Examining Our Love-Hate Relationship with Taylor Swift

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Two years ago, I revealed to the world I had a sad, secret love affair with Taylor Swift and her music. It was a difficult moment for me, as I had publicly bad-mouthed the pop star for years. “I mean, can she really sing?” I would question. “And she always seems really annoying at awards shows and interviews. Honestly, I don’t think she deserves half the trophies she’s received, either.”

Yet, there I was blasting “22” in my car on a seemingly daily basis. I was a celebrity-critiquing fraud and had to come clean for my phoniness. I thought I was ready to be done with the Nashvillian-turned-New Yorker, too, but you know our girl. She went and put out another hit album last year.

Of course, when it first debuted, I condemned it. I can hear myself now: “You know, ‘Shake It Off’ is really cookie-cutter. There’s nothing special to it.” I said this at a time I was listening to it religiously each morning on my drive to school.

While in New York during the holidays, I told two friends while riding in a taxi “’Welcome to New York’ is just so meh. Better songs have been written about the city, and she acts like she just discovered Manhattan and no one else knew about it.” Guess who know dances to that same song completely pumped up before every trip I make to the city now? This guy.

Ditto to “Out of the Woods,” where I ripped the song constantly for weeks, only to find myself singing in the shower while washing my hair, “Are we out of the woods yet, are we out of the woods yet, are we out of the woods” one morning. At least I learned my lesson on “Blank Space” and “Bad Blood.” I admitted those were great from the get-go and moved on.

I’m dying to see her in concert later this year and am currently kicking myself for not buying tickets earlier. Now I’ll either have to pay big bucks or settle for nosebleed seats. Regardless of the decision, I’m sure it will set me back more than a few pretty pennies.

And yet, with all this love and enthusiasm, I still love to rip on her. “Oh look, there’s Taylor trying to act all generous. There she is standing up for musicians’ rights. Watch out world, Ms. Swift is claiming to be a feminist.” Since she’s always in the news, it’s easy to get tired of what feels like an almost daily bombardment of stories on her good deeds or latest business moves.

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But I own the albums. I want to go see her on tour. So, why do I feel the disdain? Why do any of us, for that matter? I know I’m not alone in my mixed emotions for the pop star. I’m pretty sure the most universally made comment on music this summer made by white people has been, “I really love her song Bad Blood – only not the one with the rapping.”

Our feelings on Taylor make feel unique because her songs so brilliantly reflect the new digital world we live in. Gone are the days of casual dance numbers and the tried-and-true “everything will be OK” mentality. Welcome to the social media world, where everything is permanent, mistakes can be instantly life-altering and quick, casual comments can affect opinions on others for a long time to come.

We’re all victims to it, too. Without the in-flesh exchange of body language and words, we read online posts and texts as directly as they’re written, and the results can be catastrophic. Have a few people writing negative comments on your latest post? Then “Shake It Off” is just the anthem for you.

Are your ex-boyfriends or girlfriends tweeting about how impossible you were to deal with or maybe how you were the one who got away? “Blank Space” is just what the doctor ordered. And – of course – if someone just really ticked you off (even a dear friend), now we’ve got “Bad Blood.” I experienced that one recently and gleefully sang along to all the lyrics while listening multiple times. Even with the rapping, white folks.

The insanity is the supposed story that inspired “Bad Blood” will make you ponder why such an extreme song was written in the first place. The back-and-forth exchange over dancers for the competing tours of Swift and fellow pop star Katy Perry seems like laughable fodder, not fuel for an angry hymn.

Then again, neither did the issue I had with a friend recently. But the digital age has worked wonders on our interpretations, and I made our issues, which thankfully got cleared up, to be much grander than they were. It was much like Swift’s and Perry’s, and I’d assume much like yours. Yes, you who had a recent spat with a family member and are now listening to “Bad Blood.” With or without the rapping.

I think I’ve finally diagnosed our culture’s fascination with Ms. Swift. Sure, we like her charity, and there’s no denying she can still prove to be quite the charm. Her songs are where the true passion lies, and that’s because they reflect current attitudes better than any other artist’s out there at the moment. Perhaps the next time I’m ripping her in public, I’ll remember that. Well, probably not. That’s not going to stop me from singing along to “Bad Blood,” though. I just hope when I do, nobody else will be watching.

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Posted on by Alex Beene in Entertainment, Featured, Music

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