In Personal Defense of Taylor Swift: Yes, Another One

On the day that I am writing this, it has officially been #5YearsOf1989. The whole month of October, in fact, is full of such anniversaries, like #7YearsOfRed, #9YearsOfSpeakNow, and most importantly, #13YearsOfTaylorSwift. ("Lover" is the only T-Swift album to not be released in the fall.) I’ve scrolled through a lot of social media posts, and honored the occasion by listening to both the deluxe album and the live album. What I am most struck by in these posts, and in listening to the music, is the way that I, and other fans, have changed. 

 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Denver look how GORGEOUS all 58,000 of you looked tonight. My first stadium show in Denver!! I love you guys 💗

A post shared by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

 

Taylor Swift gets a lot of crap, some of it deserved, some of it (in my opinion) way, way out of line. (She grew up in the public eye, you guys. It’s not that unusual to have more than one boyfriend when you’re in your twenties!) Did you know that she wrote "Speak Now" (the whole album, not just the song) entirely by herself between the ages of seventeen and nineteen; that "1989" is the most awarded pop album in history; that she is currently only one win away from being the most awarded artist in AMAs history? Admittedly, as I progress in my studies of gender and politics, I can see how her particular brand of feminism was problematic, and I was deeply disappointed when her Instagram post in November 2016 was a simple directive to vote, without endorsing either candidate. Frankly, though, her numerous accolades and pitfalls are beside the point of this article. 

I am most certainly not the first person to document the visceral reaction that music can evoke, but Taylor’s music puts me in a different frame of mind. She got famous as I got older, changing music styles and looks as I changed schools, and also looks (not nearly as gracefully as she did, I assure you). When I hear songs from her debut album "Taylor Swift," I am taken back to being six years old, dancing to “Our Song” on the concrete floor of my friend’s garage, to sitting in a car, sharing clunky earbuds plugged into a teal iPod Nano (which I coveted desperately, having only an iPod Shuffle myself) and singing along to “Teardrops on My Guitar.”

I first heard "Fearless" when I was eight years old. The CD was a Christmas gift from my parents, and I played it on repeat using my little sister’s Hello Kitty CD player, much to the eventual annoyance of my friends and family. (All 13 tracks eventually made their way to the aforementioned iPod shuffle, and I could listen in peace. I could also, on this iPod shuffle, listen to "Hannah Montana: The Movie (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)" but this music does not appear to have had the same effect. Although I am still partial to "Crazier," Taylor’s song in the movie, a cameo that raises many never answered questions. Anyway.) “Love Story” became an instant classic, a hit, as did “You Belong With Me.” Despite having clear memories of listening to this song and thinking about the boy that I belonged with, I have no idea who I was thinking about. 

I discovered that "Speak Now" had been released via a Pandora ad. I was ten, not exactly up to date on the goings-on of the music scene. I eventually obtained a copy of the album from my best friend at the time, as we bonded over which songs were our favorite. When "Red" came out, I was in middle school, and I made my mother drive me to Walmart, a place she hated going to, so that I could buy the special edition. The release of "1989" involved an entirely unique debacle, which I will not explain here, but suffice it to say that it required the use of my mother’s credit card and resulted in my listening to the iTunes previews of the tracks over and over again (I don’t recommend this).  

Then, after the success of the 1989 World Tour, and the backlash of the Kanye/Taylor/Kim phone call, Taylor went dark. I graduated high school, and moved away from home, starting college in a new city, in a new state, with a new roommate, for the first time. When Taylor announced "reputation," I preordered that album with my own debit card, and danced to it for the first time by myself, on the linoleum floors of a dorm room. Her latest album "Lover" and I first met in the house I live in with just one other person, responsible for making my own meals and cleaning my own space. 

The song I keep coming back to is “Never Grow Up,” from 2010’s "Speak Now." Lyrics like “Take pictures in your mind of your childhood room // Memorize what it sounded like when your dad gets home” and “So here I am in my new apartment // In a big city, they just dropped me off // It's so much colder than I thought it would be // So I tuck myself in and turn my nightlight on” hit different when you’re listening to them, alone in a room as your parents drive away. Taylor’s song about her mother, “The Best Day,” has become a song about my mother, and “Mean” has been applicable to the bullies I’ve faced at all different stages of life.  

The genius of Taylor Swift is that even though she’s one of the biggest pop stars in the world, I still feel like she’s writing songs just for me. Despite never having been 22, when “22” comes on, I will absolutely get down. I have never experienced heartbreak, but by god, listening to “All Too Well” makes me feel like I’m right there, mourning my scarf sacrificed to Jake Gyllenhaal. If I can’t relate, exactly, then I can feel what she felt, or better yet, adapt her lyrics to my own situation. So many of her songs have extremely personal and specific memories attached to them, about as many as just have vague associations of happy or sad, possibly completely unrelated to the theme of the song. Each album fits a different mood, but I can sing along to every single word of every single song on every single album.

My point here is that I feel like I’ve been with Taylor through a lot. I was so thrilled last year when she announced her support for the Democratic candidates in the 2018 Tennessee mid-term race, going on later this year to throw her full support behind LGBTQ+ rights and Hillary Clinton, additionally denouncing the white supremacists who called her their “Aryan princess.” Does Taylor Swift still have a long way to go? Sure. But then, so do I. In the 1989 liner notes, Taylor says, “These songs were once about my life. Now they are about yours.” Truer words were never written.