Taylor Swift Playlist: Ravenclaw

None of Taylor Swift’s songs are strictly about knowledge or wisdom, but plenty of them deal with dreams and fanciful ideas, fairy tale and literary allusions, truth and sincerity, and individuality. These are the songs – in contrast with the realistic and down-to-earth Hufflepuff ones – that speak most to what Ravenclaw house is about.

A Place In This World

“I don’t know what I want, so don’t ask me,” this song begins. “Cause I’m still trying to figure it out.” With Luna Lovegood in mind, I think it makes sense to say that young Ravenclaws are all about figuring themselves out. All that introspection and exploration takes some time, and Ravenclaws might be more willing than others to accept that they don’t have all the answers yet, as long as they’re looking for them.

The Outside

Ravenclaws are individuals who march to the beat of their own drum, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be loved and accepted. Many Ravenclaws can understand trying to “take the road less traveled by” and ending up as outsiders.

Love Story

There’s nothing intellectual about this song. It’s one misaimed literary allusion after another, from Romeo and Juliet to The Scarlet Letter. However, the dreamy fairy tale feel and desire for an epic literary romance is definitely strong, even if the comparisons fall short.

Hey Stephen

This is another of Taylor Swift’s early love songs, but what stands out about it to me is the way she lingers over tiny details: “The way you walk, way you talk, way you say my name”. Even more important is the line, “I’ve never seen nobody shine the way you do”. I talked in an earlier post about Gryffindor love being bold and fearless, and I think maybe Ravenclaw love would be perceptive and insightful.

Enchanted

“Walls of insincerity / shifting eyes and vacancy / vanished when I saw your face”. Enchanted is a more grown-up love song, and one that values the genuine over the fake. Yet the song is whimsical, taking the listener on a sweeping journey of enchantment and infatuation. The connection between the two lovers is intellectual as much as anything else: “The playful conversation starts / counter all your quick remarks / like passing notes in secrecy”.

Starlight

This song is about chasing after dreams even when they seem far-fetched. “He was trying to skip rocks on the ocean, saying to me / Don’t you see the starlight, starlight? / Don’t you dream impossible things?” The song is bubbly and larger than life, overflowing with imaginative ideas and crazy dreams.

Out of the Woods

Any song that declares, “The rest of the world was black and white / but we were in screaming color” has got to be a Ravenclaw song. It doesn’t shy away from darkness, but it doesn’t embrace it, either. On the contrary, it’s all about finding a way “out of the woods”. The idea of “monsters” that “turned out to be just trees” speaks to a danger that is conquered by understanding it, not overcoming it.

Wildest Dreams

“Of course it is happening in your head,” Dumbledore tells Harry at near the end of Deathly Hallows. “But why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” Although the line is delivered by a Gryffindor to a Gryffindor, there’s something distinctly Ravenclaw about the idea. That’s the same kind of idea reflected in this song, in which Taylor Swift begs her lover to “Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams”.

Delicate

This song is soft, quiet, and tentative. “Sometimes I wonder when you sleep / are you ever dreaming of me?” Remember what I said about Ravenclaws being perceptive? We also tend to overthink things, and there’s definitely a lot of overthinking going on here. “Is it cool that I said all that? Is it chill that you’re in my head?” But more importantly, the chorus keeps on emphasizing a need to be loved for oneself. Ravenclaws, who tend to be the most individualistic of all the houses, could definitely identify.

Call It What You Want

All the crumbling castles and “flowers [growing] back as thorns” are a clear reference to Taylor Swift’s earlier, more whimsical type of songs. The clever title suggests that – instead of insisting that “it’s a love story” or “today was a fairy tale” – we can decide what we want to call this strange sort of romance, while the subtle references to much older songs make this story almost like a riddle to be solved.

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Taylor Swift Playlist: Hufflepuff

If the Gryffindor songs are bold and fearless, and the Slytherin ones are venomous revenge anthems, the Hufflepuff songs would have to be the softest and simplest, the ones that veer away from fanciful dreams or delusions of grandeur and embrace the everyday.

Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw was the first Taylor Swift song I fell in love with. It’s quiet, sincere, and paints a simple yet romantic picture of a love that is over, but not regretted: “When you think happiness / I hope you think that little black dress / think of my head on your chest / and my old faded blue jeans”.

Mary’s Song

This song tells the story of an elderly couple and their journey from childhood friends to high school sweethearts to newlyweds to parents and then grandparents. It’s all about stability and long-lasting loyalty in love of the type that Hufflepuffs exemplify, right up to the ending, where “I’ll be eighty-seven, you’ll be eighty-nine / I still look at you like the stars that shine in the sky / oh, my, my, my”.

