Epiphany

Album: Folklore (2020)
Charted: 57

Songfacts®:

  • Only 20 minutes to sleep
    But you dream of some epiphany
    Just one single glimpse of relief
    To make some sense of what you've seen


    An epiphany is a sudden realization or insight. During this ethereal hymn, Taylor Swift reflects on healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and World War II soldiers trying to make sense of their harrowing work.
  • Swift's grandfather Dean fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal during World War II. The military campaign took place between August 1942 and February 1943 on and around the beaches of the island of Guadalcanal, one of the main Pacific Solomon Islands. Like the doctors and nurses working without sleep or rest to help keep people safe and alive, the World War II soldiers endured mental anguish and physical exhaustion. Swift parallels the pressure both sets of workers endure as they help patients and serve their country while witnessing trauma and death.
  • In late April 2020, Swift approached Aaron Dessner of the rock band The National to co-write some songs. They ended up collaborating on 11 of the 16 Folklore tracks. When Swift told him of her idea of writing a widescreen cinematic song, Dessner slowed down and reversed the sounds of different instruments to create a drone-like effect. He told Rolling Stone:

    "'Epiphany' was something she had an idea for, and then I imagined these glacial, Icelandic sounds with distended chords and this almost classical feeling. That was another one where we wrote it and conceived it together. She just has a very instinctive and sharp musical mind, and she was able to compose so closely to what I was presenting."
  • Once Swift heard the dreamy, cinematic instrumentation, she came up with some empathetic lyrics comparing the story of her military veteran grandfather with healthcare workers in modern times. Dessner told Vulture: "To me, it's like a nurse, doctor, or medical professional, where med school doesn't fully prepare you for seeing someone pass away or just the difficult emotional things that you'll encounter in your job. In the past, heroes were just soldiers. Now they're also medical professionals. To me, that's the underlying mission of the song. There are some things that you see that are hard to talk about. You can't talk about it. You just bear witness to them. But there's something else incredibly soothing and comforting about this song. To me, it's this Icelandic kind of feel, almost classical."

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