Song of the Day #4,259: ‘Only the Young’ – Taylor Swift

I’ve had a complicated relationship with Taylor Swift over the past ten years. She is an extremely talented songwriter and performer who too often gives in to her worst tendencies. Something holds me back from embracing her completely.

This might seem like an odd comparison, but my reaction to Swift reminds me of my reaction to Quentin Tarantino. His movies are undeniably great, but he can’t help but slip in a few moments here and there that turn me off and keep me from buying in entirely.

My feelings about Swift evolved quite rapidly last month when I watched the Netflix documentary Miss Americana, directed by Lana Wilson and featuring behind-the-scenes footage of Swift throughout her career, mostly during the writing and recording of her most recent album, Lover.

I understand that a movie like this is designed to generate sympathy for its subject, but Miss Americana doesn’t play like propaganda. It offers a very personal look at the highs and lows of a life lived under a microscope from a very young age. And it showcases a maturity and self-awareness in Swift that she also demonstrated in the songwriting on Lover.

At one point in Miss Americana, Swift says that stars get stuck at the age they first became famous. That concept explains so much about an artist who sold seven million copies of her debut album when she was only 16 years old. Her realization of that phenomenon says even more about the relevant artist she has become.

I can sing the praises of Miss Americana for many other reasons — its exploration of Swift’s difficult decision to speak out politically; its documentation of her songwriting process; its raw look at the pain caused by the ugly run-ins with the idiot Kanye West. Instead, I’ll just encourage you to watch it. It gave me a whole new level of appreciation for a great artist.

Speaking of which… today kicks off a two-week Taylor Swift series during which I will rank her seven albums and highlight a couple of non-album tracks. Today’s song appeared in Miss Americana and was written as a call to arms after the 2018 midterm election.

[Verse 1]
It keeps me awake, the look on your face
The moment you heard the news
You’re screaming inside and frozen in time
You did all that you could do
The game was rigged, the ref got tricked
The wrong ones think they’re right
You were outnumbered this time

But only the young, only the young
Only the young, only the young
Can run
Can run
So run, and run, and run

[Verse 2]
So every day now
You brace for the sound you’ve only heard on TV
You go to class, scared
Wondering where the best hiding spot would be
And the big bad man and his big bad clan
Their hands are stained with red
Oh, how quickly they forget

They aren’t gonna help us
Too busy helping themselves
They aren’t gonna change this
We gotta do it ourselves
They think that it’s over
But it’s just begun

Only one thing can save us
Only the young (Only the young)
Only the young (Only the young)
Only the young (Only the young)
Only the young
Only the young (Only the young)
Only the young (Only the young)
Only the young (Only the young)
Only the young
Only the young (Only the young; Don’t say you’re too tired to fight)
Only the young (Only the young; It’s just a matter of time)
Only the young (Only the young; Up there’s the finish line)
Only the young
Can run

Don’t say you’re too tired to fight
It’s just a matter of time (Can run)
Up there’s the finish line (So run, and run, and run)
Don’t say you’re too tired to fight
It’s just a matter of time (So run)
Up there’s the finish line (And run, and run, and run)

Only the young
Only the young
Only the young

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,259: ‘Only the Young’ – Taylor Swift

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I’m glad you are giving Swift another look. As I have written before, I always felt that you were being too hard on both and her music, your impressions being colored by the intense public scrutiny that fed into pet peeves found in her music. It will be interesting to see if your perspective will change as you explore Swift’s discography looking through a different lens after watching the documentary.

  2. Maddie says:

    As a life long Swifty, I always love to see the appreciation for her on your blog. This song is great and Miss Americana was such a powerful documentary. I think it’s always been easier for me to see who Taylor is through all the media twisting and scrutiny because I discovered her as a young girl and grew up alongside her music. So I’m glad for the opportunity for everyone to see her in that more nuanced and (usually) favorable light.

  3. The Cool Guy (Daniel) says:

    Very excited for these next two Taylor centered weeks! She is an artist who I consider to be one of my favorites throughout and because of all of her genre shifts and her coming into her own as an adult. I need to watch this documentary! I’ve heard great things about it, I’ll get to it this Spring Break. I can’t say this is my favorite song from her, but I do love that she’s become so politically involved and is using her voice to promote meaningful change.

    I’m very eager to hear your favorites and opinions and see how close they are to mine!

  4. Amy says:

    Have always loved Swift but did appreciate the documentary providing even more insight into an artist who has always let her fans in (she is famous for sharing behind the scenes footage of her recording songs for her albums, snippets from her journals included in liner notes, etc.)

    A note on the song… why do “Only the Young Run” so blindly in the direction of the candidate who better not screw up this election the way he did the last one!! 😉

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