I’m pretty sure this post will just be buried in the slew of internet praise and hatred surrounding the comeback of Taylor Swift. But it contains some things I need to say, some things I need to vent, some thoughts I need to get out of my head so I can move on with my Friday. So if you’re here, Thank You for taking the time to make my words some of the many you’ll read on this subject over the coming days.
You see, I belong to a select group of fans that have been following Taylor Swift since BEFORE Day 1. As in, my mom and I preordered her first album.
I.e. the one that looked like this? The one with the songs about Tim McGraw and her neighbors’ 60 year marriage, etc.? The one with “Our Song” and “Picture to Burn”? The one where she was just this nerdy high schooler who liked country music and inspired girls to wear sundresses and cowboy boots? Sure, I listen to those songs now and they feel a little immature…but at the time, they were my life. They were everything I needed to hear. And they were completely different from anything else that was out there. We all knew Taylor would have to grow up and mature eventually, and we were curious to see where time would take her. But through Fearless, through Speak Now, through Red – even into 1989 – she was the same kind of Taylor. She liked kittens and fairytales. She had a strong sense of self independence. She was a little geeky, but always nice and sweet and falling on that dropped-jaw expression of disbelief every time she won an award. The public (and I) seemed to be getting a little tired of it, but at the same time, I was glad to see her holding true to herself. Or was she?
I was disappointed when she announced she would officially transition to pop. I felt a little betrayed – but I could never say I didn’t see it coming. I would rather her put her pop songs on Top 40 radio, rather than hear them be another flaw in the changing dynamic of what country music was becoming. Cheers to honesty, Taylor.
That being said, I bought 1989. I hadn’t liked “Shake it Off” when I first heard it, but it grew on me. And I didn’t like the album when I heard that either…but eventually I couldn’t deny the infectious nature of the tracks it provided. I learned to listen to her music for what it was, rather than living in a constant state of disparaging comparisons. In fact, that’s how I approach most music these days. I mean, Thomas Rhett is NOT country. But he can put out a good dance track for the most part. I just wish we’d call it something else, I guess.
But back to Taylor.
The world has been all abuzz this week with Taylor’s hints at new music. You’ve heard all about it. First, there was the creepy snake video that dropped at the same time the eclipse shadowed over Oregon. Then suddenly there was the announcement of a new single. And a new album. And a new album cover. I wanted to be excited, but…
I mean, I am all for a rebrand. That’s why I made it the title of this blog. But branding has to be believable. It has to be real. And this? I don’t buy it. Not this time. And here’s why:
- The Font. It feels forced. I don’t care if it’s a reference to Kanye, or to news print, or whatever. But it feels emo. It feels overdone. And harsh. It feels like Ashlee Simpson circa 2006. And I KNOW Ashlee Simpson circa 2006.
- Her Look. The wet slicked back hair? The torn up sweatshirt? The black and white and read all over? I mean, I like to embrace a lot of different styles too, but this just doesn’t feel right. I can understand what she’s going for, and I guess she’s spot on. Because it all ties into…
- The Promotion. It’s all so cryptic. The videos, the images – none of it came with explanation. It was just like, I’m Taylor Swift and I rule the world. Y’all can just wait til I’m ready. And you know what? She had me. Last night I kept checking to see if her single had dropped, just out of curiosity. And she didn’t say a word all day to connect with her audience until the single showed up around 10:30 pm. And even then – no words. No intro. No nothing. She didn’t have to say anything to her fans as she’s had a history of doing in the past in true Taylor fashion….and she knew it all too well. (Honestly I’m just kind of mad at myself for playing into the hype.)
- The Song. It just sounds bitter. It sounds like she’s holding onto the drama of years past – inflating it instead of just moving past it like a big girl. I think she wants the drama. She wants the news articles. She wants the controversy. Girl, please.
- The SONG. She’s not even singing. She’s just rapping and huffing and puffing, repeating the same 6 words in different cadences as a replacement for a chorus. And “Taylor can’t come to the phone right now? She’s DEAD”??? Wow. Just wow.
- I think what bothers me the most is that she’s doing all of this and yet doing nothing to make the release feel Personal to her fans or to the public in general. It’s all marketing. It’s all darkness and doom and gloom and snakes. Snakes? Taylor. Come on! There is a point where branding can be really cool and unique and career-changing, but there’s also a point where it can completely alienate the people who thought they knew what she was about. I understand fame is rough. I understand she’s got some beef with other celebrities. And that’s why she stayed out of the spotlight until now. Except here I thought she was letting it all simmer down. Now I see she doesn’t seem to understand that being the bigger person doesn’t always mean putting up the bigger fight. Or maybe the road less traveled has been taken for too long and she’s just ready to speak out. I don’t know. But I don’t like this style. I don’t like this Taylor. And I don’t know if we’re all finally meeting the new T Swift for good….or if it’s just a passing phase. But why put it on? Why become so detached and inaccessible? There’s a fine line between privacy and alienation, and in my eyes, she’s crossed it.
PHEW. end rant. deep breath. final thoughts.
By embracing her role as a villain, Taylor Swift is still playing the victim. She’s letting it get the best of her. “Look what you made me do,” she sings. As if she had no choice but to keep this narrative rolling. And here the fans stand, as she says nothing, drawing lines between dots that make reference to Kanye and Kim and Katy. This single, this album – it all seems to be a derivative of other people. There is very little of Taylor that remains here….she is only a puzzle of mirrored pieces that reflect everyone around her, making their roles greater than her own. Sure, she is “rising above it”. Sure, she is flexing her superwoman powers. But really, she’s just retaliating. She’s just extrapolating the problem. And she is building her new reputation on this. Only time will tell….this could very well be a misrepresentation of what the future holds. (I mean, go to her website and click on the Store link – you can get your very own Taylor Swift Reputation Black Snake Hoodie!) But this could also be creating a new tone that tides us over for the next 3 years until a newer Taylor decides to emerge. I’m both curious and scared to see how this era unfolds. I just hope she doesn’t push us all away in the process.