This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #276: All Too Well by Taylor Swift.
We tend to live ordinary lives. If we are lucky, the occasional, extraordinary moment comes along; searing itself into our hearts and becoming a treasured memory that we carry with us forever and ever. One of the things that separates an ordinary memory from one that becomes part of the tapestry of our lives is the visceral nature of our remembrance. We wear the sweater of a deceased loved one because it has retained their scent. Sometimes, you hear a song that was playing the first time you held and kissed your beloved and, immediately, you are brought back to that romantic, life-altering moment when your two hearts became one. The memories that count tend to survive fully-formed and multi-dimensionally. They retain the essence of the actual event and, as such, are more valuable that Gold.
Obviously, our memories are not always happy ones. The emotive nature of those events that change are lives can cause us to carry pain and sadness in our hearts, as easily as we carry Joy and Love. Personal loss can be devastating and dis-orienting and, just like falling in love, the sensory nature of the down times remains every bit as vivid and sharp in recall. Perhaps no one in recent memory is as adept at capturing the fine details involved in loss as is singer, Taylor Swift.
As I type these words, Taylor Swift is the biggest selling and, arguably, the most influential female singer in music today. She has sold over 50 million albums worldwide and has YouTube views approaching almost one billion for her career, which has not yet reached the half-way point, I imagine. Her hit songs include, “Love Story”, “You Belong With Me”, “Mean”, “I Knew You Were Trouble”, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, “22”, “Bad Blood”, “Blank Slate”, “Welcome To New York”, “Stlye” and many more. Swift is a clever business women and has had much success marketing herself to her fans, of which there are legions. She has used her PR savvy, at times, for public causes. For example, in the past US Election, Swift urged her fans to get out and vote. Immediately after posting that letter on Instagram, voter registration in people aged 30 and under soared.
Taylor Swift started out as a Country singer and then, with regularity, has reinvented her persona and has become a Pop singer and now, she is wearing plaid shirts and singing Folk-inspired tunes on her latest album. But, what Taylor Swift is best known for is her penchant for writing break-up songs. Many of her best-known songs involve some sort of reaction from her to a relationship that she was involved in that ended up not working out. Of all of the songs of this nature that she has released, the one most critics and fans agree is her best is a song called, “All Too Well”.
This song was the result of a short-term relationship Swift had with actor Jake Gyllenhaal. What helps to separate this song from the ranks of her other break-up songs is the degree of wistfulness and intimate detail she includes in the song. Like all special memories, Swift has infused “All Too Well” with glimpses of small moments such as looking at childhood photos as a way to get to know someone better, dancing to the glow coming from a refrigerator light and, most famously, the fact that Mr. Gyllenhaal, apparently, kept a scarf of hers as a memento of the relationship because it had traces of her perfume on it. Since the release of “All Too Well” in 2014, that missing scarf has become an iconic symbol for her fans and is often seen as part of the ensembles that diehard fans wear to her concerts.
Whether or not you are buying everything Taylor Swift is selling, the fact remains that our most important memories tend to come complete with scents and sounds and textures attached to them. “All Too Well” is a song that captures this aspect of our lives better than most songs out there and, as such, has been hailed as one of the best songs, if not, the best song, by one of the most popular singers alive today. Taylor Swift may be the “Queen of the Break-up Song” but, if I were to make a wish for her that I sincerely hoped would come true in the near future, it would be that she trades in her heartbreak pen and replaces it with one filled with lyrics about finding her true love. When that day comes, I imagine she will write entire operas in response. And when that happens, I will happily listen to her words and remember how I felt when my wife, Keri and I were having all of our “first this and first that” moments that formed the foundation of our love-filled life that we so enjoy. Memories come in all forms but, the best ones smell good and feel nice and warm and, when all is said and done, are better than treasure.
Here is “All Too Well” by Taylor Swift from her “Red” album. This video is from when she debuted the song at The Grammy Awards. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “All Too Well” by Taylor Swift, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Taylor Swift, can be found here.
***PS: Since the creation of this post, Taylor Swift has come out with a re-worked version of this song and the story that it tells. The new, longer version of the official video for “All Too Well” can be found here.