Fifteen

I almost called this song Ravenclaw, but I think it’s more Hufflepuff in the end. The song explores – and respects – the high-strung emotions and raging hormones that young teenagers experience, but it also encourages young girls that “In your life, you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team / but I didn’t know it at fifteen”. The song is very grounded and aimed at guiding younger girls through that phase of life “before you know who you’re gonna be”.

You Belong With Me

This song is totally about a dorky Hufflepuff pining after her best friend who’s dating a Slytherin, right?

The Best Day

“The Best Day” is about appreciating a parent’s love. It starts off with a child narrator (“Don’t know if Snow White’s house is near or far away / but I know I had the best day with you today”), but she quickly grows into a young woman who is wiser and more mature but still thankful for her family. This expression of love and gratitude just seems so Hufflepuff.

Mine

The early Taylor Swift albums are more about looking for love than really experiencing it. Some of the songs are whimsical and dreamy, others are bold and passionate, but they all tell of something that’s overwhelming and new. And then there’s this one, which seems somehow more grounded. Here, she’s not singing about fairy tales or daydreams or dancing in a storm together; she wants someone who will stay when things get tough and be “the best thing that’s ever been mine”.

Stay Stay Stay

That same train of thought – faithful love, and staying when things aren’t easy – runs through most of Taylor Swift’s more Hufflepuff type love songs. In this one, she has fallen head over heels with someone who “took the time to memorize” her and who – even when she thinks they’re on the verge of breaking up – will stay with her. She comes to the conclusion that “I’d like to hang out with you for my whole life”, which is just such a straightforward Hufflepuff way of saying you’re in love.

Girl at Home

Hufflepuffs are loyal, honest, and fair, traits exemplified in this song about a woman turning down a man’s advances because she knows he has a girlfriend. “I don’t even know her, but I feel a responsibility to do what’s upstanding and right”.

This Love

Another song about enduring love, “This Love” tells the story of a romance “back from the dead”. Unlike earlier songs, it embraces the conflicts and ambiguities of love, and the singer doesn’t seem quite sure whether it’s good or bad. But in the end, “you come back to what you need”.

New Year’s Day

There is almost nothing Hufflepuff at all about reputation, until this very last song. That person who will stay after the party to help you clean up? That’s a Hufflepuff. “Don’t read the last page / but I stay / when you’re lost and I’m scared / and you’re turning away / I want your midnights / but I’ll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year’s Day”.

Taylor Swift Playlist: Slytherin

Continuing what I started with Gryffindor earlier today, here are ten Taylor Swift songs that remind me of Slytherin house. Not all of these are necessarily the venom-laced recent ones, but they’re all about things like ambition, revenge, clever schemes and trickery, or simply being guarded and secretive.

Cold as You

It was very hard to find any songs for Slytherin from the earliest albums. The “Old Taylor” was just so sweet and genuine, even her breakup songs are more righteously angry than vengeful. But this one is all about a manipulative relationship with a two-faced person, so I think it fits. “Every smile you fake is so condescending counting all the scars you’ve made”.

I’m Only Me When I’m With You

The other early Taylor Swift song I chose is not a manipulative or vengeful song at all, but rather, an upbeat love song. How does that work? It’s all about being “on my guard for the rest of the world” and careful who she reveals her secrets to. “When I’m with anybody else, it’s so hard to be myself and only you can tell,” Taylor sings. Slytherins are very good at putting on a mask for the world that they only remove around their most trusted loved ones.

Better Than Revenge

From Speak Now, this song is all about … well, revenge. And being underestimated. And that good girl image hiding something powerful and dangerous. “She had to know the pain was beating on me like a drum / She underestimated just who she was stealing from”.

The Lucky One

In hindsight, this song could almost go on reputation, although it dates back to Red. With lines like “And they tell you that you’re lucky, but you’re so confused / ‘Cause you don’t feel pretty, you just feel used,” the song explores ambition, fame, and the pressures of being a celebrity.

Blank Space

Oh my goodness. There is so much that’s Slytherin about “Blank Space” that I don’t even know where to start. Maybe with “screaming, crying, perfect storm / I can make all the tables turn / rose gardens filled with thorns”? The lines like “baby I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”? The repeating idea that love is a game to be played?

Bad Blood

Gryffindors tend to be charitable and forgiving; Slytherins not so much. They are much more likely to take the attitude that “band-aids don’t fix bullet holes” and continue to carry a grudge.

