The icebreaker in my first globalization class went as follows: name, hometown, least favorite celebrity. My eyebrows rose as a classmate responded, “I really hate Taylor Swift.” I shouldn’t have been surprised-Swift receives more backlash for her dating patterns than just about any other celebrity, and her reoccurring songs about boys do not help her cause. It was not the fact that this student did not like the blonde, bubbly mega-star that warranted my public outrage in the middle of class. Rather, it was her explanation: “She is an immature, boy-crazy 23-year-old who needs to grow up.”
In an effort to be somewhat credible, I’ll start by stating I am not Swift’s biggest fan. I could’t tell you her favorite color or how many awards she has won for her four albums. What I can tell you, however, is that Swift’s greatest accomplishment is her ability to connect with and be an outlet for her audience.
To write this column, I did what I usually do when confronting a difficult task-played Swift’s album Fearless. This is not the first time I’ve felt like I needed Swift. There were countless times in my life when her songs liberated and inspired me to overcome the hardships I was facing. When I felt like I had exhausted my friends’ open ears, Swift was always there. Whether it was blasting “Fifteen” on my way into my freshman year of high school, or “Tim McGraw” after breaking up with my first love, Swift knew exactly what I was feeling-the heart-wrenching pain of recalling fond memories that would never again occur or the butterflies of beginning a new adventure. Swift felt it all as if she were there with you. Swift lets her listeners know they are not alone by empathetically sharing her own stories of sorrow and joy.
I do not entirely disagree with my classmate’s claim of Swift’s lack of originality. It seems that every No. 1 hit she produces involves the all-too familiar theme of heartbreak, which constitutes the public’s criticism of her boy obsession. There are, however, greater messages beyond the concept of loving and hating a particular boy, as the heartbreak extends far beyond-whether it is a fight with friends, or trouble with family.
If one wants to argue Swift’s immaturity, she would be hard-pressed to find someone who has not, on some level, experienced the heartbreak that Swift describes in her songs time and time again. Swift is a representation of the ways countless people feel every single day, at any given moment. It’s unfortunate that her fame gives way to this criticism, seeing as her feelings are shared by so many. It’s hard to call Swift immature when she simply expresses what all of us feel on some level or another. If Swift is immature for having these feelings, does that mean I am also immature? Or is it her ability to share and confide her emotions with her listeners that creates her maturity? If Swift is crazy, we all must be crazy.
Swift proved her maturity this past Sunday, as she head-banged through a mid-show Grammy performance. She could have performed “22” and bounced around the stage in an elaborate spectacle in the pop star fashion people expect from her. With her reputation in mind, Swift choose to perform “All Too Well” off her Redalbum-arguably her most honest and genuine song, about a relationship she is painfully reminded of each day. Lines like, “I’d like to be my old self again, but I’m still trying to find it” and “I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here because I remember it all too well,” allow Swift to be honest with the audience, showing her fragility and sensitivity to a love so strong. By performing this most real and awe-inspiring song, she proved to everyone that she can be mature and honest by fearlessly expressing these emotions. With a simple stage, performing with only a piano and with a great sense of power in her voice, Swift showed her audience “this is who I am and this is what I feel.” It may have been another song about heartbreak, but again, Swift proved to me that I am not alone in my feelings of weakness in difficult circumstances and that there is strength in accepting oneself.
I was terrified to take on this column, out of fear of being judged as just another over-zealous teenage girl, sticking up for a seemingly naive pop singer. I stressed, I wrote multiple drafts, I cried. It was Taylor Swift who allowed me to persevere and to fight for what I believe in. This is who I am, this is what I’m passionate about, and I will defend my stance without fear of judgment. This is what it means to grow up, to be mature, to be fearless.