If we were to enter the elevator seen in Taylor Swift’s ‘Bejeweled’ music video, with its kaleidoscopic blur of colors to match her different eras – yes, we can conclude that level 13 was always Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) – when moving from 12 to seven, we’d go from a galactic dreamworld built on midnight fantasies to a loved-up bubble encapsulated in pink.
That’s Midnights to Lover for those who aren’t as intertwined with Swiftopia as we are! While one aesthetic is quite moody compared to the other, they somehow collide in the middle when it comes to the capital city of France: Paris. It’s because, on the prior album’s 3 a.m. edition, you’d quite literally find a song called ‘Paris.’ For the latter, well, Taylor added herself to the many others who claim it as the city of love, marking it as the City of Lover for a one-night-only showcase of the Lover album.
For those who fall into the conspiracist camp of the Swiftie fandom, we perhaps should’ve known all along that ‘Paris’ was in the making, hinted at by a particular speech during City of Lover. As the lights dim, she starts talking about her songwriting process right before ‘Cornelia Street.’
A lot of the time I’ll write songs about nostalgia and memories. I use songs almost like photographs so I can go back and remember exactly what it was like to experience it.
Taylor Swift during City of Lover (Live from Paris)
The word ‘photograph’ isn’t just buzzed into Taylor’s speech either, but is a convention used to display her time in Paris for City of Lover, dating roughly around the time the concert aired on September 9th, 2019, two weeks after Lover came out. These photos and even clips show up just after her stripped-down performance of ‘The Man.’ Some of these photos could even be spotted on her Instagram. Others have been credited with being taken by then-boyfriend Joe Alwyn. So it makes sense that this particular trip would be pinned to her songwriting board whenever she wants to use its scenic views as a metaphor.
However, the thing about ‘Paris’ is that it has a wistful aura; underneath its pop-cadence is the feeling that there’s a desire for herself and her accompanying lover, in this case, presumably Joe, to step into that ‘Bejeweled’ elevator and go back to that photograph. In the pre-chorus of ‘Paris,’ Taylor refuses to see what’s happening now, “Drew a map on your bedroom ceiling / No, I didn’t see the news / ‘Cause we were somewhere else.” It’s “pretend alleyways” and “make believe it’s champagne” because she can’t let the outside noise of the media tamper with a relationship that she’s so protective of, willing for him to join her in this bubble-wrapped memory, “Sit quiet by my side in the shade / And not the kind that’s thrown / I mean, the kind under where a tree has grown.”
“Drew a map on your bedroom ceiling / No, I didn’t see the news / ‘Cause we were somewhere else.”
By the time the bridge hits, though, it’s no longer a subtle attempt, but rather, her relationship anxiety has amplified all the way up. Sure, these things can look romantic from the outside. Still, they’re also riddled with unsureness, unable to peer into a crystal ball to see if this obstacle is enough to blow up the entire relationship. Taylor goes from “I wanna brainwash you / Into loving me forever” to “Let the only flashing lights be the tower at midnight / In my mind.” It’s laced with the need to reassure him that they’re going to be okay –“Yes, we were somewhere else / My love, we were in Paris” – because maybe if she reminds him enough, she’ll believe it too.
What’s also interesting is the official lyric video, another way that artists can further the track’s story. In this one for ‘Paris,’ we’re flickering between its serene view with an overly romanticized purple gradient—a sidenote here that while the Tower of Pisa has its moment, so do the clouds, almost as if something is on the horizon until it dips into a sunset. Taylor truly has to settle her anxieties, and she does for a minute as the image becomes Disney-like, a sparkling beam highlighting the monument. That is, until there’s a pure blackout with a lamppost on the right side of the frame. It could suggest that she’s almost on the verge of living in the present until she snaps back into her Paris memory.
