As a die-hard Taylor Swift fan since 2007, I’ve heard all the complaints against her: she’s too whiny; she’s immature in her outlook of love; she only writes about failed relationships. This has always puzzled me because, having listened to all of her songs (and I mean every single one), I have never found that to be true at all. Throughout my middle and high school years, Taylor has not only been a source of support and empathy — oftentimes more than any real-life friends or family — but also one of hope and wisdom. While some of her songs are better than others, and she does have moments of immaturity, that is what being a teenage girl is like, and that is what made her relateable. I can’t defend “Better than Revenge” — a song that bashes the girl her ex left her for — but neither can Taylor, now.
As she recently said in an interview, “I was 18 when I wrote that. That’s the age you are when you think someone can actually take your boyfriend. Then you grow up and realize no one can take someone from you if they don’t want to leave.” The majority of her songs, even her old ones, show a lot of perspective, and they taught me a great deal about navigating the confusion that is love. I grew up with Taylor and we learned our lessons together. My belief in love, and many of the lessons I’ve learned, came from her. Below are some of my most memorable ones.
1) “When you find everything you looked for, I hope your life leads you back to my door. But if it don’t, stay beautiful.” – Stay Beautiful, from Taylor Swift
Stay Beautiful is one of Taylor’s first songs and it really promotes a mature message in a sweet way. She’s singing about a crush and hoping that they can end up together, however, recognizing that it’s still alright if they don’t. Being selflessly happy for someone you care about, if if they don’t end up with you, is a very mature perspective that isn’t always promoted in pop culture. This line stood out to me in grade 7 because it was so different from most things I’d heard about love, and still leaves an impression now. In the end, that’s what true love is: genuinely wishing the best for someone you care about, no matter what that may be. If that means you aren’t in the picture, it’s okay to part on good terms and move on.
2) “I’m not your princess, this ain’t a fairytale. I’m gonna find someone someday who might actually treat me well.” – White Horse, from Fearless
I related to this song big time because I too grew up with this vision of love. The castle, the princess, the fairytale all came crashing down one day and I had to reconcile my sparkling image of true love with reality, which was a heartbreakingly painful thing to do. This line and this song helped me so much because I realized, for the first time, that although you may love someone with everything you have, there comes a point when you have to leave them, and look for better things ahead. There will be better people, better relationships, and there is never a justification for settling. But before you get there, you have to admit that you were wrong, that it didn’t work out, and then put the fairytale away.
3) “In your life, you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team (…) Back then, I swore I was gonna marry him someday but I realized some bigger dreams of mine.” – Fifteen, from Fearless
There are so many relateable lines and lessons that come from Fifteen, which is what made it one of my favourite songs in high school. Fifteen was the age when the naïve image of love that I (and Taylor) held onto throughout childhood dissipated. With it came the realization that the world opens up entirely when you stop focusing on finding romantic love. I took up new hobbies and extra-curricular positions, grew and learned more than I ever did while stuck for three years on a crush, and got so much closer to my friends as well. It was eye-opening and so fulfilling to be able to make myself happy on my own. (Note: The three year relationship I’m currently in started right at the time when I could truly say I was happy being single).
4) “Braced myself for the goodbye, ’cause that’s all I’ve ever known. But you took me by surprise, you said ‘I’ll never leave you alone.’ You said ‘I remember how we felt sitting by the water, and every time I look at you, it’s like the first time.” – Mine, from Speak Now
That moment always made me cry in the music video. The first time I was in a big fight in a relationship that really mattered, that was exactly how I felt; I was waiting for the breakup because that’s what happens when you fight. But it didn’t end. That feeling, of knowing someone loves you enough to not give up, was better than any fairytale. We talked things through, worked it out, and made the effort to put the pieces back together. I realized then it was always our choice. If someone really wants to be with you, they will make it work. That’s the relationship worth waiting for.
5) “Long live the walls we crashed through, how the kingdom lights shined just for me and you. And I was screaming long live all the magic we made and bring on all the pretenders, I’m not afraid. Long live all the mountains we moved, I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you.” – Long Live, from Speak Now
This is one of the most underrated Taylor Swift songs and I loved it from the moment I first heard it. It’s wildly passionate and happy, and was written by Taylor for her band. This song is a big one for me because I associate it with all my non-romantic loves: my friends, reading, Harry Potter, the afterschool program where I work. It’s such a fun song and always reminds me of how many forms love can come in, and how beautiful and strong those types of love can be.
6) “You throw your head back laughing like a little kid; I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny ’cause he never did. And I’ve been spending the last 8 months thinking all love ever does is break, and burn, and end. But on a Wednesday, in a café, I watched it begin again.” – Begin Again, from Red
This song was released right when my long-term relationship was beginning and after all the bad experiences and disappointments of the past, it gave me the strength to move forward and try again. I love its message and it will never fail to give me hope. Regardless of how bland or bad any relationships were in the past, they can always be better. Good people are out there, and even if love does break and burn and end, it also does begin again. That’s the best hope we have to hold on to.
7) “Love is a ruthless game unless you play it good and right.” – State of Grace, from Red
This line is possibly my favourite Taylor Swift lyric. It sums the whole experience of love up perfectly. While love can feel cruel and painful, it all depends on the players. If you play it honestly, faithfully, and are willing to put in the effort, it will pay off.
8) “After plaid shirt days and nights when you made me your own, now you mail back my things and I walk home alone. ” – All Too Well, from Red
Lyrically, this my favourite Taylor Swift song as it does such a great job of painting a vivid image of a relationship and breakup. It shows all the ups and downs, the bittersweet breakup, and the sadness and confusion afterwards. This song doesn’t state a lesson specifically, but it shows all the emotions that love can give you. In the end, we learn and grow from each cycle. That’s what makes every relationship worth it, and the reason why we should never give up on love.
9) “And I remember thinking ‘Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods?'” – Out of the Woods, from 1989
This has gone through my head at every single stage of my relationship. Love never stops being hard, no matter how long you’re together for. As soon as one person starts to take the other for granted, you’re back in the woods. Building a relationship is a never-ending process that requires work, communication, and the constant will to keep going. As Taylor explained, “we are never out of the woods, because we are always going to be fighting for something.”
10) “When I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe.” – Clean, from 1989
Things fall apart so that better things can come together, but that can be one of the hardest things to recognize, especially with love. Love is such a powerful and all-consuming experience, so it can be easy to become blinded and settle for mediocrity. However, as author Tiffanie DeBartolo puts it, “Anything less than mad, passionate, extraordinary love is a waste of time. There are too many mediocre things in life to deal with and love shouldn’t be one of them.” Letting go of a failing relationship can be awfully painful and it’s difficult enough to admit when you aren’t good together anymore. Nonetheless, it’s like ripping off a band-aid: the sharp pain allows for healing.