If my tears were molten lava they would have melted my face off. “All Too Well” is one of the best songs that T Swift has ever written, produced, created, or unless proven to the contrary, bottled up from meteorites sent by God. Halfway through a concert movie filled with some of the most wonderfully overproduced, ridiculous set pieces in music, she stands on stage alone with an acoustic guitar singing a song.
(There are some songs that are so beautiful that I listen to half and then feel compelled to start at the beginning. I often have to listen to these songs 5 or 6 songs before I even know what they are about. And then there are songs where I become so entranced by sonic pleasure that I completely lose myself, and basically black out. Just off the top of my head these include “Love in Vain”, “Beast of Burden”, “Wayside/Back in Time”, The Band’s version of “Atlantic City”, the second movement of Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto K.622”, “Conqueror’s Song” by Laura Cantrell. Someday I’ll make a list of all of them, but that is an exercise for another day). Anyway, “All Too Well” is one of the latter).
I have grown to love Taylor Swift over the last ten years, so I am insanely biased. But from a totally detached perspective I suspect this movie is still facemelting. There are a few factors that create headwinds for my prevailing bias. I hate concert movies. I’m even lukewarm on The Last Walz, and The Band is one of my favorite bands ever. I’ve never gone to a T Swift concert because the notion of knowing when various shows are coming to town is totally beyond my abilities. Anyway who can afford tickets in this economy? Everytime I go to a concert I say to myself that I will go to concerts all the time. This never happens. I’m also a cranky contrarian. I reflexively hate anything that people love to love. And this is definitely something people will love to love.
Finally, Reputation the album is actually kind of bad. It is much worse than Red or 1989, some of the finest albums produced this century. My basic benchmark for a great album is that it is all killer, no filler. That is the lamest possible phrase to use, but it captures what I mean exactly. Reputation is all filler. But my lukewarm relationship with Reputation makes the movie sublime. Everytime an old favorite plays it feels earned. This might sound like watching the Reputation sections is a slog. It is not. I was immersed in the spectacle of the set, the choreography of the dancers, the band playing over the top power chords, the part where they bring out giant drums, the backup singers, the way she is flown from one island stage to another on an absurd flying contraption, and most of all the numerous close up shots of completely enraptured fans. These are fans so hardcore that they know every word to this mediocre album. Above all, the spectacle of 100,000 people getting their minds blown by the actions of a single person is kind of mind blowing. This is a religious experience for them.
Do you ever have the realization the first time you hear a song that it will be a part of your life forever. This occurrence is rare for me, but when it happens I just know, and am pleased. I have had very few false positives after having this realization. Off the top of my head maybe I have grown to dislike, Let it Be? That’s not even a good example. Anyway, I got the same feeling watching this movie that I get when I hear a new favorite song. Maybe that feeling will fade, but again I have few false positives. My take on this movie might read like the ramblings of a complete mad man, and is admittedly completely over the top. Maybe I’m caught up in the moment. Maybe that’s the whole point. Anyway, I’m too busy thinking about Reputation to care. And on that note, I’m going to go ahead and play it again.
(But first I’ll skip to “All Too Well” one more time)