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The Soundtrack of my Teens: Celebrating 8 Years of Taylor

          It was grade seven, and my 12 year old self was sitting in the school gym, watching two girls perform a cover of “Teardrops on my Guitar” at the senior talent show. It was the first time I’d heard Taylor Swift’s music, and it was love at first listen.

            From the start, Taylor and I shared a powerful fascination with love. I could always count on her music to support me and share everything that I was feeling. She understood the petty plights of teenage girls, all the little high school heartbreaks, and it often seemed like she alone took them as seriously they felt at the time.

            As a teenager, so many of our feelings are trivialized, especially in terms of romance. For this reason, Taylor’s music has often been criticized for being too cheesy, too repetitive, or too degrading of the female experience. While some of this may be true, and while certain songs may promote better messages than others, what I’ve always respected in Taylor’s music is her honesty. Despite the dramatics and certain un-sophisticated lines, it’s genuine and raw.

            The diversity of Taylor’s music is also greatly overlooked. Yes, there are break-up songs. There are many of them, but there are many nuances to every breakup, and each song captures a different viewpoint, a different emotion – anger (“Picture to Burn”), regret (“Back to December”), and pure heart-wrenching pain (“All Too Well”). There are also the happy love songs (“Mine”, “State of Grace”, “Love Story”, and “Begin Again” to name a few), the ones about forgiveness (​”Innocent”), the ones that celebrate life (“Long Live”, “22″), songs about blocking out the bullies (“Mean”, “Shake it Off”), about the difficulties of fame (“The Lucky One”), and so much more. 

            As I grew through my teens, I felt like her words were always applicable and always there for me – it was almost like we were growing together. For that, I’ll always respect and love her for the nostalgia that her music brings.

Taylor Swift (2006)

Personal Faves:

  • Teardrops on my Guitar
  • Mary’s Song
  • Should’ve Said No
  • Our Song

He’s the reason for the teardrops on my guitar, the only one who’s got enough of me to break my heart. (“Teardrops on my Guitar”)

            The one that started it all. The country girl sound definitely comes through in this first album! While it contains some gems and many memories, the lyrics and music are definitely inferior to what she can do now. The tone is noticeably young, which suited my 12 year old mind just fine, but it’s not one to come back to often for anything more than nostalgic reasons.

Fearless (2008)


Personal Faves:

  • Love Story
  • Change
  • Fifteen
  • White Horse
  • Fearless
  • Breathe

In your life, you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team. But I didn’t know it at fifteen. (“Fifteen”)

            Fearless embodies Taylor Swift when she really took off. This was the age when all of her singles would play every day on the radio and when everyone knew all the words to “You Belong with Me.” The transition into pop is noticeable, as is the change from the star’s floral patterns and cowboy boots into the glittering red carpet ball-gowns. This album contains the most memories for me, and while the subject matter is significantly less diverse than in her later albums, the classics like “Love Story” will never be replaced.

Speak Now (2010)


Personal Faves:

  • Long Live
  • Sparks Fly
  • Mine
  • Dear John
  • Back to December

Long live the walls we crashed through, I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you. (“Long Live”)


            From her signature curly locks to the soft blond waves and flowing chiffon dresses, Speak Now is the perfect combination of diversity, maturity, and honesty. It’s still mostly young and fun, but contains many more glimpses of a darker tone than ever before (“Dear John”). The quality of the lyrics in Speak Now also took a great jump from the last album. Most of all, it’s still very true to her original image, the one so many girls fell in love with. For this, it’s definitely my favourite album to date; every song on the track is worth many listens and each brings back a story of its own.

Red (2012)


Personal Faves:

  • All Too Well
  • The Lucky One
  • State of Grace (Acoustic)
  • Holy Ground
  • Everything has Changed
  • Begin Again

Love is a ruthless game unless you play it good and right. (“State of Grace”)


            While my top three favourite songs on Red rank very high overall, the album as a whole was my least favourite. Gone are any traces of the country star with the Goldilocks look. Taylor’s style takes a dramatic shift, and while the elegant new look and straightened hair undoubtedly suit her, many fans, myself included, were disappointed with the apparent change from the young, genuine dreamer. “I Knew You were Trouble” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” were big personal letdowns. The quality of the music itself however, while different, continues to grow as the artist does.

1989 (2014)

Singles:

  • Shake it Off
  • Out of the Woods
  • Welcome to New York


            It took a little while for me to warm up to this new Taylor. I couldn’t help feeling a little betrayed at first. But then, I realized that while she had changed, I had too. We had grown up in different directions. While I likely won’t be able to relate to as much of 1989 as I could to Fearless or Speak Now, I can still appreciate her music in a more objective way. Let’s face it, “Shake it Off” is undeniably fun and extremely catchy! Not to mention, who doesn’t envy her unwavering class and impeccable style?

            She’s rocking her twenties and clearly happy doing so. From what I’ve heard of the album so far, I’m definitely excited to hear what she’s got next!

 
Linh Nguyen is a contributing writer and blogger at Her Campus, as well as a writer for the U of T student newspaper, The Varsity (thevarsity.ca/author/linhnguyen). She is a sophomore at the University of Toronto, studying Literature and Writing, and aspires to improve the world with words. Topics especially close to Linh's heart include body and sex positivity, love and relationships, and mental health. When she's not reading or writing, she can be found baking, singing musical soundtracks, or enjoying a nice tea latte.
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