It’s a carefully crafted process created to revolutionize the experience.
Your thumb hovers just far enough above the screen of your phone to extend the silence screaming in your headphones.
One light tap on the play button and you will be transported to another time and place, another universe, perhaps, where the only narrative that matters is the one Taylor Swift sings to you. Just you. Just for one hour, nothing more.
And yet you hesitate. Contemplate. Second-guess this simple action, the easiest thing you’ll do all day.
Perhaps you’ve been here before, stretching out the moment before you hear new music for the first time because there’s always that possibility, no matter how small, that you won’t admire it as much as you hope to.
A new Taylor Swift song is a lot like a book you’re afraid you won’t love. It’s one of those books everyone has already tried convincing you is going to change your life. But what if it doesn’t? What if it’s just “okay”? What if it’s not?
Also … what if it’s better than you expected, and you end up on the floor by the end of Track 5 lying paralyzed in a puddle of your own tears?
Would that really be so terrible, all things considered?
You can only listen to a Taylor Swift song for the first time once. After that, it only stays new for a small window of time. You have to make it count.
Wander off alone. This is not an experience to share even with the person who has the exclusive privilege to share everything you cherish.
This is also not an experience that meshes well with interruption. Go somewhere you won’t be bothered. Lock yourself in a room, hike to the one nearby spot you’ve never seen another soul inhabit.
It has to be you and the songs and the quiet world wrapping itself around you while you lose yourself in the song.
Hear the music. You already know the lyrics are going to wreck you, don’t worry about them yet. You’re going to be distracted by the melody anyway, so you might as well start there.
Though each of her songs are different and span across genres, Taylor’s music does have a specific sound. It’s what makes her Taylor Swift.
As an artist who composes most of her work without co-writers, even if someone else is doing a cover or she has the songwriting credit on someone else’s work, you KNOW it’s a Taylor Swift song when you hear it. Like this one. Yes, this one.
Settle into the sound. It’s like comfort food, but good for you.
And once you’ve done that, once a single listen has embedded part of that melody into your subconscious where it will undoubtedly remain until the end of time, you’re ready to add another layer to your wreckage.
Listen to the story. Every Taylor Swift song is a short narrative set to music — the notes are the pages on which the words take on meaning.
But the beautiful thing about stories is that they mean something different to everyone who hears them. There is no right or wrong way to interpret a story, especially a song that very deliberately leaves many things unspoken.
We gather from stories what we need to feel whole in the precise moments we hear them. A year from now the song you’re listening to may take on a completely different meaning. But you will never forget the truths it spoke to you when you encountered it for the very first time.
Take the time to reflect on what it means to you right now. Taylor’s music is speaking to you in a very specific way — its what her songs do best. They’re relatable because they speak truths from the heart. To deny those truths means taking the music for granted.
Lose yourself in your feelings. So it’s Track 5, and long after the music has started, you am probably a mess. You never used to give yourself permission to fall apart, at least not to a song. It’s just a song. Right?
Except it’s more than that. You lie in the grass alone with your eyes closed separated from the world, only you and this music, because even if you didn’t realize it until now, you’ve needed to pause your life. Just for the hour it will take to listen to the album all the way through from start to finish.
It’s nearly inevitable that when you pause your world and hit play on Taylor’s the feelings you’ve been suppressing — so you could keep going, so you could think straight and do the things and Be Okay — will come pouring out of you more intensely the longer you lie here listening.
This is why you must be alone, without interruption, layering first the melody and then the words. It’s a carefully constructed build, the only way to prepare yourself for the way this music is going to shake up the “I’m fine” facade you’ve been holding in front of you for so unbelievably long.
This is how we survive it all. Listening. Reflecting. Feeling. Even when the world says we cna’t stop time to make room for these things, we must. It is the only way. And perhaps, for you, Taylor Swift’s songs are your way.
For the first time, yes. But then so many more times after that.
Even once a new song is no longer new, parts of that memory will stay with you. They are a part of you now. They’ve changed you.
A new collection of Taylor Swift songs will come around again. Not often, but it will. There will be a first time for every track — the ones you experience now will likely not be the last. Not for a while.
Make the most of these moments. Breathe. Let yourself feel, give yourself permission to get lost, to see yourself in these words, to hear yourself in these melodies.
There is no shame in allowing the music to alter parts of yourself you’d forgotten needed changing.