The New Romantics

Part of being cunning and ambitious means being able to take what life gives you and use it for your own ends – or in other words, to “build a castle out of all the bricks they threw at me”. Lines like “We team up / then switch sides like a record changer” and “He can’t see it in my face / but I’m about to play my Ace” just scream Slytherin.

I Did Something Bad

I could have included half the songs from reputation on here, if I wanted to. But how could I not include this one, which talks about playing narcissists “like a violin” and embraces the idea of hurting people before they can hurt you. “This is how the world works”, the singer adds, a sentiment that the “Old Taylor” would never have agreed with.

Look What You Made Me Do

I’ve included a couple of other revenge songs on this list, but this one – wow. “Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time” – this “smarter”, “harder” version of Taylor Swift is not just angry at one person, but rather, angry at the world. You can just see her clawing her way to the top, trying to steal back those “kingdom keys”.

Getaway Car

“Nothing good starts in a getaway car,” at least according to this song. Although the narrator is desperate for an escape, it’s also clear that the metaphorical getaway car driver is just a means to an end who she will eventually leave. “We were jet-set Bonnie and Clyde / until I turned to the other side / It’s no surprise I turned you in / cause us traitors never win”. It’s not that Slytherins are in any way incapable of loyalty, but they are loyal to themselves first, along with perhaps one or two others. The driver of a getaway car, the rebound boyfriend, or the partner-in-crime doesn’t factor into that.

Taylor Swift Playlist: Gryffindor

Instead of a Sorting Hat Saturday where I sort characters from other stories into Hogwarts houses, this week, I’m celebrating the release of reputation with a Taylor Swift playlist for every Hogwarts house. Here’s the first one. The songs are in chronological order.

Our Song

This song is all about reckless young love, summed up in images like a slamming screen door, a distinctive laugh, and a secret late-night phone call. It takes some bravery to jump headfirst into that.

Fearless

Different people react to love differently, and I think for Gryffindors, it’s definitely a source of courage. This song is about the ways a first taste of love can be terrifying (“My hands shake, I’m not usually this way”) and at the same time, empowering. All the things that would normally matter seem insignificant: “I don’t know why, but with you I’d dance / In a storm in my best dress, fearless”.

Change

Bravery in love is all well and good, but Gryffindor stands for a lot more than that. It’s all about having the courage to stand up for what you believe in. Gryffindors are not afraid to “fight for what [they’ve] worked for all these years”, trusting that their efforts truly can change things.

Dear John

There’s courage in being able to rise above an unpleasant situation, and that’s what Taylor Swift explores in this song: “But I took your matches before fire could catch me, so don’t look now / I’m shining like fireworks over your sad, empty town”.

Long Live

This song more than any other reminds me of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Although they face difficult times together, those trials have brought them closer together. “Long live all the mountains we moved / I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you” is actually a pretty good description of the way their friendship grows in the face of hardship.

State of Grace

“This love is brave and wild,” Taylor Swift sings in this song from Red. Unlike some of her early “fearless in love” songs, this doesn’t mean that being in love makes the narrator feel fearless or emboldened. It means love is a “worthwhile fight”. Imagery like “mosaic broken hearts” and of course the titular “state of grace” paint a picture of a love that isn’t easy, but is worth it.

Red

This is another song that takes a more mature look at the passion that comes with love. It’s still “faster than the wind, passionate as sin”, but it’s also prone to ending in heartbreak. Love is dangerous, and there’s something brave about embracing it anyway.

Welcome to New York

This song reminds me of moving away for college for the first time, and not just because of lines like “when we first dropped our bags on apartment floors”. The image of people looking for “something more / searching for a sound we hadn’t heard before” rings true with anyone who’s stepped outside their comfort zone. In a way, it’s kind of a counterpoint to “Never Grow Up”, an earlier song that idealizes the safety of childhood.

I Know Places

Let’s just run away together, okay? That seems to be the message of this song, where the singer claims, “I know places we won’t be found”. Even though the song is about running away and hiding from something, it doesn’t feel desperate or afraid. It feels as giddy and liberating as “Fearless”. (Of course, the more recent song “Getaway Car” portrays a very different view of running away together.)

King of My Heart

There’s courage in opening yourself up to love after a series of heartbreaks. While the imagery in this song evokes much earlier ones, with its royal titles and fanciful dreams, there’s a wariness about it that is not present in “Love Story” or even “White Horse”. In fact, it starts off with “I’m perfectly fine / I live on my own / I made up my mind I’m better off being alone” and takes a while to get to the gooey romantic lines like “all at once, you are the one I have been waiting for”.