to guess.

Transitioning into sidebangs is another option – but again, side bangs are a little more 2009 than 2019.

Luckily, we’ve got a new trend that goes *perfectly* with growing out your bangs….

BARRETTES!!

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Yes, that’s right – like a lot of other late 90s/early 2000s fashion, hair clips/barrettes are making a comeback.

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You can choose from any variety of options – from colorful 90s clips (here) to bedazzled statement pieces (lots on etsy!) to plain large bobby pins (here) to tortoiseshell barrettes (here) to pearl-adorned oversized clips (here).

People are wearing them anyways – and they just so happen to be the perfect way to hide bangs!

The two main styles are the center part look seen below:

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And the side-part swoop:

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For both, style hair as usual, parting your hair to the middle or to the side – then brush your bangs back with the rest of the front of your hair using a fine-tooth comb and a bit of hairspray or gel, and simply apply the clip! If you’re doing a middle part, you obviously do this to both sides.

The only style you’re really excluded from here is the deep side part where you clip back the side with less hair using a barrette, as seen below:

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However, this one actually works with bangs if you commit! Stile your bangs to one side, trying your best to blend them into hair – I find this works best on shorter layered hair, and when you curl it.

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Then pin back the non-bang side with barrettes, and voila! You haven’t exactly hidden your bangs, but you’ve now managed the final option in the recent barrette style craze.

There are other options, such as braiding or twisting back your bangs, or simply gelling them down into a low pony.

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But why bother when one of 2019’s biggest trends already has you covered?

Opinion: Why Does DC Entertainment Suck?

In the mid 2000s, DC’s superhero brand (and in particular, Batman) was thriving.

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy was critically acclaimed and commercially successful, a hard feat for not only superhero films, but for any film. The gritty, dark tone lined up with their Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson-led trilogy from the 90s, and continued to prove that stories about (mostly) men in costumes could be Serious Cinema.

Marvel Comics – partnered with Sony and Fox respectively – were putting out similarly successful Spiderman films with Tobey Maguire, and X-Men films with Hugh Jackman. They were not as critically acclaimed as the Batman films, and Spiderman fell down a bit of a meme-worthy rabbit hole, but they did well in the box office.

And then Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment.

You don’t need me to tell you that Disney is a mastermind of marketing and basically owns the world – and it’s easy to say that Marvel’s current success is due to Disney. Its name, merchandising, and theme parks alone are enough to catapult Marvel’s films to success. But what did Marvel and Disney do so well together that DC and Warner Bros have not been able to replicate? How did Avengers: Endgame become the highest grossest film of all time, and Justice League fail so hard?

As usual, it all comes down to branding.

Disney helped brand Marvel into an entire universe with 23 connected films (and even more tv shows). It turned Marvel’s films into exactly what the comics were: a giant series of characters and stories that sometimes connected. You didn’t have to read every single Marvel comic to be a fan – everyone had their favorite characters and issues. Disney took advantage of its mass catalogue of IP, utilizing littler-known characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy so that they weren’t just relying on a single character to run a franchise.

DC Entertainment did this too, eventually setting up their own universe in 2016 with Batman vs. Superman. But this move came sloppily, and too little too late. Batman had already had so many recent versions (much like Spiderman), and Affleck was a controversial choice to begin with. Marvel, on the other hand, set up their franchise with a single character’s origin movie, relying on a popular Marvel character rather than the most popular cinematic one. By introducing three main heroes in their own films (Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger), by the time they actually had a crossover film with The Avengers, the audience was excited to see the characters meet, and had already begun to know and love Tony, Thor, and Steve (as well as the actors in those roles). They were invested, unlike in Batman vs. Superman. That film also made the crucial mistake of pitting heroes against each other too early on; Marvel didn’t do this until Civil War, and was thus able to build enough history to make this emotionally resonant.

Marvel’s films were good, but they were also campy and silly. They later embraced this even more with Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy, finding a formulaic sweet spot of one-liners, bright colors, good music, found family, badass female characters, and exciting action scenes. (This formula is very evident in Captain Marvel.) Marvel’s films were built for fandoms, wanting to inspire the same amount of fan loyalty as their comics – and they did even more than that with their fan servicing storylines, fanfiction inspiring relationships, and little winks to the audience. Their huge cast features many beloved stars and has great chemistry – meanwhile, an interview featuring Henry Cavill and a clearly unhappy Ben Affleck promoting Batman vs. Superman became a giant meme. Simply put, Marvel’s films are just a lot more fun than DC’s.

