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.

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 Guide to Billie Eilish

She’s blowing up right now. I’m sure you’ve heard the intro track off her new album, “Bad Guy”, on the radio. She looks like early Halsey, sounds like early Lana del Rey, and dresses like early Snoop Dogg. But who is she? Where did she come from? And how in the hell did she get so popular, so fast?

It all started with Ocean Eyes, a song made with her brother, Finneas O’Connell, and shared to soundcloud. Billie was only 14. It became an overnight sensation, earning Billie a record deal. She dropped her critically acclaimed EP, “Don’t Smile at Me” in 2017, and her much-anticipated first official album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” in 2019. She also performed at Coachella that year and virally met Justin Bieber.

She’s now 17 and got not only a #1 hit, but two popular and critically acclaimed albums. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a young star rise so quickly – her childhood crush Justin Bieber did the same after being discovered on Youtube. But Billie’s music fits into the pop music scene much differently than Justin’s did at the time. Because here’s what’s probably struck you the most about Billie’s music: it’s creepy.

It’s not just the singing, which has an eerie sound by itself; it’s the lyrics. Lana del Rey croons in a sad, eerie voice about failed love, but that’s a far cry from Billie’s songs about the monster under the bed and murdering her friends. Her videos feature spiders crawling into her mouth and needles in her back. She’s not the only star to embrace weirdness, but she’s the only one I can remember to gain such mainstream popularity so fast. In a music scene that is feeling increasingly formulaic, how did Billie’s music get so popular? Is it just that – that it’s different? Is it just because it’s so good? Or is it that she’s done so well at creating a cohesive, specific brand of creepiness? Or do we just love Cinderella stories of success?

I think it’s probably a mixture of all of the above, coupled with something new: Billie is the first Gen Z popstar we have. Gen Z-ers are in high school now, and their interests are not the same as millennials’. Their humor and way of speaking, largely cultivated off the internet and access to other parts of the world’s media, is much “weirder“. And even millennials are primed for this kind of media. “Alternative” music and culture has been sanitized and pushed into mainstream “cool” for years – just look at Coachella. Billie is not as sanitized or mainstream as some of those artists – like Halsey, Bastille, or Lana herself – but she’s a logical next step. And while Billie’s lyrics are more creepy than relatable, their tone reflects the disillusionment millennials and Gen Zers are feeling with the world they’ve inherited. She’s managed to embody a sort of normalized sadness that’s already evident in internet and meme culture (most of which are actually rather negative, in a sort of “sad but true” way), but not just about love like Lana does. This makes sense – dating and love are being redefined by Gen Z-ers, who may not relate to the kind Lana is crooning about in her songs.

Gen-Zers are just starting to enter the real world – as is Billie. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when they make up even more of media consumers. But if this is a preview for what’s to come in music and media, then I for one am excited.

Hannah’s Guide to “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”

It’s an amazing first (second, if you count her EP) album. But which ones are the best and which ones are not as great? My take below!

13. ilomilo

First of all, it’s really hard to separate the songs on this album. They all flow so well into each other, and ilomilo flows perfectly after bury a friend. But overall, this song by itself is a little forgettable.

12. my strange addiction

Look, I normally love sampling random stuff into songs. And sure, I like The Office. But The Office is not exactly a strange addiction – it’s probably the most common addiction for people Billie’s age. Thus, this song doesn’t quite fit Billie’s very strange appeal.

11. 8

I kind of hated the creepy little girl esque beginning, but now I love it. However, it’s overall a bit forgettable compared to the others.

10. when the party’s over

This kind of feels like an add-on, as it was also on “Don’t Smile at Me”. It’s a great Billie song, but it doesn’t quite feel as if it fits on this album.

9. wish u were gay

This was one of the first tracks she released, and from the “baby I don’t feel so good” intro, I knew I was going to love it. It’s sort of strange and relatable at the same time, discussing a guy blowing you off because he’s just not that into you, and how you’d feel so much better about yourself if it was just because he’s gay. It fits sort of perfectly into Gen Z culture, actually. But it’s not quite as creepy as the others (the crowd booing and cheering is a nice touch, though!).

8. i love you

This one’s beautiful. I love the odd sampling of the flight attendant speech. It’s probably her most Lana-esque song, a soft ballad about a relationship falling apart.

7. listen before i go

This one is another one that’s hard not to think of without the songs around it – it almost feels like part 1 to “i love you”. This song’s pretty blatantly about suicide, but it doesn’t feel inauthentic or romanticized. It’s just sort of simply there, existing, and I think that a lot of teens probably relate to the hopelessness in this song.

