By THE ENTHUSIAST
2020? Shake It Off.
Taylor Swift has had an extraordinary year, putting out not one but two new albums in 2020 to critical and popular acclaim – folklore in July and evermore in December. Indeed it has to be said that Swift has had an extraordinary decade; or, to go farther still, an extraordinary life. Outside of the passel of boyfriends she’s broken up with (and turned into songs), it’s an open question whether Swift has ever had an even mildly bad day. Her song "New Year’s Day" comes not from her two most recent albums but from reputation, released in what now seems like an utterly alien time zone called 2017.
The last track on that album, "New Year’s Day" is refreshingly stripped-down - just Jack Antonoff playing piano while Swift sings (well, a surfeit of Swifts, actually, if you count the overdubs in the chorus). It’s a "what will happen to us" song in the mode of "Wond’ring Aloud." The opening lyrics set the stage:
There's glitter on the floor after the party
Girls carrying their shoes down in the lobby
Candle wax and Polaroids on the hardwood floor
You and me from the night before,
But don’t read the last page
But I stay when you're lost
And I'm scared and you’re turning away
I want your midnights
But I'll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year's Day
Mrs. Enthusiast has made it abundantly clear, by the way, that this song is not, in point of fact, about The Enthusiast, and that the latter will not be giving so much as a single midnight to T. Swift.
Swift described the inspiration for the song: "We threw a big New Year's Eve party in London this year, and I was thinking about how everybody talks and thinks about who you kiss at midnight…And I think that is very romantic. But I think there's something even more romantic about who's gonna deal with you on New Year's Day. Who's willing to give you Advil and clean up the house? I think that states more of a permanence."
A Rush And A Push
Readers who have traveled through the holiday catalogue with The Enthusiast over the course of the past month will recall that a startling number of seasonal standards seem to have been written in roughly the time it takes to whip up a batch of Tom & Jerrys. And, sure enough, "New Year’s Day" is yet another song written in the wink of an eye and a twist of the head. Pianist Jack Antonoff recalled, "That song means a lot to me. Happened so quickly at my apartment. We texted the next morning to make sure it wasn’t a dream."
We Are Our Own Saviors
"New Year’s Day" goes on to describe a scene that might well have come from any of the 2,372 versions of A Star Is Born:
You squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi
I can tell that it's gonna be a long road
I'll be there if you're the toast of the town, babe
Or if you strike out and you're crawling home
The song concludes with a wordless piano diminuendo that feels as though it’s stretching ever-so-hopefully towards the uncertain future. And if you suspect that The Enthusiast wrote that sentence just to use the word "diminuendo," you’re right.
Number thirty in a series.
30 December 2020
The Enthusiast (email@example.com) is the pen name of critic Michael Collins. He reports back only on what’s good, never what’s bad. He is currently imbued with the holiday spirit.