Whether you’ve known who Taylor Swift is for her entire career and are just now discovering the Kansas City Chiefs, or you’re a die-hard football fan still pretending you don’t know a single thing about her (come on, everyone knows “Our Song”), it’s undeniable the pop star has left an indelible mark on popular culture.
Often considered an artist for the youngest audiences, her popularity and financial success have grown in scope as much as her fans have in age and, presumably, height. Those who claim to have a distaste for her music cite superficiality and a saccharine sweetness that overpowers without complexity.
Like most things misunderstood, Taylor Swift’s music is surprising in its secrets. Here, we expose one of those secrets: some of her songs are perfect for horror fans. Below, discover which horror villain you are based on your favorite Taylor Swift song.
If “Bad Blood” is your favorite Taylor Swift song, then you are Carrie White. Released in 2014 as a single on 1989 and co-written by Kendrick Lamar, this song invokes the anger we’ve all felt when betrayed by a lover. And the violent urges that rise when a shining beacon of trust and hope becomes ash and rust by adding unforgivable insult to grave injury: “salt in the wound like you’re laughing right at me.”
Everyone certainly laughed at Carrie. Drenched in pig’s blood and made the laughingstock of prom, Carrie ultimately proves “band aids don’t fix bullet holes.” Or having been shredded by flying glass, crushed by a panicking throng of doomed prom-goers, or burned alive in an all-consuming fire.
Carrie White is born of bad blood, and those who ignore the warning—“when you get in my way, just don’t”—die in that bad blood.
“…Ready For It?”
Taylor Swift’s acknowledgement of dark desires and secret sins, 2017’s “…Ready For It?” identifies a killer who leaves girls haunted as an object of desire. She then offers herself to him, “if he’s a ghost then I can be a phantom,” thus elevating a lingering and malicious spirit to admirable pedestals.
The stakes in this song are supernatural and eternal, even threatening, and the sadistic underpinnings of the chorus point directly to the killer in our nightmares:
“In the middle of the night, in my dreams
You should see the things we do, Baby
In the middle of the night, in my dreams
I know I’m gonna be with you
So I’ll take my time.
Are you ready for it?”
Take your time to do exactly what? I am very likely not ready for that torture. If this is your favorite Swiftie song, welcome to Elm Street. You are Freddy Kreuger.
“You Belong With Me”
The speaker of this song seems to have privileged information about the object of their affections, knowing when they’re on the phone and why they’re upset, which might not initially seem sinister.
But, when the speaker is “in the room, it’s a typical Tuesday night” and hopes their obsession will “wake up and find that what [they’re] looking for has been here the whole time,” no longer watching from a distance but standing over them while they sleep, there’s no denying the impending doom brought on by an unrelenting stalker.
If the 2008 collaboration with Liz Rose, “You Belong with Me,” is your favorite Taylor Swift song, you are Michael Myers. The original iteration of Halloween’s villain returned to his hometown after 15 years of psychiatric incarceration, where he fixates on Laurie Strode and stalks her incessantly.
“Driving to [her] house in the middle of the night…you know you’re ‘bout to cry” and “standing by and waiting at your back door” are all lyrical premonitions of Michael’s end goal. Nothing says “You Belong With Me” like killing off everyone who might get in the way of being together.
To be able to read someone “like a magazine” and see a future of “magic, madness, heaven, [and] sin” takes a certain kind of intelligence, and exclaiming “oh my god, look at that face!” suggests there’s something sinister weaved into that intelligence. Especially if the person making those exclamations has been known to wear someone else’s face after cutting it off with plastic prison cutlery.
It's easy to think that person is known for a bit of cannibalism, because he knows how to “make the bad guys good for a weekend” with proper butchering, seasoning, impeccable wine pairing, and then sound preservation methods. Taking “things way too far,” leaving “nasty scars,” causing “screaming, crying, [and] perfect storms,” and a “nightmare dressed like a daydream” perfectly invokes an obvious villain.
If “Blank Space” is your favorite song, you are Hannibal Lecter. Brilliant, epically psychotic, masterfully manipulative, and a discerning epicurean, Lecter would be quite happy to add your name to the list of people who meet him and then know he’s insane.
Though a case could be made that loving “Mean” (2010) makes you Billy Loomis, another stab-happy revenge-seeking killer’s actions are explained nearly perfectly by the voice in this song. If “Mean” is your favorite, you are Jason Voorhees.
Driven purely by revenge steeped in supernatural evil, Jason certainly had “knives and swords and weapons used against [him]” and though it rarely only took one single blow to take him down, his victims definitely didn’t know what they didn’t know—he was just going to rise again, someday, even in a “big old city,” big enough that—if not exactly no one—very few people could hit him, and his victims were only ever going to be the mean people who killed his mother and then never left him alone about it.
While it’s debatable that Jason could hear, it’s obvious that those who stood against him perpetuated a cycle in which his differences from the rest of humanity were centralized as evidence in a case against him: “you have pointed out my flaws again, as if I don’t already see them . . . trying to block you out, ‘cause I’ll never impress you. The poor guy is more like other people, like us, than we know: “I just want to feel okay again.”
The dark romanticism in Taylor Swift’s 2020 release, “Willow,” speaks of love lifted directly from the pages of Victorian Horror: “Life was a willow, and it bent right to your wind, head on the pillow, I can feel you sneaking in” isn’t just about love that rises from the shadows, it’s about love with an elemental dominion over life itself.
Sure, “when your ship rolled in that night, [the water] was rough on the surface” invokes lethally difficult passage over water, but the power to travel with the wind and appear “like a mythical thing,” that’s supernatural. If “Willow” is your favorite song, you are Dracula, eagerly awaiting a signal to meet your target after dark.
“Willow” calls for a lover to reveal where there are scars, presumably for easy arterial access. And the invitation to take a train home is a welcome one, considering Dracula’s difficulty crossing oceans. Perhaps most convincing is the huge success of the 1992 film adaptation starring Gary Oldman, Keanu Reeves, Anthony Hopkins, and Winona Ryder.
Swift’s lyrics speak directly to the power of a bond that comes back “stronger than a 90s trend,” and arguably no genre trend was saturated more in the 90s than vampires. Welcome back, Vlad.
“Look What You Made Me Do”
Given the year of release for “Look What You Made Me Do,” 2017, it stands to reason that the speaker of this song may in fact be retaliating against a specific horror villain whose rise to fame occurred well before Taylor Swift became famous.
Declaring that “I don’t like your little games, don’t like your tilted stage, the role you made me play” doesn’t generate much of a puzzle in figuring out who she’s talking about. And, surviving this villain certainly demands getting “harder in the nick of time” and rising “up from the dead,” or solving riddles and enduring pain just before timers run out that chime the arrival of horrific deaths.
If this is your favorite song, you are the Saw franchise’s Jigsaw. In fact, the chorus seems to be a lilting mockery of a survivor’s encounter with the enigmatic killer: “Ooh, look what you made me do!” repeats like a schoolyard taunt.
The song even remarks on the longevity of the series by mentioning the speaker “does it all the time,” and proclaiming that “the world moves on, another day another drama drama.”
However, if this is your favorite song and you are indeed Jigsaw, prepare for another installment in the series. Because all she “thinks about is karma,” and she’s “got a list of names, yours is in red, underlined.”
Eli Ryder lives in central Texas, where he teaches writing and literature. He is well aware that in an era dependent on reputation, plenty of readers will see red and feel the need to speak now and speak loudly about omissions and oversights in this list. But, haters gonna hate, and he’s just going to shake it off.
Featured Photo: Rosa Rafael / Unsplash