Clara Bow, Lady Idina Sackville Inspire Taylor Swift’s New Songs

Taylor Swift’s new album features literary references and inspirations like former actress Clara Bow and socialite Lady Idina Sackville.

Taylor Swift served soliloquies of love, loss, and grief in her newest album, The Tortured Poets Department. It shed light to the singer-songwriter’s lyrical homage to her past and other relatable moments in her life. Certain names appeared in her new manuscript, as what she and her team call her new album, like “Clara Bow.” Other songs had literary references as well as other elites from earlier times, like “The Bolter,” which was reportedly inspired by an Edwardian socialite named Lady Idina Sackville.

The Tortured Poets Department encompasses masterful lyricism with a beautiful blend of synth, pop, folk, rock, and ballad. The album beckons its listeners to delve deeper than the surface. Discover how history, literature, and pop culture weave magic into Swift’s new music.

READ ALSO: The Tortured Poets Department: Taylor Swift Releases Her 11th Studio Album

Who is Clara Bow?

Swift included a song titled “Clara Bow” in The Tortured Poets Department. The song talks about the themes of fame and its consequences according to Time

In the song, the singer chronicles how she, the narrator of the story, possesses an irresistible charm similar to Clara Bow’s and the pressures that come with it. Aside from this, she likens her persona with that of Stevie Nicks, delving into beauty, self-possession, and commercializing her identity.

Clara Bow is the epitome of a classic 1920s young woman and a former Hollywood actress who had her share of triumphs and struggles. The Guardian mentioned she had a tough upbringing in Brooklyn but conquered that as she rose above and became a star. Her natural charisma endeared her to numerous people, yet she encountered rejection, exploitation, and a career plagued with scandals during her career. Aside from struggles in the industry, she battled mental health struggles and societal judgment.

Clara Bow plays Yvonne in “Ladies of the Mob” (1928)
Clara Bow plays Yvonne in “Ladies of the Mob” (1928) /Photo from IMDb

Her legacy faded gradually from the industry but her work in films “It” and “Wings” highlight her talent and lasting appeal. She remains an iconic figure in the field of film through her charm, perseverance, and resilience.

The song “Clara Bow” exemplified the parallelism of Swift’s life with her current experiences in the entertainment industry. “You look like Clara Bow / In this life, remarkable / All your life, did you know / You’d be picked like a rose,” the lyrics said. It symbolizes being chosen among many others to pursue a career in show business. 

Picking great women in the industry

Swift said as per Variety that she used to sit in record labels trying to get a record deal when she was a kid. People would compare her with an artist and say something “disparaging,” but commented that she was so much better in other ways. 

“That’s how we teach women to see themselves, like you could be the new replacement for this woman who’s done something great before you,” Swift expressed. “I picked women who have done great things in the past [for the song] and have been these archetypes of greatness in the entertainment industry.” She expounded, saying Clara Bow was the first “it girl” while Nicks continues to shine as a notable musician.

Through “Clara Bow,” Swift implies a cyclical nature to fame and honoring celebrated personalities across generations.

Lady Idina Sackville, the original “bolter”

Fans have long speculated that Swift’s song “The Bolter” may be about her ex-boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. This is due to instances where they would “bolt” to the car to avoid being photographed. However, it just might be another personality in earlier societies. 

US Weekly mentioned in a report that an Edwardian-era socialite might have sparked the inspiration for the song. Let us look into the life of Lady Idina Sackville, also referred to as Idina Wallace or Lady Myra Idina Sackville.

The promiscuous socialite, Lady Idina Sackville
The promiscuous socialite, Lady Idina Sackville/Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The socialite, born in 1893, was known for her unconventional lifestyle and numerous marriages that ended up in divorces. She also did disreputable acts such as allowing party guests to watch her dress. She inspired a few books, such as Frances Osborne’s “The Bolter,” published in 2008. Osborne happened to be her great-granddaughter as per The Literary Review, and her book revealed more about the socialite’s controversial life.

Frances Osborne’s “The Bolter,” published in 2008, peeked into Lady Idina Sackville’s life
Frances Osborne’s “The Bolter,” published in 2008, peeked into Lady Idina Sackville’s life/Photo from Amazon

US Weekly also mentioned Lady Idina Sackville inspired a character named “The Bolter” in Nancy Mitford’s novels. The author associated the nickname to the character due to their habit of “‘bolting’ from their husbands.”

Peace in running away

Swift had not explicitly mentioned the reference to the song, but her lyrics implied parallels of the characters. Her words showed familiar elements of early 20th century high society like trophy hunting and horse racing. She also sang about the subject being well-traveled and liberated.

“The Bolter” by Taylor Swift is included in the second album, “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology.”

“As she was leaving, it felt like breathing,” sang Swift. The line may be interpreted that the subject found peace as she ran from a lover that was not right for her.

Is Swift a poet?

The Associated Press delved deep in the subject of whether or not Swift is a poet. Literature professor Allison Adair said the singer demonstrated a serious approach to poetry through mentioning Pablo Neruda, William Wordsworth, and Emily Dickinson in her work. She added that if someone writes poems and considers themselves a poet, then they are one. 

University of Texas Professor Elizabeth Scala said poetry and songs were intertwined at a point in time. Meanwhile, Willamette University’s Michael Chasar suggested that songwriters may be appropriately called poets as music brings unique elements to lyrical expression.

Poet laureate Ada Limón expressed that Swift shining light on poetry as a genre is “exciting.”

Poetic moments in Swift’s album include mentioning literature references such as the King of Troy’s daughter in “Cassandra.” Another is the mismatched melodies of “So Long, London,” which open with chimes and church-like harmonies fading into quieter beats. 

The elegiac nature of the beats of “So Long, London.”

The album’s record-breaking first 24 hours

The Tortured Poets Department has been receiving early accolades since its release last Friday. Spotify announced the album clinched more than 300 million streams in a day, which is a first in their history. Swift also became the most-streamed artist in a day as per the music streaming giant.

Spotify added “Fortnight” featuring Post Malone became its most-streamed song in a single day. 

Amazon Music continued Swift’s streak, where it also became the company’s most-listened to album on its first day. 

Banner photo from Wikimedia Commons

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