Last month, I was finally forced to face a surprising and uncharacteristic truth — a truth that had been slowly bubbling to the surface for months. I’ve tried to fight it, but like a pesky cold, it kept coming back. I’m done trying to shield the screen of my iPod when I’m listening to her in the library. I’m sick of keeping my face impassive when I’m driving with friends and one of her singles plays on the radio. This stealth fandom is becoming tiresome. When her latest album was released in October, I could hide it no longer: I like Taylor Swift.
So, why all the secrecy in the first place?
One reason stems from my DNA. As the child of two thoroughly elitist music connoisseurs, the greater part of my 19 years has been dedicated to a rigorous music snob education. My parents would certainly shudder at the thought of my being a Taylor Swift fan. My reluctance is at least in part due to their sure disapproval and my intensive musical conditioning.
And then there’s Taylor Swift’s overly girly demeanor. Let’s just say I’ve never been much of a girly-girl. I’m better versed in football than what happened on last week’s “Gossip Girl.” My makeup skills are less advanced than a seventh grader’s; I don’t watch chick flicks and I hate Jodi Piccoult novels. Scientifically, I should not like Taylor Swift. She embodies everything I used to find irritating about femininity (melodrama, idyllic naïveté, narcissism), but lo and behold, I am defying my own nature.
Haughty tastes aside, what’s not to love? Jangly Taylor guitars (no pun intended), cute banjos, well placed fiddles and story lyrics make for some good, wholesome listening. Her albums tend to reach quadruple platinum status within two minutes of their release, no doubt thanks to millions of teen girls waiting at the ready on their parents’ iTunes accounts. I used to deride my best friends for listening to her music, calling it mindless drivel.
So what changed? Perhaps by some strange process of osmosis, my sheer exposure to her music has infiltrated my brain, eventually confusing familiarity with actual fondness. But it’s more than that.
Taylor Swift’s songs bring back memories of another time. One song, and I’m transported back to my mid-teens, when the most important problems (getting my license, passing algebra) now seem trivial in the harsher world of college papers and exams. Life revolved around AP classes, Friday-night plans and drama with my friends and my high school boyfriend — everything was just simpler.
Taylor Swift sings about what every teen girl wants to hear (boys suck, we are better than them, let’s move on, girl power!). We can revel in her pain and anger, because what girl hasn’t experienced some form of boy-related anguish? Besides, listening to Taylor is much less depressing than wallowing, post-breakup, to Elliott Smith. But T-Swift is not a Negative Nancy all the time. No, half of her songs are all the other things girls want to hear (we are special, boys are great, I am a princess, life is smiley faces and butterflies).
In essence, Taylor Swift is just an upper-echelon, sequin- and cowboy boot-wearing, bubble-gum pop artist. She lives and breathes easy-to-like sing-alongs with four chords that center on the follies of love 99 percent of the time. Her lyrics are simple, the instrumentation and production could be described as country-lite. But isn’t that the true purpose of bubble-gum pop?
Speak Now was the last push that allowed Swift to fully win me over. Her musical prowess is obviously maturing; the tracks are much longer, more atmospheric, but still manage to be radio-friendly in a big way. She’s a truly likable pop star, and everybody knows it. Kanye West has been an asshole since 2004, but it was really only when he slighted Taylor Swift at the VMAs that the world united against him. And then she even wrote an entire song absolving Kanye of any wrongdoing. Is this girl some kind of saint?
Sure, Taylor Swift can be cheesy. She overuses clichés about love, it is inexplicably pouring rain in two-thirds of her songs and her live voice is shoddy at best. But indie-worshipping Taylor-haters, back off. I am sick of being snobbish. Taylor has taught me not to get caught up in the image I have of my own taste and myself. It’s so easy to get bogged down by your own views of what is high quality and what is considered “mainstream,” as if that label alone strips the music of any value.
I am a Taylor Swift convert. I’m listening to her in the library as I write this, and I am not ashamed anymore.