The colors flashed bright across the screen.

Florida 1 news, channel 7

Jill turned her face away when Jenny’s picture appeared, an old photo of her smiling face surrounded by green and orange letters. Margo picked up the remote, turning the newscaster’s voice down to a soft buzz.

“She’s seventeen,” Jill sniffled.

“Almost.” Margo remembered the countdown on the calendar in Jenny’s room.

“That’s how old you were…”

“I remember.”

It was twenty-three hours since Jenny had been reported missing. The protocol was to wait until someone had been missing for twenty-four until police began searching, but Spring Hill was a small town and everyone knew the Allans. They began searching at hour six.

“She was supposed to come home.”

“I know, Jill.”

“She always obeys her curfew-“

“I know.”

The grandfather clock in the hall rang six times, echoing in the empty house.

“We’re halfway there,” Jill said quietly, sinking back into the couch with eyes fixed on nothing in particular.


“They say if you don’t find them within 48 hours then you probably never will.” Jill’s voice cracked. Margo pulled the quilt up around her and draped her legs up over the arm of the chair.

“They’ll find her.” She picked at a seam on the arm where the leather had begun to peel from all the times she had slid her legs over like that.

“Stop it,” Jill barked quietly. Her eyes flashed at Margo for a moment, then back at the distance she was staring into. Margo wondered what Jill was thinking, or if she was thinking anything at all. The way her eyes glazed over she could tell Jill was entirely somewhere else. Maybe she was stuck in a dream of opening the door to see Jenny safely snuggled in her bed, of her sneaking in the back door in the middle of the night saying she had lost track of time. Maybe this was all a dream. Margo realized she had been in an entirely different place for a moment too, and decided to let Jill remain that way.

Margo gazed at scrawny, fourteen-year-old Jenny in the photograph on the mantle. Margo was just a teenager when Jenny was born, and she thought of that day often. She had been bitter throughout most of Jill’s pregnancy, because once again everything was about Jill and Margo was in the shadows. But when Margo saw Jenny for the first time all those feelings dissipated.

She tried to picture what it looked like to see Jenny walk through the kitchen door, what it might’ve looked like if Jenny came home. But Margo hadn’t been to Jill’s in a while and Jenny seemed to look different every time Margo saw her. Margo turned away from the old photo on the mantle and looked over to the one on the table next to the couch. That was more what Jenny looked like now. Hair bleached with streaks of blonde, face thick with mascara and dark lipstick and always wearing jeans with holes up the thighs. Sixteen going on seventeen, or sixteen going on thirty-two as Jill always told people. “She’s growing up,” Jill would say, “She’s going through a phase.” Jill never had any phases, but Margo knew what phases were. And these never seemed like them; they just seemed like Jenny.

Margo brought her wandering eyes back to her lap, to the snag in the blanket that lay over her legs, thinking of what happened fifteen years before. She could not bear the thought of Jill going through another tragedy. Margo would never admit it to Jill, but she had always blamed herself for the accident in their childhood home. Sure she didn’t start the fire, no one started the fire. It happened on its own. Jill made it out with skinny little Jenny, her tiny face gray from the ash. But Margo came out alone. She only saved herself. She wanted to run back into the house, she wanted so badly to brave the flames and run back up the crumbling stairs to get Mom and Dad out. But when she saw Jill’s face as her tears slid down onto the blanket Jenny was wrapped in, she couldn’t get herself to move.

Jill always had Jenny wrapped in that blanket. The only time she didn’t was at the funeral. Jenny was wearing a tiny black dress, kicking her feet and gnawing on a rubber toy. Margo remembered seeing her two little teeth poking through her gums as she smiled even in the sea of black, and how she didn’t cry while teething like most kids do. She always seemed content. “Your parents were wonderful people, they will be missed,” people offered as they left after the service. Jill nodded and thanked them, but Margo held her tongue. All she could think to say was “Then why did this happen?” but she didn’t. It wasn’t something Jill would’ve said, and she always seemed to find Jill as the standard she had to hold herself to. When she was young, she found it annoying and unfair that people always compared her to her older sister; but once she got older, it became too much effort to fight it. She just let happen, she learned to stop caring who people wanted her to be and be content with who she turned out to be. And she became content with who Jill was, too.

The thing she wanted most in that moment was to keep staring at Jenny’s photograph and let Jill stay sedentary there. She looked so small, crumpled into the couch and partially covered with the blue fleece blanket from the end of Jenny’s bed, entranced by the blank wall across from her. If it were up to Margo, no one would’ve knocked on the door at that moment. But someone did.

“It’s the sheriff, Jill. Open up.” He banged a few times with his fist. “Jill? Are you home?” Margo stood up and turned the brass knob slowly, afraid of what might be on the other side of the door.

“Oh. Hello, Margo.” He seemed surprised to see the younger of the Allan sisters, almost disappointed.

“Mr. Donaldson, please come in” Margo nodded her head as she swung the door open for him. There was nothing else out there, just him. No ambulance, and no black bag, which made her breathe a quiet sigh of relief. But also no Jenny, which made her inhale again.

“How’ve you been, Margo?” Sheriff Donaldson always had a hard time making polite conversation.

“Fine,” she replied, voice void of emotion and eyes stuck on the manila folder he held in his hand. “And you?” He ignored her attempt to return his nicety.

“May I?” he turned to Jill, waking her from her daze. He gestured toward the spot next to her, and Jill nodded.

“Yeah.” Jill’s voice was still distant. He seemed unsure. “Uh, sure, sure, of course. Please.” Jill forced her face into a smile, a smile Margo hadn’t seen from her big sister since Jenny was a baby.

Sheriff Donaldson plopped down on the couch beside Jill, flipping open the folder. He exhaled deeply before speaking up.

“So… We still don’t have a clear lead.” Margo could see Jill’s shoulders sink. “But we might have something.” Margo scooted to the edge of the chair. “A resident saw a girl matching Jenny’s description early this morning.”

“Where?” Margo snapped.

“Near State Road 55. Almost to Weeki Wachee, edge of the county” the sheriff answered.

“What was she doing all the way out there?” Jill furrowed her brow.

“Let’s go.” Margo shot up out of the chair, grabbing her jacket from the coffee table and throwing it on. Sheriff Donaldson just looked at her, silent. “Come on.” Her tone sharpened.

“We can’t just go driving around Weeki Wachee.” He almost chuckled. “It’s mostly swamp out there anyways, the roads are mush.”

“How much longer can we just sit here?” Jill spoke up, eyes still fastened on the blanket draped across her lap.

“It’s not gonna help anyone,” Margo added.

“You two can’t go out there looking,” Donaldson stood up, looking down at Margo like a dog who wouldn’t stop barking.

“Then you can escort us,” Margo huffed, storming out the door.


It should’ve taken them less than thirty minutes to get to the swamp town, especially with Margo’s lead foot. She should’ve left Sheriff Donaldson in the dust with that lead foot too. But of course, the one-lane road was painted red with brake lights.

“There shouldn’t be traffic,” Margo barked. It was the first time either of them had spoken since they got in the car. Margo was wary of saying anything really, worried that the Sheriff could read her lips from the car behind them. Every time she glanced in the rearview mirror, he seemed to be glaring at her.

Margo knew she was never the favorite of the Allans. She had always been strong-willed, with a head of dingy auburn that came nowhere near Jill’s glowing orange. And being the youngest made her feel like she was a phantom that disappeared behind the weight of her sister, like people noticed her sister but never noticed her, even though Jill was always more reserved.

Margo certainly liked her sister best out of the family and it didn’t take her long to figure out that most people agreed. She was personable and polite, and out of the two of them she was never the one to receive instructional books on manners or “How to Act like a Lady” from relatives for Christmas. These feelings of inferiority stuck with Margo from her childhood, and made her sympathize with people like Sheriff Donaldson, who had never been the nicest person either. His wife took their daughter and left him when Margo was young, and from that point she always remembered him as rough and unapproachable. He was kinder before the rough stuff happened, which Margo knew was at least a little true of herself too.

After an hour and a half the Sheriff pulled off to a road with dusty, cracked pavement. Margo slammed on the brakes and turned off the highway to follow him to the trailer park down the road, looking over at Jill and cringing as she took in the scene around her. Jill did not cringe back. Jill’s face had gone white, so white that it was almost blue. Margo watched her eyes, her pupils contracting as all trace of optimism drained away. Her breathing slowed until it was silent behind the rattling of the car engine. Margo was scared Jill might faint, but she was never one to make a scene. She just sat there like a doll, not even a twitch until the road ended and the sheriff stopped in front of them. The car lurched forward as Margo pushed hard on the brakes, the front wheels sliding into a crack in the asphalt. Jill’s blueish skin turned to green, and Margo pushed the back of Jill’s head forward so she would throw up on the floor of the car and not on her own lap. Margo jumped out of the car, trying to keep herself from following suit. She bent over, taking in quick chugs of the dank fall air. Sheriff Donaldson hopped out of his car and pulled Jill outside. He sat her down in his passenger seat, and shut the door of Margo’s car with a cringe.

“She okay?” he asked Margo.


Margo followed him as he walked up to one of the mobile homes and rapped his fist on the door. Immediately the door swung open, leaving just the screen door between them and the almost-toothless woman in the house.

“Hello, there-” Donaldson started.

“Not here” the woman snapped at him.

“I’m sorry ma’am, one of my partners was here a while ago-”

“She not here. She went” the woman stopped, pointing vaguely in the direction of the coast.

“Towards the water?” he asked.

“Small water. Not ocean.” She slammed the door closed with a grunt before he could finish thanking her. He turned around to Margo.

“About as much as they got from her before.” He forced a half smile, his eyes trailing down to the plank missing from the steps leading up to the door. All Margo could do was nod her head, her eyes following his. Everything comes back to missing something, she thought. In that moment she thought herself profound, but only in that moment.


The car hummed louder on the way home, maybe because there was less traffic or maybe because Margo wasn’t listening out to make sure Jill was still breathing. She was glad the Sheriff offered to take her home. The thought of spending another minute watching Jill’s face turn paler than paper made her want to throw up herself.

Margo was happy to remain in silence the whole way back. She spent the first twenty minutes or so racking her brain for anywhere, anywhere in the world Jenny could’ve gone. There weren’t many people in Spring Hill who could’ve done something to hurt Jenny. There weren’t many people in Spring Hill at all. Margo didn’t get the feeling that Jenny had been kidnapped, either. If she were entirely truthful, she would’ve admitted that she always thought Jenny was too much like herself. Stubborn, head filled with dreams of a different place and a different life, just rebellious enough to make Jill worry but not enough to make her a problem child. But after those twenty minutes, she didn’t think of Jenny. She thought of Jill, when she graduated high school and announced to the family that she would never be having children because she didn’t want them to have to go to the dumpy little high school in their town, because she didn’t think she’d ever be able to get out there. One of those came true — she didn’t get out. And after this, Margo thought, even if she did move away, she’d never really leave Spring Hill behind.

Margo often wondered if Jill thought about Jenny’s dad much, if she even remembered making that declaration at the table or if she realized he had ruined some of the first plans she ever made for her life. The first few months of their marriage were fine, but after a while Jill stopped being able to recognize him at all. By the time she found of she was pregnant, she already knew he was going to leave. And as everyone expected, finding out about the baby was the last straw. He never called, never sent money, never inquired about Jenny even once. The only time Jill ever brought him up was to say that Jenny must’ve gotten her stature from him, because by the time Jenny was fifteen the top of Jill’s head only came up to her shoulder. Jenny was always lanky and had legs a mile long, only just recently starting to grow into her long limbs. She was beautiful, just like her mother, and Margo noticed it even more as she spent more time with Jenny.

Until Jenny started to mature, she never really showed much interest in her aunt. But it always seemed like she started to realize the same time Margo did that they were very much the same. Margo assumed it was because Jenny had finally begun to understand herself, and she was jealous of how young Jenny was to be thinking big thoughts like that. It took a tragedy for Margo to even realize she had things like that to figure out. Sometimes Jenny talked about deeper things with Margo, since she never really talked to her mom like that and her aunt was the only other one around.

There were often instances when Margo thought herself to be Jenny’s friend more than anything, especially when they dove together. Diving was always big in Spring Hill; there was never much else to do. Naturally Margo had learned to dive when she was only four or five, and Jenny followed suit. Once she was old enough to use adult-size gear, she would walk to Margo’s up the road, all her gear in tow, and beg and beg until Margo would agree to take her out. They started with shallow lakes, but as Jenny got better and their trips became more frequent, they moved to deeper and more ambitious dives. Jenny would always come out of the water glowing, her light eyes bright with adrenaline and her skin flushed.

“That was amazing,” she would say as drank in the fresh air. “Maybe we can make it farther next time.” Margo missed seeing that look on her face, all her cells ablaze with excitement. Suddenly the hazy clouds and the road before her faded from her vision like dust, and all Margo could see were Jenny’s eyes. She began to cry, alone in the car, for the first time since Jenny disappeared. And for a short time, it helped some.

Her sobs were cut off like the slice of a knife when she pulled in the driveway. Her eyes fell on the door of the shed as she drove up to the house. It was cracked open, just enough that she could tell it hadn’t been shut properly. When she looked closely she could see the lock hanging open. Jill never let Jenny have the key to the shed, she always kept it safely fastened to her keychain that read “World’s Best Mom.” But Margo remembered a few days prior when Jill had said she must be going crazy, because she was sure she had left her keys on the table by the door and they were nowhere to be found.

When Margo made it up the driveway she screeched the car to a stop and flung the door open. She bolted towards the shed but slowed down once she came up to the door, suddenly afraid to open it. She pushed it lightly with her fingertips so it creaked open slowly. Immediately she could see an empty hook where one of their diving suits hung. Jenny always talked about going out by herself, Margo thought, about what it’d be like to be surrounded by utter silence and stillness, alone with her mind. And then Margo understood.

“I know where she is,” she breathed. “I know where she is, I know where…” Her voice became louder as she sprinted out of the shed towards the house. She made it back to her car just as Sheriff Donaldson was helping Jill out of his.

“Jill! Jill!” Margo yelled as she ran up towards them.

“What? What, Margo?” Jill began to panic.

“I know where she is, I-I know, I know where she is,” Margo panted.

“Know what?” Jill looked at Margo with wide eyes. “How do you, how do you know? Where? Where?”

“You know that place she always talks about, that place they shut down when the people died? That dive site…the underwater caves?”

“You don’t think…” Jill hesitated.

“She’s there. I know she is. She was talking about it the other day, about doing the hardest dive in the state. It was on her bucket list I think, I-I have to go look-”

“But people died down there, why would she want to go there? You can’t go, what if she didn’t go down there?” Jill said with worry.

“What if she did?”


This time there was no traffic going out towards the coast. Margo was in the car alone again, but she wasn’t crying. She was nervously tapping her fingers on the wheel as she raced past the speed limit, glancing back in her mirror about every thirty seconds to make sure she wasn’t being followed. She had to do this for Jill, she owed her that much. If there was any chance, even a possibility of Jenny being down there, she had to look. She had to.

