I’m a 26-year-old woman, financially independent with a masters degree and a decent job, and have been in a relationship “forever”, as my brother likes to remind me when I attempt to give him dating advice. And I am a Taylor Swift fan. As in, bought-the-albums, seen-her-in-concert, considered-buying-the-t-shirt-from-the-“You Belong With Me”-video kind of fan. In fact, I met my best friend on a year abroad when she knocked on my dorm room door because she heard me listening to the then-new Speak Now album.
I like how poppy her songs are, how zingy her lyrics are and how empowered I feel dancing around my bedroom listening to them. I feel that’s what they’re written for, being unashamedly yourself even if everyone (or in my case, no one) is watching.
And I was proud of her after her recent sexual assault case, she took no prisoners on the stand, was single-mindedly direct and cutting her remarks, laying bare all that was wrong with the line of questioning and society’s attitude. Which has been pretty much been her lyrical oeuvre to-date and, even when it might border on bitchy, I’m cool with it.
TS has been through (and undeniably dragged herself through) a lot of drama over the years. But my gut reaction on Friday morning to her new song “Look What You Made Me Do” was disappointment. Having grown up with her music, there was an immediate sense that it lacked any sense of evolution. It just sounded, well, petulant. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the painfully pubescent “the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now, oh, ’cause she’s dead” line. Oh the melodramadramadrama.
It’s a song that smacks of desperation rather than the intended snark that made “Blank Space” such a hit – more catty and far less nuanced. I get that she’s been “hardened” by the world, bitten by the snake of her own self-aggrandisement but so has everyone else. FYI, I put “hardened” in quotations because, #firstworldproblems.
Everyone has felt the burning mortification of having been caught in a lie. Everyone has face-palmed upon hearing their younger selves spout an opinion they no longer adhere to. Everyone has wanted to cut down the person who stuck the knife in their back.
But part of growing up is learning to just get over it. Stop fighting the battles you don’t really need to win, learn to walk away from the debate without the winning quip, because, you know what? You have life admin to do and this person’s backward thinking is not your responsibility. You just dust off your hands and go boss it elsewhere.
In wanting to be the “phoenix from the ashes”, Taylor Swift killed everything that made her unique. Her wicked-quick eye for a melody remains, but where is her relatability, and the sharp empathy of her words? Her new song, while catchy in tune, is lyrically cutting in all the wrong ways. It lacks any sense of her own humanity, which ironically brings her closer to the “enemies” on her list like bubblegum pop-machine Katy Perry and reality TV star Kim Kardashian.
Playing the victim has its limits and Taylor Swift has sadly reached mine.