Don’t call me ‘kid’, don’t call me ‘baby’, look at this godforsaken mess that you made me… so sings Taylor Swift on her new album which is, I have to say, haunting me. The track in question is called ‘illicit affair’ and while it’s by no means the only song on Folklore to get me all up in my feelings it’s definitely the worst for it.

Here are the actual lyrics are:

Don’t call me ‘kid’, don’t call me ‘baby’
Look at this godforsaken mess that you made me
You showed me colors you know I can’t see with anyone else
Don’t call me ‘kid’, don’t call me ‘baby’
Look at this idiotic fool that you made me

Here’s what I’m singing in my head:

Don’t call me ‘kid’, don’t call me ‘baby’
Look at this homicidal mess that you made me
You showed me colors you know I can’t see with anyone else
Don’t call me ‘kid’, don’t call me ‘baby’
Look at this suicidal fool that you made me

And suddenly I’m not only all up in my feelings I’m all up in a plot that’s been swirling around my head for the last 18 months or so begging me to write it. The new novel (tentatively titled Violent Delights) is one of those stories that certain parts of me really want me to pen, and other (slightly more rational, slightly less deranged) parts of me keep screaming at me to run away from as swiftly (haha) as I can.

The MC is currently called Ruby.

I am unhappy with this name but can’t seem to change it to anything else. The story is dark, twisted, and oddly amusing. The only part of this likely to surprise anyone who knows me and my writing is the amusing part…I’m not generally one for comedy. And this certainly isn’t funny in a traditional sense.

Yet I have a sinking feeling, given how much I’m feeling the feels this week and how impossible it is proving to get this bloody song out of my head that I’m just going to have to bite the proverbial bullet and write the damn book.

This is problematic because…

a) I’ve not finished the final edit of Death Becomes Me yet, and I really should finish that before starting something new…

b) I’ve found it impossible to find the time, energy, or inspiration for fiction for the last couple of years…

c) It’s probably crap.

d) It’s likely to depress me…

Look At This Godforsaken Mess That You Made Me Write…

Which brings me back to Folklore getting me all up in my feelings.

I don’t think I’m by any means alone in this reaction to Taylor’s latest set of tracks. It’s been a bizarre year, and while lockdown was hard on everyone those of us with slightly-less-than-robust-mental-health have really had the shit kicked out of us.

Those of us who live alone and were forced to spend three months in total isolation, unable to touch or even share a room with another living soul besides randomers at the supermarket (who, I have to say, made me feel more homicidal than comforted, due to the apparent inability of 90% of the population to comprehend that 2 meters means back the fuck up and stop trying to stand so close to me).

Isolation does strange things to your head, even if you’re of perfectly sound mind and nobody has ever accused me of such tranquil sanity.

She released the perfect set of songs for the mood of anyone with an even vaguely melancholic nature. They’re dripping in nostalgia and poignancy and pain, and while many will doubtless find this dull, monotonous and unpleasant, I have to say…these people have no appreciation for language.

Taylor has always been perfectly capable of penning a sublime story. Her last two albums were a bit of a letdown for me, with Lover appearing to be a knee-jerk reaction to criticism and an attempt to be a full-on, bubbly, happy POP princess.

While there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s not for me, and it isn’t what made me love her music. I fell in love with the cleverness of her storytelling, both in her lyrics and in the way she puts her videos together to add further depth, mystery and nuance to her tales.

That talent was conspicuously absent on Lover, and much of Reputation.

Folklore has brought Swift back to doing what she does best – telling sublime stories. Musically it may not be to everyone’s taste but I’d challenge anyone with an even vague comprehension of narrative to find fault with what she’s done here. And illicit affair may be the jewel of the whole album. It’s brief, it’s beautiful, and it perfectly captures the utterly agonising manner in which a love affair causes a person to slowly unravel.

You know you should stop, but you can’t, you’re already in too deep, and despite the mess it’s made of you and everything around you, there’s no possibility of letting it go. You kind of resign yourself to the inevitability of it.

The final lyric really says it all: for you I would ruin myself, a million little times.

Ruby’s story is very much a tale of ruin. But whether she ultimately ruins herself or finds herself by ruining everyone else along the way remains to be seen.

Ah, fuck it… I’m going to have to write the damn thing.