Song of the Day #4,420: ‘the last great american dynasty’ – Taylor Swift

A couple of weeks ago, I promised to write more about folklore, the surprise new release from Taylor Swift. Well, this week I’ll keep my word by ranking the album’s 16 tracks in order of my preference.

First, let me say up front that folklore is among the best work Swift has ever released. It’s either #1 or #2 on my ranked list of her albums (last year’s Lover claimed the top spot when I published that ranking back in March).

If folklore moves to the top of that list, it will be because — unlike every other album Swift has released — it has no “bad” songs. Swift has famously released questionable material as the advance singles of many of her albums, but the last-minute release and lack of radio-friendly material on this one kept her from repeating the mistake.

If Lover remains her best work, it’s because of that record’s greater variety of sounds and styles as compared to the decidedly downbeat folklore. Is it right for Taylor Swift’s “best album” to not feature a straight-up banger like ‘Cruel Summer’?

For that reason, I’ll likely give the slight edge to Lover and slot folklore as her second-best album. But that should in no way diminish this wonderful, and unexpected, achievement.

This week I’ll write a few words about each of folklore‘s songs as I count up from my least to most favorite.

#16. ‘epiphany’

As I wrote above, this album doesn’t have any bad tracks, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t trim it by a couple of songs. This one has the least going on melodically, and its placement near the end of a consistently mid-tempo album doesn’t do it any favors.

#15. ‘hoax’

See above. The last song on a long album, ‘hoax’ needed more oomph to keep folklore from ending with a bit of a whimper. If I were advising Swift (and clearly she has done just dandy without me), I’d have told her to make this song and ‘epiphany’ bonus tracks.

#14. ‘my tears ricochet’

Producer Jack Antonoff called this song, along with another on folklore, his favorite of their collaborations. I like it quite a bit but not as much as some of the great songs they’ve worked on together. I love the line “If I’m dead to you, why are you at the wake?”

#13. ‘the last great american dynasty’

It’s a testament to this album’s greatness that a song this good is in my lowest tier. Swift tells the (fictionalized) story of Rebekah Harkness, who lived in the Rhode Island Holiday House that Swift now owns. She celebrates fierce, independent women who have a “marvelous time ruining everything.”

[Verse 1]
Rebekah rode up on the afternoon train, it was sunny
Her saltbox house on the coast took her mind off St. Louis
Bill was the heir to the Standard Oil name and money
And the town said, “How did a middle-class divorcée do it?”
The wedding was charming, if a little gauche
There’s only so far new money goes
They picked out a home and called it “Holiday House”
Their parties were tasteful, if a little loud
The doctor had told him to settle down
It must have been her fault his heart gave out

And they said
There goes the last great American dynasty
Who knows, if she never showed up, what could’ve been
There goes the maddest woman this town has ever seen
She had a marvelous time ruining everything

[Verse 2]
Rebekah gave up on the Rhode Island set forever
Flew in all her Bitch Pack friends from the city
Filled the pool with champagne and swam with the big names
And blew through the money on the boys and the ballet
And losing on card game bets with Dalí

And they said
There goes the last great American dynasty
Who knows, if she never showed up, what could’ve been
There goes the most shameless woman this town has ever seen
She had a marvelous time ruining everything

They say she was seen on occasion
Pacing the rocks, staring out at the midnight sea
And in a feud with her neighbor
She stole his dog and dyed it key lime green
Fifty years is a long time
Holiday House sat quietly on that beach
Free of women with madness, their men and bad habits
And then it was bought by me

Who knows, if I never showed up, what could’ve been
There goes the loudest woman this town has ever seen
I had a marvelous time ruining everything

I had a marvelous time ruining everything
A marvelous time ruining everything
A marvelous time
I had a marvelous time

5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,420: ‘the last great american dynasty’ – Taylor Swift

  1. Maddie says:

    Excited to see the rest of your ranking! I agree with the bottom two, but already have some disagreements with “Tears” and “Last Great” which are near the top of my own ranking. Still, no bad songs on the album!

  2. Dana Gallup says:

    I join the choir of accolades for this wonderful surprise release from Swift.

    And I knew you would be hearing disagreement from Maddie on placing this song and “Tears” in the bottom tier. We had both songs on repeat when she was visiting us. I’m sure Amy will be chiming in as well because this is her favorite on the album.

  3. Amy says:

    I don’t think I’ve heard all of the songs enough times to yet declare my own ranking, but after several listens to the album as a whole (and several more of individual songs), my initial opinion of “epiphany” and “hoax” is nearly identical to yours. My appreciation for “Tears” deepened immensely, as Maddie and Daniel played it on repeat and sucked me into the poignant interpretation that it is meant for Scott Borchetta. Finally, as Dana indicated above, “Dynasty” was my early favorite, and each time I hear one of my favorite lines – “ The wedding was charming, if a little gauche/ There’s only so far new money goes,” I smile anew at how much Taylor conveys with that Gatsbyesque image.

    Looking forward to reading your impressions of the rest of the album, which I agree is among her very best.

  4. Peg says:

    This will be my first listen to this album that I have heard such raves about. Also I was intrigued by Maddie’s beautiful drawing so I’m looking forward to the journey. Love the Gatsbyesque reference in Amy’s comment. I can picture those houses on the cliff when we visited Rhode Island and “the rich are different then you and me” as Scott Fitzgerald said p

  5. Daniel J Gallup says:

    Can’t disagree with this list so far. While I love the lyrics of “my tears ricochet” and there are some very powerful moments such as the line “Cause when I’d fight you use to tell me I was brave” that punch a hole in my heart, I’m not crazy about the production at all. Specifically the intro with the ominous scattered “oohs” I could do without. I think if this song was done in a similar capacity to “illicit affairs” with contemplative guitar and stripped down production that it would be more effective, but it seems a little heavy handed the way it’s produced.

    Those are my thoughts on “my tears ricochet” and why I agree with its semi low placement. However, as for the placement of the song of the day “the last great American dynasty”… I also agree. Although I do find the subject matter interesting and I’m always here for strong, rebellious woman who happen to have owned the same house as this strong rebellious woman. I again am not a huge fan of the production and though I like the song it’s not one I can listen to on repeat which I can say for many of the songs on the album. Eager to hear the rest of your ranking!

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