By Tatiana Tenreyro
Rilo Kiley got here into my life after I was 16. I could not have discovered the California indie-rock band at a extra pivotal time. At that age, I used to be coping with two horrible relationships back-to-back that broke my spirit, whereas additionally feeling like an outsider in highschool. Jenny Lewis‘s songwriting helped me discover solace; her songs made me really feel like she was the cool older pal guiding me via all of it, validating my feelings, with songs like “Capturing Moods,” “Go Forward,” and “Glendora.”
However for the opposite teenage ladies I knew, the musical icon they associated to probably the most was Taylor Swift. On the time, I wrote off Swift, specializing in her imperfections. Her songs evaluating herself to the favored cheerleader and wanting a fairytale romance felt childish, and the slut-shaming in “Higher Than Revenge” made me uncomfortable.
However 4 years in the past, I started to understand that Swift and Lewis have way more in frequent than a certain ex. In 2016, I stumbled upon a playlist Swift made for iTunes from 2010. It is not accessible on-line, but it surely options Rilo Kiley’s “Silver Lining” off the band’s final album, Beneath the Blacklight. It is a ballad about discovering energy in abandoning an unhealthy relationship. After I observed the monitor within the playlist, all the pieces clicked.
Earlier than Swift emerged because the queen of lovelorn songs, Lewis was telling tales with Rilo Kiley in the identical vein. When the band emerged with its 1999 self-titled debut EP, sometimes called The Preliminary Good friend — getting a vinyl release and its streaming debut right now (October 2) — Lewis launched the band as one that will soundtrack teenage woes. The EP was made after the band made its debut onstage in 1998 at L.A.’s now-defunct DIY venue Spaceland. The Youngsters within the Corridor star Dave Foley occurred to be within the viewers and was so amazed by their set that he insisted on funding their debut EP.
On the time of writing the report, Lewis was simply 21: younger sufficient that she may pen songs that’d make teenage ladies really feel seen, however sufficiently old that she may look at who she was throughout her teen years from a indifferent lens. The lyrics really feel like a diary entry, uncooked and emotional, with out holding again on revealing her vulnerability.
Having skilled fame at a younger age as a toddler star, showing in Troop Beverly Hills, The Wizard, and different late ’80s and ’90s staples, Lewis was nicely conscious of what it was wish to date well-known males with huge egos. One of the vital recognizable songs off Rilo Kiley’s debut is “Teenage Lovesong,” about Lewis falling in love with a well-known boy named Davey (speculated to be Married… with Children‘s David Faustino) and dropping her virginity to him, solely to have him ditch her. There’s “Teenage Lovesong” DNA in Swift’s iconic “Fifteen,” whether or not it is intentional or not. Although the tune was written lengthy earlier than Swift started relationship well-known males, “Fifteen” tells the story of her greatest pal Abigail, who misplaced her virginity to an insensitive teenage boy who acted eerily much like Lewis’s “Davey.”
However the tune that each Rilo Kiley fan is aware of off the band’s debut is “Glendora.” It options a few of Lewis’s rawest songwriting, detailing the numerous ways in which the man she’s crushing on mistreats her. She acknowledges that she ought to discover somebody higher for her, however she simply can’t appear to drop him. I consider Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” as “Glendora”‘s sister tune, with the previous discovering has Swift noting how cold and hot their relationship is. Whereas Lewis takes a extra self-aware method, mentioning that she will’t assist victimize herself, Swift sings about being prepared to maneuver on, lower ties, and never fall for a similar entice once more. Swift’s tune is famously presupposed to be written about Jake Gyllenhaal, who additionally dated Lewis and remained pals along with her after their relationship ended again in 2001. (Although it is rumored that Swift wasn’t glad that Gyllenhaal requested Lewis, his ex, to be his date to the Golden Globes in 2011, Lewis clarified in a tweet that she was already relationship Johnathan Rice on the time.)
Swift’s method to writing breakup songs additionally feels paying homage to Rilo Kiley’s “Portions for Foxes,” off their third report, Extra Adventurous. Again in 2008, former USA As we speak reporter Brian Mansfield had then-18-year-old Swift import the data from her iPod Nano into a flash drive for an interactive function on what she was listening to, including “Portions for Foxes.” The tune got here out simply two years earlier than Swift debuted as a rising country-pop star along with her self-titled report, and it carries the identical weight as her breakup anthems. Lewis sings a few relationship falling aside after a accomplice’s infidelity. His wandering eye is about on a “fairly younger factor,” however Lewis cannot simply eliminate her emotions for him. I wish to think about teenage Swift listening to “Parts for Foxes,” discovering as a lot solace in it as I did.
However surprisingly, whereas Swift’s and Lewis’s approaches to songwriting are related, their careers went in reverse instructions. Lewis, who had been within the limelight for the reason that early ’80s, grew to become an indie darling moderately than an area pop star. With Rilo Kiley, her work with the Watson Twins, and even her stint in The Postal Service, she primarily centered on indie-folk with out totally exploring the pop realm till Beneath the Blacklight. Swift, alternatively, has by no means hidden her love for indie, however did not experiment with a extra indie-folk sound till Lover. This 12 months’s Folklore grew to become an homage to the indie-folk that Swift’s been a longtime fan of, with The Nationwide’s Aaron Dessner as co-songwriter and producer. She additionally consists of Lewis’s friend and collaborator, Bon Iver, on “Exile.”
Although Lewis herself is not current on the album (regardless that it might’ve been an ideal match), you possibly can nonetheless hear hints of Lewis’s affect on it. In a approach, Folklore is Swift’s Extra Adventurous, Rilo Kiley’s 2004 lush people/nation album. It is closely acoustic, that includes Lewis’s most advanced songwriting. Lewis launched new characters who aren’t herself in songs resembling “A Man/Me/Then Jim” and “Does He Love You?,” whereas nonetheless making the album really feel like a relatable intestine punch.
The identical could be stated for Swift’s Folklore. Swift has all the time excelled as a songwriter, being one of many few large pop stars who primarily writes on her personal, however the lyrics on Folklore are her most intricate but. Swift’s songs usually really feel confessional, with followers speculating about how they tie into her private life, however Swift shifts away the main target from herself for a part of the report onto a contemporary crop of characters. There are three songs, “Cardigan,” “August,” and “Betty,” centered on a teenage love triangle, and there is a revenge ballad a few maligned widow (“Mad Girl”). Like Extra Adventurous, it is stripped down, permitting the acoustic guitar and piano to shine moderately than counting on Auto-Tuned radio-friendly pop. Folklore is totally different from something Swift’s executed earlier than, but it surely nonetheless feels so inherently her.
Their careers couldn’t be extra totally different – hell, Lewis was speculated to be opening for Harry Styles this 12 months on tour – however via Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis set the blueprint for who Taylor Swift grew to become to a brand new era of younger adults who sought to be reminded they are not alone of their struggles.