Ayley

When maybe at last I’ve danced myself out, I flop on the bed and let my music shuffle randomly. The day is over but it’s not. Dad brought the outside world in here with him and I can feel it pointing at me and getting angry. I feel Dad’s eyes staring at me and for a moment I’m suddenly convinced he’s somehow crept back in without me noticing. I sit up and search the darkness. The only light comes from the pale moon and it’s hardly enough to see by. The corners of my room are black. Anything could be there. I shiver and reach in a panic for the switch of my bedside lamp. In its warm glow, I can see that no one else is here. Except, of course, that’s not quite true. The people in my head, the people in the internet – they’re all waiting to jump out on me.

Then I hear a voice I recognise. It’s Taylor Swift. And, no, she’s not in my head and, no, she’s not one of those people trying to get at me through the internet. Of course she’s not. She’s Taylor Swift. And maybe Spotify knows me better than I thought it did – and that’s saying something, because I already get that Spotify knows me WELL – because this is the record I absolutely need to hear right now. I Forgot That You Existed might be the best opening song to an album EVER. That truth is at its most evident when you’re sitting on your own in a room in the middle of nowhere in the middle of winter. It’s zippy enough that even I start to perk up. Sure, the day’s been a nightmare but Taylor Swift makes the best music to listen to when you feel like you’re lost in some kind of hell, because her songs are like DREAMS. Seriously. There isn’t an artist in the world who so absolutely blurs the line between music and magic. I grab my phone and cue the rest of her Lover album because if any record’s going to save me from drowning in the sewage of my own misery, it’s this one.

Cruel Summer is the next song and it actually sounds like summer. I mean it. It’s like Taylor Swift went out on the softest, warmest July evening and somehow bottled the feeling of it. And it’s not like she only found out how to do this recently. So many of her records have been invested with that summery mix of primary and pastel colours – Cruel Summer is both swimsuit yellow and blush pink, vivid blue and apricot. Its chorus flares like a last flash of afternoon sun and I want to dive right into it. Of course I do. My reality is an empty bedroom with slim to no chance of visitors. Unless Dad comes back. And obviously I’d rather be desperately and depressingly alone than see him again. Whatever. Taylor Swift’s record is the ultimate escape. Close your eyes and listen hard enough and you’re right with her. Wherever she is. Wherever she wants to be.

Listen to the title track – Lover – and you’ll find her in her own place, just after Christmas. She paints the picture so clearly it’s no wonder my own world fragments like disappearing smoke. And of course I think of my boyfriend. Lover. Lover. Lover. So many of the things I want are in this song. It’s enough to make me feel sorry for myself. Taylor know this. And so she puts her foot on the accelerator. The Man is quicker, harder, more pissed-off. I feel myself becoming those things too. My brain speeds up and I think about how much of the rubbish in my life is because of Dad and, yeah, Mum’s not the kind of mother I’d have picked for myself but she’s a victim of his too. He’s exactly the type of man Taylor Swift is coming for and now I don’t just hate him, I’m ashamed of him as well. As I should be. Do this, do that, be this, be that. He spent the first years of my life not caring who I was and then the last few trying to carve me into shape. You don’t have to have any imagination to know exactly what shape.

This album is under my skin. It’s as if it was always there and now Taylor Swift is pulling it up to the surface so I can see it. I turn onto my side. I can see myself in the mirror and no one else would notice but I’m changing. The Archer starts up and the pulse of it charges me; I feel my heart beating in time with it. The song is taut like a bow and by the time it ends, I’m ready to fly like an arrow. Which is exactly what I do when Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince kicks in. It’s the most ‘Taylor Swift’ song on the record. Homecoming queens? Check. Prom dresses? Check. Pageant smiles? Check. And then comes Paper Rings. Try staying miserable when you’re listening to this – bet you can’t. It has the most upbeat chorus I’ve heard in my life which is exactly why I need it soooo much and why I play it again and again and again. Listening to it is like being caught in a perfect moment.

And I really need a perfect moment…

Find out how Ayley got here. Start N-N-N-N-Nineteen from the beginning.

Or read the next Taylor Swift chapter.