The Taylor Swift One
So, yep. Totally listened to her new album. Which, for me is kind of embarrassing—not that I have anything against her, she’s amazing—I just rarely like that kind of music. But 1989 is surprisingly good! Even for a self professed commercial-music-snob. Such a hipster label, sorry for that.
I’ve recently had it on in the background while I write and my point is that I’m glad I branched out because I’ve enjoyed listening to it. I do have a query about the album as a whole though. Taylor tends to repeat the same line/phrase/word A LOT. Take the first single, Shake It Off, for example. I counted, and she says that phrase, (excluding the preceding “shake, shake, shake, shake, shake,”) 45 times. If we include the five “shake’s” in the count, we come to a grand total of 78. Jesus.
Of course, this was an incredibly popular song, and many other artists have done, and do, the same thing (I Should Be So Lucky by Kylie Minogue—"lucky" is repeated 48 times). To be honest, it’s really not that bad. Usually it’s a catchy line. Take, for instance, the Dune Rats’ song Dali Lama Big Banana Marijuana. That is literally all they say for the entire song. It’s fantastic.
My query with 1989 is that throughout the album there are SO many line repetitions, and consequently, my subconscious seemed to pick up on this and it began to show in my writing. Which was not ideal. So, I’d find myself listening to "Are we out of the woods yet, are we out of the woods yet, are we out of the woods yet?" (which is said 38 times during the song, aptly named, Out of the Woods), and my brain would then tell my fingers to type, say, ‘so they travelled further and further, deeper and deeper into the unknown.’
Now this is erroneous in itself, as ‘further’ and ‘deeper,’ in this context, mean the same thing. Strictly speaking, I hadn’t used any forms of tautology. I would classify repeating ‘further’ and ‘deeper’ as bad writing, because they don’t technically mean the same thing. This is different to songs or poetry, where repetition is used as a literary technique. In writing, it’s pretty much a cop out. And this comes across as a reflection not only on the writer, but on the reader. I know that if I were to read such repetition in a book, I would feel as though my intelligence was being questioned. Do I really need to be told the same thing that many times in a row for it to register? I like to respect my reader’s intelligence, so I was very happy that I picked up on it.
The ingenious way in which I did come to notice this Taylor Swift subconscious influence, was while I was listening to the album on a flight. Yes, I forgot to mention that I do listen to her outside the confines of my room in the presence of other people who could possibly overhear the tunes and misjudge me as a natural commercial music listener. See? The cats are a possibility, aren’t they? (Note: see The Tea Towel One).
So, I’m not the greatest flyer, and I like to listen to music to take my mind off thoughts of dying. And it was as I was concentrating on the lyrics that I realised, ‘Hey! I’ve just sung this line roughly 57 times. That seems excessive. I think that I may have done that in some of the stuff I wrote today. And maybe yesterday too. Oh dear.’ So I had a look at everything I’d written post Taylor Swift album, and BOOM. Where before, there was hardly any repetition, post 1989, there was a larger amount than I’d expected (three instances to be precise).
This was only the first draft and I mostly concentrate on getting the story out and then go back and edit afterwards, but I was just wondering, how much does what we listen to influence our craft of writing? Does listening to nothing count as a control? Do heavy metal, classical and Disney songs count as variables? It could have purely been a coincidence, or mere laziness (which I hate to think). Some of the music that I usually listen to does tend to repeat the same lines, but those songs are broken up in my playlists—not back to back, as I found in Taylor’s album.
I think music probably does influence the way in which we write—it certainly influences my mood, and why shouldn’t this be conveyed through the words I type? Whether or not it can alter our individual craft is what I’m interested in. From what I experienced and noticed, yes it can. But of course my account is neither accurate nor reliable.
On a side note, I think Taylor Swift is extremely talented and I highly respect her, especially as she remains fully clothed at all times, which sadly, is a rare thing these days for female performers.
Subconscious craft alteration. Yvan eht nioj, my friends. Yvan eht nioj.