As I’ve mentioned in other posts before, my 14-year-old self had anything but a sophisticated musical palate. It was more accustomed to what I like to call the golden age of pop punk. Emo bands who wore skinny jeans, wore eyeliner, were all up in their emotions and had the infamous swoosh haircut. (My favorite of all of these had to come from the lead singer of AFI. I wonder if he regrets this. Probably not.)
But when I did become aware of Taylor Swift’s music, I do remember being a closet fan. I’ll be honest, “Our Song” slaps. And “Teardrops on My Guitar” exposed every guy named Drew for exactly what he is, a complete douchebag. (See Drew Locke. Possibly Drew Barrymore could be considered in the conversation as well.)
Now it’s June 23, 2009. Taylor Swift has now completely taken over the entire world with her sophomore album Fearless which was released last fall. She is no longer considered just a country star. She has moved into the world of pop and is dominating.
As I sit on a lifeguard stand under the 100-degree Texas sun, “Love Story” plays on the radio. It’s the country version. If you didn’t know, there were two versions of this song that were released. One version played on country music radio stations. The other version was used on pop radio stations. It mainly deals with the instruments used on the intro. The country version has more of a twang to it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then just stop reading here.
Furthermore, “You Belong with Me” is on a constant loop. The number of times I have been around teenage girls who scream this song at the top of their lungs has completely ruined the song for me. Good song, iconic music video. But when it plays in my heads, I have the off-tune chorus of teenage girls shrilling “She wears short skirts. I wear t-shirts. She’s cheer captain, and I’m on the bleachers,” engrained in my soul.
This scene of teenage girls “singing” is as cringey and terrifying as those videos where they open the double doors to a sorority house and a billion sorority girls cheering and doing what can only be described as a form of jazz hands stuffed into the doorway like a can of sardines with the caption “This is what you find at the gates of hell.” I truly believe you find both of these aforementioned scenes in hell. And understand, it is not the song itself that is played in hell. It is a stadium full of teenage girls belting the lyrics as if they were home alone in the shower that is played in hell. I shudder at the mere thought of finally being embraced by the arms of death only to wake up in the afterlife and find this playing in Hell’s waiting room.
Before we continue, I feel obligated to mention that this album was a turning point for my brother, Stephen. I think the song “Hey Stephen” actually might have touched him to the core and changed his life forever. It gave him the confidence and sexual bravado to finally break out of his introverted shell and start living. I’m sure if the afterlife is anything like it is depicted in The Five People You Meet in Heaven, his will be reliving certain moments during the summer of 2009 with Taylor Swift playing an integral part of the soundtrack.
November 2010. It’s the first semester of my senior year of high school. I’m in AP Physics B. Not AP Physics C. I’m not a psycho. I’m being my usual, overly sarcastic self. I make a comment to a friend. She gets offended (rightfully so). After a little back and forth, it builds to a head. She asks me, “You know the song ‘Mean’ by Taylor Swift’?” “Yeah,” I reply. “Well, that song has to be written about you.” Oof.
I had no response. While it was an incredibly cheesy thing to say on her part, I knew the point she was making was semitrue. I was an ass for no reason at times. If we were to look back at the times in my life when I had no response, it’s mostly because I knew there was truth to what they were saying. The other times it’s because I realized the person was too stupid to waste anymore breath on the conversation I was having with them.
Fall 2012. I’m sitting in an internet café in Iquique, Chile. If you’re unfamiliar with Chilean geography, as I am sure most of you are, Iquique is located in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. While far from a thriving metropolis, Iquique is actually a pretty cool coastal city. But by our stuck-up American standards, most of you would probably call it the middle of nowhere. I see I got an email from Zach. I remember absolutely nothing about that email except the following: He mentions Taylor Swift’s new album and the single off of that album titled “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” I thought that he was joking. I thought this was Zach being Zach joking that this was the name of the new song because Taylor Swift writes about breakups. When I found out he was not kidding, I was floored. I couldn’t believe it.
October 21, 2014. It’s my 22nd birthday. Everyone and their dog send me a link or references the song. The song is too damn catchy for its own good. It’s obnoxious, but goddamn did it accomplish its goal. Unfortunately, as you grow older the positive parts of the song seem to fade, and you’re left with the awkward feelings. I don’t know about you, but I’m twenty-eight, and I can’t say I’m too happy and definitely not free with the amount of student debt I’m in from law school. I’ll give it to her though, I am confused and lonely at the same time a lot of the time.
November 10, 2014. It’s 6:15 am on a Monday morning. The women’s swim team convinces the weight coach over both the men's and women's teams (who has credentials coming out of her A-hole according to her) to put 1989 on loop. Imagine trying to do a max power clean and there are college girls singing "Blank Space". It's near impossible to focus. I don’t really hate Taylor Swift, but this is making me. This is hell. This is right up there with the "You Belong With Me" scenario. No one should be subjected to this kind of torture. My view on Taylor will be negatively affected by this experience for years. I don’t care about what happened with Kanye or any of the other things people are constantly criticizing her for. Those things do not matter to me or cause me to have an opinion of her one way or another. The only reason her status in my eyes is going down is because her fans are so incredibly obnoxious with their fandom that it makes me wish music never existed.