It’s unclear if DC Entertainment was trying to position themselves as the darker, more serious, critically acclaimed superhero option. It makes sense; after all, many of the comics were gritty and artful, and not just fun. But whether or not they meant to, in Disney’s monopolizing of the “fun” market, that’s what they became.

There are inherent problems in this position – first, critically acclaimed films do not always make money. Second, it’s hard to create a formula for a critically acclaimed film. I don’t see Tarantino doing the next Batman, and even if he did there’d be no way to ensure it would be any good. But at least if DC had gone this direction, they would’ve had their own brand and fandom.

The other option was to copy Marvel. This was potentially a good option – they actually successfully did so with their TV shows, creating fun and campy series building off the more serious Arrow, much like the MCU started with Iron Man. They truly built up their characters and fandoms before committing to crossovers, and it worked.

They could have done the same thing with their films. Or they could’ve gone the critically acclaimed route.

Instead, they did neither.

Wonder Woman seemed a return to the critically acclaimed films of DC’s past, getting rave reviews. But this film came on the heel of the dramatic failure that was Batman vs. Superman and the Marvel knockoff-turned-trainwreck that was Suicide Squad, and was later followed by Justice League, which certainly didn’t bode well with the brand. DC is just all over the place; the prime example being the frenzied recut of Suicide Squad to make it more “fun” after the stunning reception of the lighthearted trailer. They’re always scrambling to meet market interests far too late, a fatal mistake in branding and marketing.

Which brings me to my main point: DC Entertainment (at least when it comes to movies) has no solid brand. They refuse to commit to either side, and in doing so make it impossible to succeed at either. Sure, they may have a hit every once in a while, but they’ve yet to find a formula that works.

It will be interesting to see how Marvel moves forward in the wake of its original superheroes retiring, and what DC puts out after the upcoming Joker film (and casting yet another Batman). But for now, I’m good just sticking with The Flash.

Hannah’s Guide to Watching Your Friends Move On

Here’s what no one ever tells you: the friends you make in your late teens/ early 20s don’t always stay.

When you first move away from home and make friends, it’s easy to feel like that’s it. Like these are the people who are going to be your bridesmaids; these will be your roommates; these will be your Joey and Chandler and Phoebe, or characters from whatever TV show you most idealize.

You’re young; everything feels new. You feel like a real adult. You feel like yourself, for the first time.

But even your very best friends are going to move on with their lives.

Your 20s are a confusing time: everyone’s still figuring out their job, their interests, their significant other. People are going to go their separate ways; and if you’re like me, you’ll be sitting there wondering where everyone has gone, feeling like a forgotten character in a story.

This is especially true if you haven’t yet decided what you want to do, or if you’re working towards an untraditional career field. You’ll probably have a pregnant friend; a married friend; a friend at a grad school; a friend traveling abroad; a friend working in the field they know they want to be in; a friend doing some sort of volunteer program or advocacy work. Did I get them all?

At first, some of your friends still seem to be unsure where their life is going. But all of a sudden, you might find yourself sitting alone in your cheap apartment building, half a bottle of wine in, eating ramen at 2am even though you have to work the brunch shift tomorrow, snapchatting your friends as if it’s #relatablecontent.

But all of a sudden it’s not anymore.

For someone like me, who has social anxiety, it’s incredibly hard to make new friends. Especially if you’re far from your hometown and high school friends, too. And even those new friends may seem to move on – one moment you’re dancing on the couch to a Halsey remix, and the next they’re practically engaged to your neighbor and starting a clothing line.

So I’m here to say that I get it. It’s still #relatablecontent to me. And just because your friends have moved on doesn’t mean that you won’t, too.

I think we all feel like our lives are supposed to exist on this timeline, which inevitably falls to shit. And seeing our friends mark off checkpoints on our timeline can kind of be a slap in the face that you’re not even close. You’re happy for them, of course. But you can’t help but feel as if they’re judging you.

But here’s the truth: it’s really just you judging yourself.

Your friends don’t have the same timeline as you. And they might be feeling the same way – even if they’re not tipsy, scream-singing Taylor Swift at 8pm alone in their pajamas, they might feel the same way. You are not on the same path – and your path has absolutely nothing to do with them. Just like theirs has nothing to do with you – that’s why they’re in a different city, living their lives the way they want. Maybe it’s time you do the same – and if following your passion means 2am ramen, so be it. I promise you, no one who loves you is judging you. Except maybe your parents, but that’s their job.

Here’s my experience: whatever you’re going through right now always feels like it’s going to last forever. But it never does. Life happens, and all of a sudden you realize you’re in a completely different place than you once were. Think about it: you’re not the same person you were in high school, are you? And your friends aren’t in the same place they were in their early 20s. One day, that’ll be you – and it might not look like it did with them. But it’ll look different.

