It’s kind of crazy when you really think about it: the things that make us happy are unique to us. I have the most specific taste in music. I know that people that listen to the bands and artists that I listen to, but all of them together sounds like a random mix of people and genres that I can’t really describe.
When people ask what genre I like, I usually reply something along the lines of: “Singer, songwriter. Basically anyone who writes their own story down on paper.” Because it’s true. To me, music is about lyrics. The music that goes with it sets the mood, which is so amazing. My favorite artists are the ones who are vulnerable and can write music that moves me to tears (That’s not really too difficult, though). There are stretches of time when there isn’t new music and then stretches of time when everyone and their brother releases a fantastic new album, and I don’t even know where to start off with listening to it all. Right now, there is song after song coming out that is really just getting my attention. My two favorite artists just announced new albums. I can’t even tell you how excited I am.
[The words below this line are basically just a love letter for Taylor Swift and her music. You might get extremely bored. Consider yourself warned.]
I’ve been thinking a lot about Taylor Swift lately. I think there’s something magical about her. People have went on and on about how she dated all these guys and wrote about them which, in turn, may have painted her in a bad light, which may have some truth to it, but she also changed my life.
In October 2006, I was 9 years old, getting my first taste of music and meaningful lyrics. Taylor Swift had just come out with her self titled album. It was the first time that I had really loved writing. I didn’t even realize it. I heard what Taylor said, and I loved it. I know every single word to every single song (well, I know every single word to every single song she’s ever come out with in the past 13 years) and I listened to it religiously. It was my childhood. I used to listen to it while I played restaurant in my basement, writing up orders on those pads that waiters use and serving plastic food. She wrote about being young and feeling left out. ‘The Outside’ was the reassurance I needed to understand that I wasn’t alone. ‘Stay Beautiful’ was my anthem. I literally had a crush on a boy named Corey and it was my first real crush. Our Song, her first real hit, was all I wanted in a relationship, back when I thought it was simple. It paralleled with my young self – she was only 16 at the time.
“Fearless” came next. It had only taken her 2 years to grace us with new music, and it was the one that really put her on the charts. ‘You Belong With Me’ was the classic story of having a huge crush, which I think almost all of us can relate to. They were all love songs. Love was something I didn’t understand, but I really wanted to. ‘Fifteen’ was perfect. It made me feel like I was ready to go to high school. The way she wrote about it taught me some of the lessons I know now, confidence and the first little taste of heartbreak. I learned that all the boys wouldn’t like me back. And that it sucks when that happens. I went to my first concert that year, and seeing her onstage made my stomach drop. She was my idol.
“Speak Now” came out in 2010. This album was huge for me. (Soon after, I would have my first relationship that lasted more than 5 minutes. His name was Jon. He was a junior when I was a freshman, and he “broke my heart”. Or so I thought. So, you can imagine how much time I spent crying along to her song ‘Dear John’. For context, “Dear John, I see it all now that you’re gone, don’t you think I was too young to be messed with, the girl in the dress cried all the way home”. I felt like it was written for me.) Freshman year was the first time I understood what it was like to be really committed to someone and in (what I thought was) love. That album got me through a lot of transition.
“Red” was the album that hit home during high school, her most emotional (in my opinion), with every single song being able relationships and what she had gone through. High school is a time for finding yourself and figuring out what you want. “Red” came out just in time for a lot of that growth. ‘I Almost Do’ is an amazing break up anthem, that still makes me cry to this day. ’22’ (which I will be blasting on my speakers in a few weeks for my birthday!) is a feel good song about being young, which was important when I started being hit with reality for the real time. I cried through half of those songs in her presence during the “Red” tour.
‘1989’ had a big shift. I don’t really know how to describe the maturity that came along with it, but it was clear that Taylor was changing. Her attitude towards life and others. She seemed less phased by the people around her. ‘Shake It Off’ literally acknowledged that people didn’t like her, and that was okay. She started to hold her own and show signs of self improvement. ‘Clean’ showed the growth that she experienced from tough breakups, as opposed to her older breakup songs, which just showed anger and sadness towards them. It was I needed as I entered into a real long term relationship that would continue throughout the rest of my high school years.
“reputation” changed the game entirely. She recognized all of the hate she was getting (there was a lot of it) and decided that she needed to take time for herself. This album took 3 years. She didn’t do any interviews or have any interaction with the media during that era. She released songs that had more of a badass sense to them and explained that she had changed. She was repairing her reputation. She deleted her entire Instagram account to prove it.
With “Lover” being released at the end of August, I can’t help but think about her and what direction she’s going to take next. Taylor Swift’s writing has changed along with her, and I have changed along with her, too, except with a slight age difference. Her lessons about life and love have resonated with me from the very beginning. She is an incredible songwriter, and I genuinely think I would be different if it weren’t for the opportunity I had to grow up along with her. I so admire her ability to put her experiences into words and wish I could do the same. Her music made me love writing. And she doesn’t even know.