Being an eclectic chap, Cockburn has sampled his fair share of music. And he’s not ashamed to admit, contrary to Al Michaels’s suggestion that Taylor Swift only appeals to teenage girls, that he considers himself a “Swiftie” — not least of all because Swift makes repeated reference to one of his favorite activities: drinking alcohol.
Swift just released her new album, Midnights, along with an official music video to accompany her catchy and oh-so-clever song, Anti-Hero. The video tells you all you need to know about Swift’s preferred method for dealing with her problems. Though she never mentions booze by name, she appears in the video taking shots and desperately shaking the last drop from a bottle of wine directly into her mouth.
If Al Michaels thinks such twenty-one-plus imagery and metaphors are for “teenage girls,” he obviously hasn’t listened to much beyond Swift’s 2014 album, 1989. In studying her catalog — casually, of course, and not at all because Swift is his go-to Spotify station — Cockburn noticed that alcohol started to become a recurring theme in her music with the release of her record Reputation. This also came shortly after Swift met her now-longtime English boyfriend Joe Alwyn, and, boy, do those Brits know how to drink.
If Cockburn had to guess, he would say Swift developed a liking for the strong stuff after she swam “in a Champagne sea” in 2017. This is the same year she admitted to spilling wine in a bathtub while drunk and drinking beer out of plastic cups. She once drank old-fashioneds and focused on drinking while her love interest at the time was more focused on thinking. Later on in the same album, she met a new love interest in a bar, asked a former love interest to make her a drink, got drunk and made fun of the way Alwyn, presumably, talked and compared one of her boyfriend’s eyes to liquor. She also professes a fondness for Tennessee whiskey and informs us she can be found in a pub.
It was in 2020, however, that Swift really seems to have found refuge in the bottle. It was during Covid, when everyone was drinking more than we should. On her albums evermore and Folklore, Swift refers to her “spite and my tears and my beers and my candles,” “sitting in an airport bar,” “champagne problems,” “that dive bar,” “getting wasted,” being drunk under a streetlight and kissing in downtown bars, being drunk on something stronger than the drinks in the bar, getting drunk “but it’s not enough,” and drunk crying in the back of the car coming from the bar.
Cockburn senses Swift is something of a wino, making reference in other songs to “a glass of wine,” “cheap wine,” “rosé flowing,” “cheap-ass screw-top rosé,” “merlot on his mouth,” “priceless wine,” “a bottle of wine,” “the wine,” “my husband’s wine,” “a wine-stained dress,” and “cold wine.”
This latest offering is Swift all over — sentimental, inventive, memorable, and, as Cockburn’s colleague Alexander Larman labels it, “a bright spot in a bland music industry.” There’s something more brooding, introspective, and self-deprecating about Swift’s lyrics this time around, though, with the songstress admitting to “falling apart” and reflecting on the stress of fame’s constant scrutiny. Alcohol is a well-known recourse for creative types, and though Cockburn doesn’t encourage it as a solution to life’s challenges, he can hardly blame Swift if she is wont to overindulge now and then.