This month’s theme is “The Road Not Taken” which is based on a Robert Frost poem. His poem is also referenced in a song called “’tis the damn season” by Taylor Allison Swift. With the holidays fast approaching, and due to how much I love this song and Swift’s discography, I took it upon myself to analyze the song. The song is about the aftermath of a breakup, where the person who did the hurting desperately regrets it and wants to go back to how things were before they fell apart. The “road not taken” is the one where no one was hurt, or where they never fell apart and the road would always lead home to each other.
In the first verse, Swift already establishes the falling out of a relationship with the line “If I wanted to know who you were hanging with while I was gone I would have asked you”. However, it can be inferred the falling out was recent as emotions were stirred up by seeing the said past lover as conveyed per this particular line “But I felt it when I passed you”. However, the narrative slightly changes when it’s revealed “There's an ache in you put there by the ache in me” leading us to infer the person who was responsible for the heartbreak wasn’t, in fact, the past lover. Then, the last line of the first verse, “But if it's all the same to you, it’s the same to me”, serves to set up the chorus. The repetition of “same” indicates indifference, however by stating the second person in “ if it’s all the same to you” it conveys this indifference might be feigned as an act of self-preservation, or of holding on to pride.
After the build-up of pent-up emotions from the first verse, we reach a rather confessional and intimate chorus. The suggestion “we could call it even” further supports the idea that the coldness and indifference expressed in the first verse aren’t genuine. Instead, it leads us to believe there is a desire to repair the relationship by evening the score and starting fresh. The repetition of “you” and “could” truly emphasizes that the rekindling of the relationship depends on the willingness of the one who was left hurt as a result of it. The desperation to reconnect is also made present by the line “You could call me babe for the weekend” as the person would be satisfied for having some of that love just “for the weekend”.
When the title, 'Tis the damn season, is mentioned it comes off as slightly ironic or humorous, given the connotation that the holidays are the season of forgiveness and the person seems to be playing off that fact, as if the other person has no option but to forgive.
The allusion to Frost’s poem “the road not taken looks real good now” implies that the person is wondering if they hadn’t done maimed the other person in the relationship, what would the outcome have been the outcome? It expresses the regret of knowing you could’ve done something different on your part, but didn’t. That you could’ve not dropped their heart, but did. Furthermore, the last line of the chorus “it always leads to you in my hometown” further emphasizes the desire to return to the comfort of that familiar relationship, that was “the road not taken” that “looks real good now” that it’s already lost.
All that’s been established about the wish to be back in that relationship is reinforced in the second verse. When reminiscing about “thе school that used to be ours” it’s interesting to take note of the collective “ours” implying that was a moment in time that was theirs to be together. The simile “The holidays linger like bad perfume” makes the regret evident, of the person that did the heartbreaking, and that the “holidays” remind of the hurt that they inflicted on their lost love. The fact that the person can't run from the guilt of the memories of causing hurt on someone you love is further shown by the line “You can run, but only so far”. The admission of fault “I escaped it too, remember how you watched me leave” contradicts the act of having “escaped” before the stage where the person is now taking accountability for the fault of leaving the relationship. But, once again, with the last line of this verse before the chorus the person denies accountability behind the justification of the ending of that relationship being something that was decided mutually with the line ‘But if it's okay with you, it's okay with me”.
Finally, we come to the final key to understanding this tragic fallout: the bridge of the song. While the line “Sleep in half the day just for old times' sake” could be taken literally it could also suggest the fact that the person was letting the relationship decay but did nothing about it. Plus, the fact that it was “just for old times’ sake” leads us to infer it was an occurrence that happened often enough for it to be noticed, and for the person to have had many chances at an attempt to repair the relationship. The following line “I won't ask you to wait if you don't ask me to stay” implies that the damage had already become irreparable for the person who was hurt in the relationship to ask them to stay and that they grew tired of waiting for there to be an effort put into mending things between the two of them.
We then, suddenly trust the person, realizing “the heart I know I'm breakin' is my own” and thus accepting the fault of their past actions. Hence we come to the heartbreaking conclusion “To leave the warmest bed I've ever known” meaning the person left behind the truest form of love they ever had.
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