Buckle your seatbelt, Anon! You are in for a wild ride down this rabbit hole (I had to)!!
Firstly, I do not “like” Wonderland, I LOVE Wonderland! I loved Alice in Wonderland as a child (I still do but the creepy-live-action-jonny d*pp-movie-remake scares me). When I first saw there was a song on 1989 called “Wonderland” I was so pumped to hear it because I knew Taylor was going to use it as a metaphor for something, which she did, impeccably. It was love at first listen.
Secondly, I love this song because I relate to it on an emotional level. In four minutes and six seconds, Taylor tells a story of a certain kind of relationship that I experienced a few years ago with a guy I was dating. The kind of relationship I am referring to is one that is wild, confusing, messy, yet simultaneously dream-like, magical, and exhilarating; it is almost as if you know better than to be in that type of relationship, still you go with it because it feels NEW AND EXCITING. Taylor perfectly summarizes what it is like to be in one of those relationships when she says “life was never worse but never better” because that is EXACTLY how those kinds of relationships feel. Anyone who has ever been in that type of thrilling/inevitably ending relationship will strongly relate to this song on an emotional level.
Speaking of the brilliant lyrics to this song, here are some where Taylor exquisitely captures a “wonderland-type relationship”:
We took a wrong turn and we fell down a rabbit hole
Didn’t it all seem new and exciting? I felt your arms twisting around me I should have slept with one eye open at night
We pretended it could last forever
Too in love to think straight
Life was never worse but never better
But there were strangers watching and whispers turned to talking and talking turned to screams
Didn’t they tell us don’t rush into things? Didn’t you flash your green eyes at me? Didn’t you calm my fears with a Cheshire cat smile?
It’s all fun and games ‘til somebody loses their mind
I reached for you but you were gone
You search the world for something else to make you feel like what we had and in the end in wonderland we both went mad…
Not only do her lyrics capture a “wonderland-type relationship” but she also makes clever references to Alice in Wonderland! Throughout the list of lyrics, I made sure to bolden the Alice in Wonderland references such as going “mad”, the “cheshire cat smile”, falling down a rabbit hole, and losing minds. Taylor’s use of literary devices to tell a story is part of what makes her an extraordinary songwriter.
In addition to my obsession with the lyrics and how I relate to them on an emotional level, I am intrigued by the juxtaposition between the actual music and lyrics.
For instance, the music feels happy and pleasant but the lyrics are quite melancholy. The juxtaposition of the music and lyrics somehow meet the approval of each other to create a beautifully sad song.
I love this song so much, and I genuinely feel like it does not receive the love and respect it deserves! I am not sure if I convinced you, Anon, but what I do hope is that you appreciate Taylor’s gifted beyond-belief storytelling abilities that resonate with so many people. Have a good one, my friend!