Taylor Swift Isn’t the Hero We Deserve, But She’s the One We Need Right Now
by: Leslie Hale
I have a lot of feelings about Taylor Swift. This isn’t a secret, nor is it something I’m ashamed of, though it’s constantly implied that I should be. After all, she only writes songs for teenage girls, and we all know that nothing teenage girls like has any merit. That’s why that Elvis guy never amounted to anything.
And don’t get me started on how all her songs are about boyfriends and breakups. So annoying, right? It’s crazy how in the entire history of popular music she is the first artist to do this. I miss the days before Taylor Swift, when you could listen to the radio all day and never hear a single song about a relationship. I’ve come to refer to this glorious epoch in human history as Before Swift, or B.S.
Okay, I’ll stop being snarky.
Yes, I love Taylor Swift. I think she’s talented. I love her music. But possibly even more than that, I’m fascinated by her as a public figure and a human. This is an anomaly for me, because I normally don’t care about celebrities on a personal level. I don’t like reading biographies. I don’t try to talk to the band after the show. I have no interest in meeting even my favorite musicians, actors or writers. If you told me that you brought Kurt Vonnegut back from the dead for one day and one day only and he has requested to spend part of it having a conversation with me, I’d be like, “Eh, I guess.”
But Taylor Swift is the exception. I read and listen to every interview I can find. She’s one of my tracked tags on Tumblr. I follow her on Instagram. I watch her music videos (and I HATE music videos). I don’t watch awards shows, but if I know that she attended one, I’ll look up photos to see what she wore. And I would jump at the chance to meet her.
Why do I feel differently about her? It’s hard to say. I think at the end of the day I just can’t believe how perfect she is (or seems), and that is what fascinates me. I would like to meet her because I’m not entirely convinced she is a real person.
This girl has been in the public eye for nearly a decade. She’s one of the biggest stars in the world and is constantly followed by paparazzi. She’s lived the entirety of her early twenties in the public eye. And still, the worst thing anyone has to say about her is that she sometimes writes songs about her boyfriends.
Young woman dates people and feels feelings. More at 11.
Of course, the haters will always say that it’s a ruse. She can’t keep a man because she’s crazy, she’s a diva, she’s a phony, she’s a closet mean girl. But if that were true, if it really were all an act, we’d have caught her slipping up by now (the girl has NO privacy), and the fact is that we haven’t. Everything Taylor Swift does points to her being a genuine sweetheart (not to mention a bit of a goofy loser).
Case in point: the 1989 Secret Sessions. If you haven’t heard of this, take a few minutes to watch this video and just TRY to tell me Taylor Swift isn’t an actual angel from Heaven:
While other celebrities walk around wearing hoods and sunglasses, pushing cameras away, refusing to sign autographs or let fans touch them, Taylor Swift stalks her fans on social media, invites them to her house(s), bakes them cookies, dances with them, learns their names, and lets them hold her Grammys and pet her cats.
Was it a marketing strategy for her new album? Absolutely. Does that make it any less of a genuine act of kindness shown to the people who have made her career the success that it is? I don’t think so.
Being genuine, humble, and gracious has always been at the core of Taylor Swift’s public persona. And call me naïve, but I don’t think it’s an act.
The big story surrounding Swift’s upcoming album 1989–to be released on October 27–is that it marks her official transition from country to pop. Of course, she’s been pop for years, even she won’t deny that. Nevertheless, she’s consistently attended country music awards shows (and won plenty) and has put at least a couple country-sounding tunes on each album. Even her poppiest hits like “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” have been given country remixes and pushed to country audiences. With 1989, she’s putting her foot down an unapologetically making a pop record, despite her label manager’s begging her to include at least a few country tracks.
And I contend that, in going full pop, Taylor Swift has shown an incredible amount of respect not only for herself, but for country music and Nashville.
Because you see, Taylor could have included a few country tracks. She could have collaborated with country artists instead of Ryan Tedder and Imogen Heap. Or she could have put out a pop record and called it country anyway, and country radio would have played it, because as we’ve seen in recent years, the bar for “country” is pretty low these days. She would probably sell more albums that way.
But she didn’t do any of those things. She realized that she didn’t want to make country music anymore, so she stopped. Other artists try to change what country music is on a fundamental level to make it suit who they are. Taylor realized that it was her who had changed, so she moved to a genre where she was better suited.
And she still has respect for her roots (and I do believe she started out as a country artist, despite the constant cries that “she’s always been pop!” I don’t know how anyone could listen to her self-titled album and say otherwise.) In a recent interview with Esquire, she’s quoted as saying:
“Country music teaches you to work. You hear stories about these artists who show up four hours late to a photo shoot, and in Nashville that doesn’t happen. In Nashville, if you go four hours late to a photo shoot, everyone leaves. In Nashville, if you don’t care about radio and being kind to the people who are being good to you…It’s a symbiotic relationship, and if you don’t take care of it, then they won’t take care of you. I’ve never been more proud to be part of a community that’s so rooted in songwriting, so rooted in hard work and in treating people well. It was the best kind of training.”
In other words, Taylor Swift is going to continue to be a country artist. Maybe not in sound, but in spirit. She understands where she came from. She understands that music connects her to people, and that while that’s a great and powerful thing, it also comes with a responsibility to do right by those people. She understands the importance of continuing to learn, to grow as an artist and a person, and to pay respect to the ones who came before you.
If you ask me, a lot of the up-and-coming country artists could stand to take a lesson from her.
So to the detractors, I’d say don’t knock Taylor until you listen to her music (and not just her radio hits. Check out “All Too Well” or “The Lucky One” from her Red album and tell me the girl can’t write a powerful piece of music.) I’d tell you to read her Tumblr and how she interacts with her fans. I’d tell you to look into how she runs her business and how much agency she has over her own brand (practically unprecedented for an artist her age, and especially a female). I’d tell you to ask yourself why you have a problem with her writing songs about her personal romantic experiences when you don’t have a problem with male singer-songwriters who do the same thing.
And if you’re still not a believer, I’d just sit back and let her tell you in her own words just how little she cares:
And I can see you years from now in a bar
Talking over a football game
With that same big, loud opinion,
But nobody’s listening;
Washed up and ranting about the same old bitter things,
Drunk and grumbling on about how I can’t sing…
But all you are is mean.