She arrived to Weeki Wachee after not too long. Margo didn’t know exactly where Jenny’s dive site was, but she knew it was somewhere in that swamp village. After driving in circles through the only two streets that went through the town, Margo pulled over to a woman walking down the sidewalk.

“Hi, uh, the dive site? Is it near here?” Margo stuttered.

“Keep down this road. You’ll run into it. But don’t go,” the woman said.

“Why?” Margo questioned.

“Most don’t come back.”

Margo went anyways. Per the woman’s directions, she followed the same street down for a mile or two until she couldn’t go anymore. The road ended in a clearing of trees, with a thin dock jetting out into the expanse of water. Margo hopped out of the car, ready to continue, when she saw the sign posted at the start of the path. It read, Stay away! There is nothing down here worth dying for! The picture of the grim reaper on the sign glared at her, it’s black, empty eyes trying to convince her not to go on. She felt her stomach twist and churn, her body’s warning against the danger ahead. And then she saw the jacket. The little pink hoodie tossed at the base of the sign. It was the one with the blue and green “J” Margo had embroidered on the front when she first learned how to sew. Jenny was thirteen at the time, and kept telling Aunt Margo how much she loved it. Even though Jenny must’ve realized by the time she was fourteen that it was rather poorly done, it was still her favorite sweater.

“Jen…” Margo breathed. She felt a wave of nausea, and was thankful for the loss of appetite that had left her stomach empty. She felt her pace quickening and sweat beading up on her neck, and squeezed her hands into fists until her nails began digging into her palms. She had to go down there. For Jenny. For Jill.

Margo opened the car door and pulled out the diving gear she had hastily thrown in the back seat in her frenzy to get away. She turned towards the water. She knew at any moment someone could pull up behind her, having learned the location of the site from Jill. Margo slowly unzipped her jacket, tossing it in the backseat before slamming the door shut. She shivered as the wind caught, only a wetsuit keeping her from the cooling November air. She pulled the tank over her shoulders, a movement that had always been effortless for her but in that moment was strangely difficult. It was like her muscles were turning to slop, her vision tunneling and her toes beginning to tingle. She yanked the straps of the tank so it was tight against her body and breathed as deeply as she could in attempt to remain conscious. She took another breath in and held it as she started forward, not letting it out until she neared the end of the mossy dock.

She stopped for a moment and looked around. There was a big tree next to the water, a tree that had clumps of mold growing on the side of it. Margo’s stomach churned again. She looked back towards the water and the ringing in her ears began to fade away as she focused herself. When it did, she heard it. The chorus of sirens and breaks screeching and car doors flying open and slamming shut. She could hear the voices singing a unison of stop and don’t go any farther and you’re gonna get hurt. She took another step closer to the edge.

Margo’s head was foggy when she scooted to the end of the dock. The dock disappeared into long wooden steps leading to the surface of the water, with a sign post next to them that read “Eagle’s Nest.” Margo remembered Jenny talking about this place, about how it was the most amazing dive in all of Florida and maybe even all the world. Margo had asked if this was true, why she hadn’t heard of it before. Jenny had explained that it was probably because no one had ever gone past a certain point in the labyrinth of caves that lay under the swampy surface, and most people who even reached that point didn’t come out alive. Why the thought of this dive exhilarated Jenny so much, Margo never understood.

Jenny was always passionate, and when she decided she wanted something she wouldn’t give up until she got it. Margo knew she should’ve seen it coming. Jenny was never really afraid of anything, and Jill always said it was just because she was raised in a tiny town where the people were nice and nothing bad ever happened. There had only been one death in Spring Hill as long as the Allans lived there. It was an old man whose wife thought he had eyes for another woman, so she picked up her things and moved into the inn down the road. He messed up his blood pressure pills, the ones she usually set out for him, and he didn’t make it through the first night without her. Margo usually laughed at that story, but she didn’t find it funny anymore.

Margo unhooked the flippers from the side of her tank, sliding them on her feet and pulling her goggles down over her eyes. She pulled the mask from the tank and strapped it over her face, and feared for a moment she might fall over from the lack of oxygen. She stepped down the staircase slowly, the wood slates creaking from the pressure of each step. It wasn’t warm down there, like most bodies of water in Florida were, but everything around her was wet. She couldn’t tell if it was just the swamp humidity or if she was sweating with anticipation, but her body was soaked from head to toe.

In front of her was just an expanse of black. The sun had fallen behind the trees that surrounded the lake, and any light that did reach the water was sucked in and devoured. If it hadn’t been a story passed around the diving community, no one ever would’ve known what was down there. From what Margo knew, it was an elaborate network of caves that seemed to have been dug first and later filled with water. It just kept twisting and turning until divers would completely lose any sense of direction, and then there was the point of no return: a huge pit in the middle of the web of tunnels, sinking down farther than any other point in the cave. No one was really sure if anyone had made it past that point, or even to the bottom of the pit, because anyone who made it close was discovered dead. The whole idea of it made Margo uneasy, and she silently wished she had brought something tough to clamp her teeth down on so all the blood wouldn’t rush out of her head.

When she made it down to the last step she heard them close behind. She knew the sheriff would’ve found her eventually, but she had hoped it would be after she had already gone under. Some of the cops were yelling to stop, some just calling out her name. But none of them were Jill’s voice or Jenny’s voice or anyone’s who mattered to Margo. She felt her pulse rising and rising, but not because of all the cops in her pursuit. Her view of the water and the expanse of swamp trees around it was beginning to melt away, but this time it was not because she was forgetting to breathe. Everything she looked at just morphed into Jenny’s face, into the curves of her cheeks and her big bright eyes. She was all Margo could see.

In what seemed like a missing gap of time, Margo ended up in the water. She didn’t remember jumping in or switching on the oxygen, but somehow the surface was above her and she was breathing steady. She pulled the cord out from the back of her suit and hooked it to one of the posts holding up the dock. The cord extended with her, leaving a trail back to the shore, as she began her descent into the consuming darkness.

Jenny always dreamt about places like this. Margo sometimes heard people call it the Eagle’s Nest, but mostly people called it the Sinkhole. For all Margo knew, it could’ve all been legend of what lay down there. When Jenny began diving regularly with Margo, the place had just opened up from being closed for four years. She spent hours over that summer researching the best places to dive in Hernando County, and the rest of Florida really. The first moment she mentioned the Sinkhole she was turned down.

“You’re not going there,” Jill had told her.

“But they reopened it. It’s not closed off anymore.” Jenny had argued.

“Why do you think they closed it in the first place? People died there, Jen.”

Margo remembered Jenny being bummed at her mother’s decision, but Jenny was so devoted to her mother that, even through her rebellion, she always listened. She never even heard stories about her father, so Jill was her everything. And she was Jill’s everything.


Margo could feel the pressure rising as she got deeper. Being down there gave her a sick churn in her stomach. It was something like the nausea she had when she first started diving. She couldn’t have been more than nine or ten when her dad taught her to dive. He tried to teach Jill too, but Jill was always scared she’d get stuck under. It never scared Margo. And that was always one of the reasons Margo saw so much of herself in Jenny, and why it always worried her.

The deeper she went, the less familiar the feeling in her stomach became. It was not like

the pressure she was used to feeling when she dove. At 50 feet down, she had to squeeze through a fifteen-foot-long tunnel that was only a couple feet in diameter. She knew this was just the beginning, but for some reason she felt like once she entered the cave she wouldn’t come back. But down she went, deeper and deeper and deeper. There was a wide open space for the next hundred feet down, and once she hit 150 feet deep, her head began to throb. The tank still read ¾ full. It must’ve been because she hadn’t gone that deep in a while, Margo thought. Since she lost her parents, the only times she really dove were with Jenny. Only recently had Jill allowed Jenny to go out by herself on small dives, so Margo sort of stopped diving in the past few months all together.

She missed being down there. It was serenely quiet, unlike anything above the surface. It had always been Margo’s safe place where she could think about the things she was scared to think about anywhere else. She remembered going diving for the first time after the fire, the only place she could think to go where she wouldn’t be able to feel the tears come and go. Her sobs would just get washed away in the currents. She knew she’d be safe from fire down there as well. She went down there when she needed to clear her mind, to relax, to be surrounded by something familiar that she could understand. She thought it had become the same sort of place for Jenny, too.

It seemed like an eternity for Margo to dive the next 50 feet down. She had reached the beginning of the labyrinth that she half expected didn’t even exist. The expanse of water she started in had shrunk to a tunnel just tall enough for her to stand up in. There was still the faintest glow that stretched down from the surface, leaving a green shadow behind her. But she rarely looked back. She had to get Jenny, that was all. She couldn’t stop even for a moment and look around. One minute she wasted was another minute Jenny was gone.

Soon enough the light behind her faded, and everything was just black. Her little headlamp didn’t do much to illuminate the expanse of twisted tunnels. Strangely enough, Margo wasn’t scared down there at all. Even though the caves curved sharply ever few yards, she wasn’t concerned with what lied around the corner. And even though the dive site was open again, she never really heard of anyone going down there since those people died a few years back. She didn’t know who the people were, but the place had lost its reputation in all of Hernando’s diving community. Margo guessed that Jenny didn’t understand that.

She kept looking back at the meter on the tank. She seemed to be sinking slower than when she had started, though the cave had gotten much steeper. Breathing started to get more difficult, but Margo pushed forward. She came to the edge of a valley in the cave, the ground jutting down far below where her eyes reached. There was no edge in sight. The only way to go was down. The point of no return, Margo realized. As soon as she stopped, her meter beeped. 200 FEET. That was the deepest her suit was built for. She had come that far, though. She couldn’t give up on Jenny. Jill would keep going, so Margo had to. She pushed off the edge and dove towards the bottom.

It was incomprehensibly dark. Margo was used to dives being dark, but this darkness seemed to eat up her headlamp light before it reached a foot in front of her. She found the bottom of the cave when her hands crashed into it. She grunted in pain, feeling her knuckles split open from the rock. She cradled her busted hand and stopped to try to find anything visible around her in attempt to gain her bearings.

There was nothing to the left, just the wall of the cliff she had jumped off of. Then Margo looked to the right. Her pulse skyrocketed so quickly she thought her heart might burst, and if she wasn’t underwater, her screeching would’ve killed her own ears. The cave was illuminated just enough to see a pale face in the shadows in front of her. She begged her feet to push her away, away, as quick and as far as they could. But they didn’t. They stepped closer, because she had to see if it was really what she dreaded. And when the light hit her face, she could tell. Jenny wasn’t missing anymore.


After a moment, Margo’s heartrate began to slow from her initial shock. She tried to come to terms with what she was looking at, but the more she tried to tell herself that Jenny was dead the more she felt the scene in front of her getting father away. A moment before she could swear Jenny was close enough to touch, but suddenly she was miles away and she couldn’t reach her arms out far enough. Jenny’s body began to sink under her, like the ground of the caves had split open to swallow her up. Her vision began to narrow, like cataracts were forming. And then there was a burst of pain. The back of her head smacked against something hard. The cave ceiling, she realized, looking up to see she had floated sixty feet up to the top. She looked back down to see Jenny where she should’ve been, stuck against the wall down at the bottom.

Suddenly her pace picked up again, her eyes cleared, and she was flailing through the water to get back down to Jenny. By the time she got back down to the bottom her tank meter was beeping like crazy, flashing CAUTION pressure critical. She could hardly hear the noise in the midst of yanking on Jenny’s body. She had to bring it, she had to bring her body out of that hellhole. But Jenny’s tank was somehow wedged into the cave wall and would not budge. Margo pulled and pulled, shaking her body around like a doll but not moving her an inch. She couldn’t get her fingers still enough to unclip Jenny from her tank, and she had to leave the tank on in case maybe she wasn’t really gone yet.

Margo tugged for as long as her strength allowed her, and eventually collapsed next to Jenny, arms still on hers. Every inch of her body shook with hysteria, her mind moving as fast as light but her thoughts coming like molasses. She rolled over and let herself hover at the base of the cave, looking up at the ceiling that wasn’t really that far away but seemed more impossible to get to than Mars or the Moon. She took the deepest breath she could of the impossibly thick air left in her tank. She could still hear the beeping of the tank meter faintly, but couldn’t quite recall what the beeping was for. After a moment she tuned it out entirely.

When she calmed down, her eyes still sharp and jumpy with panic, she could see something on the ceiling. The whole thing, probably forty or fifty feet wide, was covered in little white dots like stars. And the stiller Margo got, the brighter it became. The whole cave had an eerie glow, not like sunlight or starlight or moonlight. It was a light she hadn’t seen before, and she let out a breath as she stared up at it.

She didn’t take another breath after that. She glanced over at Jenny and saw for the first time that not only was her tank wedged into the rocks, but her pulley rope was wrapped around her waist and around rocks on either side of her. She had tied herself there. Margo began to laugh, not sure if it was because she was hysterical with shock or if she realized this was all some kind of cosmic joke that she had walked in on. She unclipped her rope and hooked it onto Jenny’s, keeping her tied down there just as Jenny was. It was beautiful, and slowly Margo could understand why Jenny had wanted to stay there. It made her forget about everything else.

She might’ve heard the beeping again as the tank flashed red with critical oxygen level, but her ears began to ring again as the blood stopped flowing. She kept her eyes up on the ceiling, and as her vision blurred to black she could see strange shapes forming from the lights and reaching down to her. She saw the eyes of her mother looking at her, and the twisted claws of monsters stretching down like death trying to grab her. Swirls of red light intertwined with blue and green and purple and wrapped around her neck, and she watched like an onlooker as the claws grabbed tight around her throat. She didn’t try to gasp for air, she was frozen and paralyzed and felt her veins filling with water and ice and flames all at once. The last thing she saw was a flicker of movement out of the corner of her eye as the whole cave glowed gold. She saw Jenny twitch at the waist and throw her head back, like she was being yanked forward. And then the darkness overwhelmed her.


When Margo came to she thought she was still in the cave. Her stomach and lungs were filled with water, and the pressure was building in her chest. Suddenly there was a slam against her ribcage, then another and another. The water came pouring from her mouth like a waterfall, covering the front of her and running down the sides of her face. Her eyes flung open and she took in a gulp of air that was so clean it felt foreign. First she saw the red and blue lights spinning in circles, then she saw the yellow. Yard and yards of yellow tape. She tried to sit up, to no avail. Her body was still frozen from shock. She moved her fingers around to feel the ground beneath her, running her wrinkled fingertips over the knots in the wood. Her feet were still in the water, and her diving tank was thrown on the ground next to her. All she understood was that she had somehow ended up on the dock.

“They followed your line and pulled you out” an unfamiliar voice blared in her ringing ears. “You were probably wondering how you got out.” Actually, she wasn’t. She was only wondering about Jenny.

“Nitrogen narcosis,” another voice spoke up.

“I’ve heard of cases like this… never seen one myself though.”

“Scary. Makes you all kinds of crazy. I hear it’s like losing your mind. You can’t think straight and you don’t even realize you’re drowning. And hallucinations. Some insane stuff you see.”

“That’s what most of the casualties are here, aren’t they?”

“Probably. Never any signs of struggle.”

