I haven't bought an album since...I don't know when I last bought an album.
But I bought Taylor Swift's.
It was because of "Out of the Woods." I heard it and I was sold. There's a little bit of Stars in that song, which is totally my flavor.
I also, I'll admit it, find Taylor Swift's whole celebrity existence intriguing. Whether this is who she really is or if this is the persona the media have crafted for her or some combination of the two, she's the most, I don't know, three-dimensional(?), real(?) of all the female pop stars working today. She's forged a career based on the fact that these are her songs. She writes them. She performs them. They are a window into her life. She tells us so; and we listen with our ears to the speaker, trying to decipher the "who dat?" behind every lyric.
But I'm really kind of oddly conflicted about this whole thing. I love the sound. I'm a fan of the whole experience of listening to this album. It's fluff, but it's fun as hell fluff. Maybe I should just be happy with that, a danceable beat, non-objectionable lyrics I can listen to with the kids in the car. But that's just it. I have problems with the messages behind the lyrics, problems that will make me sound like the old fart I am (no surprise there).
First of all, I like that Taylor's gone anti-Twilight and isn't talking about falling in love with one person like it's the be all, end all of one's existence, like love saves lives. There's no Nicholas Sparks in this album, thank God. We need more of that. Our kids need more of that. The thing that disappoints me is Taylor's lack of perspective and growth.
I honestly don't think Taylor Swift has ever made a mistake. I'm not sure she's ever done anything "off-brand." My son asked me the other day, "Mom, have you ever done anything you weren't supposed to do and it was fun?" Yeah, I have. But I'm pretty sure Taylor Swift has not. She only does things she's "supposed" to do.
This is a girl who has been ruling the music scene since she was a teenager. George Clooney has said that celebrity tends to stunt you. Whenever you become famous, that's the age you stay...forever. So it's not surprising that Taylor's lyrics lack self-awareness and maturity. She's a 16-year-old girl trapped in a 24-year-old woman's body.
Maybe it's not fair, but I keep comparing this album to what I was listening to back in the Stone Age, back when I was in high school, the songs that shaped me during the era of Reality Bites and My So-Called Life. When I was sixteen, the radio was playing a lot of female singer-songwriters -- Alanis and Jewel and Fiona Apple, et. al. These were all young women analyzing their lives and loves and trying to figure out their own culpability in all of that. They went deeper than "He's a bad boy. I'm a good girl. He hurt me. Waah!" There was more introspection there. More real pain, more viscera. Plus, they generally didn't play the victim card, which seems to be Taylor Swift's default setting.
Taylor is single? It's the guy's fault.
Taylor has a beef with another girl? The other girl was the one who started it.
You have anything negative to say about Taylor? You're just a hater and she's not going to listen to you.
It's not just Taylor Swift, obviously. The I'm OK/You're Not OK Because You're Just a Hater mindset is ever-present in our society. We live in a time now where anyone who writes a dissenting opinion on a blog post is just a troll. When the Bears' fans booed the team two weeks ago, they got a lot of flack from the team itself: "You need to blindly support us. We're just trying our best. Mmm-kay?" On America's Next Top Model last week, a fan made a fairly clever comment about a contestant's photo. It was all pretty benign, really. The contestant said the fan "came at her," and then she "came at" the fan, basically refusing to hear any criticism or negativity.
We're soft. We're not introspective. We choose to point the finger elsewhere instead of looking inside ourselves and growing and doing the work to become better, to try harder. Taylor Swift, at least according to the songs on 1989, is perfect already. It's everyone else around her who needs to change. What Taylor fails to recognize, time and again, is that the common denominator in all her songs is...Taylor Swift.
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