It’s true. The worst part about Taylor Swift is by far her hardcore fans. If I were to rate two fan bases you would not want to be piss off, No. 1 goes to the Beyhive, and right behind them are Taylor Swift fans. Most of them are millennial white girls who wish their life was as dramatic as a Taylor Swift song when in reality it’s got maybe a tenth of the living and feeling that Taylor Swift has done in her life. If you can get past this, Taytay is much more palatable.
November 2017. My Civ Pro (Civil Procedure for the lucky souls who didn’t attend law school) professor takes five minutes to discuss Taylor Swift’s new album. I have not listened to the album yet, but so far, I have been really unimpressed by the singles that preceded it. Even if you love Taylor Swift, you have to agree with me that this is by far her worst album.
Man, I am just now realizing that that literally all of her albums up to this point were released in the fall. Real Christian Girl Autumn vibes, Taylor. Maybe that’s where it all started. Taylor Swift incepted us with her aesthetic until it was eventually given a name, Christian Girl Autumn. Fall is her domain.
I have nothing to say about Lover. Not to say that it was a bad album or anything. I know people ranted and raved about it. I’m pretty sure some of the other guys who are technically part of this blog even included it on their Top Ten Albums 2019. I hardly listened to it. It’s the one album on this list that I don’t have a specific memory for.
Now we get to 2020. And we all know 2020 was a shit show of a year. No one can dispute that. But there were two tiny lights in the dark: sister albums Folklore and Evermore took the world by surprise.
I remember standing on a pool deck for early morning swim practice, taking the temperatures of the swimmers as they came in. I mindlessly scroll twitter between swimmers. I see a tweet from Taylor Swift announcing that she will be dropping the album that night at midnight. I send it to my friend Shawn, not because I am particularly excited for it, but because I was breaking news. The closest to sending my own Woj bomb I will ever be but for one person. A few months later, and she blesses us with Evermore.
And then I had a thought, does Gen Z feel the same way about Taylor Swift as Millennials? With the release of two albums in six months, it seemed like every single millennial girl was about to have an aneurism from the excitement.
So, I approached my sample demographic of Zoomers, the swimmers I coach. I ask them their thoughts on Taylor Swift. I won’t go into the details, but in short, they do not have the same love for her as Millennials. I don’t know what I expected, but I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed. Every day we stray further from God’s light.
I must mention here briefly, that I thoroughly enjoyed these two albums. Mostly because I love The National and Aaron Dessner of The National produced the majority of these albums (along with Jack Antonoff). They feel like National-esque Taylor Swift songs. The one song where they actually collaborate together, "Coney Island", is by far my favorite song from the two albums. Now, back to the rest of the post.
If you can’t tell by this detailed accounting, Taylor Swift has somehow been an integral part of my life even during the moments when I wasn’t that big of a fan. In no way do I consider myself a Taylor Swift fan. Nor do I consider myself a hater. It seems in today’s polarizing world on all issues you have to fall into one camp or another. It’s an “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” mentality that has poisoned society in so many ways. (I’m not talking about politics here. That’s related but a different discussion. I’m mostly referring to the toxicity the internet brings with fandom in sports and entertainment.) But if I’m being honest, and we have to tip the scales one way or another, I would fall on the side of being a fan.
So, what’s my overall take? Where do I stand on Taylor Swift? Let me tell you.
Whether they like it or not, she has defined an entire generation. I’m a millennial. I can’t help it. So, while I don’t Lover (get it?) or hate her, I have to recognize her influence in the music industry.
If we take a brief look at her career, it’s nothing short of incredible. Her first album came out in 2006. On longevity alone, her career is impressive. Add in the fact that every single one of her albums (except Evermore which was only released a month ago) has reached platinum, and you can’t deny the success she’s had.
And look, you don’t have to like her music. You don’t even have to like her. Just respect what she has done. Yes, she hasn’t always made the best decisions in her personal life, but who has? If you had the opportunity to date Joe Jonas, John Mayer, Taylor Lautner, Jake Gyllenhaal, Harry Styles, and Calvin Harris, I’m sure you would have as well. She has navigated the waters of constant scrutiny in the age of social media better than just about any pop star. Can you imagine everyone criticizing everything you do in your personal life, regardless of what you do? I didn’t think so. And looking back on it all, why the hell did anyone ever care and criticize her over any of this? Oh right, it’s because people suck.
I’m happy for her. She got the rights to her masters back, and I can’t help but feel that Taylor has finally gotten back to feeling more herself in her last two albums. With my brief knowledge of Lover, I think we see glimpses of it, but it didn’t feel as authentic as the last two albums. The only thing that I am basing this off of is her tone in her songs. I feel like you can tell when a singer songwriter really feels. You can find it in so many subtleties and the emotion throughout the song. She cares less about what people feel. Though still very much a pop star, this is the most punk rock Taylor Swift has ever been. Doing what she wants and not giving a fuck what other people think about it.
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