Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Speak Now sing-a-long just as much as the next gal. In fact, as I sit on a four-hour train ride home from College Park, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t already listened to “Back to December” while longingly staring out the window.
However, The difference is that I’m no longer the 15-year-old that takes each word Ms. Swift says as a direct blow to the heart. Rather, as I’ve gotten older and entered my twenties, I’ve taken some time to truly listen to what “America’s Sweetheart” is telling me.
I started with the classic…the album that filled the eyes of millions of tweens with rivers of tears about 10 years back. After listening to Fearless in its entirety, the critiques on the messages I felt Taylor was sending us began to pile up, fast.
Once I re-listened to one of my absolute favorite tracks from middle school, all I could think was that I hoped seventh-grade me didn’t take this stuff as seriously as I remember doing. The song “The Way I Loved You,” which I could probably still sing backwards in my sleep, tells the story of a girl who dates a polite, respectful young man, but can’t seem to stop thinking about the rebel boy who makes her act “insane”…“scream”…and “break down”.
While on the one hand, it’s nice to think that Taylor is advising us girls to follow our hearts- to go for the ones we love even if it means we’re driven crazy- it’s hard to overlook that we’re being told to run from the healthy and sane partnership described in the song, and rather encouraged to chase the “thrill” of a volatile and turbulent relationship.
Something about that one just doesn’t sit right with me, and I would venture to say I’m not the only one who feels so.
Even worse, after listening to another one of the star’s hits, “Better Than Revenge”, chills covered my body as I hadn’t fully heard the song since high school.
Taylor wrote the track about a young woman who, in the words of Swift herself, had “stolen” her boyfriend. The chorus shrieks the words “She’s not a saint and she’s not what you think, she’s an actress…she’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress…she should keep in mind… there is nothing I do better than revenge.” *Queue cringe*
Regardless of what really occurred in the relationship Swift is referring to, is it reasonable to shame this woman (that we don’t know) for what she “did on the mattress”? Especially if you’re not going to explain the rest of the story- who knows what this girl’s deal was? And why is there no mention of the boy that must have had just as much to do with said incident? Food for thought, I guess.
So, I decided to give good ol’ Tay Tay the benefit of the doubt before entirely dismissing her reputation as the ultimate relationship-guru, and had a closer listen at her newer songs. Maybe these backwards messages were just coming from the angst-ridden brain of the brokenhearted teenager Taylor was at the time she wrote them. Perhaps a mature, late-twenties Swift had come to realize that sometimes there simply is no one to blame? Maybe she’s committed herself to only being involved with healthy, personally beneficial relationships as she approaches her thirties? Maybe she’s content to have some alone time to bask in her massive success? Alas, how wrong I was.
Right off the bat, two songs from her newest album, Reputation, had me second-guessing why I once so adamantly deemed this woman the queen of all things love.
In the track “Don’t Blame Me,” Swift compares her adoration (or obsession) for a boy to that of abusing drugs. Belting out “Don’t blame me, love made me crazy, if it doesn’t, you ain’t doin’ it right. Lord, save me, my drug is my baby, I’d be usin’ for the rest of my life.” *Queue cringe: Part 2*.
In the song “I Did Something Bad.” Swift openly says she does not regret manipulating the feelings of a boy who “had it coming” for some unknown reason. In other words, Taylor is aware that what she’s doing is wrong, but she belts out, “They say I did something bad, why’s it feel so good? Most fun I ever had, and I’d do it over and over and over again if I could.”
Could I be thinking too much into this? Of course.
But could I also be correct for wondering why an almost thirty-year-old continues to send the message to her (still predominantly teenage) audience that it’s normal to constantly be hurt, as well as to be the one constantly doing the hurting? I think so. While I can’t deny that these songs are catchy, or that I know the words to almost all of them…what I can say is that I’m not sure I want to share these albums with my future-daughter like I once was so convinced I would.
There’s no shame in blasting these wildly popular albums at our slumber parties, as we drive down the highway with the windows rolled down or wherever you may please. Where the shame does lie, is in the idea that there’s seemingly nothing else for a young, madly successful woman to possibly sing about than…boys? Sure, she has some songs that aren’t about dudes, but can you name them?
It’s alright Tay, we’ll shake it off over here…but how about on the next album we get a few tracks about some more personal, independent achievements? Don’t forget you’ve won over 200 awards, not to mention been nominated for over 400. And have we forgotten that in 2016 you snagged the No. 1 spot on Forbes’ list of highest-paid celebrities? That’s a lot more impressive than humiliating some chick for whatever she did on the mattress, if you ask me.