"I’m a twentysomething male Taylor Swift fan, and I’m okay with that"
Look, I know what you’re going to say: Taylor Swift isn’t “what real music is about, man”. Maybe you think that she’s nothing but a privileged WASP; a singer who makes vapid, cookie cutter pop music engineered to climb to the top of the Top 40 charts like a randy howler monkey. To which all I’ve got to say: I don’t care if that’s true. I’m an adult male Taylor Swift fanatic, and I’m okay with that.
I’ve been on the Tay Tay bandwagon since the day Swift’s first self-titled studio album got me grooving to banjo strums, pining for someone’s picture to burn, and frantically googling who the hell Tim McGraw was at an age where I couldn’t comprehend half the emotions she was singing about. Or comprehend why most of America was obsessed by some berk in a matte black cowboy hat. I’d been inducted into the church of country pop, service had already started, and it was too late for me to sneak out the back now.
Flash forward a decade and I was just as into the 'Fearless' singer as ever. I might have been studying literature from the 1600s but 1989 was on heavy rotation and I was rocking a T-Swizz calendar on my dorm room wall. Seeing Swift’s pixelated smile was often the only beacon of hope I could rely on after an unsuccessful night of romancing. Was it likely that said romancing was severely impacted by having a Taylor Swift calendar in my bedroom in the first place? Probably. But that’s a Catch-I-don’t-know-about-you-but-I’m-feeling-22 that I don’t want to worry about.
Swift’s music has been with me for all the landmark moments of my young adult life so far and it’s become something of a sunk cost fallacy in the emotional investment at this point. I’ve grown up accustomed to Taylor’s vocals providing a soundtrack to my break-ups, breakdowns and breakfasts. It’s one of the many, many reasons why I’m excited for her next album, Lover. I’m not alone in that anticipation, either. Swift’s music means a lot to a lot of people. Hence the existence of that baying, bloodthirsty collective entity of superfans known as Swifties.
From the innocent country ballads about teardrop-stained acoustic guitars of her earlier albums to her more recent forays into sexed-up pop bangers, Swift’s music has continued to evolve over the years along with her fans. Not always in the right direction, mind (2017’s Reputation is by far Swift’s weakest album) but I believe part of Swift’s appeal is that her sound has never remained static. It’s also important that it’s very much remained her sound.
Swift wrote every single word and note of her third album, Speak Now, and her latest single ‘Lover’ displays a similar level of auteurism. ‘Lover’ is a poignant and stirring heater of a track about, well, love that Swift wrote every stitch of. So, while you can throw a lot of flak Swift’s way for a variety of reasons – Tom Hiddleston’s “I love T.S.” shirt included – jibes of talentless and lazy won’t stick. Not only is Swift unique in that she continues to sell millions of physical albums in an era where singles and streams dominate the music ecosystem, but she’s balanced that chart dominance with a successful touring programme. In fact, the only female solo artist who’s grossed more than Taylor from a single tour is Madonna. And being second to Madonna is, like getting a silver medal at the world’s most handsome man olympics, not exactly a bad place to be in the scale of things.
While Swift has kept herself sonically diverse – bouncing from simple strummed chords to dubstep drops and back again – her lyrics do often dip back into that familiar pool of boy troubles. Complaints about Swift airing her dirty laundry through her music; however, are asinine. Singing about heartbreak isn’t new, honey. Just look at all of the great poets who have mined their own emotional trauma for #content. Keats, Dickinson, Plath, Shakespeare. The list is practically endless. Drawing from real life experience to purpose your craft is just part of the parcel of being an artist.
And, despite what your Foals-loving boyfriend says, I’d argue that Swift is an artist in every sense of the word. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m blinded by my fandom. I know Swift’s had a few missteps over the years. An attempt to turn “party like it’s 1989” into a thing was... misguided. Her duet with Stevie Nicks at the 52nd Grammys? Yeah, also misguided, and now forever immortalised in a YouTube video titled ‘Taylor Swift BUTCHERS THE SHIT out of Rhiannon’.
Nevertheless, those gaffes only make Swift more human in my eyes. Her additional battles against cases of sexual assault and the throttlehold that record companies hold over their artists further cements to me that Taylor Swift is a good egg. One that admittedly loves cats (the animal and the musical) a bit too much, but a good egg nonetheless. So yes, I’m a Taylor Swift fan. And this is me swallowing my pride, standing in front of you, saying – actually – I’m not sorry at all.