And then the voices vanished. Margo wasn’t sure how long she stayed like that, or what they were doing rather than checking on her, but they let her lay there long enough to see the sky change from aqua to fuchsia to purple. When she finally had the strength, she lifted her foggy head up off the wooden steps and looked around. There really was yellow tape everywhere, and three ambulances and five fire trucks and all the cop cars Spring Hill had. Margo’s eyes trailed off to her tank that still lay beside her, and her gaze followed her pulley rope from where she had tied it to the dock to its end. It was still hooked to the other tank, which lay empty and dented a few yards away. Just above it was a gurney. The black leather bag was on it, zipped up but still laying there like there was a chance it would open up and Jenny would come out. There was a figure standing beside the body, hunched over and shaking with sobs. Margo squinted until her eyes were clear and she could recognize the wavy, graying hair. Sheriff Donaldson.

Margo glanced around to the rest of the scene around her. There were a hundred people all walking in different directions, some of them in Hernando County’s signature gray, and some in navy blue with big yellow letters and gloves. One of the grays reached down to help her up, wrapping a blanket around her and giving her a cup of water and two blue pills demanding she drink. She obeyed, and a hand began pushing her back, guiding her to the white-clad EMTs waiting by an ambulance.

Then, in the sea of gray and blue and yellow, she saw a flash of pink. Jenny. Her sweater was draped over the edge of another ambulance, one of the sleeves dragging on the dirt ground. Her eyes trailed up from the jacket to the identical scene she had seen fifteen years before. Jill was curled up in a fire blanket sitting on the back ledge of the ambulance, face wet with tears. Before she had been clinging to a crying jumble of blankets, little fingers flailing as Jill remained still with grief. But this time her hands only held a sleeve of that pink sweater. She looked frail and her face had aged, Margo noticing for the first time the toll of her thirty-six years on her skin. Her sunset hair had started to be broken up by bits of gray and she had these little lines around her eyes, just faint enough that Margo noticed them but no one else probably could. Jill looked up from where her hands lay in her lap to meet Margo’s gaze. They stayed there for a moment, letting the empathetic bond they’d always had kindle as they tried to comprehend what was going on around them. That bond was the only thing that felt real.

Margo attempted to mouth “I’m sorry,” but wasn’t sure if her lips had actually moved. Her mind had only begun to clear, and the pills she took had calmed the throbbing in her head but kept her thoughts slow and jumbled. But even if she hadn’t said anything at all, her sister could always tell exactly what she was thinking by her eyes. Jill’s countenance softened as she read Margo’s mind, understanding why she felt she had to go after Jenny so brazenly. Her quivering lips stilled for a moment as she responded with a silent cry, “It’s okay. I forgive you.” For the first time since the fire, Margo felt the burning weight of guilt lift off her chest. She had done it, she had done all she could. There was never anything more than that.

Margo kept her gaze locked on Jill, despite every possible commotion that surrounded them. She knew her sister’s face well, and despite the tears on her cheeks that glittered in the flashing lights, the face Jill had at that moment made the pit in Margo’s stomach a little less deep. “I forgive you.”

And finally, Margo let go.


I used to be jealous of this notebook, watching him scribble in it and stare at the pages when I wished he was staring at me. Now I hold it tight in my hands like his never will again.

His little black notebook, as well-guarded as he was. I imagined he was writing in it about me, and after the funeral, when his dad decided I should have it, I assumed I was right. But here I am flipping through it again, wishing it was more like the little black book my mother used to keep before her pursuits of heroin overpowered her romantic ones. At first, all that filled the void left in me by Carter’s death was heartbreak. But now there is this obligation. Which, strangely, weighs heavier on me than the loneliness.

Carter’s List for an Ultimately Epic Life:


I’m already screwed.

2. Read 20 books before turning 20**

Doable, I suppose.

3. Beat Corinne in Just Dance

Maybe it was better when my name was absent from the notebook.

“He’ll live through you now, Corinne,” Spencer said after the funeral. How? I wanted to ask. How can I live like he would’ve? He was everything I am not. But I just looked blankly at my foster-sister and willed the tears to stop.

It’s been a week since then, and my eyes aren’t swollen anymore.

16. Ride your bike instead of taking the bus**

This one he had told me about. Is that what the stars mean?

“Do it with me, Corinne,” he had yelled, pulling my bike out of my bio-mom’s side-yard.

“Shhh, you’ll wake the She-Wolf!” I smacked his arm, peeking through the window to make sure Train-Wreck Brandi was still asleep on the other side of the wall. “Found out this week she needs, like, thousands of dollars to get her uninsured self into rehab, and I’m not tryna kill her vibe even more.”

He laughed, lowering his voice. “Come on! Maybe it’ll give you that ‘glowy skin’ you always want.”

“You don’t think my skin is glowy already?” I put my hands on my hips.

He rolled his eyes. “If it wasn’t, I don’t think they woulda made you a semi-finalist in that model search contest.” I smiled as I watched him fiddle with the rusted chain on my bike, trying to get it back in gear after years of neglect. At least it’s just a piece of metal, not my kid.

My fingers trace where he scribbled in the margin next to number sixteen, “Started Friday the 18th!” By Saturday afternoon, he was dead. Maybe if I said yes, I would’ve gotten hit instead of him.

I turn the page quickly.

23. Marathon all the Harry Potters

That, I can do.

I close the notebook and yell down to Spencer. “Hey, Potter Head!”

“What?” She looks up from her homework as I walk downstairs into the kitchen.

“I’m finally ready,” I say.

“Really?!” She jumps out of her chair, squealing as she runs into the family room. “Trig can wait!” She lunges onto the couch and turns on the DVD player. “We finally wore her down, Harry!”

She sits in reverent silence until halfway through the second movie. “So,” Spencer asks me, “what made you finally want to enter into the wizarding world?” She laughs. “Just cause you love me so much?” I don’t respond, and she looks over at me. “What?”

She pauses the movie when she sees my face. “Is it, did…did Carter want to watch them?” I nod, reluctantly holding up 2 and 3 on my fingers. “23?” I pull the notebook out of my sweatshirt pocket. She sits up when she sees what it is, reaching her hand out but stopping short. “Do you mind if… can I?” My eyes stay fixed on my lap as I hand it to her. “I didn’t know you had this.” She grabs it carefully. “Did John give it you?”

Yes, I want to say, that the wrinkles in the paper were from John’s tears as he handed me his dead son’s prized possession. All I can do is nod.

“Okay,” Spencer exhales. “There’s a lot of stuff on this list. You gonna do all of it?”

“All except the first thing.”

She nods. “One day, you will.” She smiles as she scoots over onto the chaise next to me. “But until then, we got a lot more Hogwarts on our agenda.”

When we get to Deathly Hallows it’s 6am, and Spencer’s sipping coffee to keep me company. I’m bored of the movies, but I can’t sleep. I’ve hardly been sleeping at all.

“This coffee’s making me pee,” she sighs as she slides off the couch. “BRB.”

Ding. I look down at my phone that’s sitting on top of the notebook.

Dear Corinne,

Congratulations! You have received the second-place title in the 6th Annual Young Model contest. Please visit our offices 9-5 Monday through Friday to finalize your contract and receive your $20,000 cash prize.

I bolt upright. The sound of Carter’s name catching in my throat stands alone in the silent house until I run over and bang on the bathroom door.


“Hold on!”

“Spencer! Open up, I just won $20,000.”

She swings the door open with a gasp, still pulling her pants up.

“That modeling contest he helped me enter.” I exhale. “I’m America’s…second…next top model.”

“OMG, Corinne!” she screams, hugging me tightly.

“Now I can finish the list.” I breathe.

She pulls back. “You’re gonna go to New York?”

“The one impossible thing on there…it’s not impossible anymore.” I almost smile. “The contract’s valid in LA or New York. This is a sign.”

Spencer’s response is cut off by the bedroom door opening downstairs. I squeeze her hand before running down to greet my adoptive-mom.

“Guess who won $20,000 and is going to be a model in Manhattan?” I step back to see her wide eyes.

“You’re moving to New York?”

“Yup. Getting out of this hellhole. And,” I exhale in relief, “putting 3000 miles between me and Brandi. Can’t wait to see her try to tell me again that I don’t have ‘beauty or brains’ once she sees me on a billboard.”

“At least you have a bio-mom to run away from,” Spencer mumbles.

Mom exchanges looks with her foster-daughter before looking back to me. “Well,” she takes a deep breath, hugging me again. “Congratulations, mi amor.”

“I’m heading downtown this morning to the agency office to get my check,” I say. Mom smiles, and Spencer tries to. Is that what I look like?

I sigh as we crawl through the afternoon traffic on the 170N.

30. Skydive

Really, Carter? I flip to the next page as I wait for the Sherman exit.

31. Meet a celebrity (preferably a HOT one)

Well, I think, I am a model now.

Alone in the back row of the bus, I examine the check again. We could both be meeting celebrities in New York with this money.

That evening, I walk out of the bathroom after washing the city bus off me to see Spencer looking at the notebook.

“Sorry…” she drops it. “It was on our nightstand. I just…”

“You woulda peeped when he was alive if you had the chance.” I sit on the bed next to her.

“True,” she laughs. “He always kept it so secret.”

“Well, it’s ours to read now.” I lay my head on her shoulder as she reopens it.

“‘Thirty-four. Hitchhike to Malibu.’ Interesting.” She flips the page. “‘Thirty-five. Camp on the beach.’ Isn’t that illegal?”

“Not in Malibu, apparently.”

“Takes care of our weekend plans,” she smiles.

“It’s fine, Spence. You don’t have to do this stuff with me.”

“You think I’m letting the next Vogue cover-girl camp alone in pothead territory?” She shakes her head. “Gotta take advantage of all my time with you before you trade-in microwave meals with me for dinner parties with Gigi Hadid.”

I wave at Spencer from the table as she leaves for school the next morning. The morning light pours through the windows onto the corners where the black has worn off.

47. Get out of Sun Valley

As soon as the check clears.

48. Make things right with Mom**

He did make up with her, last year. Maybe this one was meant for me too.

49. Donate to charity

Guess he was going for two of my birds with one stone. One impossible, never-going-to-happen stone.

I slam the notebook down on the kitchen table, overwhelmed with the thought of facing the charity case that’s been haunting me since I first got put in the foster system.

“What’s wrong, Mija?” Mom asks as she walks in the door with groceries.

“Nothing,” I mutter, but my body overpowers my will and I start sobbing.

She rushes over, dropping the bags and hugging me tightly.

“I can’t, Mama. I can’t.” My chest heaves.

“Can’t what?” I point to the book. She squeezes me even tighter.

“I promised I was never gonna go back once I turned 18. Two years is not long enough to prepare me to see her.”

“Oh, Corrina,” she strokes my face. “You have been so strong…”

“But I can’t even finish more than three things for him.” I throw my hands up.

“Did he ask you to do all this?” I can’t answer. “Life is for the living,” she says. “He’d want you to live your life…Not his.” She strokes my hair. “But, if there was only one thing in here that he’d want you to do…” She pauses. “Just because you have me, it doesn’t make her go away.” I nod. “What is it, number 40…?”

“48,” I say. “And 49, too.” She chuckles.

“It’s not just for him. You know Spencer would give anything to have a chance like this with her mother.” She kisses my forehead. “You can still do your modeling here…New York will always be there. Brandi won’t.”

The sun is setting by the time I dry my tears and arrive at an all-too-familiar stop. Roscoe Boulevard is empty, and I haven’t missed Carter as much as I do right now. Last time I was here, he was by my side.

The lawn is overgrown with weeds, and the metal gate screeches as I open it. I guess the sound wakes her because she’s already standing in the open doorway when I get to the porch.

My voice wavers. “Get your things, Brandi.”

“What is this, Corinne?” When she steps forward into the last bits of sunlight, I can see the bruises below the rolled-up sleeves of her bathrobe. She throws her hands up. “Another one of your ‘Instagrammer’ lectures?” She groans, making up for my silence. “What’ya got there, huh?”

Avoiding her gaze, I step forward to show her the check. She tries to snatch it out of my hand, but I pull it away. “Now that I can pay, one call to my social worker and you’ll get put in rehab against your will. So please, just…” I finally meet her bloodshot eyes. “Let me help you, Mom.”

I wrap my sweater around me, flipping through the last few unread pages in the waiting room while they check her in.

59. Catch a fly ball at a Dodger game

66. Actually help an old lady carry groceries

73. Land a kick-flip**

80. Learn how to play a song on guitar

99. Fall in love******

Finally, the key to what the stars mean.


Heart pounding, I turn the page to find #100.

Congratulations, Carter!
You made it to the LAST ITEM, which means your life is 99% epic. Now, you finally might just be worthy of completing the last, BIGGEST goal…

100. Marry your beauty queen, Corinne. ❤

Sitting alone in a cold rehab clinic, for the first time since I lost him, I actually smile.

Guess I made it to the end of the list after all.


I’m 24, and this year will be my, well, 24th Valentine’s day single. I’ve never been one to sit around and mope while everyone else is smelling red roses in candlelight…maybe because I actually don’t like roses and conventional “romantic gestures” seem really boring and anticlimactic to me.

Sure, love certainly has its perks. And I know I’ll be a sappy girlfriend some day. But I’m young, and I actually love being single. And I LOVE music. So why waste time sharing one side of my Airpods to listen to John Legend and Marvin Gaye (ew) when I could be blasting some sick electropop beats with the people who I know will always share my taste in music: me, myself, and I?

This Valentine’s day, I wanted to celebrate my singleness AND pay homage to my recent almost-relationship that led to a sort-of breakup (and the little twinge of frustration that I still taste in the sweet freedom of my solitude). Cycling through bubblegum pop, alternative pop-rock, and even some Kpop – featuring tracks from Pop Queens like Taylor Swift and Charli XCX, and up-and-comers like Cyn and Astrid S – here is a chronological pop playlist of all the songs you’ll need to represent (and treat) the five stages of romantic grief this February.

(And make for a wickedly-fun single V-day.)


1. Drinks – Cyn

2. Want U Back – Cher Lloyd

3. Robyn – Dancing On My Own (For even MORE fun than the amazing original, check out Elle Fanning’s cover of this song as appears in the movie Teen Spirit!)


