Taylor Swift – “Illicit Affairs”

      2 Comments on Taylor Swift – “Illicit Affairs”

Romantic relationships are rarely balanced. Inevitably, one person is more in love and has more to lose than the other.

Affairs amplify this imbalance. One person is married and one isn’t, or one recommits to their spouse, or one has no intention of leaving their partner.

While unrequited love songs are a dime a dozen, I don’t know many affair songs that dwell in this imbalance. Most portray the affair as a sensual and joyous respite from a lonely relationship, not as the source of loneliness.

The protagonist of “Illicit Affairs” struggles with this inequality. She makes sacrifices and excuses. She buys small gifts that she can never share. She lives as if she doesn’t even exist. She is, to paraphrase one of my favorite lines from Swift’s Folklore, a godforsaken mess who can no longer see the colors she saw with him.

Most affair songs live in a world of consenting and equal adults. Taylor Swift lives in a world of married presidents and starry-eyed interns. The power of “Illicit Affairs” is rooted in powerlessness, and as a result, it is a heartbreakingly lovely song.

About Chuck

Chuck is a lifelong music lover. He spent his 20s working as a professional musician before discovering he enjoys listening to music more than playing it. He knows a little bit about most genres, though electronic dance music, rock, and hip-hop are his favorites. Eleven albums/shows that transformed how he sees and hears the world (in order he encountered them): Fleetwood Mac Rumours; Van Halen Fair Warning; The Cure Standing on a Beach; John Coltrane Crescent; De La Soul Three Feet High and Rising; Puccini La Boheme (de los Angeles, Bjorling, Beecham); Everything but the Girl Walking Wounded; Carl Cox, Twilo, NYC, May 2000; Godspeed You! Black Emperor Yanqui U.X.O.; Grateful Dead. Fillmore East, NYC, April 1971; Taylor Swift 1989.

2 thoughts on “Taylor Swift – “Illicit Affairs”

  1. bobvinyl

    I listened to this and I dislike the protagonist. Like that Alanis Morrissette song “You Oughta Know,” she is defined by the man like an addict would be defined by a drug. That doesn’t make it a bad song. I just don’t find myself with a lot of sympathy for her.


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