The enduring appeal of Taylor Swift— And why she reassures me that mistakes in life and love are OK
This week Taylor Swift has released her seventh album ‘Lover’; notably the first album where she owns all her records. Throughout the seven albums of her life we have followed the roller-coaster ups and downs of Swift’s public and personal life. In the process Swift has captivated an audience of listeners, particularly young women, and taught us all that mistakes in life and love are survivable, and just part of growing up.
There is no doubt that Taylor Swift is an immensely talented musician. Her singing, playing and most notably, her song-writing skills mark her as a stand-out star of her generation. Her impressive albums have been combined with incredibly shrewd business skills, and an awe-inspiring ability to stand-up for herself against the biggest of giants (think Apple and Spotify). But equally, she stands out for her relatability and the fact that in the shadow of the success we see her currently enjoying, we have all seen and felt the struggles of heartache and challenges sewn into her songs.
So broken down — here’s why I believe Lover, and the other five of Taylor Swift albums are one for the ages, not just for my generation, but for generations of women to come.
Heartbreak is Universal
Almost all of us will suffer heartbreak in our lifetime. Or if not heartbreak, a break-up of some sort. But Swift has faced the added challenge of her having her relationships splashed across the front-pages as she tried to navigate the minefield of growing through your twenties.
When I listen to Taylor’s songs, I am reminded I am not alone in what I’m feeling. Sometime I want to be childish, and sing an anthem like the chart-topping ‘We are never ever getting back together’ at the top of my lungs.
But other-times I want to remember the good bits, and the soulful ‘All to well’. In Lover, one of my favourite tracks is the opener ‘I forgot that you existed’ which reminded — in a good way, how proud I am of the ex I managed to forget.
Taken as a whole, Taylor Swift normalises the break-ups and relationships of modern life. We don’t all find love first time, and that’s OK. It’s ok to be childish, angry and sad about it, and its most fun to do it singing along to a banging tune.
A Force for Good
Taylor Swift has tried to use her music as a force for good since the beginning of her career, and this use has only strengthened as she has become increasingly open about her political views.
2010’s ‘Mean’ took on the topic of bullying, whilst the more recent ‘You Need To Calm Down’, addresses hate speech and homophobia, as well as the medias attempts to pit successful women against each-other. An open celebration of the pride movement, as well as a certified bop, this song
But outside that, it would be improper to mention her part in movements outside music. Recognised by Time magazine as one of the Silence Breakers. Before the wave of the #metoo movement, Swift testified in court about being assaulted by a Columbia radio DJ. She has continued to be increasing vocal about standing up for women, and marginalised minorities, through music and her actions.
‘The Man’ from her recent album considers how different the path of her career would be if she were a man. The chorus features the hard-hitting line, ‘I’m so sick of running as fast as I can, Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man’. Swift real-life track record of standing up for women’s rights, only lends more credibility and character to her songs, and the same applies to her morally and politically charged records.
The messages in these songs are enduring and human, and also brave. Singing about bullying and feminism rather that sex and money, isn’t traditionally thought of as anthem material, but somehow Swift has joined a legion of historical musical figures in turning current issues into hits, and with it has reinforced her position as part of many a movement for the common person.
Confronting her mistakes
Even though I want to be her best friend, I wouldn’t describe Taylor Swift as a saint. She has had public feuds (such as the now resolved feud with Katy Perry), her shrewd business skills could be interpreted as a negative cash-focus and the whole shady business around the Kanye West ‘Famous’ drama remains fairly inconclusive.
However, what you have to respect is how Taylor addressed these accusations face on. Reputation as an album was an unashamed confrontation of her critics and her proved again her ability to let no-one knock her down.
Swift is equally not a songstress to cover up her flaws and mistakes. ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ features the line ‘and I knew the blame was on me’ an honest admission that we don’t always choose whats best for ourselves. Poor choices: a common theme throughout Swift’s body of work. In fact, the final track on Lover, ‘Daylight’, features the line ‘ I wound the good and I trusted the wicked’. Again, Swift capitalises on something we can all relate to. Poor choices blight the best of us, but owning them is a trait we should all aspire to.
Many of Taylor Swift’s lyrics smack of normality, and that, combined with her melodic masterpieces is what makes her appeal so enduring. Despite her star-studded existence her songs are rooted in fundamental facts about life and love.
‘New Year’s Day’, the final track on her Reputation album talks about tidying up after a party, and ‘London Boy’ from Lover discussed afternoons drinking in the pub. These lyrics add to the illusion, however far from the truth, that Taylor is one of us. Just another twenty-something trying to work out the world.
This wasn’t supposed to be an advert for a new album, but more an explanation of why Taylor Swift is one of the few artists I’ve continued to follow as I’ve grown up. I admire her as an individual, a businesswomen and someone who I feel like I can relate too.
Taylor Swift marks someone who faced the challenges of friendship, break-ups and occasionally the feeling that the whole world was out to get her. And you know what — she’s come out the other side alive and thriving. At the end of the day, that’s all every twenty-something wants.
In today’s competitive music world, I think many could take a leaf out of her book. Produce music the normality of the world can relate to, and draw some hope and reassurance from.