Song of the Day #4,421: ‘exile’ – Taylor Swift feat. Bon Iver

Continuing my countdown of the songs on Taylor Swift’s folklore

#12. mad woman

A trademark Taylor Swift kiss-off song — this one at least partially about the battle with Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta over ownership of her early material — that works better than most because of the mood created by its minor-key piano line.

#11. illicit affairs

This elegant beauty traces the painful arc of a secret love affair, ending with the powerful lines “Don’t call me kid, don’t call me baby / Look at this idiotic fool that you made me / You taught me a secret language I can’t speak with anyone else / And you know damn well for you, I would ruin myself a million little times.”

#10. exile

A duet with Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver), this powerful song looks at a failed relationship from both sides (something Swift does a few times on this album). Bon Iver was one of two unexpected collaborators on folklore, the other being The National’s Aaron Dressner, who co-wrote nine tracks and served as one of the record’s producers.

[Verse 1: Justin Vernon]
I can see you standing, honey
With his arms around your body
Laughin’, but the joke’s not funny at all
And it took you five whole minutes
To pack us up and leave me with it
Holdin’ all this love out here in the hall

[Chorus: Justin Vernon]
I think I’ve seen this film before
And I didn’t like the ending
You’re not my homeland anymore
So what am I defending now?
You were my town, now I’m in exile, seein’ you out
I think I’ve seen this film before

[Post-Chorus: Justin Vernon]
Ooh, ooh, ooh

[Verse 2: Taylor Swift]
I can see you starin’, honey
Like he’s just your understudy
Like you’d get your knuckles bloody for me
Second, third, and hundredth chances
Balancin’ on breaking branches
Those eyes add insult to injury

[Chorus: Taylor Swift]
I think I’ve seen this film before
And I didn’t like the ending
I’m not your problem anymore
So who am I offending now?
You were my crown, now I’m in exile, seein’ you out
I think I’ve seen this film before
So I’m leaving out the side door

[Bridge: Justin Vernon, Taylor Swift & Both]
So step right out, there is no amount
Of crying I can do for you
All this time
We always walked a very thin line
You didn’t even hear me out (You didn’t even hear me out)
You never gave a warning sign (I gave so many signs)
All this time
I never learned to read your mind (Never learned to read my mind)
I couldn’t turn things around (You never turned things around)
‘Cause you never gave a warning sign (I gave so many signs)
So many signs, so many signs
You didn’t even see the signs

[Chorus: Taylor Swift & Justin Vernon, Taylor Swift]
I think I’ve seen this film before
And I didn’t like the ending
You’re not my homeland anymore
So what am I defending now?
You were my town, now I’m in exile, seein’ you out
I think I’ve seen this film before
So I’m leavin’ out the side door

[Outro: Justin Vernon & Taylor Swift]
So step right out, there is no amount
Of crying I can do for you
All this time
We always walked a very thin line
You didn’t even hear me out (Didn’t even hear me out)
You never gave a warning sign (I gave so many signs)
All this time
I never learned to read your mind (Never learned to read my mind)
I couldn’t turn things around (You never turned things around)
‘Cause you never gave a warning sign (I gave so many signs)
You never gave a warning sign (All this time)
(So many times) I never learned to read your mind
(So many signs) I couldn’t turn things around (I couldn’t turn things around)
‘Cause you never gave a warning sign (You never gave a warning sign)
You never gave a warning sign
Ah, ah

5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,421: ‘exile’ – Taylor Swift feat. Bon Iver

  1. Amy says:

    Never knew Bon Iver had another name, but then I never knew much about him at all before this song, which is the one I currently would have as #1 on the album. The metaphor of having seen this film before and not liking the ending is simple yet poignant, and I love what dueting with Iver brings out in Taylor’s voice. “illicit Affair” is another I’d put in a higher tier than you have ranked it here.

  2. Dana Gallup says:

    I would probably rank “Exile” higher as well. I find Bon Aver’s low Tom Waits-esque voice at the beginning a bit jarring, but he really comes through in the catchy chorus (“ so step right out…”), which I enjoy singing at random times around the house.

  3. Maddie says:

    Agreed on everything said so far. I’d have “Exile” a little bit higher. But I think our lists could end up pretty similar overall. I do need to listen to more Bon Iver after all this.

  4. The Cool Guy (Daniel) says:

    I forgot it was the most important week in “Meet Me In Montauk” history, so sorry I’m just catching up now. I agree with the placement of “Mad Woman” as much as I can sometimes get into edgy Swift, I prefer less dramatic songs in general. This moody song is another one I often skip. “Illicit Affairs”, however, I can not agree with at all in this low a ranking. That is one of my favorite tracks on the album for its beautiful production (the guitar plucking carries this track) and powerful lyrics. This song is also unique from all of Swift’s work before! That is why I guess we have opinions. I’m good with “Exile” being this low. Though it has some catchy moments, overall not my favorite and another moody song.

  5. Amy says:

    Another discussion we had that was prompted by your blog had me noting that as much as I love this song, it somehow feels out of place on the album, at which point Dana suggested that it could have been intentional… almost as if the song itself is in exile. 💗🤷🏻‍♀️

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