While I’ve never done anything particularly special to celebrate New Year’s Day, it’s always been a night I’ve romanticized. Whether spent out on the town with an intimate group of my closest friends, crashing the friend of a friend of a friend’s exclusive party, or holing up in my beautiful glass-walled penthouse (that I will undoubtedly never obtain) and watching the fireworks arm in arm with my SO, happily swaddled in my most comfortable pajamas, I have holiday aspirations that would make even Hollywood scream, “It’s enough slices!”
And it’s fine that the New Year’s events of my imagination far exceed any I’m likely to ever attend in real life; some things are better left to the imagination, anyway. But when Taylor Swift dropped reputation in 2017, she gave me a whole new aspect of a New Year’s Eve extravaganza to romanticize with “New Year’s Day”: the seemingly mundane, even tedious aftermath.
As fun as the act of making the mess sounds in theory, I could genuinely take or leave the explosive celebration. But the simple task of cleaning it all up the next day with your partner by your side? I’m manifesting it indefinitely. The bar is, in fact, underground, but as she is apt to do, Taylor Swift spins it into such a romantic metaphor for loyalty and love in her life that there’s no way you can’t dream it up for yourself.
The meaning of Taylor Swift’s “New Year’s Day” lyrics
There's glitter on the floor after the party Girls carrying their shoes down in the lobby Candle wax and Polaroids on the hardwood floor You and me from the night before, but
The first verse paints the aftermath of an epic celebration, considering the glitter and the candle wax littering the venue’s floor. It almost feels like the story is over before it’s even had the chance to be told as she details the mess and the mass exit of guests, but then she leads into the chorus by teasing a photo of herself and her partner from earlier in the night, making it clear that there is, in fact, more to the story.
Don’t read the last page But I stay when you're lost and I'm scared and you’re turning away I want your midnights But I'll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year's Day
The chorus clues us in that there’s actually much more to this story than that of a couple simply wrapping up the end of the party.
In asking her partner not to read the last page, Taylor’s likely asking him to take their relationship one day at a time, rather than harping on what’s to come or getting ahead of themselves and making assumptions about the outcome. When you take into consideration the likelihood that this song is about Joe Alwyn, Taylor’s boyfriend since the fall of 2016 and the first relationship she’s had since disappearing after a career full of intense and unwarranted scrutiny for every little thing she did, it’s understandable that she’d be scared, if not downright terrified, to look so far into the future.
In the here and now, the most important thing is that her feet are planted firmly on the ground next to her partner, and that’s all he needs to worry about. She wants his midnights – the euphoria when good things happen or when something good is to come – but will also be there to help him clean up the messes in the days to follow.
You squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi I can tell that it's gonna be a long road I'll be there if you're the toast of the town, babe Or if you strike out and you're crawling home
The second verse suggests that she’s now the one hyper-focused on whatever is yet to come, worried about the path ahead. He’s taking his turn to offer her his comfort and support, and despite her concerns, she reiterates her intention to be there through the good and the bad.
Don't read the last page But I stay when it’s hard or it’s wrong or we're making mistakes I want your midnights But I’ll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year's Day Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you And I will hold on to you Please don't ever become a stranger Whose laugh I could recognize anywhere Please don't ever become a stranger Whose laugh I could recognize anywhere
The second chorus adds a post to lead into the bridge. Taylor reminds her partner not to forget the good things that have happened to them when times get tough, likely anticipating all of the ways that things could fall apart based on previous experience. She hopes that the good memories will carry them through even when things are feeling difficult, and she’ll do whatever she can to do the same.
Still, the fear that things could implode lingers, with the potential to turn even the good memories sour. She begs him not to lose their familiarity, to become someone she could easily pick out of the crowd but not approach.
There’s glitter on the floor after the party Girls carrying their shoes down in the lobby Candle wax and Polaroids on the hardwood floor You and me forevermore
Verse three brings about a sense of deja vu, as it’s largely repetitive of the first. The difference is the final line; the first time, she looked back on a photo from the party that was ending, and now she’s looking ahead without all of that trepidation.
Don't read the last page But I stay when it's hard or it's wrong or we're making mistakes I want your midnights But I'll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year's Day
This time, the chorus almost sounds like a tease – don’t look ahead, don’t skip to the good part, don’t spoil the ending – it ends with us, no matter what.
Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you And I will hold on to you Please don't ever become a stranger (To the memories, they will hold on to you) Whose laugh I could recognize anywhere (Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you) Please don't ever become a stranger (Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you) Whose laugh I could recognize anywhere (I will hold on to you)
The party may or may not have ever happened. Either way, it stands as a metaphor for the good parts of life and love, while the day after represents the less glamorous things that come with both. With the retrospect of all of the pressure put upon her previous relationships, rather than focusing on the simplicity of a literal post-celebration cleanup, Taylor uses the holiday to explore the hope she has for a strong, equal, long-lasting love.
And therefore, I do, too.