Well, this certainly puts some of Taylor Swift’s more heart-rending breakup songs in perspective. As wrenching as a song like “White Horse” or “Back to December” might be, both suddenly seem shallow and nearly insignificant once you hear “Ronan,” the song Taylor performed at last night’s “Stand Up to Cancer” telethon, and subsequently made available for release on iTunes, with all proceeds going to cancer charities (via the Taylor Swift Charitable Fund).
To call the song a tearjerker would be wildly underselling the ferocity by which this song pulls tears from your eye ducts. Co-written with Maya Thompson, mother of the titular Ronan, who died of cancer at the age of four last year, the song is a devastatingly personal and heartfelt ballad describing her son’s life and death. If you turn the channel whenever “Tears in Heaven” comes on the radio for fearing of losing your shit entirely, probably best to save listening to this one when you know for a fact you’re not going to have to interact with anyone else all day.
Taken from Thompson’s perspective, “Ronan” first tells of the “race cars on the floor” and “dancing before bed time” that marked his early years, then talks of Maya’s frustration as “the blind hope turned to crying and screaming ‘why?’” and she wonders “what if I really thought some miracle would see us through? / But what if the miracle was even getting one moment with you?” By the end of the song, with its final chorus of “Come on baby with me, we’re gonna fly away from here / You were my best four years,” even Taylor herself sounds like she’s about to start bawling. It’d be pretty hard to blame her if she did.
It’s an incredible song, and one of Taylor’s most remarkable achievements as a songwriter and a performer. Again, though, beware of listening to this song in public, or even thinking about it too hard for too long. If the song doesn’t get you, you can be pretty well guaranteed that the letter Maya Thompson wrote to Taylor from her late son’s perspective (“I know that angels are real. And you are one of them”) will.