6. bad guy

This is the most radio-friendly song, as evidenced by it’s No. 1 status. The lyrics are fun and cheeky while the tone is still dark and creepy. It’s very indicative of what to expect on the album as a whole, so it’s a great opening track!

5. you should see me in a crown

This is another song that was already released separate from the album, but it’s just so good. I love when Billie goes more intense, rather than just a rather muted eerieness. This one’s imagery and lyrics fit with the more badass sort of tone many female rap and pop stars have adopted today, but of course – in classic Billie fashion – creepier.

4. bury a friend

This is another song that’s really indicative of the album as a whole. It’s got the album’s title in the lyrics, so how could it not? It’s wonderfully creepy, just like one of my other favorite songs of hers, bellyache. It embraces Billie’s creepy imagery.

3. all the good girls go to hell

I love this song because it totally embraces the creepiness and dark imagery that Billie surrounds herself with, coupled with the fact that she’s a wide-eyed, pretty 17 year old who also sings anti-drug songs.

2. xanny

And now for the anti-drug song! It would be so easy for Billie’s image to sing about drugs and the weird states they put us in – her imagery is constantly trippy. But instead, she sings about not needing drugs, and the sort of aloneness one feels when surrounded by friends on drugs/drinking, and just the pointlessness of it all. It’s sort of existential, while containing the base heavy tones that sort of make you feel like you’re on drugs after all. This is probably my favorite to listen to on its own.

1.goodbye

This one doesn’t really work on its own – it’s a culmination of the whole album. But that’s what makes it so genius. Billie made an experience, not just an album, and this is the siren call. It goes backwards, using notable lines from each of the songs in an extremely eerie, drawn out tone. It’s a work of creative genius, and makes it feel like there’s a hidden message when you combine all the songs together. It’s the perfect way to end the album!

What did you think of Billie Eilish’s new album?

Hannah’s Guide to “Reputation”

  1. Don’t Blame Me: I can’t say a single bad thing about this song. It may be my favorite Taylor Swift song ever – I love when she does songs that are a little lower/darker. This song alone makes up for years of silence. I’ve literally played it on repeat for a week straight. 
  2. Getaway Car: This feels like 1989 but updated in the most wonderful way!! It’s true to Taylor while still feeling new. I love the Bonnie and Clyde imagery and the tune is just so fun.
  3. I Did Something Bad: This is just a fun song while still having a darker, sexier tune which I love. This is the only other song I actually bought off the album. I love how unapologetic it is lyrics-wise, but what earns it the #2 spot is the tune. It also has a great opening!
  4. This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: It’s a perfect mix of Red and 1989. It’s just so fun to sing along to!
  5. New Year’s Day: This one should honestly be higher because I love it. But it also makes me want to cry so I can’t always listen to it.
  6. King of My Heart: The title of this one is a little lame. But I love the tune!
  7. Delicate: I love the sort of afraid, cautious nature of this song’s lyrics. It doesn’t feel like anything she’s done before. I like how it refers to the way her reputation has actually affected her love life.
  8. Look What You Made Me Do: This one probably had an unfair advantage from coming out first – I didn’t love it at first, but now I’ve listened to it so much that I love it.
  9. Gorgeous: This is another one that’s just fun on kind of a darker album. Also very relatable, and I love any cat references.
  10. ….Ready for It?: The sing-talking is a little cringe-y…that being said it’s a fun, enjoyable song to listen to and I definitely sing-talk along with her! This one’s a guilty pleasure.
  11. Dress: I like the verses and love the bridge, but I don’t love the chorus. It feels like something I’d hear on the radio from some other popstar; it’s a good song, but it’s not that unique. It reminds me a lot of I Don’t Wanna Live Forever. Good for Taylor for embracing singing about sex now, though!
  12. Dancing with Our Hands Tied: The best part of this song is the title. it has an unexpected tune – that’s not a good or bad thing. I think I wanted it to be a ballad, though. The high hopes I had for this song based on title weren’t really lived up to, but it’s not a bad song. I like the intro, but then when it jumps into lyrics I’m not crazy about it. The bridge is better than the verses for sure.
  13. Call it What you Want: The lyrics start off good, then get cringe-y (“my baby’s ___” lines). The tune is nice, but I feel like it’s kind of anticlimactic; like it builds to something that never happens. It’s also just too cheesy for my taste, but that’s because I’m a cynic.
  14. So it Goes…” This feels like it’s trying to be a song off Halsey’s new album that didn’t quite make it on. There’s too much auto-tune, too. I know that’s the style, but I don’t like it
  15. End Game: I don’t mind pairing with rappers, but this pales in comparison to Bad Blood. It just feels too radio-y and out of character. I was excited for a song with Ed Sheeran but this one is not my favorite.