The Stanford Uni course devoted to one Taylor Swift song

It's a song that's topped the charts, received critical acclaim and even been adapted into an award-winning short film.

Now, the latest honour bestowed upon Taylor Swift's hit song All Too Well is being the subject of a course at Stanford University.

All Too Well (Ten Week Version) is a class being offered as part of Stanford's Italic 99 programme, which sees students instructing fellow students in topics not normally seen in a university syllabus.

Instructor Nona Hungate told 1News that the song, which has gained a cult following, is the perfect choice to fill a 10-week course.

"There's the cultural context, there's the music itself, there's the music theory, there's the vocal line," Hungate said.

"There's so much that goes into a song that I think people aren't really grasping how much you can actually talk about."

All Too Well was hailed by music critics upon its initial 2012 release, with reviewers lauding Swift's rich, complex songwriting. The track's 2021 re-release was a 10-minute version of the original, described by Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield as her greatest song made even greater.

Little surprise, then, that Hungate's class has received international attention as well as demand from people clamouring to join.

"I've had people emailing me and asking me how they can be involved, and if they can take the class," Hungate said.

"I think people are really excited about it and I'm pretty sure we'll get to take it again in future years."

The Stanford undergraduate is rapt at the opportunity to teach music and literary analysis — which she admits can be dry — in a more approachable way.

"When I think back to a lot of the music theory classes that my dad had me take when I was younger, I was interested in the content… but it was so hard for me to keep engaging because the music you're looking at was written hundreds of years ago."

The importance of pop music deep-dives

Music enthusiasts back home agree that the thought and craft behind a pop song often go underappreciated.

The University of Auckland's Godfrey De Grut specialises in popular music analysis. He said All Too Well's textural complexity rivals some compositions of musical greats of the past.

"If you have a song like Taylor's, there are more individual events occurring in that song than any Beethoven sonata."

He's hoping Hungate's class will set a precedent for future study on pop songs, which have significant potential for in-depth analysis and reflect the stories of today.

"I think any song could probably be a 10-week course. Some songs could be 15 weeks," De Grut said.

"You just wouldn't have enough time to get through all the detail in a song."

Some of the songs he'd like to see include Nobody Else by Rikki Morris, any track from Kimbra's latest album A Reckoning, or Supergroove's Can't Get Enough.

"That's 10 weeks, easy," he laughed.


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