I’m not gonna lie. I’m an appreciator of all things Taylor Swift. I have been for years, ever since my friends and I saw the video for Love Story on a Dutch music channel way back when that was a hit. Of course, it started out as a joke. We had never heard of Taylor Swift before when we saw that video, and suddenly she was in a fairytale video singing very direct lyrics about – indeed – a love story. After that we got You Belong With Me, for which the video ticked all the right (cliché) boxes, and was a nice danceable song to boot. Sure, my friends and I were not the target audience for her earliest work, but it still featured an acoustic guitar (like a lot of good music does) and heartfelt lyrics.
So yes, it started out as a joke, as a light-hearted antidote to the other artists I appreciate. I’ve never been one to shy away from a good pop song, but where most of those obsessions fade away into oblivion, Taylor’s tunes didn’t. The songs travelled with us on holiday in the car to Iceland, Portugal, Italy, Slovenia, Sweden, Scotland and countless other places. And every time I wanted my guitar music to be instantly rewarding and appeal to a part of my soul that usually gets ignored, I’d put on Taylor Swift’s music. I call this part of my soul jokingly ‘The little girl inside of me’, but like Taylor’s music has grown up over the past decade, so has the audience it appeals to. And yes, her gigs may still be mostly frequented by the teenage girls who feel ignored or mistreated by their (potential) boyfriends and who have an obsession with cats, by now her experiences speak to a whole generation of twentysomethings as well. And there are many things about Taylor Swift that appeal to those people, and me.
Besides the cat thing, it’s the self-awareness that she shows in her lyrics and all her activities. It doesn’t matter if it’s all one big marketing strategy, if you spend your time off making packages for your biggest fans, replying to them on social media and getting Apple to change their strategy, you’re doing something right. Yes, it’s easier when you’re set for life by the time your 25, but how many (rich) 25-year-olds are out there doing the right thing? She teaches a whole generation to do kind things and be idealistic. Even if only a tiny percentage of those fans ever get to meet or (digitally) talk to TayTay, she still inspires them be themselves and to reach for the sky and grab it, basically. It probably won’t result in world peace but hey, if it teaches self-respect, kindness and passionate to those fans, I’d say we’re getting better world out of it.
If you think this is not special, just check out the latest news stories on any celebrity and then Taylor Swift. Google Kanye West, Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams. None of them has as many “helps fan”-stories as Taylor has right now. No one has as many awkwardly dancing on my own-GIFs.And it’s impossible to get cynical about that. It doesn’t make her perfect, it makes her her own person and even if that’s the result of many brainstorm sessions, you gotta think Taylor was at least present and paying attention during those meetings. If you decide to pay attention to what Taylor Swift is doing, you’ll notice that she’s making choices. Choices that suit her and her friends (fans). With 1989, therefore Taylor hasn’t sold out by making a pop album, she’s reaching out to the rest of the world to join her.
So, what once started as an antidote is now an appreciation. She won’t satisfy all my musical needs. Of course not. But when the hype ends and public opinion moves on to the next thing, you’ve got to think that she’ll still have an army of millions willing to fight for her. As long as she keeps making her own choices and reach out to her fans, they’ll be able to Shake it Off and have a hero, that is also in some way a friend.
So yes, I had a ticket for her Amsterdam show, but no I couldn’t go for personal reasons (someone else got to go instead). And yes, that saddened me greatly. But as a friend said to me: she’ll be rocking for many decades to come. And she’ll be all the more Taylor for it.