By Madison Boboltz, Staff Writer
Say what you want about Taylor Swift; I will forever be a fan. There is no other artist whose songs have been with me through childhood, adolescence and now early adulthood.
When I hear “Tim McGraw”, I am suddenly eight years old again at my grandparents' cottage in Michigan. I run out of the lake, where I am swimming with friends, to eagerly find my oldest sister Danielle and see her reaction to this song, since Tim McGraw is her favorite musical artist. She and my other sister, Jordan, end up going to see Taylor Swift perform when she opens for Tim McGraw in 2008. Early on, we are big fans. The next year we fall in love with her debut album and jam to “Picture to Burn”, “Teardrops on my Guitar”, “Our Song”, “Should’ve Said No” and “Invisible”. Her first album is what we play as my family packs, moves and transitions to our new life in Texas.
Come her second album, “Fearless”, and I’m in my parents’ bathroom before school. My mom is doing my hair and making sure I’ve brushed my teeth. We are playing “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story”, and those songs play nonstop on the radio for months as Taylor gains massive popularity. Sometimes I do a dramatic rendition of “White Horse” in the mirror, and on Mother’s Day I help my little sister rehearse her living room performance of “The Best Day”.
A few years later I start middle school and Taylor drops her album “Speak Now”. Goodness—there is nothing like blaring her ballad “Enchanted” as I flip through the yearbook and imagine the future I will surely have with my crush (once he realizes he likes me back). And there’s nothing like putting in headphones and playing “Dear John” or “Back to December” as I stare at my ceiling and ponder what it will be like not only to fall in love, but to endure heartbreak. Apart from boy drama, there are days when middle school feels impossible, but then I play “Long Live” and come to fully believe there is nothing in this world I cannot conquer (plus, Taylor wrote this entire album herself—what a queen).
High school starts, and her album “Red” comes out. Taylor starts changing. She transitions from country to pop. I am not on board at first. It takes a long time for this album to grow on me. The first time I hear “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We are Never Getting Back Together”, I am convinced she has lost all that makes her wonderful. Looking back, I guess it makes sense that I was unprepared for this change; I was going through enough changes as it was. Finally, I learn to appreciate this album for what it is and rightfully recognize that “All Too Well” is one of the greatest masterpieces of all time.
And then… “1989” happens. I do not have room to express how many incredible memories I have associated with this album. My volleyball team blares “Bad Blood” and “Blank Space” on our way to games. My sister and I sing “Wildest Dreams” when I drive us home late at night with the windows down, reveling in the freedom and independence that comes with getting a driver’s license. I scream the bridge to “Out of the Woods” in the shower… regularly. I dance around my bedroom to “Style” while finishing my hair and makeup. The 1989 tour is the first time I see Taylor perform live. My best friend’s parents surprise us with tickets the day of the show. Yes, we are about as high up as you can get, but it is still one of the most magical experiences in my memory.
Thank goodness “1989” was so good, otherwise it would have been too difficult to make it through that three-year break between that and the release of “Reputation”. A lot of people I know have strong negative feelings toward “Reputation” when it comes out. Everyone seems to buckle down on the sentiment, “We miss the old Taylor.” They argue that her lead single “Look What You Made Me Do” is too over the top. All I can try to do is convince them of their mistake and help them see what a genius she is for branding her album this way. “Reputation” is gold. As a woman entering my twenties, I really appreciate having a set of edgy and mature songs like “I Did Something Bad” and “Don’t Blame Me”. Plus, there are plenty of lovable bops like “Getaway Car” and “King of My Heart”. The production value is through the roof and seeing this tour with my three sisters … best night of my life.
Now, Taylor is on a roll again. She has just released her album “Lover”, and it is easy to see through these songs just how happy she is. She is doing what she wants as an artist, and she takes proud ownership of her work. Now that I am soon going to be finishing undergrad, I feel like this is exactly the kind of attitude I hope to have. I’ve worked really hard. I’ve had some regrets and heartbreaks, but for the most part I’m just incredibly grateful for the amazing relationships and opportunities I’ve been blessed with. Going forward, I am in charge of the way I tell my story.
So, go ahead… make fun of me. Make fun of her. Say Taylor Swift is overrated and not that talented (she’s only one of the most successful women of all time). Joke about her relationships or her public drama (how is your love life?). I would recommend maybe actually listening to her albums instead of judging her music based solely on her singles, which typically take a while to grow on even devoted fans. In the meantime, recognize that no unwarranted criticism can steal or hinder a lifetime of meaningful music memories from those who have grown up with her work.