Sunday, November 2, 2014

If You Can't Relate to a Taylor Swift Song, You're Dead Inside.

A couple of years ago, I shared a theory to help boys and girls of all ages make good life choices - simply ask yourself 'What would Katy Perry do'? Usually the answer was to go out dancing, take shots and throw on some fancy dress - this, according to Katy, is how we do. And I stand by it.

But since then, a few things have changed. Most importantly, I've discovered Taylor Swift (Katy's arch-enemy, if gossip magazines are to be believed). And what would Taylor do, I hear you cry?

Well, depending on the situation, she'd probably write a killer song about it, make a self-deprecating joke, call her best friend and basically just SHAKE IT OFF.

Unlike the cartoonishly sexy persona of Katy, Taylor seems like a girl who would fit right in watching the Great British Bake Off, who would send you links to funny cat videos on YouTube and help you analyse a text from a guy you're dating.

An antidote to the mythical hipster 'Cool Girl' (a term coined in Gone Girl, referring to that Hollywood mirage of the quirky chick who never gets angry), Taylor is all real, a girl with a lot of feelings who is not afraid to share them. "It's in style to be edgy and blase and unaffected but I'm none of those things," she's admitted, making it OK for the rest of us too.

Taylor is so uncool she's cool. She dances endearingly awkwardly at Awards shows with her girlfriends, while bored celebrities stay in their seats.

She fully embraces her cat-lady reputation, and isn't one to peddle low self-esteem to her fanbase, regularly commenting on her fans' Instagram pages to tell them they're gorgeous.

She she even shared a chatty recipe for chai sugar cookies in inimitable Taylor style, finishing on one of her best lyrical moments yet: 'Cos the bakers gonna bake bake bake bake bake.'

Instagram @taylorswift
But more importantly than all of this? She is responsible for 'Red', a sprawling epic of an album. Taylor had never been on my radar until the bitter anthem 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together'. Before then, like most Brits I'd just had a vague awareness of her as a Nashville teen star frolicking in a princess dress in the 'Love Story' video.

But like most others, I had vastly underestimated the power of Swift. Red is now up there with my most addictive albums of all time - combining the grandiose storytelling of her country roots with experimental pop hooks and even a couple of dubstep drops, not to mention lyrics that are quite obviously straight from the heart.

I imagine that, for Taylor, listening back to her old albums must feel like re-reading her teenage diary, slightly embarrassing and sometimes a little overdramatic ("You stare at the phone, he still hasn't called, and you feel so low you can't feel nothing at all"), but nevertheless a totally honest, unguarded and emotionally raw picture of how she was feeling at the time. And isn't that exactly what a love song should be?

But Taylor's no lovesick fool. She has become knowingly jaded and self-aware in her songs, rolling her eyes at the guy who finds his peace of mind with his indie records which are "much cooler than mine",  at the "long list of ex lovers who'll tell you I'm insane", and at those who cruelly say "I go on too many dates, that I can't make them stay."

And this romantic body-count only consists of about four or five men in a decade-long career. One of whom - John Mayer - has incidentally dated and sung about more A-list women than I've had hot dinners, and yet escaped the vitriol that Taylor receives for doing the same.

To me, the lazy media criticism of Taylor's dating life and songwriting smacks slightly of single-bashing and slut-shaming. Why can't we celebrate that a 24 year old girl has written five albums' worth of songs based on authentic experiences?

But, aware of the criticism she gets every time she writes a love song, Taylor remains unapologetic and hasn't let the haters stop her doing her job. She's continued to write relentlessly catchy songs which will have her competitors quivering in their heels and desperately wheeling out the usual dial-a-hit DJs.  The latest of her offerings is 'Out of the Woods' which is currently killing it in the US charts, and sounds like nothing anyone else is releasing right now.

As a life-long defender of (good) pop music, I've said it before and I'll say it again - there's brilliant pop, there's terrible pop, there's brilliantly terrible pop, and there's terribly brilliant pop. And then there's Taylor Swift, sitting comfortably in a league of her own.

Us Swifties have known this for a while, of course. But something changed this week. With the release of her new album '1989' and the rave reviews from NME, Rolling Stone and the Guardian, the rest of the world finally seems to have cottoned on too.  Grown men are unwittingly humming 'Shake it Off' to themselves at work, and it's finally becoming acceptable to say out loud: "Taylor speaks to me". Vindication at last!

Why now? It may be partially because Taylor has gradually evolved her sound into supercatchy synth-pop, with influences from the Human League, the Drive soundtrack and Charli XCX, without compromising what makes her unique. The sound on 1989 may be fresh, but it's unpretentious and lyrically is still totally Taylor.

And that is the secret of her success - far from only catering to the realms of dumped  teens, much as we'd all hate to admit it, Taylor's themes of love, escapism and disillusionment are universal.

So why do some people still hate on her? Probably because she's young, fun, a bit uncool and she writes uncomfortably honest, hyper catchy pop songs about boys. And why do I love her? Because she's young, fun, a bit uncool and she writes uncomfortably honest, hyper catchy pop songs about boys.

Instagram @taylorswift
And if - after reading this far into the mad ramblings of a fangirl - you're still a doubter, if not a full-on hater, I will leave you with this. Remember when Kanye stormed the MTV Awards stage during her acceptance speech for Best Female Video? Well, apparently she now has a photo of the incident framed on the wall of her home. Beneath it she has written: “Life is full of little interruptions”. That's right, she responded to the most humiliating moment in her teenage life by calling super-ego Kanye a "little interruption."

Never change Taylor, never ever change. Like ever.

No comments:

Post a Comment