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Look but don't See: Teardrops on my Guitar


The Basics:

Taylor Swift is in love with Drew. Drew doesn’t know how Taylor Swift feels and tells her about his beautiful girlfriend. Taylor Swift reveals that he’s the reason for the teardrops on her guitar.


Each verse of Teardrops on my Guitar starts with Drew performing an action: “Drew looks,” “Drew talks,” and “Drew walks.” Each action prompts two reactions from Taylor Swift:

  1. 1) a visible, deceptive response designed to conceal her feelings from Drew (“I fake a smile” in the first verse and “I laugh” in the second verse.)

  2. an internal reflection on whether Drew can see past her exterior to her true feelings (“he won’t see that I want and I need [him]”, “I wonder if he knows he’s all I think about at night” and “can he tell that I can’t breathe?”) In the chorus, Taylor Swift allows herself to give expression to her feelings by herself, by shedding teardrops on her guitar, wishing on a wishing star, and singing a song in her car.

With “he’s the time taken up, but there’s never enough,” Swift briefly references her earlier ruminations on time from Tim McGraw and Picture to Burn before closing by repeating the first verse: “Drew looks at me, I fake a smile so he won’t see.”


Literary Device Demonstration: Enjambment!

“Drew talks to me, I laugh ‘cause it's so damn funny

That I can’t even see anyone when he’s with me”


These lines use the literary technique called enjambment. When you read or hear the first line, you might think that Taylor Swift is laughing because Drew made a hilarious joke. As Swift continues onto the second line, however, you realize that the sentence wasn’t over! The funny thing wasn’t his joke, it was that she can’t see anyone else and he doesn’t know it. Sad!


Analysis:

Taylor Swift is infatuated with Drew. Her mind is constantly in overdrive, analyzing his actions when they are together and thinking about him constantly while they are apart. In sharp contrast with her mind, her body and her biological functions are in jeopardy. Throughout the song, Swift bemoans the fact that she “can’t see” and “can’t breathe.” She states that he can “break [her] heart” and she expresses jealousy about his ability to walk perfectly:


“And there he goes, so perfectly,

The kind of flawless I wish I could be”


Thus, Swift’s eyes, lungs, heart, and legs cease to function as usual when she is with Drew. When she is alone in the chorus and bridge, however, she uses her lungs to sing, her heart to wish, and her legs (and hopefully her eyes) to drive, indicating some amount of relief when they are apart.


Swift does not, however, fully resume using her eyes to see. Whenever Swift is alone in the song, she specifies that it is nighttime, when it is dark and harder to see. Additionally, she “turn[s] out the light” and “put[s] his picture down,” making an active choice not to see. Rather than seeing, Swift’s eyes produce the physical manifestation of grief while she transforms that grief into art.


Throughout the song, Swift fixates on Drew’s eyes as well. The first words of the song are “Drew looks” and the last are “he won’t see.” She hopes that his girlfriend “look[s] into his beautiful eyes and she bets that his girlfriend looks “beautiful.” Drew’s eyes, although biologically functional, do not allow him to perceive. The song begins with the line “Drew looks at me, I fake a smile so he won’t see,” bookending the narrative with a reflection on the difference between looking and seeing. Although he looks at her smile, he cannot see that it is fake and he cannot see that she “want[s] and [she] needs” him. Later, she wonders if he can “tell”, or perceive that she “can’t breathe.” She also “wonder[s] if he knows he’s all I think about at night.” Swift ends the song by repeating the first line. After her wondering, she reasserts that “he won’t see.” Although Drew’s eyes look and are looked into, Swift is certain that they do not see -- that he is blind to the true nature of their relationship.


The song thus contrasts how two people see one another. Drew looks at Swift, but he cannot see. Swift cannot see anyone else, so she turns out the lights, puts his picture down, and transforms her vision into song.



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