It was the year 2009. MP3 players and my mom’s playlist were my primary sources of learning about music. I heard “Love Story” by Taylor Swift for the first time. I was getting star-shaped stickers for doing well in my classes. Life was easy. Life was good.
I had heard country music before. I was familiar with the acoustics and the drawls of the vocals. Nine-year-old me knew this was not the country music I was used to. It would be the background music of my second year in elementary school, as I started to read Archie comics and my first ever romance novels. It would be all I listened to before I hit the dooming pre-teen and teen years (where my mirror would be my biggest enemy), and questions of identity, appearance, and an unhealthy amount of self-consciousness that everyone was observing my every move (they weren’t) was all-consuming. That’s when I heard “You Belong with Me.”
On the surface, it was a love song. It was ostensibly about a girl with a crush on a boy who was with someone else. To me, it was more than that. The song made me feel seen. Heard. As I saw Taylor sit in her black rimmed glasses in her room on a weekend alone, dancing gawky, doing all the stereotypically geeky activities at school, I saw myself. I saw a girl who had a difficult time feeling accepted by her peers at school. “She’s the cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers” struck a chord with me, not because I wanted to be a cheerleader, but because I felt like I was missing out on something. With my too big of a book collection, lack of athletic ability, and poor posture, I felt safe when I heard that song. Comfortable in my own skin for the entire three minutes and forty-nine seconds.
By that time, my sister and I had turned into huge Swifties. We would collect all the posters we could from Bop and Tiger Beat magazines (huge nostalgia) and put them up in our rooms. “Mine” was released when I was just about to go back to school from a long summer. Right away, I knew I found my new jam for the commute to school. Listening to “Mine” now, I can remember how I was struggling with math at school at that time.
As the Eras Tour continues, I wanted to personally reflect on what Taylor Swift’s music means to me as a creative and aspiring writer. Anyone practising a form of art can reflect and understand how Taylor’s music can awaken their inner artist, even when stuck in a rut.
1. Taylor’s Musical Evolution
Taylor Swift has shown just how diverse her musical talent is. From the country pop in “Fearless” to the R&B in “Reputation,” she has proved she can do it all. Parallel to her musical evolution, I too went through an evolution artistically. Just as I scoured bookstores to find her posters for my room as a kid, I sat anxiously with my phone in my hand as a twenty-something praying I would get a ticket to the Eras concert (I failed miserably).
2. A Sense of Belonging
To me, Taylor does more than just create catchy tunes. Her lyrical prowess is exemplary of how music can speak to people, and make them feel a range of emotions. She writes songs that are in line with how I feel at the present and feel nostalgia. I want to listen to “Bigger than the Whole Sky” when I know a relationship, whether romantic or platonic, has run its course and not feel so alone. I blast “Daylight” in the shower when I feel hopeful. She has captured the essence of never-ending emotions into music.
3. She Inspires the Artist in Me
Taylor Swift’s songs not only oozes talent and emotion, but a fierce dedication to art. Never have I paid attention more to lyricism than when I am listening to Taylor sing. It takes courage to write about your pain and put it out for a global audience. But that is what art is to me, essentially— it’s translating your experiences, hoping the person on the other end of it will understand it and also mould it into their own interpretation.
As I see her concert tickets getting sold out in minutes, I could not be more proud of her. She deserves every bit of success she gets. It’s no surprise to see how an artist who has made so many fans worldwide feel seen and heard getting so much recognition. Seeing all of this inspires the inner child in me, that the sky is the limit and we can be whoever we want to be.