I thought it was all over when I saw Taylor Swift dancing to the song “Cruise” at the CMT Awards in 2013. As Florida Georgia Line performed their huge hit, some attendee on the opposite side of the venue filmed Taylor dancing for the entire performance and uploaded it to YouTube. The dancing was so uncomfortable that I actually believe it was the first time that I literally could not even.
I sat there with my hand over my mouth in disbelief. Watching her reminded me of myself at every middle school dance – dancing alone, looking awkward, and just being overall cringeworthy. It’s not as if my dancing has improved since then, it’s just that I’m now aware of how awkward I look when I attempt to move rhythmically, so I’ve refrained from doing it unless I’ve ingested a bag of wine.
Taylor, on the other hand, has not stopped. She’s continued dancing awkwardly, creating music, making videos, and whatever the hell else she wants to do. The only difference for me is that now, I realize what I had not realized a year and a half ago: she does not care. She doesn’t need anyone’s permission to feel good about herself. She does not need approval from anyone to do what she wants to do. She makes things, and then she shares them, without worrying about other people’s opinions. And that’s why I… like… Taylor… Swift. As Jim Halpert once said, “Congratulations, Universe. You win.”
Some people hate Taylor Swift with a fiery passion. That was never the case with me. I never despised her. It was more like, I knew she was talented but I found her annoying. I just thought she wore a lot of ball gowns in her music videos and wrote too many songs about her exes. I wasn’t into the whole “hehe I’m awkward but kind of adorable” act that I thought she was putting on.
Now I could be wrong, but at this stage in my Taylor Swift Fangirling Experience, I don’t think it’s an act. I think she’s actually that awkward. But she’s smart about it. She knows how to commercialize that awkwardness. She knows how to make other awkward people (read: a lot of insecure teenage girls) feel good about themselves and feel like it’s okay to be silly and weird. Yes she’s milking the awkwardness, but she’s doing it for a good reason. And she’s getting hella rich along the way.
The tipping point for me, like most other previous non-fans, was the release of 1989. Somehow, before it even came out, most of us had a feeling it was going to be a game changer. We saw how hard Taylor was not giving a f*ck with the premiere of the video for Shake It Off. It was so damn catchy so quickly, that I knew there was no turning back.
After 1989 came out, my siblings were all driving in a car together over Christmas and blasting it. My frat-boy-of-a-brother summed it up with “Damn. This is just a good album.” We turned on “Blank Space” and started belting out the lyrics. I paused, and looked around the car. “Am I a Swifty?” I whispered to myself in fear.
It all happened so fast. I walked around singing “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?” for like five days straight. I watched the video of Taylor sending Christmas gifts to her fans and I felt… feelings. I had a strange urge to go back to my high school yearbook and change my senior quote to “Baby I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.”
I like Taylor Swift now, and I’m over it. She’s done what she wants to do, and she hasn’t apologized for it along the way.
I’m sure she’s not impervious to criticism. People probably say things all the time that significantly sting her. I’m not saying she’s risen above all hurtful comments and is no longer affected by them. What I’m saying is that she hears all that, and she keeps on performing anyway. She doesn’t let spiteful people tell her what to do or who to be or how to feel about herself and her work.
There are still times where I find her slightly irksome and I’m tempted to criticize her. But then I remember that she’s up there. She’s on stage, she’s in the spotlight, she’s creating things. She’s in the arena, putting herself out there and doing what she wants, instead of standing in the shadows, swallowed by fear. I’m sure the criticism hurts, a lot. But she never lets that stop her, and that’s the important thing. She probably has more critics than most other musicians. People love to hate on her (my past self included) because some part of them recognizes that she’s sticking it to the haters and doing what she wants, and they wish they could be the same way.
So to Harry Styles and Conor Kennedy and Jake Gyllenhaal and John Mayer and Taylor Lautner and Joe Jonas, I say: you potentially lost a good one. But it’s okay. She’s got Lorde.