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On Neruda and Taylor Swift
Check out this WSJ article, “The Platinum Poetry of Taylor Swift”, by Christopher John Farley. Farley centers his piece around Swift’s Red liner note reference to Pablo Neruda.
In the liner notes to her new album “Red,” Taylor Swift writes “There’s an old poem by Neruda that I’ve always been captivated by, and one of the lines in it has stuck with me ever since the first time I read it.” The line she quotes is “love is so short, forgetting is so long.” It’s from a Pablo Neruda poem that’s commonly called, “Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines.” Here’s an excerpt from the translation from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin:
Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.
I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.
Judging by the first song from her new album “Red,” the sugar-high single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” you might not expect Swift to be referencing Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poets. But regardless of her (perhaps) unexpected literary tastes, she knows what mainstream audiences want. The latest figures from Nielsen SoundScan show that “Red” has sold 1.208 million copies in its first week in stores; that’s a faster start than Swift’s 2010 album “Speak Now,” which moved 1.047 million albums in its first week. “Red” has also recorded the highest single-week sales since Eminem’s “The Eminem Show” sold 1.322 million in one week in 2002.
Swift is now 22 years old. For the first time in her career, some of her songs, especially that first single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” sound like they were what she thought her youngest fans wanted to hear instead of a natural reflection of what could be going on in her life.
Swift told me that she didn’t agree with the line that her pop-country music didn’t reflect the increasing complexity and growing maturity of her life as a twentysomething. “There are songs on this record that are from a deeply sad place, or from a really introspective place,” she told me.
She then added something that showed me she’s a businesswoman as much as she is an artist. When I asked about the more introspective cuts on the album, she said “Those aren’t the songs we’re going to choose as the first single because what I want as the first single is to get stuff in your head and I wanted it to be something I could perform as the closing number on the [MTV] VMAs and something that would really make an impact—this is a new record, this is a new sound.”
Swift did in fact perform “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. But seeing her launch the album that night dressed in hotpants (and surrounded by dancers who seemed to have escaped a Disney Channel musical) made me wonder if she was really continuing to build the kind of career that would last.
To paraphrase Neruda, pop is so short and forgetting so fast.
Full article here.