T Swift came out with a new album on Monday. I’ve listened to it more than once. Since I’m not seventeen, I feel like I need to explain myself.
A few years ago, a boyfriend asked me if I thought T Swift had staying power. I tried to think of a way to say, “Yes, you moron.” What I did say was something along the lines of “Yes, she does. She sings the songs that every girl can sympathize with.”
There are some musicians I really love (Esperanza Spaulding, Broken Social Scene, Bon Iver, Santigold). And there are other musicians that just entertain me (Kanye West). Taylor Swift is somewhere between those two places. I don’t think that T Swift makes complex and challenging music. I don’t think she claims to do that. But she does make damn catchy pop songs.
I started listening to Taylor Swift during the disintegration of the “Scott” saga. At the time, I was still driving my family’s Geo Tracker. I remember driving home on the highway, sing-screaming You’re Not Sorry (He wasn’t) and Picture to Burn (I tore up them up because I didn’t have a fire pit) while the wind kicked around the vinyl top. I was relieved nobody could see my sob-screams, because I was 21 and convinced that T Swift made teenage anthems that were the epitome of commercialized carp.
It was obviously therapeutic. I had finally found music that was reflecting exactly what I was feeling, but with this air of empowerment. While I was feeling shame and embarrassment about the breakup, she was embracing the feelings unabashedly. She was hurt. She was pissed. And she was making a lot of money off of it.
For the last few months, I’ve been brainstorming an essay about my transition from a girl to a woman. I’ve felt a pressure to be mature and womanly from a very early age. I don’t know why and right now, I don’t care to speculate. The point is that I never felt comfortable embracing my girlish feelings. I didn’t want anybody to know that I could be insecure, the victim of unrequited love, or feel like that crazy girl who wanted to humiliate her ex-boyfriend. Listening to T Swift is how I reconnect with the part of myself that I feel like I didn’t allow to surface when I was a teenager.
This isn’t to say that I was a cool, mature teenager. My diaries from that time eliminate any possibility of that. I just didn’t want people to know about my craziness, which is probably why I listened to a lot of emo and wrote about it all in notebooks.
What I’m trying to say is that I’m enjoying Red. It’s annoyingly poppy and catchy, but I love it. It doesn’t make me think deep thoughts about the intricate feelings of love and longing, or the quiet intimacies that happen in my head during a crisis.
But it does allow me to connect with those emotions that occur so obnoxiously that I don’t care to examine. They’re those universal emotions that feel unique, despite that they’re anything but. It’s what I hate and what I love about pop music.
Pop music is not for the cynical or skeptic, which is probably why I don’t listen to it much. Though it’s my default setting, it can be exhausting to maintain. T Swift gives me a break from that.
Alright, girls. Go find your new anthem to sing into a hairbrush. We’ll be here when you stop dancing on your bed and decide to put on something more than a cami and undies.