I am not a Taylor Swift fan. Now, before you roll your eyes and think I’m some hater that’s about to tear Swift down like almost everyone else who has some reason for criticizing her… you might want to hear me out.
I wouldn’t be called a fan in the sense of owning copies of her albums, having walls lined with posters, admiring her on some form of social media and knowing her entire biography by heart. However, if you bought me tickets to a Taylor Swift concert, yes, I would tag along, and yes, I would know almost every single line of every single one of her songs. Even the unreleased ones from when she was around 16 years old.
I fell for Taylor Swift the artist when I was around 11.
And so I want to talk a little bit about her reputation to me, a dreamer trying to figure things out. As someone that doesn’t constantly keep up with Taylor Swift’s personal life but continues to support her music, I read all the articles and think pieces about her and her new record-breaking singles, and I notice it’s rare to see the separation of Taylor Swift’s personal life with her professional one.
One day in primary school, it was pouring rain and two of the most popular girls in class had taken shelter under the outstretched part of a class room roof. In their hands, they had a piece of paper with lyrics for a song that was extremely popular called “Love Story”. I couldn’t sing to save my life; however, I wanted to fit in, although these two girls soon enough made it very clear I was not quite up to it. I think, if memory serves me correctly, they were practicing to put on some kind of performance. I remember slogging home that night, wanting to figure out what this song was. I remember liking it just as much as everyone else and then falling into the rabbit of Taylor Swift and her music.
Time flew by. I moved onto secondary school, year seven became eight, and year eight became year nine, and so on. Through that time, I listened to Taylor’s music and some songs even now takes me back to those days.
It was her lyrics I fell in love with more than anything. I was so swept away by how she could put thoughts and feelings I didn’t understand into exact phrases and sentences that explained those thoughts and feelings to me.
And no, despite her never-fading reputation of being a singer who prominently writes about her love life, it was not always about crushes or the emotions of love that her lyrics guided me through. More than anything, it was her songs about sometimes feeling like an outcast, fearing growing up, being tied together with a smile yet slowly coming undone when no one was looking. It was those songs that struck a chord with me, ones that I listened to when I was breaking down.
I can’t and won’t lie, of course: her songs about love were a huge reason I liked her music. Yes, sometimes I wanted to read up about who those songs were written about. However, I’ve never really had much of an interest in celebrity gossip. But even in all her love songs, there was this way of making sense of all these overwhelming and complicated feelings. In some ways they warned me of things to come. After all, isn’t so much our life defined by relationships surrounding this emotion of love in some way or another? Maybe that’s why over the years her audience only grew as she got more exposure.
Sometimes I thought of her lyrics as letters from a big sister. There was “Fifteen” that talked about the allure of forgetting your bigger dreams in life at a naive age. There’s “Never Grow Up”, talking about realizing your parents were getting older too… everything I have could someday be gone, so I have to appreciate what I have right now. There’s “Long Live”, which made me think about those adventures I went on with my friends at school at an age we could dream enough to believe we were fighting dragons together. And there’s “Change”, a song of hope that tells you to fight.There are also songs like “Mine” and “Mean” in her later albums, and even in 1989, “Welcome to New York” is all about the hope of moving somewhere to make your dreams come true.
I absolutely cannot go on without mentioning a song called “New Romantics”. A song for me feels like an anthem to my generations and the ones that came before me.
“We’re all bored, We’re so tired of everything. We wait for trains that just aren’t coming. We show off our different scarlet letters… trust me mine is better. We’re so young, we’re on the road to ruins. We cry tears of mascara in the bathroom. Honey, life is just a classroom.”
I still have pages with scribbles where fifteen-year-old me quoted her lyrics from a song called a place in this world:
“I’ll be strong, I’ll be wrong — oh but life goes on. Oh, I’m just a girl trying to find a place in this world.”
If you look through all of Taylor Swift’s music, to me, it feels like a dreamer’s diary of the motions of life. But Swift, Swift seems like a dreamer that took chances in life and made her dreams come true. Her success, now more than ever, is unparalleled for a female artist in the last decade. She went through the lows of what seemed like the whole world is against her yet came out on top. She utilized every obstacle and what I now see is an extremely intelligent and talented businesswoman that bloomed from an artist trying to find a place in this world.
As a person, I will never really know what she’s like regardless of so many articles being released about her personal life. All I wanted to write about is her as an artist, as a lyricist giving hope, writing what feels like to me poetry at times. Not only replaying moments past in my life, but warning me about what may come in my future and set an example that says, We can get through it. Even if sometimes, all you have is just you.
I thought it was important to mention how her music seems to get lost in the opinion of the majority of the public, at times solely based on one or two songs that become chart toppers. What they don’t realize is that there are entire albums that tell a completely different story.