The National and Taylor Swift Get Emotional at a Hotel Bar in "The Alcott"

Chris Barilla - Author
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Apr. 28 2023, Published 11:50 a.m. ET

The National and Taylor Swift pose for photographs
Source: Getty Images

If it wasn't already clear, 2023 is Swiftie season. Taylor Swift has been on quite a roll between the release of her album "Midnights" as well as her Eras tour. Beyond her own chart-topping works, Taylor decided to lend her talents to longtime friends, The National, on their album "First Two Pages of Frankenstein," collaborating with the band on the song "The Alcott."

With that being said, what is the meaning of "The Alcott"?

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The National and Taylor Swift teamed up on "The Alcott" — what is its meaning?

Thankfully for fans of both The National and Taylor Swift, the stars haven't left the meaning of "The Alcott" up for much translation. In an interview with Zane Lowe as well as in the footnotes accompanying "First Two Pages of Frankenstein" on Apple Music, The National member Matt Berninger broke down the song's meaning.

Matt Berninger of The National photographed performing live
Source: Getty Images
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Leading off with the verse, "I get myself twisted in threads / To meet you at The Alcott / I'd go to the corner in the back / Where you'd always be / And there you are, sittin' as usual / With your golden notebook / Writing something about someone / Who used to be me," The National paints a picture of a couple in a hotel bar (decidedly named The Alcott). He described the scene to Zane and Apple Music in detail.

"I was imagining a scene-a contained moment and narrative between two people," the musician explained. "Someone meeting someone at a place they used to hang out, or maybe the other person wasn’t expecting them, but knew they would be there. It’s just two people that maybe have a chance to reconnect and maybe they don’t."

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In the song's chorus, Taylor begins harmonizing and remains with Matt for the rest of the track. She leads off by noting that "And the last thing you wanted / Is the first thing I do," before adding, "I tell you that I think I'm fallin' / Back in love with you." Through those powerful words, Taylor recounts the struggles of two former lovers working to come to terms with their lingering emotions toward one another.

Taylor Swift photographed while performing
Source: Getty Images
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In the second verse, the lines "I had to do something / To break into your golden thinking" are delivered as a presumed response to Matt's references to a "golden notebook" of songs about his wife, Carin Besser, whom he collaborates on music with.

Apparently, Taylor was moved by the couple's chemistry and decided to step into Carin's shoes for "The Alcott," playing her almost like a movie role wherein she was the one going back and forth sharing romantic tropes with her fellow singer.

"[Taylor] heard that one and was able to instantly get into the mindset of the person I was talking about. So she wrote all her stuff as a response to me, and very much from the perspective of my wife, who I was writing about," Matt explained to Zane. "So when Carin heard that one, and heard Taylor Swift embodying her character in a song, writing responses to me, that was really fun for everybody."

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The next chorus follows a typical call-and-response format but still seems to include some Swiftie Easter eggs, if you pay attention. In the lines "You tell me your problems / (Have I become one of your problems?)" it seems as though Taylor and Matt are riffing off of the lyrics to her track "Exile" (I’m not your problem anymore / So who am I offending now?") and/or "Anti-Hero" ("It‘s me, hi, I‘m the problem it’s me").

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By the bridge, it seems as though the two singers have accepted the turbulence of their relationship but are willing to deal with it to be with one another. This is evident through lines such as "And I'll ruin it all over / I'll ruin it for you / I'll ruin it all over / And over like I always do."

The bridge also features another past Taylor reference. This time, it's to the song "This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things," which sees Taylor sing on "The Alcott," "Why don't you rain on my parade?" This line is a direct play on the 2017 song's lyrics "So why’d you have to rain on my parade?"

To close the track out, Taylor and Matt converse in song again. They admit "It's the last thing I wanted," but, "it's the first thing I do," while recognizing, "I tell you that I think I'm fallin'...back in love with you."

Be sure to check out "First Two Pages of Frankenstein," available on all major streaming platforms.

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