‘The Buccaneers’ picked the perfect Taylor Swift song

As Taylor Swift sings, “People love an ingénue,” and it’s been true in for centuries.

Applicable to 1870 and 2023 alike, the lyric is taken from one of the pop monarch’s previously unreleased “From the Vault” collections, one that appears in Apple TV+ series The Buccaneers, — and it’s one of the very best needle drops of a year defined by Taylor Swift needle drops on TV.

From Richie’s triumphant car rendition of “Love Story” in The Bear to Heartstopper‘s perfect use of “Seven”, Swift songs continue to punctuate pop culture this year beyond her record-breaking tour. As Mashable’s Elena Cavender writes, “If The Bear and Heartstopper prove anything it’s that Swift’s gifts as a storyteller can add emotional weight to a singular moment. When well-placed, it not only draws her fans into a show, but elevates the whole story.”

In The Buccaneers, Swift and Phoebe Bridgers’ vulnerable, frank, and stunning duet, “Nothing New,” from Swift’s 2021 recorded release of Red (Taylor’s Version), features in the series’ first episode. The song takes over two connected scenes: one featuring the newly wed and heavily pregnant Lady Conchita Marable (Alisha Boe), confiding to to her best friend Nan St. George (Kristine Frøseth) her fears of motherhood and being disregarded by her husband; the other a debutante ball, the Queen’s Ball, in fact.

Rows and rows of young women in white gowns line up to make their debut into polite society, fixing their jewellery and feathered tiaras, hopeful of making a dazzling first impression. Much to Nan’s horror, each stands demurely equipped with a numbered paddle, which the men in attendance use to select their favourite debutantes. “They’re like cattle,” Nan observes.

Like Bridgerton, the Katherine Jakeways-created, Susanna White-directed series The Buccaneers leans on pop music to imbue scenes of the period drama with a modern, feminist sensibility (the soundtrack was produced by Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint). But Swift’s music seems to really land in these period dramas; Bridgerton itself wielded a Vitamin String Quartet version of Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” for one of its more memorable raunchy montages.

Jinny (Imogen Waterhouse) and Lizzy (Aubri Ibrag) in “The Buccaneers.”
Credit: Apple TV+

In The Buccaneers, Swift’s “Nothing New” perfectly captures the expectations faced by young women and girls on the cusp of adulthood, and the legitimate, youth-obsessed, patriarchy-driven fears around growing older and feeling overlooked. Swift reportedly penned the song when she was 22, writing in a 2012 diary entry that the song was about “being scared of aging and things changing and losing what you have.” As her lyric repeats, “How can a person know everything at 18 but nothing at 22?” Of the song, Bridgers told the Los Angeles Times, “I was a lot more worried about my youth and getting discarded when I was 21.”


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In a 19th century London society context in the series, the lyrics take on a wider application, especially for young women then expected to be married around the age of 20 as a means of family advancement and security. Swift laments, “Lord, what will become of me / Once I’ve lost my novelty?” and it’s a predicament deeply felt by Conchita within her fresh marriage, but also other married women within the show. As she’s attempting to “fit in” in conservative England while craving attention from her new husband Lord Richard Marable (Josh Dylan), Conchita constantly doubts herself, worrying Richard has lost interest in her at best, is ashamed of her at worst. And it’s all teased in Swift’s lyrics: “Will you still want me when I’m nothing new?”

Conchita (Alisha Boe) heads to the altar.
Credit: Apple TV+

Throughout the series and in Swift’s song, the female characters go from growing up to breaking down, crying themselves to sleep, and helping each other find the way through a society that only wants to make them “behave”. Public displays of emotion are deeply frowned upon. The song also highlights society’s time limit on emotional expression for young women, as Bridgers sings, “How long will it be cute / All this crying in my room / Whеn you can’t blame it on my youth.”

In a more literal sense, there’s also one particular lyric in the song that foreshadows a storyline in The Buccaneers for one of the young women debuting: “They tell you while you’re young / ‘Girls, go out and have your fun’ / Then they hunt and slay the ones who actually do it.” On this very lyric, the camera pauses on Lizzy Elmsworth (Aubri Ibrag), a confident, smart young woman who will later endure a traumatic experience at the hands of a powerful man during a game of hide and seek.

Seeing a moment like this on Apple TV+ is indicative of the platform’s move toward a new audience: young women. And the timing could not be more transparent, in a year of Swift’s Eras and Beyoncé’s Renaissance tours and Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie. As IndieWire’s Erin Strecker writes, “Until now, the streaming service hasn’t targeted young female viewers in the same way that Netflix or Prime Video has. In a year when popular culture started taking girlhood seriously (or at least realized there was money to be made by doing so), this show arrives in a moment when it could break big in a way that Apple’s fun Dickinson, clearly of a similar ilk, never fully did.”

Dropping a pop song in a TV show doesn’t have to be mind-blowing; it can simply sound great. But The Buccaneers‘ use of Swift and Bridgers’ duet of youth, innocence, and expectations is one of the more perfect on screen this year, elevating the themes of the show through a modern lens.

How to watch: The Buccaneers is now streaming episodes 1 to 3 on Apple TV+, with a new episode every Wednesday.

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