“Perilous night, their voices calling / A flicker of light before the dawning,” sings Taylor Swift on “Beautiful Ghosts,” the original song written for 2019’s Cats. In addition to portraying Bombalurina in the film adaptation of the iconic Broadway production, she partnered with the musical’s creator, Andrew Lloyd Webber, for this haunting melody. In the song, the feline character that Taylor envisions doesn’t feel so nostalgic when looking back at her past, which translates into melancholic lyrics: “Follow me home if you dare to / I wouldn’t know where to lead you / Should I take chances? / When no one took chances on me / so I watch from the dark waiting for my life to start / with no beauty in my memory.” It’s a far deviation from the pop-charged, optimistic Lover album, and Taylor once again demonstrates her flexibility in genres!
“There was an ambition and an aspiration to have an original song in the movie,” Taylor Swift said in a featurette released in late October, per Rolling Stone. “Just very much this understanding of like, ‘Let’s write the best song we can.’ ” Taylor admitted that there were difficulties in writing the song since she was trying to make seems a seamless addition to the world of Cats. “T.S. Eliot is such a specific type of writer and uses such specific language and imagery,” Taylor said, referencing how Andrew Lloyd Webber’s play was based on Eliot’s 1939 poetry collection, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
“Reading through his work, I really just wanted to reflect that. You can’t write a modern lyric for Cats,” she said. “So, if you can’t get T.S. Eliot, you get T.S.” she added, indicating herself. T.S. Taylor. Swift. You get it.
In the film, the new song will be first sung by Victoria the White Cat (portrayed by Francesca Hayward.) Victoria is a principal character in Cats, both the Broadway play and in the 2019 film. It’s normally a dance-heavy role with no solo singing parts. But, since the new film is “is seen through Victoria’s eyes,” Andrew Lloyd Webber decided that they needed a song for Victoria. “It’s an incredibly important central part of the whole film.”
As to how “Beautiful Ghosts” fits into the film, Taylor dished on the new song’s placement while speaking to Beats 1’s Zane Lowe. “I knew it would be right after Jennifer Hudson sings ‘Memory,’ and a young little kitten reflects off what she just heard and gives her, sort of her counterpoint of view,” she said, per Genius. “Because ‘Memory’ is Grizabella singing about how she had all these beautiful, incredible moments in her past, she had these glittering occasions where she felt beautiful and wanted, and now she doesn’t feel that way anymore.”
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) November 14, 2019
“So, what if you have this kitten who’s been deserted and tossed out, and she’s had to wander around the streets of London, looking where she’s going to find a home?” added Taylor. “She would be thinking, ‘At least you had those!’ The first line that came to me is, ‘And the memories were lost long ago, but at least you have beautiful ghosts.’” Wait, so this is the musical theatre version of “ok boomer”?
Cats opens on Dec. 20.