Taylor Swift made a triumphant return to the music world this week with her latest album, 1989. While critics and fans alike have praised the record—which takes its name from Swift’s birth year— many refuse to acknowledge its existence or potential.
Unfortunately, many people don’t like Taylor Swift. Actually, that’s an understatement: people who don’t like Taylor Swift REALLY don’t like Taylor Swift. Why though? She seems like a nice girl; we don’t see her wrapped up in celebrity scandal or drunkenly slipping out of limos at three in the morning. Yet, she’s constantly barraged by hatred (and even death threats).
Oftentimes, the criticism centers upon her “cutesy image” or the subject matter of her music. While I understand that many may find Taylor Swift’s Disney Princess tendencies irritating—the excessive sweetness certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea—I’m perplexed by the public scrutiny regarding her work. Key word: her. Taylor Swift writes about boys and love. Fact. She does. No one—not even Taylor Swift—would argue that. However, don’t most popular songs—most songs in general—relate to either love or one of these other topics?
2. Dancing at a club.
a. Dancing at a club feat. Pitbull.
4. Money, power, and status.
5. Parties, alcohol, or drugs.
6. Social criticism (especially in regards to the media).
Try this: go onto your iPod (or Zune, if you’re one of those people), click shuffle, and scroll through the first five songs. What is each one about? The majority, most likely, will entail love or relationships. It’s a popular topic—especially in the world of pop. The subject comes with a variety of emotions for artists to choose from. Adele’s “Someone Like You” might bring you to tears, but Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” can make you dance like a poorly developed Glee character.
So, why does Taylor Swift receive flack for writing about love when so many others utilize the topic as well? First of all, let me be clear: Taylor Swift actually does write about more than just love and boys. Though, many people don’t give her music enough of a chance to discover that on their own. In my opinion, the public disdain parallels her vulnerability. Listening her music, you immediately know that a part of the artist resides within the art.
These aren’t just “songs”—they’re pages of a young woman’s diary set to music. These are real emotions. This is her actual life. These songs are about real people (many of whom you may even recognize via the lyrics). Phantom songwriters don’t write for her. They don’t stack songs on a clothing rack for her to scope out, sample, and ultimately decide whether or not she wants to make the purchase. Rather, Taylor Swift—that girl with who plays with kittens and bakes cupcakes—writes everything herself. That should come as no surprise: how can you not acknowledge the very real emotion teeming within each song?
The public disapproval of Swift seems to tote this invisible phrase: “I don’t feel like listening to your problems.” For many, Taylor is that whiny friend incessantly talks about her problems. Some might prefer to tune this person out. Others, on the other hand, apply Swift’s music and lyrics in a different way: she becomes the voice of our internal-self, and we align her music to our own personal experiences and struggles.
Nowadays, not many artists can perform this act of possession—we don’t channel Kanye as he raps about how much money he has. Very few people can relate to that. Taylor, on the other hand, is someone we can resonate with. Although she’s a celebrity, she’s also a person. Her battles and emotions aren’t much different from our own. Sharing her innermost feelings with us, we come to know her as more than just a pop star. She’s just like every other 23 year old. By sharing her feelings with us, she becomes almost like a friend. One we talk to, not through text messages or phone calls, but through music.