Recently Taylor Swift’s new album Midnights snagged all top ten spots on the US Billboard charts, a major and unprecedented coup. On a more personal note, I’ve had at least one of the songs from the album stuck in my head on and off since I first listened to the album — and you probably have too, if you’ve listened to it. So I decided to make lemonade from lemons and tell you how my English major brain has associated songs from Midnights with different books. All the books (and very soon the album) are available for checkout from our library, so you can double-check my findings for yourself.
“So real, I’m damned if I do give a damn what people say / No deal, the 1950s shit they want for me / I just wanna stay in that lavender haze”
When I listen to Lavender Haze I hear love that pushes against expectations and conventions for what a relationship should look like, and therefore think immediately of The Love Study by Kris Ripper, which is only the first of a trilogy all about relationships outside of conventional norms, and about customizing your relationship to what works for you.
“The burgundy on my t-shirt when you splashed your wine onto me / And how the blood rushed into my cheeks, so scarlet, it was / The mark you saw on my collarbone, the rust that grew between telephones / The lips I used to call home, so scarlet, it was maroon”
Maroon to me is about a vivid, passionate love that ended, and is remembered, as vividly as it lived. For sheer emotional power, and the strength of love and memory, this song has to be The King of Infinite Space by Lyndsay Faye. This book is an unforgettable Hamlet retelling with a powerful (and, spoilers, doomed) love at its core.
“It’s me / Hi! / I’m the problem, it’s me / At teatime / Everybody agrees / I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror / It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero”
Antihero is the song I (and many others) can’t get out of our heads — it’s catchy, self-aware, self-destructive, and self-deprecating, with paranoid fear of losing relationships and (for me anyway) a hint of glamour. What it made me think of is my favorite romance book of all time, Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (the sequel, Husband Material, works as well) because of its self-deprecating humor, self-destructive tendencies, and an unforgettableness not unlike an earworm.
“Are we falling like / Snow at the beach / Weird but it was beautiful / Flying in a dream / Stars by the pocketful / You wanting me / Tonight / Feels impossible / But it’s comin’ down, no sound, it’s all around”
Snow on the Beach is all dreamlike, surreal vibes, with a star-crossed type romance running through it, which for me echoes the magical realism in One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston. Our lovable leads in that book find themselves in a similarly bizarre situation which they end up embracing.
“What’s a girl gonna do? A diamond’s gotta shine / Best believe I’m still bejeweled when I walk in the room / I can still make the whole place shimmer”
Now, I fully believe you’ll have a better pick for this one, but Bejeweled‘s theme of claiming your power from a repressive relationship made me think of In Deeper Waters by FT Lukens, because among other things this book is about the main character embracing his power and identity and breaking free from fear and repression, and I just love to see it.
“Sweet like honey, karma is a cat / Purring in my lap ’cause it loves me / Flexing like a goddamn acrobat / Me and karma vibe like that”
Okay, another unconventional pick, but the smugness of Karma, waiting for the other shoe to drop, reminded me of An Elderly Lady Is Up To No Good by Helene Tursten. Our elderly protagonist is similarly convinced of the justice of her actions – to very entertaining effect.
“Everyone’s up to somethin’ / I find myself runnin’ home to your sweet nothings / Outside, they’re push and shovin’ / You’re in the kitchen hummin’ / All that you ever wanted from me was sweet nothin'”
Sweet Nothing is about finding a haven and home in someone who doesn’t burdern you with the expectations and pressure you receive everywhere else, which for me had to be The Bookseller’s Boyfriend by Heidi Cullinan. Also a cautionary tale about celebrity and social media, the romance in this book is all about an overworked, overwhelmed person finding rest in another’s company.
“So I told you none of it was accidental / And the first night that you saw me, nothing was gonna stop me / I laid the groundwork and then saw a wide smirk / On your face, you knew the entire time / You knew that I’m a mastermind / And now you’re mine”
Not exactly the same vibe, but Mastermind‘s ending, when the singer realizes that though they thought they were being subtle, they were actually transparent to their partner, reminded me of Love is for Losers by Wibke Brueggemann, in which another scheming narrator discovers the joy of being known and accepted for all your faults.
Let us know, do you agree with my associations? Which books would you pick?