Our Senior Editor, Kim, writes about reclaiming her love of pop icon Taylor Swift.
Most of the great loves of my girlhood I fell out of love with. I either just outgrew them or forced myself to move on, ready to shed that phase of my life. That never quite happened with my shameless love for Taylor Swift’s music.
Taylor’s first album came out when I was five. I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t listen to her music. I loved her when I was ten and performed Love Story at my Year 5 talent show ‘dressed’ as Juliet with my friends, and I love her now when I religiously request her songs at parties and she’s nearly always in my top 5 most listened to artists on Spotify. As she should be! There’s a song for every mood and occasion: from killing your best friend’s husband, to growing up and moving out, to stopping a wedding.
As I’ve grown up, her music has developed and changed, moving from country to pop to her more stripped-back acoustic sounds in her recent albums, folklore and evermore. So, it was almost less embarrassing, because she was growing up, so continuing to listen to her music didn’t mean I wasn’t growing up too.
In truth, it is irrelevant whether or not I’m a fan of Taylor Swift’s music. The issue lies in why I feel compelled to defend it. Taylor Swift makes music for hopeless romantics, for girls who have just been broken up with, for 12-year-olds, so the sayings go. Even with her latest releases, folklore and evermore, which explore fictitious stories of unrequited love, murder, delusion, closure, and resentment, taking Taylor’s music to a new level of narration and storytelling, she is still resigned to a guilty pleasure.
It’s nearly always the music and films enjoyed almost exclusively by girls which are considered guilty pleasures. We should have never been taught that these pleasures were anything but wonderful and something to find comfort in, rather than something to cringe at in public, putting Spotify on a private session every time you want to listen to embarrassing girly music. Taylor Swift does make cheesy music that girls go crazy for. But she also makes lyrical masterpieces that resonate. Her discography is nuanced, ranging from quiet and hopeful to brazen and bold.
I know that a lot of us have revisited our girlhood love for Taylor’s music, especially as she is re-releasing old albums in a bid to own her music. It feels like a rite of passage for artist and listeners alike. The praise she has received and the frenzy that has accompanied this shows us that liking Taylor Swift’s music was never embarrassing and shouldn’t have been seen as such. The re-release of RED last November and the brutal ten-minute version of All Too Well was a cultural reset and we shouldn’t pretend that it wasn’t. Her lyrics verge on literature as she consistently has managed to make sense of feelings with the perfect simile or metaphor.
In re-releasing her previous albums, we hear an older, more mature Taylor sing the stories of her teenage years with the warmth and hindsight of an older sister. She is recreating the art she made when she was young but this time on her own terms. These re-releases have Taylor revisiting her own girlhood, and in listening, we’re encouraged to revisit ours.