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I was seven years old when “You Belong With Me” came out, and it still gives me an indescribable rush of sheer happiness. It’s the song I play in the car with the windows down, letting everyone else on the road share my joy. It’s the song that I dance around to in my pajamas, feeling like I’m at a concert. Every time I hear it, I have to stop what I’m doing to give it the devotion it deserves.
That’s how I feel with every Taylor Swift song. That’s how so many people feel with every Taylor Swift song.
Barbara Walters once said “Taylor Swift is the music industry.” She said this in 2014, after Taylor’s record-breaking album 1989 was released. Six years later, Taylor Swift is still the music industry. She’s released eight albums since the beginning of her career, and they’ve nearly all broken records. From her self-titled debut album to her most recent, surprise release folklore, she has never let the world down.
It’s a shame, though, because the world has let her down on more than one occasion. From accusing her of writing only about her ex-boyfriends to the #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty to losing her master license over her recordings to having beauty standards forced on her that led to an eating disorder, the world has let her down because the world wants to hate Taylor Swift.
What makes her amazing, though, what makes her a true icon, is that she rises above it all. She forgives, but never forgets. She proves the world wrong. When the world said that she relies on the talent of others to write her own songs, she released self-written Speak Now (my absolute favorite album of all time). When the world said she was “just” a country artist, she released 1989, for which she became the first female artist to win the Grammy’s Album of the Year award twice. When the world turned on her and called her a snake, she embraced it and released reputation. When the world said that she could only ever be a cookie-cutter pop star, she released the indie folk album folklore, which has led her to surpass Whitney Houston’s record for most weeks at number one on the Billboard 200 charts. Taylor Swift sits among the most revered stars.
She refuses to let herself be torn down by haters or the media. As she herself said during the 1989 World Tour before her performance of her song “Clean,” “you are not the opinion of somebody who doesn’t know you or care about you.” And she’s not. The number of haters Taylor Swift has is the same number of people who refuse to give her a chance. They see a talented, young female star and refuse to give her any of the credit she is due.
The people that do love her — her fans, her Swifties — have never just sat by and let the world tear her down. And in return, she loves them. Taylor Swift invites her fans to her house and plays them songs before an album’s release. She bakes them cookies, sends them Christmas gifts, shares inside jokes on Tumblr. How many artists do that? How many artists let their fans into their homes, into their hearts, the way she does?
At the core of her being, Taylor Swift is an artist. Her songs, her words are, for lack of a better word, iconic. So many people have proposed to their significant others while “Love Story” was playing. So many people’s 2014 and 2015 Instagram bios read “darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” Everyone knows that when you turn 22, it’s your “Taylor Swift Birthday.” So many people declared 2020 saved when folklore came out.
She has proven time and time again that she doesn’t need the flashy concerts, gorgeous music videos or vast number of awards to be successful. She needs her voice, her songs and her fans. Taylor Swift appeared at the (socially distant) 2020 Academy of Country Music Awards to perform the song “betty.” That award show had more viewers than the 2020 VMAs despite the fact that country music isn’t a widely-listened-to genre. The other performers played a part for sure, but it hardly seems a coincidence that the first time she showed up at the ACMs in seven years was the time that millions of people tuned in. She sat on a stage with her guitar, accompanied by a harmonica player in the background, and just sang. There was no audience, no light-up bracelets, no showmanship. It was just her, happily returning to her country roots. And she still managed to capture everyone’s attention.
That’s the power of Taylor Swift.
Daily Arts Writer Sabriya Imami can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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