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  • Writer's pictureTommy Sangchompuphen

"Fifteen" + "Seven" = "22": Learning More from T-Swift's Songs

If you’ve been studying for the bar exam over the past several weeks, then it’s been a “Cruel Summer.” ("Don't You" wish it were "Forever Winter" so you wouldn't have to study for the July bar exam? Don't fret, though. It'll soon be "August.")

So let’s try to have—dare I say—a little bit of fun as you’re trying to retain and reinforce some of the information you’ve been reviewing.

I previously wrote a blog post identifying Fifteen” of Taylor Swift’s songs and explaining how I’ve tied them back to an important legal concept or study tip that can help you on the bar exam.

Well, to celebrate T-Swift’s sold-out Eras Tour concerts in Cincinnati this weekend, here are another “Seven” songs. If you’re counting, that brings the total number of songs I’ve discussed to “22.” (It’s wonderful how the math works out. It’s like it’s “Karma”!)

So, "It's Time to Go." Here are seven more of T-Swift’s songs (Numbers 16 through 22)—and what you can take away from them for bar exam purposes.

16. “Me!

In describing this song, which features a marching band drumline, to ABC News’ Robin Roberts in 2019, Swift said:

“Me!” is a song about embracing your individuality and really celebrating it and owning it. With a pop song, we have the ability to get a melody really stuck in people’s heads, and I just want it to be one that makes them feel better about themselves.”

Swift recorded this song with Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco. Hear this song once, and these lyrics will forever be ringing in your head:

Me-e-e, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh

I'm the only one of me

Baby, that's the fun of me

Eeh-eeh-eeh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh

You're the only one of you

Baby, that's the fun of you

And I promise that nobody's gonna love you like me-e-e

When it comes to the bar exam, remember that this song has two references to exclamation points. It’s in the song title (“ME!”). And, it’s in “Panic! at the Disco.” Coincidence? Perhaps.

What should you remember about exclamation points on the bar exam? Think excited utterance. An excited utterance, under the Federal Rules of Evidence, is a statement that concerns a startling event, made by the declarant when the declarant is still under stress from the startling event. An excited utterance is an exception to the hearsay rule, meaning that the statement is admissible even if the statement meets the definition of hearsay (an out-of-court statement being used to prove the truth of the matter asserted).

When determining whether a statement meets the definition of the excited utterance exception, look for an exclamation point in the statement, along with words like screamed, exclaimed, yelled, etc. in the fact pattern. Remember that the statement must have been made while the declarant was under the stress of the excitement, which means that the declarant must not have had time to reflect on what was said.


17. “Daylight

According to the Pop Song Professor:

“Daylight” is about leaving a time of darkness and embracing forgiveness for yourself and others. It’s about learning to trust and love in a safe relationship and both people finding healing alongside each other. It could be with a lover, a friend, or a family member. “Daylight” is a song of hope, and that’s a truly beautiful thing. It shows us that we can be healed and forgiven.

When it comes to the bar exam, the song’s title makes me think of the common law crime of burglary. Under common law, burglary requires the breaking and entering of another person’s dwelling at nighttime with the intent to commit a felony therein. Many of these requirements don’t necessarily make sense today and, as a result, some of them have been eliminated by modern statutes.

For example, the requirement that the breaking and entering take place at “nighttime” is often abandoned by modern statutes. If the “nighttime” requirement is abandoned, then a burglary can exist where there is daylight. Remember, though, if the “nighttime” requirement is abandoned in a test question, then the fact pattern will specifically indicate that the requirement has been abandoned or that the jurisdiction has adopted the modern approach to the requirement.


In “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” Swift compares a very devastating breakup to a slow, painful death.

Saying goodbye is death by a thousand cuts

Flashbacks waking me up

I get drunk, but it's not enough

'Cause the morning comes and you're not my baby

When it comes to the bar exam, think first-degree murder. After all, first-degree murder is usually statutorily defined as a killing committed intentionally, willfully, or with premeditation. A death by a thousand cuts would likely fall within this homicide classification.

The lyric—“I get drunk”—provides another good bar exam lesson. First-degree murder is a specific-intent crime. Voluntary intoxication is a valid defense when the intoxication prevented the defendant from developing the requisite intent, which for first-degree murder, is the intent to kill. Thus, voluntary intoxication may be a good defense to specific-intent crimes, including first-degree murder. (Remember, though, that the defense of voluntary intoxication isn’t available if the defendant purposely becomes intoxicated to establish the defense (e.g., liquid courage).


19. “False God

“False God” is one of the many love songs inspired by her relationship with actor Joe Alwyn. According to Song Meanings and Facts:

… Swift seems to be using religious-based imagery to celebrate their union. For instance, she states that when they are physically intimate, it is like “heaven”. But she also acknowledges that when they fight, it is tantamount to her going through “hell”.

When it comes to the bar exam, courts may not determine a religious belief to be “false.” In other words, courts cannot judge the truth of religious beliefs, as they often are a matter of faith rather than fact. However, courts may judge the sincerity of the religious belief.


This song has been described as “a mean-girl imperial march wrapped around a churning beat” laced with references to longtime nemeses Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West and exes Calvin Harris and Tom Hiddleston.

When it comes to the bar exam, if a party said, “I did something bad,” then that statement is usually going to be admissible. Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, a statement by an opposing party is not hearsay. In other words, an out-of-court statement made by a party doesn’t violate the hearsay rules. After all, the party who made the prior statement can hardly complain about not having had the opportunity to cross-examine himself.

It’s important to note, too, that a statement by an opposing party is a hearsay exclusion rather than an hearsay exception. Remember that hearsay exclusions are always examined before determining whether there’s an applicable hearsay exception.


21. “Innocent

Speaking of Kanye West, Swift wrote this song in response to West's interruption of her acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, feeling the need to sympathize with him after the public outrage he received. Here’s the breakdown of the decade-long feud between Swift and West, as summarized by PEOPLE.

When it comes to the bar exam, remember that an accused in a criminal case is presumptively innocent until the prosecution proves every single requirement of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Every. Single. Requirement. On an essay question, examinees sometimes make the mistake of concluding that the defendant is guilty of a crime by simply discussing the most important requirement of the crime charged. However, don’t leave easy points on the table by simply failing to discuss all the requirements.


22. “Sparks Fly

The music video for “Sparks Fly” showcases lots of pyrotechnics and small displays of fireworks.

When it comes to the bar exam, are public displays of fireworks an abnormally dangerous activity subject to strict liability? Well, that was one of the major issues tested in an essay question on the July 2017 Multistate Essay Examination. The July 2017 MEE question included lots of facts for examinees to assess to determine whether the public fireworks display is an abnormally dangerous activity subject to strict liability. The facts provided in the test question gave examinees an opportunity to make arguments on both sides of the question. Ultimately, the NCBE in its Analysis indicated that responses could conclude either way, noting that “An examinee’s conclusion is less important than his or her reasoning on whether a public fireworks display is an abnormally dangerous activity.” A full discussion of this question and a review of abnormally dangerous activities can be found in my prior blog post.



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