Maybe This Thing Was a Masterpiece


In this episode, I talk about some songs and objects in the work of Taylor Swift. I discuss evocative objects, versions, reworkings, uncanny doublings, and song itineraries. I question whether the 10-minute version of ‘All Too Well’ and its accompanying 15-minute film were really necessary and conclude, reluctantly, that they probably were.

Playlist – tracks discussed in this episode, plus some additional relevant examples

Texts referred to in this episode

Anonymous, ‘Taylor Swift, “Red”: Track-By-Track Review’, Billboard online edition (October 19, 2012),

Richard Elliott, ‘Free, Confused and Lonely: On Age, Pop, Fashion and Incompatibility’, Radical Musicology 6 (2012-2013),

Richard Elliott, ‘A Blank Space Where You Write Your Name: Taylor Swift’s Early Late Voice’, EMP Pop Conference, Seattle, USA, 14-17 April 2016.

Dafni Tragaki, ‘Acoustemologies of Rebetiko Love Songs’, in Music as Atmosphere: Collective Feelings and Affective Sounds, ed. Friedlind Riedel and Juha Torvinen (London ; New York: Routledge, 2020), 185.

Katie Stewart, ‘Engendering Narratives of Lament in Country Music’, in All That Glitters: Country Music in America, ed. George H. Lewis (Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1993), 222.

Richard Elliott, The Late Voice: Time, Age and Experience in Popular Music (New York: Bloomsbury, 2015), 3, 5, 31, 64, 122, 124, 139, 232.

Abby Aguirre, ‘Taylor Swift on Sexism, Scrutiny, and Standing Up for Herself’, Vogue (8 August 2019), cited in Nate Sloan, ‘Taylor Swift and the Work of Songwriting’, Contemporary Music Review 40, no. 1 (2021): 7.

Taylor Swift, notes on folklore, posted as a photograph on the Taylor Swift Twitter account on 24 July 2020, (accessed 17 December 2021).

Kathleen Stewart, A Space on the Side of the Road: Cultural Poetics in an ‘Other’ America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 125

Aaron Fox, ‘The Jukebox of History: Narratives of Loss and Desire in the Discourse of Country Music’, Popular Music 11, no. 1 (1992): 53-72.

Sherry Turkle, ed., Evocative Objects: Things We Think With (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2007).

Christopher Bollas, The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known (London: Free Association Books, 1987).

Christopher Bollas, Being a Character: Psychoanalysis and Self Experience (London: Routledge, 1992).

Christopher Bollas, The Evocative Object World (London: Routledge, 2009).

Kyle Kim, ‘We Compared “Taylor’s Version” Songs With the Original Taylor Swift Albums’, The Wall Street Journal (9 November 2021),, accessed 31 December 2021.

Liz Rose, quoted in Andrew Leahy, ‘Songwriter Spotlight: Liz Rose’, Rolling Stone Country, 24 October 2014, (last accessed 6 July 2021).

Kaitlyn Tiffany, ‘With the return of fall comes the return of a fantastic pop culture mystery’, The Verge, 17 October 2017,, accessed 20 August 2021.

Taylor Swift: Reputation Stadium Tour, Netflix (31 December 2018), 1:03:32. Cited in the Wikipedia entry for ‘All Too Well’, (last accessed 17 December 2021).

Ben Zimmer, ‘Could Taylor Swift Have Written “F— the Patriarchy” a Decade Ago? A history lesson behind the now-infamous keychain’, Slate, 21 November 2021,, accessed 22 December 2021.

Lesley Chow, You’re History: The Twelve Strangest Women in Music (London: Repeater, 2021), 91.