4. How to Be a Heartbreaker – MARINA (and the Diamonds)

5. Crying in the Club – Camila Cabello

6. Elastic Heart – Sia

7. Hard Times – Paramore

8. Blank Space – Taylor Swift

9. Maniac – Conan Gray

Astrid S

10. Dance Dance Dance – Astrid S

11. Devil On My Shoulder – Kelsy Karter (More rock than pop, but this is SUCH a fun song, I had to include it.)



12. Army of Me – Bjork

13. Bad Blood – Taylor Swift, ft. Kendrick Lamar

14. The Baddest – K/DA

Katy Perry

15. Hot n Cold – Katy Perry

16. I Did Something Bad – Taylor Swift

17. Hate Me – Ellie Goulding, ft. Juice WRLD

18. Catch Me If You Can – Kelsy Karter (If you’re looking for a revenge fantasy song, here it is.)

19. I Knew You Were Trouble. – Taylor Swift

20. Break Free – Ariana Grande, Zedd

21. Uh-Oh – Cyn

Ariana Grande

22. Don’t Call Me Angel – Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, Lana Del Rey

23. Break Your Heart Worse – Crimson Apple

24. Look What You Made Me Do – Taylor Swift


Taylor Swift

25. This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things – Taylor Swift

26. Primadonna – MARINA (and the Diamonds)

27. Such a Boy – Astrid S

28. enemy – Charli XCX

29. Terrible Ideas – Cyn

30. Sorry – Justin Bieber

31. Afterglow – Taylor Swift

32. One Last Time – Ariana Grande

33. Stay Away – Charli XCX

34. Never Really Over – Katy Perry


35. Taking Me Back – LANY

36. Stockholm Syndrome – One Direction

37. Paper Love – Allie X

38. Problem – Ariana Grande, ft. Iggy Azalea

39. Just For A Moment – Gryffin, ft. Iselin

Allie X

40. Downtown (2020) – Allie X, ft. Della Casa


Kim Petras

41. Icy – Kim Petras (One of the best pop songs of our generation!)

42. Antisocial – Ed Sheeran, ft. Travis Scott

Evie Irie

43. Bitter – Evie Irie

44. forever – Charli XCX

45. REMEDY – Alesso, ft. Conor Maynard

46. Porsche – Charli XCX, ft. MØ


47. Chandelier – Sia

48. breathin – Ariana Grande

49. Tears – Charli XCX, ft. Caroline Polachek

50. you broke me first – Tate McRae (The Gryffin Remix of this song is also amazing!)

51. I Miss Myself – NOTD, ft. HRVY


52. Green Light – Lorde

53. Rain On Me – Lady Gaga Ariana Grande



54. Peach -Broods

55. Gorgeous – ILLENIUM, ft. Blanke and Bipolar Sunshine

56. Alone – Avril Lavigne

Selena Gomez

57. Dance Again – Selena Gomez

58. Over Him – Evie Irie

59. Yeah, No. – Elle Winter

60. So over You – Charli XCX

61. Look At Her Now – Selena Gomez

62. Anti Socialite – The Foxies


63. Number One Fan – MUNA (The ULTIMATE self-love song.)

64. Oh No! – MARINA (and the Diamonds)


Carly Rae Jepsen

66. Tonight I’m Getting Over You – Carly Rae Jepsen

67. Over Now – Calvin Harris, ft. The Weeknd

68. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Taylor Swift

Thanks for reading, and happy listening!



Even after my last article reviewing all the songs on folklore and evermore, I wasn’t ready to be done with Taylor talk.

While every Taylor Swift listener (Swiftie or otherwise) has a unique opinion on the highlights of her musical catalog, especially when it comes to which album era is best (which I’ll discuss another time), I wanted to share my personal take on Taylor’s thirteen best songs from her nine studio albums (plus my favorite video and a few deluxe-version-only honorable mentions).

Leave a comment after if you agree or think I’m totally crazy!


“I’d tell you I miss you, but I don’t know how / I’ve never heard silence quite this loud / Now I’m standing alone / In a crowded room / And we’re not speaking / And I’m dying to know / Is it killing you / Like it’s killing me, yeah / I don’t know what to so say / Since the twist of fate / When it all broke down / And the story of us / Looks a lot like a tragedy now…”

I’ll never grow out of one of my biggest teenage jams. Thanks for growing up with me, Taylor!


I will readily admit that I am a sucker for pop songs (especially Top 40 ones), so it came as no surprise that Style quickly became one of my favorites when 1989 first came out. The music video is also SO aesthetically pleasing, which only encourages my obsession.


Even before I became a huge Swiftie upon the arrival of Red, Back to December was a favorite of mine and has remained one of my favorites from her early albums.

Every time anyone says anything about the month of December, this song is inevitably stuck in my head for the rest of the day… which I’m not complaining about.


I will never forget the day this song came out. I was an average Taylor Swift listener, but she wasn’t one of my favorites yet.

And then I Knew You Were Trouble hit. And suddenly everything was different.

I probably listened to this song fifty times the first day it was out, and I was in shock over how much I loved it. I fell in love with Taylor that day and I haven’t looked back since!


“I can see the end as it begins / My one condition is / Say you’ll remember me standing in a nice dress / Staring at the sunset, babe / Red lips and rosy cheeks / Say you’ll see me again / Even if it’s just in your wildest dreams…”

While I loved Wildest Dreams from the first time I heard it, it was when I first watched Taylor’s performance of the song at the Grammy Museum that I truly fell for the bridge that made this track become a top-tier favorite for me…

“You’ll see me in hindsight / Tangled up with you all night / Burnin’ it down / Someday when you leave me / I bet these memories / Follow you around.”


I still stick to my belief that this is one of Taylor’s most unique songs. It presents betrayal and heartbreak in such a different way than the rest of her breakup tracks, yet still maintains that “diary-entry” quality that I love so much in her music.

For a more in-depth analysis of why I’m so obsessed with my tears ricochet, check out my ranking of all the songs from folklore & evermore. (Hint: mtr is at the top of the list.)

Cruel Summer mural in Brooklyn NY | Taylor swift lyrics, Taylor swift  songs, Taylor swift pictures

While I do love the lyrics to Cruel Summer, especially because they are super sad and set in an upbeat song, the reason why it is one of my ultimate faves comes down to the fact that it is just. so. catchy.

I LOVE the sound of Cruel Summer so much, and the fact that it also has one of Taylor’s strongest, best-written bridges EVER is just icing on my obsession cake.

“And I snuck in through the garden gate / Every night that summer just to seal my fate (Oh) / And I screamed for whatever it’s worth / ‘I love you, ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?’ / (He looks up grinning like a devil)”


Yes, I am jumped right on the bandwagon with the rest of the All Too Well cult following. But it is truly one of her strongest songs, so can you blame me?

“And maybe we got lost in translation / Maybe I asked for too much / But maybe this thing was a masterpiece / Till you tore it all up / Running scared, I was there / I remember it all too well / And you call me up again / Just to break me like a promise / So casually cruel in the name of being honest / I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here / ‘Cause I remember it all, all, all / Too well…”


Like with my tears ricochet on folklore, Taylor pushed the breakup-song boundaries even more with tolerate it on evermore.

This wasn’t my favorite song on evermore the first time I listened through it, but after a few days I couldn’t get it out of my head. And I still haven’t been able to shake it.


This Love somehow became one of my comfort songs during some of the hardest times in my life… thus it holds a special place in my heart. But the driving, poetic bridge is such a work of art that I think I would love it regardless.

“Your kiss / My cheek / I watched / You leave / Your smile / My ghost / I fell / To my knees / When you’re young, you / Just run, but you / Come back / To what you need…”


“And I know I make the same mistakes every time / Bridges burn, I never learn, at least I did one thing right / I did one thing right / I’m laughing with my lover, making forts under covers / Trust him like a brother, yeah, you know I did one thing right / Starry eyes sparkin’ up my darkest night…”

Call It What You Want quickly became one of my favorites and I’m still not over the sensitive lyrics, echoey background vocals, and trap beat.


“Put your lips close to mine / As long as they don’t touch / Out of focus, eye to eye / Till the gravity’s too much / And I’ll do anything you say / If you say it with your hands / And I’d be smart to walk away / But you’re quicksand…”

I literally went through about a four year period in which Treacherous was stuck in my head LITERALLY every single day. All I can say is that I had no complaints.

“Two headlights shine / Through the sleepless night / And I will / Get you, I’ll get you alone / You name has echoed / Through my mind / And I just / Think you should, think you should know / That nothing safe / Is worth the drive / And I would / Follow you, follow you home / I’ll follow you, follow you home.”


Ready For It…? was the most important reputation track for me, aside from I Knew You Were Trouble. Taylor had been gone for a long time, and at the shock of Look What You Made Me Do was still coursing through me.

But then, there was a new single. And it wasn’t like the first one. In fact, it wasn’t like ANY of her other songs. Or really any songs at all.

I kept thinking, how can a song be so exactly aligned to my music taste??? And then I started getting texts and mentions asking if I loved it once other people starting listening to it… I guess I’ve become predictable.

Taylor’s lyrical genius + a hint of EDM + a sick trap beat + a cyberpunk music video = all of my wildest dreams. I will take my stance on this to the grave, along with my Ready For It…? t-shirt and phone case.


“She lost him, but she found herself. And somehow, that was everything.”

Need I say more than that?


Thanks for reading! Let me know if you agree on any of these, and leave a comment of your personal favorites!


Anyone who knows me knows I am a die-hard Taylor Swift fan… I don’t even think I talk about her that much but I must give off the Swifitie aura because even people I hardly know just KNOW.

Thus, I get asked quite often what my favorite Taylor album is, and what my thoughts are on this new folklore/evermore era. I’ve heard mixed opinions from fellow Swifties, and, just like my opinion of her best album (which we’ll discuss another time), my opinions on the new Taylor aesthetic are kind of unpopular.

I have an (almost) equal appreciation for all Taylor’s albums… I have grown to love the different “eras” that have formed around each record, and love to see how her musical style and fashion tastes have developed over the years.

The folklore & evermore era is definitely the most unique of all her eras. While Fearless and Speak Now intersected on many fronts, and Red flowed to 1989 which flowed to reputation as her pop-based sound expanded.

But folklore stands on its own in Taylor’s catalog.

At least it did, until its little sister evermore came along.

With moody black & white and sepia tone photos of Taylor in big coats walking through foggy forests, folklore and evermore feature equally moody songs.

Unlike her previous work, these sister albums are grounded in piano melodies, soft acoustic guitar, and harmonies from the likes of The National, Jack Antonoff, and even Taylor’s long-time boyfriend, Joe Alwyn (a.k.a. William Bowery).

From “cardigan” to “willow,” here is a good-better-best ranking of all 34 tracks from folklore and evermore.
34. betty

I’m not much of a country girl, so the plucky guitar and harmonicas didn’t do much for me. Nevertheless, I can’t deny that betty has very cute lyrics and is a well-crafted country-folk song.

“If I just showed up at your party / Would you have me, would you want me?… I don’t know anything / But I know I miss you…”

33. dorothea

The melody of this songs screams young Taylor. While it’s quietly catchy, and the “uh-huh” repeated through the chorus is undeniably cute, I have a hard time connecting to songs that don’t make sense as stories being told by Taylor herself. I guess I’m just not into narrative songwriting… sorry Tay!

32. mirrorball

Bittersweet lyrics with themes of adjacent self-confidence and disappointment, mirrorball is a slow and steady track that serves as a great background for a coastal drive… but beyond that, it doesn’t excite me much. It is a pretty song, but I had a hard time understanding the hype.

“I’m still on that tightrope / I’m still trying everything to get you laughing at me…”

31. closure

I had high hopes for this track… I love anything that addresses closure or the lack thereof. I’m not sure if it was just the influence of The National, but even my highly-trained ear simply could not figure out the rhythm of this song. I can’t not sit on the edge of my seat through the entire song because I’m constantly trying to figure out when the percussion beat will match up with the melody…

…It never does. Am I missing something?


“When did all our lessons start to look like weapons / Pointed at my deepest hurt? / I hope she’ll be your beautiful fool / Who takes my spot next to you / No, I didn’t mean that / Sorry, I can’t see facts through all of my fury / You haven’t met the new me yet”

The raw, poetic honesty of the lyrics make up for the over-simplified backing of happiness. This song sounds more to me like things she is trying to convince herself of than anything else… and, in breakups, there is certainly a time and place for that.

“I can’t make it go away it go away / By making you a villian…”

29. evermore (ft. bon iver)

“Gray November / I’ve been down since July…”

If those aren’t the most relatable lyrics for 2020.

(Except I think we’ve all been down since March.)

I was definitely expecting the “evermore” to be something more like “I’ll love you forevermore,” rather than “I had a feeling so peculiar / That this pain will be for evermore.”

Certainly not as strong as the Bon Iver duet from folklore, evermore is still a chill and beautiful song… rich with sadness and the feeling of winter. I wish the whole song was the same tempo as the quickened middle of the song… but overall I won’t complain!

28. epiphany

I have an unpopular take on the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on our society, so epiphany does not resonate with my lyrically. (Not going to open Pandora’s box any further than that.)

Yet, this song is beautiful, with some incomparable melodies that peak in the bridge that I just cannot get enough of.

“Just a little glimpse of relief / To make some sense of what you’ve seen…”

27. marjorie

I love that Taylor pauses in the core of evermore to pay homage to her late grandmother.

“What died didn’t stay dead / You’re alive, you’re alive in my head…”

I love the bridge of this song, but overall it is mainly a song that I think Taylor needed to write for herself, rather than for her listeners. Which I am more than happy to indulge her in.

26. illicit affairs

“Take the road less traveled by / Tell yourself you can always stop…”

This song nails its subject matter so perfectly and poetically, it ends up just making me sad for those who get themselves caught up in affairs like this.

And for a singer who’s so famous for her bridges, this one ranks pretty high on the list of great bridges.

“And you wanna scream / Don’t call me “kid,” don’t call me “baby” / Look at this godforsaken mess that you made me / You showed me colors you know I can’t see with anyone else / 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…”

25. mad woman

Out of all the backing piano melodies between the two albums, this might be one of the best. It sounds exactly how it should – like a woman scorned plotting revenge as she walks alone through a dark, gloomy forest.

And I’m SO here for that aesthetic.

“Every time you call me crazy, I get more crazy / How about that … I’m taking my time, taking my time / ‘Cause you took everything from me…”


Taylor closes the folklore/evermore chapter perfectly with this subtly-nostalgic song, ironically saying goodbye to the cottagecore chapter of her career with a song about knowing when things are done and it’s time to move on.

“That old familiar body ache / The snaps from the same little breaks in your soul / You know when it’s time to go… / Sometimes giving up is the strong thing / Sometimes to run is the brave thing / Sometimes walking out is the one thing / That will find you the right thing…”

While this song clearly references scenarios she hasn’t herself experienced, like “20 years at your job / Then the son of the boss / Takes the spot that was yours,” elements of the song are clearly drawn from her own experience.

“15 years, 15 million tears / Begging ’til my knees bled / I gave it my all, he gave me nothing at all / Then wondered why I left / Now he sits on his throne in his palace of bones / Praying to his greed / He’s got my past frozen behind glass / But I’ve got me…”

Whether this verse is truly about Taylor’s backstabbing by Big Machine Records or not, there are certainly elements of her “past frozen behind glass.” It could mean the snippets of her life encapsulated in songs, or the memories of herself as certain times in her life that other people will always have of her, or even the millions of photos we all hold behind the “glass” screens of our iPhones. This poetic ambiguity is arguably what makes this song – and the rest of Taylor’s music – so magical.

23. invisible string

“A string that pulled me / Out of all the wrong arms, right into that dive bar / Something wrapped all of my past mistakes in barbed wire / Chains around my demons / Wool to brave the seasons / One single thread of gold / Tied me to you.”

After the many times I’ve listened to invisible string over the past few months, the more I’ve come to believe that this is one of the lyrically strongest tracks on folklore.

“Cold was the steel of my axe to grind / For the boys who broke my heart / Now I send their babies presents / Gold was the color of the leaves / When I showed you around Centennial Park / Hell was the journey but it brought me heaven…”

Another beautiful example of how well Taylor knows how to make a song simultaneously extremely personal and somehow nostalgic for every listener.

22. no body, no crime (ft. Haim)

If this song doesn’t give the strongest Goodbye Earl vibes ever, I don’t know what does.

“Este wasn’t there Tuesday night at Olive Gardеn / At her job or anywhere / Hе reports his missing wife / And I noticed when I passed his house / His truck has got some brand new tires / And his mistress moved in / Sleeps in Este’s bed and everything / No, there ain’t no doubt / Somebody’s gotta catch him out”

And why does the mention of Olive Garden somehow make this song even better?

I know I said I don’t like narrative song lyrics, but I bend my rules for Goodbye Earl and friends.

“Good thing my daddy made me get a boating license when I was fifteen / And I’ve cleaned enough houses to know how to cover up a scene / Good thing Este’s sister’s gonna swear she was with me / (She was with me, dude) / Good thing his mistress took out a big life insurance policy …. No, no body, no crime / I wasn’t lettin’ up until the day he died.”

21. long story short

long story short is the perfect peppy mix of closure from past mistakes and hope for the future. These themes are reminiscent of Lover, and the the upbeat, major key sound hints to Lover‘s bubblegum pop sound as well.

“Fatefully / I tried to pick my battles ’til the battle picked me / Misery / Like the war of words I shouted in my sleep / And you passed right by / I was in the alley, surrounded on all sides / The knife cuts both ways / If the shoe fits, walk in it ’til your high heels break…”

As Taylor tends to do, the lyrics in this song nod to other songs and eras of her journey, making the “long story” much shorter by briefly mentioning events and feelings that, in the past, she took entire songs like Wonderland, Look What You Made Me Do, and Getaway Car to explain:

“And I fell from the pedestal / Right down the rabbit hole (Wonderland) / Long story short, it was a bad time / Pushed from the precipice (Look What You Made Me Do/I Did Something Bad) / Clung to the nearest lips (Getaway Car) / Long story short, it was the wrong guy…”

“Actually / I always felt I must look better in the rear view (Breathe/White Horse)
Missing me / At the golden gates they once held the keys to (Look What You Made Me Do) / When I dropped my sword / I threw it in the bushes and knocked on your door (I Did Something Bad/Bad Blood) / And we live in peace / But if someone comes at us / This time, I’m ready.”

20. THE 1

“I hit the ground running each night / I hit the Sunday matinée / You know the greatest films of all time were never made…”

I still don’t feel like this song quite fits with the rest of folklore… I see the 1 almost as a sort of transition from Lover to the new era, with its upbeat tempo and major chord progression.

“I guess you never know, never know / And if you wanted me, you really should’ve showed / And if you never bleed, you’re never gonna grow / And it’s alright now…”

Beside simply being a fun and catchy song that attracts even one-off listeners, the 1 brings a sense of lighthearted nostalgia to anyone who’s had a “one who got away.”

“…if my wishes came true / It would’ve been you / In my defense, I have none / For never leaving well enough alone / But it would’ve been fun / If you would’ve been the one / I, I, I persist and resist the temptation to ask you / If one thing had been different / Would everything be different today?”

A question I think we all have at least once in our lives… If one things had been different, could everything be different?

19. seven

“Please picture me / In the trees / I hit my peak at seven feet / In the swing / Over the creek / I was too scared to jump in…”

The first verse of seven gives me serious “Bridge to Terebithia vibes.” But the second verse is my favorite:

“Please picture me / In the weeds / Before I learned civility / I used to scream ferociously / Any time I wanted…”

Already a hauntingly beautiful song musically, the lyrics to seven make it a chills-all-over-your-body kind of song. Taylor captures a poetic glimpse into the mind of a seven-year-old, who wants nothing more than to solve their friend’s problems.

“Sweet tea in the summer / Cross my heart, won’t tell no other / And though I can’t recall your face / I still got love for you / Pack your dolls and a sweater / We’ll move to India forever / Passed down like folk songs / Our love lasts so long…”

18. champagne problems

“Your mom’s ring in your pocket / My picture in your wallet / Your heart was glass, I dropped it / Champagne problems…”

Against the simple piano-led background, the exquisitely-written verses of champagne problems truly stand out.

“Your Midas touch on the Chevy door / November flush and your flannel cure / ‘This dorm was once a madhouse’ / I made a joke, ‘Well, it’s made for me’ / How evergreen, our group of friends / Don’t think we’ll say that word again / And soon they’ll have the nerve to deck the halls / That we once walked through…”

For someone who (as far as I know) didn’t go to college, Taylor sure nailed the feeling of seeing a new class of students take over the campus. To spend four years somewhere and as soon as its over suddenly watch strangers begin to make memories in all the places where your memories took place seems like a violation.

That feeling, mixed with the harsh reality of having to decide what to do with the rest of your life after graduation, makes this song hit even more close to home on top of the denied proposal that she sings about.

All the feels!!

17. the last great american dynasty

Now, I know I keep saying that I don’t like narrative song lyrics. But for some reason, The Last Great American Dynasty hit different. Maybe it’s the Gatsby vibe or the John-Mayer-sounding guitar, but whatever it is, I loved this track from my first folklore listen.

“She had a marvelous time / Ruining everything…”


There’s something about the hyperbolic nature of this song that makes it so great and so Taylor. With it’s folky instrumentation and subject matter, it’s quite reminiscent of Fearless and Speak Now… maybe this was her segway into Fearless (Taylor’s Version)?

“Did you ever hear about the girl who got frozen? / Time went on for everybody else, she won’t know it / She’s still 23 inside her fantasy / How it was supposed to be / Did you hear about the girl who lives in delusion? / Break-ups happen every day, you don’t have to lose it / She’s still 23 inside her fantasy…”

Maybe it was because I was a couple months out of being a heartbroken 23-year-old myself that this song hit close to home, but regardless it quickly became a favorite of mine as soon as the deluxe version of evermore was released.

Taylor demonstrates her expertise in lyric-writing yet again, with this bonus track holding its own next to evermore‘s lead single willow and cult favorite champagne problems.

“I’m sure that you got a wife out there / Kids and Christmas, but I’m unaware / ‘Cause I’m right where
I cause no harm, mind my business / If our love died young, I can’t bear witness / And it’s been so long / But if you ever think you got it wrongI’m right where you left me…”

15. cowboy like me

“And the tennis court was covered up / With some tent-like thing / And you asked me to dance / But I said, ‘Dancing is a dangerous game’ / Oh, I thought / This is gonna be one of those things / Now I know / I’m never gonna love again…”

I read an article the other day breaking down evermore, and I didn’t realize until I started reading that it was a total roast of the album. I happen to love it, and know lots of other people who agree… not sure why the article was so critical, as if the album sucking was a popular consensus. But beside that, one of the core issues they expressed about cowboy like me, an issue so great that they completely wrote off what they otherwise would’ve loved as an homage to Taylor’s country roots, was the fact that the song starts with the word “and.”

I had a physical reaction to reading that.

The first line is literally my FAVORITE part of the song. As a writer who loves to break the rules in the name of artistic license, I’m a sucker for poetry or song lyrics that start with “and” or “but.” I think it adds a level of depth to the story that follows… Like the singer is making it clear that the lyrics contained within the 4 minutes of the song do not lay out the whole story. For anything that is a real (albeit fictional) story, how could one song fit all the history and nuances of a relationship, especially one as outlandish and complex as the one written about in cowboy like me?

By starting with “and,” Taylor is saying, this is not where these characters began. They have brought baggage and past experiences with them, which will shape the decisions they make in the next 4 minutes and 35 seconds.

“I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve / Takes one to know one / You’re a cowboy like me
/ Never wanted love / Just a fancy car / Now I’m waiting by the phone / Like I’m sitting in an airport bar…”

While I’ve never been a fan of the country-folk sound, the rich narrative and the fluid meter of the lyrics (paired with the John-Mayer-esque guitar in the second half of the song), make cowboy like me irresistable.

“And the skeletons in both our closets / Plotted hard to mess this up / And the old men that I’ve swindled / Really did believe I was the one / And the ladies lunching have their stories about / When you passed through town / But that was all before I locked it down…”

A social commentary, country-folk narrative, and love poem all in one song? I want to be a cowboy like you too, Tay!

14. coney island (ft. The National)

“I’m on a bench in Coney Island / Wondering ‘where did my baby go?’ / The fast times, the bright lights, the merry go / Sorry for not making you my centerfold…”

There isn’t a whole lot to this song musically, but something about it sounds so serenely sad, like sitting on a bench by the ocean under a cloudy sky, and I think that’s exactly what Taylor was going for.

And the lyrics, with the strong rhymes and solid iambic pentameter in the chorus, coney island is a great casual listen that builds on the narrative of impending heartbreak from other songs on evermore like cowboy like me and hoax (notice that allusion with the word “coaxed”? almost as if The National is singing from the perspective of the subject of folklore‘s last track hoax?)

“The question pounds my head / ‘What’s a lifetime of achievement?’ / If I pushed you to the edge / But you were too polite to leave me / And do you miss the rogue / Who coaxed you into paradise and left you there? / Will you forgive my soul / When you’re too wise to trust me and too old to care?”

13. ’tis the d*** season

It’s hard not to fall in love at first listen with the softened electric guitar in this song. And the verses that mentioned Methodist churches and neighborhood schools ring true to anyone who is from a small or suburban town… which means it resonates greatly with me.

“Time flies, messy as the mud on your truck tires / Now I’m missing your smile, hear me out
/ We could just ride around / And the road not taken looks real good now / And it always leads to you and my hometown…”

This is a solid, nostalgic song… the title and subsequent lyrics, though, make it come off too crass to be a favorite of mine, as someone who only listens to the clean version of the album.

But I can’t deny that this song is a major jam, and as a self-proclaimed Grinch I consider listening to this song to be my yearly dosage of Christmas music.

“I won’t ask you to wait if you don’t ask me to stay / So I’ll go back to L.A. and the so-called friends / Who’ll write books about me, if I ever make it / And wonder about the only soul who can tell which smiles I’m fakin’ / And the heart I know I’m breakin’ is my own / To leave the warmest bed I’ve ever known.”

12. the lakes

As a major fan of “the poets” Taylor sings about in the lakes, this folklore bonus track stole my heart from the first listen.

“Take me to the lakes where all the poets went to die / I don’t belong, and my beloved, neither do you / Those Windermere peaks look like a perfect place to cry / I’m setting off, but not without my muse…”

For some reason I just love the use of “muse” by a woman describing her man… It’s a term traditionally only ever used to describe a woman, so when I first heard it I was very pleasantly surprised.

“I want auroras and sad prose / I want to watch wisteria grow right over my bare feet / ‘Cause I haven’t moved in years / And I want you right here / A red rose grew up out of ice frozen ground / With no one around to tweet it / While I bathe in cliffside pools / With my calamitous love and insurmountable grief.”

A catchy amalgamation of modern social commentary and allusions to Romantic poets, the lakes is one of my long-lasting favorites from folklore.

11. august

I didn’t really like august until folklore had already been out for a couple months…

I was actually offended when other Swifties were comparing august to the likes of Getaway Car and Cruel Summer (one of my fave TSwift songs of all time). But I kept hearing it while shuffling folklore, and after a few rounds the bridge of august would not get out of my head.

“Back when we were still changin’ for the better / Wanting was enough / For me, it was enough / To live for the hope of it all / Cancel plans just in case you’d call / And say, ‘Meet me behind the mall’ / So much for summer love and saying ‘us’ / ‘Cause you weren’t mine to lose…”

Ummm, hullo???


Nothing like a good ol’ hometown heartbreak to increase relatability. Taylor continues alluding to the importance of the city mall on evermore in the song coney island:

“‘Cause we were like the mall before the Internet / It was the one place to be / The mischief, the gift wrapped suburban dreams…”

Anyone who grew up in suburbia knows the truth of this simile, and this is one of the many places where the progressive narrative between folklore and evermore shines through.

Even some of the lyrics from the verses and chorus nod to other songs: “Salt air, and the rust on your door” is reminiscent of the last great american dynasty and gold rush; “August sipped away like a bottle of wine” uses a wine simile like the first verse of willow; and, of course, “Will you call when you’re back at school? / I remember thinkin’ I had you” ties into the Taylor-professed “trilogy” between this song, betty, and cardigan.

Beyond that, though, august is simply a beautiful work of poetry. It repeats back in the second bridge with similar lyrics as the first bridge, bringing the nostalgic song full-circle.

“Remember when I pulled up and said, ‘Get in the car’ / And then canceled my plans just in case you’d call? / Back when I was livin’ for the hope of it all, for the hope of it all / ‘Meet me behind the mall'”

And, of course, the dorky-faced excitement that Jack Antonoff had while playing this song in The Long Pond Sessions makes me root for august even more.

10. ivy

Like she tends to do, Taylor somehow read my mind while writing her new album.

Not ready to reveal too many secrets just yet, but let’s just say that this song and many other songs on evermore perfectly coincide with the story I am currently working on. Maybe I am biased because of that, and that’s why I ranked this song so high on my list.

But it’s also just a great song.

I love love love the chord progression, and the plucky guitar and backing vocals give this song a “secret cabin in the woods” sound. Which, I think, is exactly what she was going for with the tenth song on her second “cottagecore” album.

“How’s one to know? / I’d meet you where the spirit meets the bones / In a faith forgotten land / In from the snow / Your touch brought forth an incandescent glow / Tarnished but so grand / And the old widow goes to the stone every day / But I don’t, I just sit here and wait / Grieving for the living…”

The article I mentioned previously that made a big stink about cowboy like me starting with the word “and” also had a whole section dedicated to why the poetics of the lyrics to ivy didn’t make sense… and once again, I wholeheartedly disagree.

The article, entitled “Taylor Swift Could Use an Editor” (which has since been changed to “Taylor Swift’s evermore feels like a rough draft”), discusses her lyrics as though the journalist is some kind of grammar genius. If I could make only statement of criticism for that article, it would be, “Haven’t you heard of the saying, ‘Know the rules so you can break them like a pro’?”

“In ‘Tolerate It,’ a devastating note from one side of a dying relationship, the narrator describes how her acts of service (she even set the table ‘with the fancy s***’) earned responses as frosty as Dessner’s piano riff. The Antonoff anthem ‘Gold Rush’ pulses with the relatable pettiness of resenting someone for being gorgeous; in the delectable chorus, Swift’s voice surges from sarcasm to desire. The sighing ballad ‘Cowboy Like Me’ shows how Swift’s love for conspiratorial romances draws out her knack for detail and scenery. It even has a killer opening word: ‘and.'” (https://bit.ly/3nTVnY6)

If this journalist even went to college, which to me seems doubtful when taking into account their amateur “grammar Nazi” nitpicking, I doubt they took courses on editing (which is how I learned how and when to break grammar rules artistically). But aside from their lack of understanding in this regard, they also don’t seem to understand the poetic quality of evermore, which is the heart and soul of the album. And this is why they didn’t like the album at all.

Then they continue on to bash ivy: “Then there’s ‘Ivy,’ a thesaurus sing-along: ‘Your touch brought forth an incandescent glow / Tarnished but so grand.’ Any editor might wonder if these are signs of first-draft work. The album appears to have tumbled out quickly, and the exuberant public reaction to Folklore could have messed with Swift’s quality-control calculations.”

I beg your pardon?

Go read some Shakespeare sonnets or Emily Dickinson poems and tell me you don’t see one instance in which the poet uses synonymous words. I understand that “incandescent” and “glow” don’t necessarily both need to be used to portray the meaning, but by using the adjective of incandescent Taylor is describing in more detail what the “glow” of romance is like – not a safe, steady flame; not a spark barely bright enough to see; it is “incandescent,” bright with many colors almost like light through a prism. Doesn’t that add more depth of meaning, rather than just saying “your touch made me glow?” Not to mention that it takes extreme skill to write lyrics in iambic pentameter with the correct amount of syllables that fit the melody.

(Also, why would an editor “wonder” if something is a “sign” of something? Wouldn’t you just say “The editor saw a sign that this might be a first-draft work?”)

But back to ivy. While I never condone extramarital affairs, the bittersweet passion of this song is irresistible.

“Clover blooms in the fields / Spring breaks loose, the time is near / What would he do if he found us out? / Crescent moon, coast is clear / Spring breaks loose, but so does fear / He’s gonna burn this house to the ground…”

The choppy background harmonies during the bridge come across as something like a musical representation of looking back and forth, back and forth, whether that be checking over one’s shoulder or not knowing which way to turn. Is that not the message of the song? Seems to me like she’s continuing to home a skill I have seen in John Mayer since I realized the background music of Stop This Train actually sounds like a train chugging on the tracks.

I also love that she uses “one” instead of saying “how was I to know.” I can definitely see the influence of all the reading Taylor said she did during quarantine on her lyrics… this is a very old British way of writing, which makes the lyrics sound more intellectual and mature to me. And I think this is a time in her career and in her life to take steps in that direction.

“How’s one to know? / I’d live and die for moments that we stole / On begged and borrowed time / So tell me to run / Or dare to sit and watch what we’ll become / And drink my husband’s wine.”

All I want to do now is move to a cabin in the snowy woods and drink tea by a roaring fire and listen to this song. Mission accomplished, Taylor. Mission accomplished.

9. peace

It took a few months of folklore for peace to work its way into my heart…

“I’m a fire and I’ll keep your brittle heart warm / If your cascade ocean wave blues come / All these people think love’s for show / But I would die for you in secret / The devil’s in the details, but you got a friend in me / Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?”

This strikes me as one of the most true, autobiographical songs on either of the two new albums. We know because of the media and fans, Taylor (as an adult) never has and never will have a normal, “peaceful” life. I have always admired that she doesn’t complain about this… she simply accepts it as a fact of life and still expresses great gratitude for all that her career has brought her.

I think that’s why I admire so much her acknowledgment here: “I could never give you peace.” She knows that’s not something that will change for her, but she understands that it could be a deal-breaker for someone who wants to be in her life.

“‘Cause there’s robbers to the east, clowns to the west / I’d give you my sunshine, give you my best / But the rain is always gonna come if you’re standing with me…”

In The Long Pond Session Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff talk about how musically this song sounds very peaceful… But what I hear in the syncopation and soft pulsing background is a near-peace, an almost-there, a kind of on-the-edge-of-my-seat anticipation that will (hopefully) lead to happiness. But there is still a twinge of doubt and vulnerability. Which, of course, is a major theme of the lyrics.

“And you know that I’d swing with you for the fences / Sit with you in the trenches / Give you my wild, give you a child / Give you the silence that only comes when two people understand each other / Family that I chose now that I see your brother as my brother / Is it enough?”

From the little bit we know of Joe Alwyn, I think it is “enough” for him. But I guess we don’t really know for sure, do we?

8. gold rush

Like this hilarious youtuber, I too was “shook” by the smooth, slightly-electronic beat of gold rush. And then of course the lyrics. THE LYRICS.

“But I don’t like a gold rush, gold rush / I don’t like anticipating my face in a red flush / I don’t like that anyone would die to feel your touch / Everybody wants you / Everybody wonders what it would be like to love you / Walk past, quick brush / I don’t like slow motion double vision in rose blush / I don’t like that falling feels like flying ’til the bone crush / Everybody wants you / But I don’t like a gold rush…”

How she was able to fit with that many separate statements into just a few lines, AND still rhyme perfectly, is a mystery to me. Mad props, Queen Tay!

I also love how the second chorus doubles back to change the first by only a few words, yet entirely changes the meaning – taking back all the adventures the first chorus told us they had to reveal that they never happened, and never can. Tear.

“My mind turns your life into folklore / I can’t dare to dream about you anymore / At dinner parties / Won’t call you out on your contrarian wit / And the coastal town / We never found / Will never see a love as pure as it / ‘Cause it fades into the gray of my day old tea / ‘Cause it will never be…”

While gold rush goes by pretty quickly, it has been one of my favorites from my first listen. Just simply a catchy, bittersweet pop track.

7. exile (ft. bon iver)

Never been a huge fan of Bon Iver, but I must say this song is a work of art.

“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 defendin’ now? / You were my town / Now I’m in exile seein’ you out / I think I’ve seen this film before…”

Nothing snatches up my heart like a shift to minor key in the chorus… which is done masterfully in exile‘s chorus. I also LOVE when the first chorus and second chorus build on each other, but have different lyrics. Especially because the first is sung here by Justin Vernon and the second by Taylor, this dichotomy really stands out.

“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 leavin’ out the side door…”

Then, of course, the magnificent bridge from the Bridge Queen herself.

“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)…”

It’s kind of great, too, how the repeated bridge simply faded out and that is the end of the song… much more fun than repeating a verse, in my opinion.

6. hoax

“My only one / My smoking gun / My eclipsed sun / This has broken me down / My twisted knife / My sleepless night / My win-less fight / This has frozen my ground…”

As a total sucker for a good metaphor, from the first verse Hoax became one of my favorites. It is quite literally just a poem set to a pretty piano melody. And sometimes that is all a song should be.

“My best laid plan / Your sleight of hand / My barren land / I am ash from your fire / Stood on the cliffside / Screaming ‘Give me a reason’ / Your faithless love’s the only hoax I believe in / Don’t want no other shade of blue but you / No other sadness in the world would do…”

Yet, the bittersweet center of this delectable song is my favorite:

“You know I left a part of me back in New York / You knew the hero died, so what’s the movie for? / You knew it still hurts underneath my scars / From when they pulled me apart / You knew the password, so I let you in the door / You knew you won, so what’s the point of keeping score? / You knew it still hurts underneath my scars / From when they pulled me apart / But what you did was just as dark / Darling, this was just as hard / As when they pulled me apart…”

No compliment I could give would do justice to that bridge.

5. this is me trying

This is me trying was also one of my second-time-around favorites.

“They told me all of my cages were mental / So I got wasted like all my potential / And my words shoot to kill when I’m mad / I have a lot of regrets about that / I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere / Fell behind all my classmates and I ended up here / Pourin’ out my heart to a stranger / But I didn’t pour the whiskey…”

The intense syncopation (to the point where sometimes it almost sounds like she just completely off-beat) was a turn-off initially, but has come to be one of my favorite elements of this song. I think the tone of the song and the weird beat goes hand-in-hand with the narrative she has crafted in her lyrics:

“And it’s hard to be at a party / When I feel like an open wound / It’s hard to be anywhere these days / When all I want is you / You’re a flashback in a film reel / On the one screen in my town…”

With those uber-relatable lyrics and the beautiful strings to kick it up a few notches, this song has the perfect build-up that plays into the hopeful “trying” the POV character is doing. This song is quite unique, but I have come to love it so much. (Hence the top-five rating.)

4. willow

With a much different sound than the rest of the album, I still think willow started off evermore with a major bang.

“I’m like the water when your ship rolled in that night / Rough on the surface, but you cut through like a knife / And if it was an open-shut case / I never would’ve known from that look on your face / Lost in your current like a priceless wine…”

The article I shredded earlier also knocks the first verse of willow

“‘Willow’ opens with a gently plucked guitar riff creating a seesawing sensation, and Swift compares herself to water and her lover to a boat. So far, so fine. But for the verse’s emphatic final line, Swift uses an odd simile: ‘Lost in your current like a priceless wine.’
So, okay, her man, not her, is now the water. But: Are priceless wines commonly lost in currents? Like, is Swift referring to the Veuve Clicquot recovered from the Titanic? Or is she envisioning someone purposefully pouring wine into the sea on an expensive dare? Maybe I’m hearing the grammar wrong—is it that she’s lost in this lover in the same way a drinker might get lost in a drink?”

I happen to think that Taylor’s wine metaphor is consistent with the rest of her catalog and takes just the right amount of poetic license. Without putting forth any mental effort, I immediately gather from that lyric that the give-and-take, or “bait-and-switch,” of this relationship leads her to throw the best parts of herself, her deepest emotions and the core of her soul (the “priceless wine”) into the “current” (i.e. a strong force she has no control over) that is her lover. And while wine (especially a priceless one) should be able to lord the power to intoxicate over its beholder, even a whole bottle of alcohol is powerless against someone as wide and strong as a rushing river. I have been poring over the confusion this article displays with these lyrics, and the only thing I can think as that this journalist is, well, not bright.

“The more that you say, the less I know / Wherever you stray, I follow / I’m begging for you to take my hand / Wreck my plans, that’s my man / You know that my train could take you home / Anywhere else is hollow…”

Willow nails both the realities of falling into potentially one-sided or imbalanced love, and perfect meter and rhyme patterns. What’s not to love?

Plus its filled with straight-up lyrical gems. “Every bait-and-switch was a work of art” is a pretty irresistible line, as it “Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind.” And you know Taylor wrote “I come back stronger than a 90s trend” and smiled and said to herself, “I finally topped ‘Darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.'” Tbh, she did.

3. tolerate it

The only thing I’ve been hearing about tolerate it is that people either LOVE or HATE it.

I, personally, fell madly in love with it pretty quickly.

“I sit and watch you reading with your head low / I wake and watch you breathing with your eyes closed / I sit and watch you / I notice everything you do or don’t do / You’re so much older and wiser, and I…”

No matter what that stupid article says, I’m totally here for Taylor setting the table with fancy dishes as she contemplates the future of her relationship. Is it not the smallest details, the quietest moments that truly express the depth of our emotions? Especially when, later, she goes on to sing more about the dishes:

“I take your indiscretions all in good fun / I sit and listen / I polish plates until they gleam and glisten…”

The last minute or so of the song completely has my heart. I don’t know what else I can say beyond what the lyrics themselves say…

“While you were out building other worlds, where was I? / Where’s that man who’d throw blankets over my barbed wire? / I made you my temple, my mural, my sky / Now I’m begging for footnotes in the story of your life / Drawing hearts in the byline / Always taking up too much space or time / You assume I’m fine, but what would you do if I / Break free and leave us in ruins? / Took this dagger in me and removed it? / Gain the weight of you then lose it / Believe me, I could do it…”

Maybe I just got lucky that these lyrics fit perfectly with my (not-so) romantic history, but the melancholic, poetic beauty of the bridge it undeniable, as we hear the relationship go from a “man who’d throw blankets over my barbed wire” to her “always taking up too much space or time.” I feel you girl, I feel you. And I can’t be the only one.

“If it’s all in my head tell me now / Tell me I’ve got it wrong somehow / I know my love should be celebrated / But you tolerate it.”

2. cardigan

Taylor Swift isn’t usually known for her singles… But cardigan dissolved that judgment for me.

“When you are young, they assume you know nothing / But I knew you / Dancin’ in your Levi’s / Drunk under a streetlight, I / I knew you / Hand under my sweatshirt / Baby, kiss it better, I / And when I felt like I was an old cardigan / Under someone’s bed / You put me on and said I was your favorite…”

Cardigan, I think, was the perfect lead single with which to usher in the new era of moody piano ballads, and I think its one of her strongest romantic nostalgia/introspection songs ever. Right away I fell for this new deep-voiced Taylor who appears for the first time in cardigan and pops up many more times throughout the two albums. She has clearly bene working on expanding her vocal range, and it’s certainly working to our benefit.

“To kiss in cars and downtown bars / Was all we needed / You drew stars around my scars / But now I’m bleedin’ / ‘Cause I knew you / Steppin’ on the last train / Marked me like a bloodstain, I / I knew you / Tried to change the ending / Peter losing Wendy, I / I knew you / Leavin’ like a father / Running like water, I / And when you are young, they assume you know nothing…”

Allusions to civilian staples like Levi’s, Peter Pan, and standing in line at the grocery store, along with the harsh realities like fathers leaving that many of us are too familiar with, makes cardigan a song equally compelling for Taylor’s suburban fans and fellow celebrities. Even Nina Dobrev shared a snap of herself in her cardigan, quoting the lyrics in the chorus.

“I knew you’d haunt all of my what-ifs / The smell of smoke would hang around this long / ‘Cause I knew everything when I was young / I knew I’d curse you for the longest time / Chasin’ shadows in the grocery line / I knew you’d miss me once the thrill expired / And you’d be standin’ in my front porch light / And I knew you’d come back to me…”

For such a sad, haunting song, it came as a surprise to me that the subject of the song came around and “came back to [her].” Unpredictable song endings (or really any narrative endings in any medium) are often the best kind.

And I stand by Taylor’s Instagram bio being replaced with this singular lyric: “You drew stars around my scars.” It’s one of the prettiest and richest lines from the song, and the whole album, and I’m still not over it!!!

1. my tears ricochet

Now before I start getting angry Swiftie comments, hear me out.

One of my favorite things to research and study is the historic 16th-century rivalry between Queen Elizabeth I of England and Mary Queen of Scots. I was in deep study mode when folklore first came out, so after the first few times listening to my tears ricochet I realized, wait a second… this song fits almost PERFECTLY into the story of Mary and Elizabeth. If you know anything about these two queens, you probably know that Elizabeth (reluctantly) ordered the execution of Mary, her cousin and rival, in order to protect her own reign and unite England and Scotland. Her execution was abrupt, harsh, and extremely bloody; and though she had many flaws, Mary certainly didn’t deserve such a disgraceful spectacle.

My tears ricochet, if taken literally, is being sung from the perspective of someone who was killed to their killer, addressing the guilt and regret the killer likely has after what they have done. It starts at the funeral of the POV character as she recounts what led to that point:

“We gather here, we line up / Weepin’ in a sunlit room, and / If I’m on fire, you’ll be made of ashes too / Even on my worst day, did I deserve, babe / All the hell you gave me? / ‘Cause I loved you, I swear I loved you / ‘Til my dying day…”

Historically, Mary was always eager to meet Elizabeth and showed great respect and admiration for her. Yet Elizabeth made an excuse for every attempted meeting, and so they never met face-to-face. That is all I can think of when I hear “I swear I loved you / ‘Til my dying day.” Interesting…

Elizabeth was said to have gone into a nervous fit upon hearing the details of Mary’s execution… Doesn’t the chorus fit perfectly with this untimely, regrettable demise?

“I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace / And you’re the hero flying around, saving face / And if I’m dead to you, why are you at the wake? / Cursing my name, wishing I stayed / Look at how my tears ricochet…”

But then the correlation starts to get really serious… “You wear the same jewels that I gave you / As you bury me.” There are multiple recorded accounts of Mary gifting Elizabeth with jewels from her royal collection. Hmmm.

“I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace / ‘Cause when I’d fight, you used to tell me I was brave / And if I’m dead to you, why are you at the wake?” Mary fancied herself a “warrior Queen,” and Elizabeth was much less often on any battle lines. Elizabeth also, even after her execution, blamed many of her problems on Mary. Why are you at the wake of your self-proclaimed enemy, Elizabeth?

“I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace / And so the battleships will sink beneath the waves / You had to kill me, but it killed you just the same / Cursing my name, wishing I stayed / You turned into your worst fears / And you’re tossing out blame, drunk on this pain / Crossing out the good years…”

After many years of friendly correspondence in the earlier lives of Mary and Elizabeth, they slowly turned into enemies and Elizabeth caved to her Privy Council’s pleas and “turned into [her] worst fears,” becoming exactly what she never wanted to be – a queen-killer, like her father, the matricidal King Henry VIII. Not to mention that not long after Mary’s execution, Elizabeth famously defeated the unbeatable Spanish Armada, miraculously sinking the esteemed war ships in the sea off the coast of the British Isles. Am I the only one who’s seeing this???

I know this could be quite a stretch from a nerdy scholar, and there are many instances in which my interpretations of the lyrics could also be interpreted instead as discussing Taylor’s major falling out with Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta. “You wear the same jewels that I gave you” could just as easily be referring to the money Scooter and Scott earned from Taylor’s musical catalogue, but an intellectual Swiftie can dream, right?

Even if my tears ricochet is much simpler than I am making it out to be, it is still an extremely unique take on the heartache that follows betrayal… betrayal taints “the good years” and thus causes emotional damage in a deeper way than other relational disappointments. Even the repetitive use of an unusual but beautiful word like “ricochet” displays that Taylor is stepping to a new level of craftsmanship with her songwriting, which she in all her fame could easily get away with not doing, and thus I admire it even more.

The more I study my tears ricochet, the more I love it and the more convinced I am that it is the strongest song in the cottagecore-era Taylor Swift. Which is funny, because it was the first song she wrote for this era, and also the only one that she wrote without a cowriter.

With that, I rest my case.

Do you agree with any of my rankings? What are your top five favorites? Do you hate my tears ricochet? Let’s chat in the comments…

Click here to view the (stupid) article from The Atlantic that I reference in my reviews.


The moment you have (or have not) been waiting for….

Let’s talk TAYLOR.

I’ve talked to lots of people about Queen Tay, and for the most part people fall into one of these two categories:

(1) “Old Taylor” fan and (2) “I’ll listen to any of her stuff.”

Needless to say, I have felt alienated. I am one of the only people I know who actually… ahem…. LOVES the new Taylor MORE. MORE than the old Taylor. And so anyone who knew that about me was so nervous to admit when Lover was being released that they didn’t like the song “Me.”

Well, guess what? I didn’t like it either.

And for everyone who wasn’t entirely sure about cardigan Taylor? I walked on eggshells around her at first, too.

I’ve come to realize that the “new Taylor” who was born with the “reputation” era has pretty much disappeared from existence, though people seem to group any post-Kimye-fued albums into the “new” era. But “new Taylor” was only with us for a little while… First she was replaced with Bubblegum Taylor, which was fine and all but she just wasn’t my favorite. And now Bubblegum Taylor has been replaced with cottagecore Taylor, who I happen to like a lot, but she is still not the pure, full “new Taylor” who captured my heart in 2017.

When I say I fell in love with the “new Taylor,” I’m talking about the one who literally said “the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now.”

I’m talking the mysterious, dark, angsty, snake-infested Taylor. Reputation Taylor.

As much as I will ride or die for Red, and as much as I loved “Fearless” and “Speak Now” when I was a teenager, since 2017 (and for the rest of time) I am a DIE HARD REPUTATION FAN.

Even though I still fawn over Cruel Summer and had an emotional reawakening with folklore and evermore, reputation is – and always will be – Taylor Swift’s BEST ALBUM.

You’re probably wondering, why?

Primarily, in the words of Taylor herself, “I think for me, um…”


It began with the glitchy, sparkly snakes on her mysteriously-empty Instagram… and then one of her top three BEST (and most infamous) music videos.

And thus, the “new Taylor” was born.

And I immediately lost my taste for all the other eras.

Shortly after Look What You Made Me Do, my favorite track from reputation, and also from her entire catalog, was released, along with my favorite music video of all time (tied with Out of the Woods).

It’s safe to say I wasn’t “ready for it,” and I’m still reeling from the shocking beauty of this video.

Forget 1989. This was the moment the true pop Taylor was born, and there was no turning back. So for someone whose entire country music listening experience is made of up of old Taylor tracks, I rejoiced at this genre rebirth!

Then the full album was released, and the next day Taylor appeared on SNL following the best-looking ad SNL has ever made:

I may be biased, but let’s just say that the old Ali would’ve cared, and she died along with the old Taylor. RIP.

All in all, Taylor served some of her best looks during the reputation era. Here are some prime examples.

Which flows directly into the reputation stadium tour

Maybe it can be attributed to the fact that her budget, talent, and expertise all increase with each album as she grows in her craft, but regardless, this tour was the BEST tour she’s ever put on.

Even though I attended the tour in Pasadena, I still go back and watch the performance on Netflix to relive the grandeur.

From the very first moment of the show to the final notes of This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, the popstar put on an incomparable event.

I go into detail about Taylor’s lyrics here and I’ll discuss the lyrics of each reputation song specifically in another article, but I’ll just summarize by saying that reputation has the perfect balance of break-ups and get-togethers, anger and joy, slick pop beats and poetic depth.

But it’s not just the aesthetic that makes the reputation era so phenomenal.

Like you can see in this gif, Taylor actually seems really, genuinely happy. As someone who took on the physical affects of fame by developing an eating disorder like she discussed in Miss Americana, the “new Taylor” seemed way more confident in herself and her skin during the reputation stadium tour than ever before.

Her vocals are arguably stronger in the recordings and the shows, and by the amount of high notes she actually nailed live, girl knows it. Even her more-complex dance routines like the one in Gorgeous shows that she has chosen to ignore all the comments online about her goofy dancing to fully embrace the popstar she was always destined to be.

After the fued with Kimye that pushed her into years of hiding, Taylor emerged in a much healthier state emotionally, physically, and romantically. Though the reputation aesthetic was dark and edgy, the reputation Taylor was remarkably happy and excited. She had taken back her power, her identity, and her music… the album and style both portrayed that she had started making decisions based on her passions rather than publicity. THAT is the Taylor I want to celebrate.

If you avoided reputation altogether like SOMEONE I know (let them remain unnamed), or just need a refresher of this 2017 banger, check out this playlist of the songs that I’ve ordered according to my personal favorites.

What are your thoughts on the reputation era? Was that era also your favorite, or did it rub you the wrong way like a large part of the Swiftie population? Let me know in the comments.


I’ve been a die-hard Charli XCX fan since True Romance was the only album in her catalog. From her punky aesthetic to her artsy electronic production, what was not to love?

I tend to view upbeat, catchy songs with sad lyrics as the best kind of music… and Charli has had that down to a science since True Romance‘s “Nuclear Seasons,” “Stay Away,” and “Set Me Free.”

This is one of my favorite albums of all time… from “Black Roses” to “Nuclear Seasons” to “You’re the One.” So when Sucker came out I had high hopes, but turned out to only really like “Gold Coins,” “So over You,” and “Caught in the Middle.” And these were definitely a far cry from the moody synth beats that I had become such a staple for me.

But, I stuck it out. I had faith that the picturesquely-heartbroken Charli would return.

Number 1 Angel brought “White Roses” and nothing else that caught my attention, and then with Pop 2 things started looking up. Starting off strong with “Backseat” ft. Carly Rae Jepsen, the delicate and super-synthy “Lucky,” and the glitch-pop masterpiece “Tears” which introduced me to my beloved Caroline Polachek, this short album showed the emotional range that I loved so much on True Romance. I still maintain that “Porsche” was hands-down the best track on Pop 2, and it remains one of my most-played Charli songs. I can never stop thinking about how well she disguised a heartbroken breakup track as an angry girl revenge fantasy electropop song. The talent!!!

Then in 2019 Charli took the world by storm, converting so many anti-pop people into new fans overnight. “White Mercedes” is probably the most emotionally-raw song in her whole catalog, but, paired with the edgy music video, maintains that same electric, rebellious persona that makes her so fun.

Which, lastly, brings us to the hardest year EVER. Charli has been very open about the struggles she’s faced in her love life, even saying that “quarantine saved her relationship.” Now emotionally stable with lots of time on her hands, this was the perfect time for her to dig deep into her feelings and the new completely-electronic glitch-pop she was starting to embrace. After releasing “forever,” she finally put out how i’m feeling now – an homage to all the ups and downs of falling in love as a person with major trust issues. I think to a certain degree we can all understand this, some of us more than others.

The only song really about quarantine itself is “anthems,” and the rest of the 11-song album focuses more on the highs and lows of romance, and the struggle of understanding your own identity within that.

So, without further adieu…

Here is a breakdown of all the tracks on how i’m feeling now in order of my favorites, ending with what i think is the BEST song on the album.

11. pink diamond

While this is a fun song to listen to you, the background and repetitive lyrics didn’t do much for me. Yet, it’s Charli so even her weaker songs are still so cool and unique.

10. visions

The catchy, hypnotic beat is a great canvas for the dreamscape that Charli discusses in the lyrics, a narrative that I interpret as a way to process the memories and dreams that keep appearing to her during isolation of the world she lived in pre-pandemic and the world she longs to get back to… yet her mind is the only place this world exists now. The strange non-lyrical ending to the song I think is a great musical representation of the instability of her mind as she processes all that is going on in the world.

9. anthems

The afore-mentioned track that actually discusses what Charli’s life is like and what she misses most during isolation… being able to actually go out with friends instead of just talking on the phone.

“I’m so bored, woo! / Wake up late and eat some cereal / Try my best to be physical / Lose myself in a TV show / Staring out to oblivion / All my friends are invisible / Twenty four-seven, miss ’em all / I might cry like a waterfall…”

I think we can all relate to this feeling of having so much extra time that we end up wasting it because we “get existential” and don’t know what to do with ourselves…

“These days exhausting / Go online shopping / I’m so uninspired, I just wanna breathe / Flowers and the trees, dirt all on my knees / Got some hands to hold on to / I get existential and so strange / I hear no sounds when I’m shouting / I just wanna go to parties / Up high, wanna feel the heat from all the bodies.”

The catchy but nearly-chaotic production makes anthems a perfect picture of what quarantine life is really like for Charli and for many of us.

8. i finally understand

“Now we’re sticking close and I understand that / Baby, I love you bad / ‘Cause lately I finally understand / That maybe this feeling that I’ve found / Might kill me, put me in the ground / I finally understand, finally understand / My therapist said I hate myself really bad …”

The simple bass-driven beat of this song is irresistible, and pairs perfectly with the raw honesty of the lyrcis. Charli questions her ability to be in a healthy relationship, her ability to love at all. She admits that it all comes back to her view of herself, which likely causes her to self-sabotage.

“You love me even when I hate myself, I’m sure.”

7. c2.0

This is definitely the weirdest sounding song on the album, but there is something so intriguing about the glitchy video game sound and manipulated vocals.

The lyrics are basically a repetition of Charli talking about her “clique…” how “legit” they are and how she cherishes the memories of being able to spend time with her closest friends and boyfriend.

The tempo-change of this song I think is what sets it apart… even though it is 100% electronic, there is so much musical intricacy to this track and I think it displays Charli’s musical talent (and quirkiness) very well.

6. 7 years

The most optimistic track on the album, this song discusses all that Charli and her boyfriend have been through and the place of stability and confidence they have reached in their relationship.

“You know, we were, I’m not going to say like at the end of the road, but close to it, we were living on separate sides of the country even though we were physically far apart, we were emotionally quite distant as well. And this time period, I’m extremely lucky that it has brought us physically close together because now we’re living in the same house but also emotionally, and I finally understand that this person is somebody who I can trust with my life and I will have my security and protection at the front point of their heart no matter what.”

Charli has been very honest about the rockiness of her relationship before quarantine, and I think this song sums it up lyrically.

“So hard, the things that we’ve been through / Could’ve fallen but we’ve only grew / So I make my house a home with you / Right here and it feels brand new / I used to live inside the lie with you / And now I’m honest and it feels so good.”

5. forever

The first single from the album, forever was a great intro to the sound that Charli went with for the rest of the songs.

“I didn’t wanna leave you low / Drove the car off the road / I hope you get some time to grow / You’re not a ghost, you’re in my head (in my head)…”

The switch in sound between the verses and the chorus is sublime! And I think the power of this song is that it is specific enough that it seems so personal, and yet vague enough that I think pretty much anyone who listens to it will have someone from their past (or present) who comes to mind.

“I know in the future (future) / We won’t see each other (we won’t see each other) / Cold just like December / But I will always love you (love you) / I’ll love you forever.”

4. detonate

“Hurt me, no you won’t hurt me / I’m about to detonate / Pull you close and then I’ll be gone / Sorry, never say sorry / All my silence resonates / Think you’re with me, yeah, but you’re wrong / Dirty, I can talk dirty / I can make you feel so sick / Switch your faith and leave you so low / Hurt me, no you’ll never hurt me / I’m about to detonate / Pull you close and then I’ll be gone …”

Charli recognizes in the track her own instability when it comes to relationships, an honesty I think is very admirable.

“I don’t trust myself at all / Why should you trust me? / I don’t trust myself alone / Why should you love me?”

The bubbly sound of this song creates that heavenly pair… depressing lyrics with a fun, upbeat song. I can’t get enough!!!

3. claws

This song just SLAPS. That’s the best way to say it.

A cute homage to how much she loves her boyfriend, Charli’s unique style shines in this glitch-pop song as she repeats “I like, I like, I like everything about you” for just over 2 minutes.

claws is a fun, giddy break from emotional weight of the other tracks on the album. It’s gotten stuck in my head so many times and it’s just a straight-up fun song.

2. enemy

I struggled to decide if enemy should take the number 1 or number 2 slot…

“They say, ‘Keep your friends close’ / But you’re closer, I love when you’re here / I’m so far away sometimes, I’m distant, yeah / You might help me, intimacy, I’ll admit, I’m scared / Maybe, maybe you can reach me, yeah…”

Honest from the first line, Charli questions whether or not she can trust the person she’s falling for. A valid question… I think most people have trust issues to some degree and thus can understand her doubts.

