Joe Stile | BASSic
A girl named Lucky
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 08:10
Taylor Swift’s fourth studio album, “Red,” was officially released yesterday. While fans are busy exploring the entire record, I’m going to take some time to talk about one of the deep cuts that deserves a little extra attention: “The Lucky One.”
The magic of Taylor Swift’s songs is her ability to tell a compelling and relatable story through tiny, telling details. Many of her lines and deliveries sound so personal and intimate that they could only have come from Swift. They give a small window into her experiences and privileged position as one of the world’s biggest stars.
“The Lucky One” is only four minutes long, yet it is able to tell two parallel tales. One is of Swift becoming a star and realizing that there are some major downfalls to having your name in lights, while the other concerns an unnamed celebrity who similarly moved from the bottom to the top, only to walk away from it all to keep her dignity intact.
After the listener hears the first two verses, the unnamed starlet sounds like a Marilyn Monroe−esque figure. The woman changed her name and appearance to become a beautiful starlet, yet she found no real solace in the extravagant lifestyle or in how uncomfortably public her whole life became. While Monroe has become an archetype for this tale, it’s the same story that hundreds of young women can relate to after they’ve chased their Hollywood dreams and been disappointed by the resulting hollow outcome.
In “The Lucky One,” this tale has an unusually cheerful ending, as the unnamed woman gives up all the shallowness and simply walks away to live a happier life.
This unintentionally becomes a slightly sadder ending though, as it makes the listener try to think of anyone who walked away from the peak of fame with his or her self−respect in tow. With all the pathetic “comeback” attempts and all the sleazy VH1 reality−shows filled with washed up celebrities willing to do anything just to have anyone look at them again, it seems like that kind of happy ending could only exist in a T−Swift song.
I racked my brain for a while before one name finally hit me: Lauryn Hill. Her debut album won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, sold over nineteen million copies and was hailed as a masterpiece from the second it was released. In that moment, Hill couldn’t have been any bigger, and yet she chose to step out of the limelight because she didn’t like how she was being treated. While millions lamented her decision and many accused her of being mentally ill, Hill kept her dignity and lived a quiet life away from the superstardom she had rightfully earned. Unfortunately, her ending is an extremely rare one.
Details in the song suggest that Swift has at least fantasized about taking a similar step. There’s a slight, defeated anger coursing through Swift’s voice when she sings, “And they tell you that you’re lucky/But you’re so confused,/Cause you don’t feel pretty, you just feel used.” While celebrities are often praised for being beautiful, young female stars are also frequently exploited and objectified. It only makes sense that despite the compliments, Swift has ended up only feeling “used.”
The anger spills out when Swift gets to the line, “How you took the money and your dignity, and got the hell out.” Her delivery implies that she’s had enough and that leaving with any sort of self−respect would be a relief.
While I don’t think Taylor Swift is seriously considering walking away from music, I do think this song hints that there are some consequences to living the visible lifestyle she does and that there is more to her than just awards and love stories.
Joe Stile is a senior majoring in political science. He can be reached at Joseph.Stile@tufts.edu.