Honestly, dreamy aesthetic aside, ‘Paris’ is as much of an inside look into the turbulent side of relationships as Lover is, creating this brilliant tightrope of being a cute loved-up ballad while also portraying its darker shades. Perhaps that’s why Taylor decided to cloak the City of Lover stage in darkness, even going one step further with her clothing. However, the similar draw towards anxieties and loneliness doesn’t stop there, so we also wanted to spotlight two performances from City of Lover!
What immediately draws us in for her ‘Daylight’ performance is the brightness shining onto her face. It’s a direct contrast with the background behind her and therefore plays with our suggestion of there being a purpose behind the stage lighting, à la “My love was as cruel as the cities I lived in / Everyone looked worse in the light.” Keeping in mind the message of ‘Paris,’ which is that she desires to draw out the noise to just be with her lover and protect their relationship, ‘Daylight’ has hints of that same thing lyric-wise, comparing the world that she was in before she met her muse to anything but the golden that she now sees with him. There’s also blue lighting reflecting onto the audience members and even shining up from above, almost proving that fact.
“And I can still see it all (In my mind) / All of you, all of me (Intertwined).”
There’s this brilliant moment where she interacts with the audience, sighing with relief upon singing, “It’s brighter now, now,” the same happy breathlessness she reserves whenever she croons the word “Paris.” When the chorus picks up and she reminds us of that fact – “I only see daylight, daylight, daylight, daylight” – the blue in the crowd changes to purple, illuminated by their LSD bracelets. Those bracelets ingrained their way into many of her shows and tours!
The beam of brightness behind her even gets bigger upon the piano keys slowing down, recounting one of those photographic memories once again, “And I can still see it all (In my mind) / All of you, all of me (Intertwined) / I once believed love would be (Black and white) / But it’s golden (Golden).” We have one of the first true captures of the whole stage during that last chorus, capturing both the darkness and the lightness and her desire only to want to be in the latter.
‘Lover’ continues with this flair of purple, which mounts onto the screen behind Taylor in whimsical clouds. It’s a lighter tone than the ones found in the ‘Paris’ visualizer, but it is interesting how both sorts show the same thing. Before we hear the strums coming from her guitar, she introduces the song itself, and it’s here where we have another commonality: the song was written during the night hours, adding to the collection of songs penned during various Midnights, if you will. It’s no wonder why, as she addresses, “because it keeps it magical and it keeps it mysterious.”
The stage dips back into the darkness of blue, and once again, the only thing lit up is Taylor, just her and her guitar, the stars decorated on its chords matching those around the clouds. It may not be Paris, but we’re whisked away again. It’s a place not yet tainted by fame, but much more marvelous, seeing it stretch out before our eyes at one point as the camera pans.
“All’s well that ends well to end up with you.”
However, from a lyrics perspective, those inner demons nuzzle in, even if they’re not fame centric. Rather, “I’m highly suspicious that everyone who sees you wants you.” No matter what faraway kingdom Taylor escapes to, her anxieties are always close behind. Then the reminding and the chasing with “Can I go where you go?” The 2:46 mark of her asking this question is so delightful to see because she goes from singing the first part as that of a child with so much wonder of being near a friend, and then it sails off to a stunned vocal moment, showcasing that insecurity.
The same airy dramatics follow through around the 3:30 mark, where she’s reciting the bridge, bringing as much sass as she can to “All’s well that ends well to end up with you.” The cuts from Taylor to this dreamworld in the background behind her genuinely give off that same love-bubble effect that ‘Paris’ transpires.
Do you want to leave the ‘Bejeweled’ elevator on level seven, just like us? Is it time to re-listen to live-recorded performances from City of Lover? Then you can do so here. Or if you’re a level twelve girlie, then ‘Paris’ is streaming from most platforms, including Spotify and Apple!
Taylor continues to roll out one of the biggest tours at the moment, the Eras Tour, and staff photographer Brittaney Penney was lucky enough to attend! Be sure to admire her photos, and then click the follow button on our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages for more updates on our guitar-plucking sweetheart.
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