“Maybe you’re my enemy / You’re the only one who knows the way I really feel, oh / Now it’s really clear to me / You could do a little damage, you could cut me deep…”

With a nice little allusion to the album title, the simplistic chorus that repeats throughout the song still carries a lot of weight. On either side of a voice memo she added to the bridge of the song, enemy is quite simply just a well-done, solid pop song. With a nice semi-quick tempo and synth-based sound, there is just enough of the her characteristic electronic flourish in the song to make it stand out against more basic pop tracks, so that people (like me) will keep coming back to it over and over.

1. party 4 u

Where do I even start with party 4 u? The more I listened to this song the more I fell in love with it…

“I only threw this party for you / I was hoping you would come through / It’s true, it’s true…”

Such a simple message, but so much subtext.

“I don’t know what you were waiting for / You know that I’ve been waiting for you / I only threw this party for you / If you saw my tears, would you touch me? Kiss me on the mouth, say you love me? / Leave a message, tell me you’re sorry? / Hit me right back, hit me right back / Why you treating me like someone that you never loved?”

This is the longest track on the album, and the switch in sound in the last 2 minutes are where the sadness of the song truly comes out.

“All I’m thinking, all I know is / That I hope you knock on my door / Nervous energy / My heart rate rises higher, higher up / I wish you’d get here, kiss my face / Instead, you’re somewhere far away / My nervous energy will stay / I hope you realize one day…”

This is easily one of Charli’s saddest songs. And yet still a song you can move to and want to sing along to.

The fact that it finishes off with the sound of fans cheering and Charli saying “This one’s called ‘Boys'” adds so much depth to the song’s content… seems like the “party” her love interest didn’t show up for was one of her shows, and the thought of her struggling to get through a show because she is so disappointed by his absence brings a level of relatability and empathy to anyone who has expected to see someone and had them not show up. It’s the same “sinking feeling” that Taylor Swift mentions in “The Moment I Knew,” except (sorry Queen Taylor), Charli’s rendition of that feeling turned into one of the deepest, best-written electropop songs I’ve ever heard.

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Check out how i’m feeling now on Spotify or YouTube!

If you love party 4 u as much as I do, or want to share a different favorite track, leave a comment! Until the next isolation-busting album…



I don’t usually publicize it, but Ariana Grande’s music has always been a guilty pleasure for me. My Everything and Dangerous Woman are my go-to albums for when I’m bored or have exhausted my playlists on a road trip, and while there’s not much to most of her songs beyond catchy pop hooks and slighty-suggestive romantic commentary, her sound always gets me dancing.

Lady Gaga is a whole different ball game. Edgy, experimental, and often weird to the point of making me uncomfortable, her songs either send me running or totally captivate me. I avoided her at all costs until I heard the 2013 song Applause, which paved the way for me to fall in love with quite of a few of the songs on her latest album, Chromatica.

The first time I heard Rain on Me, one of my friends played it for me with this preface: “It’s really weird, but I keep listening to it and I kinda like it. Except for one part that I really hate, I’ll tell you when it comes.” With that intro, I had low expectations. By the time it got the part my friend hated (when Lady Gaga chants “Rain. On. Me.” in her low-pitch robotic voice) my head was already bobbing and I was like “I actually kind of like that part.” (To which my friend responded, “Yeah I actually kind of like it too.”) By that evening, I had learned most of the lyrics and listened to it more times than I could count.

What is it about Rain on Me that was so alluring? It’s just another shallow Top 40 hit, right? There’s nothing in the sound that is that original juxtaposed with the rest of either of the artists’ songs… It’s got the quintessential build-up into the chorus, the sugary pop beat that’s hard not to like, the over-sized vocal range that few pop singers besides Ariana and Lady Gaga can actually pull off… so what was so different and fresh about it?

Certainly not the music video, from which my entire takeaway was:

from @LGmonsterfacts on Twitter

Either Ariana forgot how to dance, or she couldn’t due to the legwarmers on her arms. Or maybe she was just too weighed down by her hair extensions.

Is this an intentional part of the dance routine? Or are they calling for help from a passing airplane?

But that’s beside the point. My music video commentary could be a whole other article on it’s own.

I think the weight of Rain on Me is in the lyrics, right from the get-go:

“At least I showed up, you showed me nothing at all / It’s coming down on me / Water like misery … I’m ready, rain on me”

How often do you get a bangin’ pop track with lyrics that are (1) depicting the singer in a position where they are completely defeated and heartbroken, and (2) welcoming the pain because they know it could be worse?

I’m going to venture a guess that Lady Gaga wrote WAYYY more of the lyrics than Ariana Grande, though they were both credited. Ariana’s strongsuit is high ponytails, not personal reflection.

But regardless of who wrote what lines, Rain on Me is the ultimate unique hype song. Some of the first (and most important) moves toward recovery are acknowledging your losses, coming to terms with your disappointment, and accepting that things aren’t great – but could always be worse.

“I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive” they sing before repeatedly welcoming the pain, asking it to “rain on me.” There aren’t many different lyrics, but something about the repetition of “rain on me” between the verses and even throughout the bridge gives this song a motivating, “you got this” vibe, almost like they are saying “is that all you got? Bring it on, I can handle anything.” And sometimes that is the mentality you need to put on to get you through difficult times.

Singing along to “I didn’t ask for the rainfall,” but “I’m ready, rain on me” is strangely empowering every time I listen to it. Come dark days, let-downs, mistreatment… you can get through anything with the right outlook. And isn’t that just the kind of message we need right now?

While the music video is as hot of a mess as it could be, this end shot is unbearably cute and almost redeems the sketchy aesthetic of the rest of the video:

And just for good measure, I’ll leave you with some food for thought.

from @gagadaily on Twitter

Leave a comment if you agree, disagree, or want to see more of this kind of #unpopularopinion!

Until next week…


Regardless of it’s downfalls, or the fact that dystopias are way out of style, I will always be a die-hard Hunger Games fan. The Hunger Games reignited my childhood love of fiction in my teenage years, and first introduced me to both YA and science fiction. In other words, I owe so much of my creative identity to The Hunger Games. Yet, both in the films and the novels, I always had a MAJOR issue with – yes, I’m serious – Peeta. Which, consequently, means I had major problems with the entire plot and character arcs of the series. Oops, did I just admit that?

Me, apologizing in advance for offending Team Peeta:

I mean, what do we really know about Peeta?

He likes pastries, painting, and philanthropy. He’s not super physically or emotionally masculine (which would not at all be an issue, except for the fact that he doesn’t replace the traditional masculine elements of the male personality with anything… anything at all). Instead of lacking a “man’s man” persona, and instead being rich in intellect, cultural knowledge, or emotional depth, he’s kind of just… there. Pouting. Causing problems. Wallowing in self-pity.

Look at this mushy dishrag. What did he do for Katniss? What did he do for Panem? What did he do for the plot of the trilogy???

The Melark Doughboy was enough of a whiner to begin with, then you add Tracker Jacker venom?

And Katniss should’ve, too. She had a perfectly-loyal childhood friend waiting for her to come back for him. But she never did. She came back and paid even less attention to him than she did before meeting Pita Bread.

It’s not like Gale was standing there giving the calls to fire bombs on the crowd of wounded people Prim was trying to help. He just invented the tactic, the execution of this particular usage was overseen by a non-Gale party. We’re just going to throw all that history out for a one-off?

Don’t lie and say that this relationship is not precious.

Plus he’s got a great sense of humor. Not always easy to find in a dystopian society. *

Honestly, beggars can’t be choosers. Miss Everdeen should not be pushing away friends, because, well…

But the whole thing about Gale not being a real man? That’s what bothers me most. Fine, if you want to say he chickens out too easy and doesn’t stand up for what he believes in, I readily accept that. Is this not masculine enough??? I mean, I’m into it. She’s just standing there looking bored.

Let’s face it… Katniss was never looking for a man’s man. She was okay with this happening way too often.

In fact, I don’t think there were any real men in Panem. Probably due to the government. But if anyone would come close, it would NOT be Peeta.

Unless everyone else except President Snow was dead. I mean, give me Haymitch any day over Peeta. At least he was a complainer for legitimate reasons. O-dare I say that maybe a non-flirty Finnick would’ve been the manliest man?

Scratch all that. I just remembered Cato. That dude wins easily. He should’ve won the Hunger Games, tbh?

Until the next Quarter Quell,

*Quote taken from Bad Lip Reading: The Hunger Games*

**Images courtesy of GIPHY**


Welcome to the first installment of my unpopular opinions. We’re starting off with a death-star-sized article, so fasten your seat belts and get ready to jump to lightspeed.

Let me begin by saying that the mere fact that we got from this to this in a trilogy made by different creative developers is a feat all on its own.

But I’m more into the fact that we went from this to this.

I love space opera special effects and action sequences as much as any other Star Wars nerd, but at heart I’m a sucker for character arcs. To be able to look back on a character at the end of a trilogy to see how far they’ve come and how much they’ve changed during their journey is both why I read/watch movies and why I write. This is always the most powerful literary force for me BY FAR. (Yes, even more than Kylo’s hair and all his other amazing qualities.)

SOOO many people disliked the new trilogy because it “changed the force” or “wasn’t the same as the original six episodes,” but the development of Kylo Ren & Rey’s relationship not only makes the new trilogy my favorite by far over the other two, but it actually has made The Rise of Skywalker one of my favorite movies OF ALL TIME.

So I’m looking at this beginning, all that anger and mistrust and fear, and keeping it wrapped up nicely in the back of my mind as Kylo Ren and Rey’s story continues on.


After the woodland fight, we go straight into the emotionally-charged Kylo-unmasking scene. Rey’s trying not to lose her mind with fear while Kylo is taking lots of long glances trying to figure out how someone can be powerful enough to resist his mind-control.

(also where this golden meme fits in)

We’re still very much on enemy sides here, a clear juxtaposition between the “Light” and the “Dark.” This is where Kylo realizes, no, he can’t just “take whatever he wants” like he thinks he can, and now that she sees him face-to-face, Rey realizes that her enemy poses a different threat than she thought.

Then we get to the snowy battle scene where Rey gives Kylo a run for his money. The fact that she defeats him in lightsaber combat has got to be so aggravating, especially since he is already grappling with the guilt of what he just did to his father.


The Last Jedi has MUCH jucier Kylo & Rey content than Episode VII.

I mean, we start off with these “Force FaceTimes” for crying out loud.

This is where we really start to the see the effects of this mysterious Force connection between Kylo Ren and Rey. They’re both confused, angry, and totally set in their own ideals of right and wrong. But very quickly the lines between Light and Dark begin to blur, which is a classic theme for the hero-villian struggle. Someone’s going to switch sides, but who is it going to be?

Then we get to the (in)famous campfire scene where their Force connection reaches a new level, and some serious emotional boding takes place. “You’re not alone…”

Who’s seriously watching this an not eating it up??? I’m about as cynical as they come, and I sit on the edge of my seat every time I watch this movie like “TOUCH! TOUCH! COME ON!”

I can’t with this scene. If this isn’t a top-notch complex romance, then IT DOES NOT EXIST.

Then, after Luke ruins the moment with his past trauma, Rey delivers the best British-accented-line ever:

It’s not just the strong-female-character confidence Rey has in her own ability to see the future that makes this so good, but the fact that she’s way more enthusiastic about going to see Kylo than she’s been about anything the whole time she’s been on the island with Luke. She spent all that time sitting outside in the rain, accidentally ruining all the hard work of those little nun creatures, not really saying much and keeping a pretty steady facial expression. But the possibility of arriving to be greeted by a welcoming Ben/Kylo has got this girl so ready for her red-eye flight.

Granted, she arrives to less-than-desirable circumstances, and to a still-committed Kylo. But this elevator scene is everything!!!

The fact that they can see into each other’s minds is even more intimate when they are actually standing face-to-face. And Rey’s visions are only confirmed by Kylo’s stillness as she steps closer and closer to him, and all he does is stare at her as she talks. She’s essentially letting him know that she knows how difficult and risky it will be for him to turn to the Light, but she will be there to help him when he does. If you didn’t feel the romantic tension here, you weren’t actually watching the movie.

Oops! Her plan didn’t work. But look at his face!!! Look at both of their faces!

And then the epic red-room fight scene. Where Kylo’s connection to the Sith is literally BURNING UP!

But he’s not free from the Kylo persona yet… Rey’s still got more work to do on him before they can be together.

You KNOW this girl wants to take that hand!!

This is pure romantic drama right here. And against such an epic galactic backdrop, I don’t understand why everyone isn’t obsessed.


And here’s where all the feelings come to the surface. A scorned Kylo Ren goes in search of higher purpose with the Sith to fill his empty heart, while Rey and friends are trying to find the second wayfinder so they can thwart those evil plans.

I think it says something that the more in-depth this connection between Rey and Kylo goes, the more reckless, angry, and wild Rey becomes. But Kylo actually starts to calm down a bit??? At this point, I don’t think anyone is thinking they are actually going to end up having a full-on romantic scene, especially not with him stalking her (on a mission to kill her) and all these physical fights they keep getting into.

But these Force FaceTimes are getting deeper, and the tensions are rising. CLEARLY there are some unresolved emotional issues here.

Once Kylo Ren locates Rey, we can really see that homegirl does NOT like the way he’s making her feel… whether she consciously realizes it is romantic tension or not. But one thing is for sure: when Kylo’s present, Rey grows fiercer and stronger.

You know he’s gotta be impressed by this display she just put on too. He comes sauntering out of the wreckage of his ship in all his caped glory, no rush to go after her… just taking in the immensity of her power.

His face says it all here. Maybe this is the first time he’s realizing that what he does, even just his proximity, seriously effects what Rey does and what she is capable of. HMMM. THERE IS A GREATER BOND HERE THAN THEY THOUGHT.

This leads me to one of my FAVORITE Star Wars scenes ever… this epic water fight.

And our girl has never been angrier than she is here after Kylo destroyed the wayfinder that she worked so hard to get. Then he drops, “The only way you’ll get to Exegol is with me,” and she’s had it up to here.

It all culminates with her actually, finally delivering a fatal blow after all their many altercations.


She heals him!!!! SHE SAVES HIM. And then drops this bomb.

And she becomes pretty much the only reason for his sudden redemption.

He can make her shoot lightning like a Sith Lord, but she can make him feel. Oof!

Next they defeat Palpatine, defy all odds, trick the Force system, yeah whatever. The only thing I’m thinking of rn is the best scene in the franchise. (And yes, I’m ready to fight you on that.)

They’ve worked so hard to be here! They’ve gone through so much to get to each other! The epitome of star-crossed lovers.

While Kylo/Ben and Rey finally got the moment they deserved, they didn’t deserve for it be their last.

Tell me this is not the face of a girl who is so relieved to see there are still people who love her about even though she just lost her true love!

I’m ready to pay to see a Ben Solo reincarnation, but until then, I’m just going to keep rewatching the parts before he dies and wishing all love stories were as deep and multifaceted as Kylo Ren and Rey’s.

Until next week,