And here’s the glorious, glorious part about still figuring it all out:

You’re tipsy and dancing to Taylor Swift at 2am, probably getting a noise complaint from your psycho neighbor.

You are having fun.

And someday, you are going to look back on these days with such fondness. Just like you do at the days when you and your college besties were together 24/7, making messes together with no clue how your lives would turn out.

So my advice?

Stop being so hard on yourself. Just enjoy being a mess. So what if it takes you a little longer?

You’re still got plenty of time to be young.

Opinion: Is “You Need to Calm Down” Problematic?

Taylor Swift’s new song “You Need to Calm Down” is an anthem against critics and bigots alike. The music video is a celebration of gay culture, just in time for Pride month. It weaponizes a normally demeaning statement to people speaking out against inequality towards those who are perpetuating it.

It’s also an absolute bop, and the music video is pure fun.

But is this a great example of a straight star using her platform to celebrate the LGBT community, or is Taylor profiting off of gay culture without actually dealing with the repercussions of being a part of it?

She wouldn’t be the first straight popstar to benefit from being an icon for gay culture: Britney Spears and Lady Gaga have done so for years. But something about Swift feels different: is it because she’s become the poster child for White Feminism? Is it because she built a career singing about men in blatantly heterosexual songs? Or is it because of the time in which she so publicly announces her “ally-ship”: a time in which other popstars like Halsey and Hayley Kiyoko are so unapologetically queer? It’s certainly a very different time in pop music than when Swift first gained fame, crossing over from an even less queer-friendly genre: country.

Many have decried Taylor’s “activism” of not speaking out about political issues until far after the fact, such as her not announcing support for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. By staying silent on most issues, she hasn’t had to risk alienating her fans. Then she can choose strategic moments to speak out where she’s sure it will actually help her image. Is that what’s happening here? Has Taylor waited for a time when being gay is more “cool” (AKA, profitable) than it was when she became a star to embrace it?

The timing – to use a word from the song – is certainly a bit shady. But overall, I think that Swift actually does a good job at supporting a group without exploiting them. Instead of positioning herself as a “gay savior” against a group of “haters”, her music video gives most of its screen time to actual gay activists, musicians, and tv stars. It also ends in a call to action to support the Equality Act. This goes along with recent efforts by Swift to be more political.

Is the timing suspect? Sure. Should Taylor have spoken out before? Absolutely. But she’s here now. I think we don’t give people enough credit to change in today’s cancel culture – if you were once problematic, you always will be. While it’s important to address people’s past mistakes, if we punish people even after they change, we’re alienating a huge section of the country whose minds we could change. Polarization is becoming an increasing problem in this country, and it’s making it impossible to make any actual strides forward when we all disagree so strongly. I think one of the ways to bridge this gap is to invest in education and actually try to bring people to change rather than “cancel” them. And though Taylor Swift is obviously in a huge position of privilege, we can’t discount her from this grace. Especially not when she has such a large opportunity to change even more peoples’ minds.

Swift is the biggest pop star of our generation. Not only that, but she’s built a lot of her fanbase in the south and midwest with her country roots and All-American appeal. She’s always been popular with families and children, unlike some more “controversial” fellow popular musicians. This puts her in a unique position to enact change; and she’s finally doing so in an authentic way, instead of building up a largely straight and white celebrity girl squad to parade around her feminism. By setting the music video in rural America and featuring anti-gay protestors, she’s also actively positioning herself against the Trump-voting Middle Americans that once might have been her fans. Fans that she’s made clear she’s okay with losing (like President Donald Trump himself, who likes her music less now).

Swift’s recent actions, including “You Need to Calm Down”, are overall good. That’s not the argument; the argument is whether or not she is trying to position herself as the Queen of Gay Rights, when that title should be going to some of the actual gay people featured in her video.

I don’t believe she is. I believe she learned that lesson with her Feminist Queen phase, and that’s why she’s actually encouraging real change instead of just making a fun song and video.

Whether or not you agree about Swift’s intentions, the fact remains: the video led to a boost in donations to GLAAD. Some good came out of it. And in today’s dumpster trash cycle of news about ever-growing hate, we need all the good we can get.

Hannah’s Friend Vlogs!!

Hey guys, my friend Anna Volkman is starting to vlog!!!

She’s so talented and amazing and awesome and authentic, and I want you all to see that! She’s super candid about her struggles being in her early 20s in LA and I think that’s so refreshing and relatable to see.

You can find her here.

Here’s a recent video I related to a little too much: