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Swiftism: The Art of Nothing Being Your Fault

This post was written a year ago and then “saved to drafts” I decided now was a good time to finish it. 

Some of you might know that I thoroughly enjoyed Taylor Swift’s album Red. I think Taylor riding the line between country and pop was a great place. She had the storytelling aspect of country music with the can’t-get-out-of-your-head benefit of pop music.

But, like Taylor Swift herself has taught me, you can see all the things that were wrong as soon as the relationship is over. I was excited when the single Shake it Off was released. I felt inspired. I felt happy that a great and fun music video went along with it. I thought, “Look at her, inspiring youth to shake off their troubles and shake off the haters.” I also enjoy the song Mean. Sometimes you need a good “you suck and I don’t” song. Then, 1989 came out. I bought it the day it came out.  I bought it at Target so I could get the bonus tracks, those photocopied polaroids, and everything. I proceeded to listen to an entire album in my crappy Dodge Neon (this was before the CD drive broke) and I realize I’m listening to an entire album about Harry Styles. Minus that song about Lena Denham.

Update: Three years post 1989 and the Dodge Neon is still alive. No one would’ve guessed that.

Breakup songs are pretty great. I do not agree with the criticism Taylor gets for writing breakup songs. Music should be used for catharsis. You should write what you feel. I’ve never thought the “Oh just wait til she writes a song about you” jokes were that good. We want someone to write songs for us to sing/scream along to when we are mad at people.

I enjoyed “Bad Blood.” It helped me release feelings about certain ex-flames at the time. I thought this is a great breakup song. Then it comes out that it’s about Katy Perry. Then this ridiculous music video comes out. Now, if I had lots of money and was famous I would totally do a music video starring me and all my famous friends and random celebrities from television shows and Kendrick Lamar. I would do that. Would I give us all weird nicknames and have us jumping around with nunchucks? Probably not.

So now I can’t even enjoy the breakup song on the album that I liked because it’s about hating girls and because the music video was beyond my comprehension. The songs are full of pop goodness and danceability but something is missing.

Before I get to my essay on how Taylor magnificently alludes anything being her fault I want to talk about one thing she DOES do, but wrongly takes credit for. Red lipstick. The way she sings about it you’d think she was the only one who has ever worn red lipstick. But one google search will tell you, “Ancient Sumerian men and women were possibly the first to invent and wear lipstick, about 5,000 years ago. They crushed gemstones and used them to decorate their faces, mainly on the lips and around the eyes. Also Egyptians like Cleopatra crushed bugs to create a colour of red on their lips.”

Put crushed bugs on your lips, then I’ll be impressed. But you’re still 5,000 years behind.

I think there must be a lot of pressure having everyone following your every move. But I also think about how hard it is for me not having a private jet. I would be lying if I haven’t been endlessly amused since I received the following text last night:

“Oh my gaaaaaaaaaaaawshhhhh! WATCH KIM K’S SNAP STORY RIGHT NOW. You never thought you’d hear me say this but oh my gosh.”

Here is why Kim Kardashian “exposing” Taylor Swift is so great, according to me:

Kim Kardashian is this woman who is constantly criticized for her choices. She makes herself available to that criticism by having a reality show and as far as I can tell has very little interest in censoring herself. She’s very public and we’ve seen more of her (literally) than we have of most celebrities.

Taylor Swift never gets her unflattering photos posted all-over (edit: until this Reputation album art, I’m surprised she approved that), she is front-page news when she does something good, she wins every award, and when she does she gives perfectly calculated speeches about how much she’s doing for women and how she’s risen above all the people who’ve tried to bring her down. WE WERE NOT EVEN SURE SHE HAD A BELLY BUTTON AT ONE POINT, that’s how little we know about Taylor Swift. She wins every time she goes through a breakup. She surrounds herself with cool, talented, and good-looking people.

So where along this journey did we decide Taylor Swift was an inspiration for women?

Taylor Swift (2006).

So go and tell your friends that I’m obsessive and crazy
That’s fine!
You won’t mind
If I say
By the way

I hate that
Stupid old pickup truck
You never let me drive
You’re a redneck heartbreak
Who’s really bad at lying
So watch me strike a match
On all my wasted time
As far as I’m concerned you’re
Just another picture to burn

(Picture to Burn)
You should’ve said “No”, you should’ve gone home
You should’ve thought twice ‘fore you let it all go
You should’ve known that word, with what you did with her,
Get back to me (get back to me).
And I should’ve been there in the back of your mind
I shouldn’t be asking myself, “Why?”
You shouldn’t be begging for forgiveness at my feet…
You should’ve said “No”, baby, and you might still have me
(Should’ve Said No)
Key phrase here is: You should’ve 

Fearless (2008).

I’m tryin’ so hard not to get caught up now
But you’re just so cool
Run your hands through your hair
Absent-mindedly makin’ me want you
And I don’t know how it gets better than this
You take my hand and drag me head first
Fearless
And I don’t know why but with you I’d dance in a storm in my best dress
Fearless
(Fearless)

When you’re fifteen and someone tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe it.
(Fifteen)

Say you’re sorry
That face of an angel
Comes out just when you need it to
As I paced back and forth all this time
‘Cause I honestly believed in you
Holding on
The days drag on
Stupid girl,
I should have known, I should have known

(White Horse)

All this time I was wasting,
Hoping you would come around
I’ve been giving out chances every time
And all you do is let me down
(You’re Not Sorry)
Baby what happened? Please tell me
‘Cause one second it was perfect, now you’re halfway out the door
And I stare at the phone, he still hasn’t called
And then you feel so low you cant feel nothing at all
And you flashback to when he said forever and always
(Forever and Always)

And we know it’s never simple, never easy.
Never a clean break, no one here to save me.
You’re the only thing I know like the back of my hand,

(Breathe)
Speak Now (2010)
The battle’s in your hands now
But I would lay my armor down
If you’d say you’d rather love than fight
(The Story of Us)

Okay, she does have one song where she apologizes, Back to December

But this is me swallowing my pride
Standing in front of you saying I’m sorry for that night
And I go back to December
It turns out freedom ain’t nothing but missing you
Wishing I’d realized what I had when you were mine
I’d go back to December turn around and make it all right
(Back to December)
Red (2012)

I knew you were trouble when you walked in, so shame on me now, 

No apologies. He’ll never see you cry,
Pretends he doesn’t know that he’s the reason why.
You’re drowning, you’re drowning, you’re drowning.
Now I heard you moved on from whispers on the street
A new notch in your belt is all I’ll ever be
And now I see, now I see, now I see

He was long gone when he met me
And I realize the joke is on me, yeah!
(I Knew You Were Trouble)

1989 (2014)
Fade into view, oh, it’s been a while since I have even heard from you (heard from you)
I should just tell you to leave ’cause I
Know exactly where it leads but I
Watch us go ’round and ’round each time
(Style)
In I Wish You Would she admits that she wishes she hadn’t hung up the phone like she did and that she’s not mad anymore. But she still says,
You always knew how to push my buttons 
You give me everything and nothing 
This mad, mad love makes you come rushing
Stand back where you stood 
I wish you would, I wish you would 
Many of her lyrics include things like, “I know you were trouble when you walked in, so shame on me.” So while she’s not taking the blame publicly, it’s obvious that she’s blaming herself, but not in a healthy way. It’s her fault but only because she trusted someone who let her down.
It’s agonizing. Feeling like things are your fault but not taking ownership is a sad place to be in. It’s not decisive. She can’t forgive other people and she can’t forgive herself. The only way for it to be okay that she’s made mistakes is if the rest of the world understands it’s someone else’s fault.
Not being able to let things go, or “shake it off” rather, is physically and mentally painful and I feel for her.
Finally, she writes Blank Space and we think, cool, she’s owning her crazy. We’re all a little crazy sometimes. And there is the possibility that even though we’ve been hurt and played by boys in our lives that doesn’t mean that we haven’t done any damage ourselves. It didn’t make me think any less of her—well, until the music video came out and I watched her almost hit herself in the head with an axe.
But then in every interview, she says, “That’s not me, it’s just a song about who people think I am.” With that, she went from being relatable to being untouchable again.
Post the Kimye scandal Taylor proclaimed on all her social media channels,

“I Would Very Much Like To Be Excluded From This Narrative”

To which we responded, “wouldn’t we all.” But, once again, she had an opportunity to say. “Yeah, I did say that stuff and…” she changed her mind, or she was okay with it and didn’t realize the consequence, or whatever she’s feeling.

I would really like to think that she’s just writing these songs for money and that they are part of her healing process but when I heard Look What You Made Me Do I did not feel like that was the case.

First of all, it’s literally called Look What You Made Me Do. Pause for eye rolls. This has been her thing all along. Someone made her do something. See lyrics above.

No one makes Taylor do anything. Maybe a few years ago but not now. She’s rich and powerful. Second of all, I listened to the whole song twice and I’m still not sure what we made her do.

The lyrics go from oversimplified statements, cliches, confusing phrases, and barely veiled threats. It’s the kind of thing you write in your journal right after someone wrongs you, but you never release it to the public or even read it out loud to your best friend until you’ve done another draft.

Personally, I would’ve dropped the Kanye stuff altogether because it’s been a year and we’ve all forgotten about it. I didn’t want to post this blog even a week after the incident because it was already old news. But she’s bringing it back to our attention. And there’s no question about who she’s talking about because she called out his “tilted stage” which according to the song she does not like.

I’m not sure what she’s getting at because picking a fight with the Kardashian-Wests seems like a bad way to go. They have a different fan base than she does, so she’s not going to win them over. The Kardashians are both untouchable and the butt of every joke so people who love them always will and people who don’t are probably thinking, “Why do you even care what they think?” Also, using the same font on her merch that Kanye used on his just feels weird.

Taylor isn’t obligated to be a role-model for the world, but her lyrics do become part of our culture’s language and “Look What You Made Me Do” is not a phrase that should be prominent in anyone’s conversations, in my opinion. Thinking back to the “I” language you learn in elementary school, “I feel ____ when you do _____.” is fine, but thinking someone else controls what we do is dangerous and not in the slightest way empowering.
If you feel inspired by this song, I honestly want to know your side of things, because the song didn’t make me feel anything but sorry for Taylor. And I’m assuming the Wests are having a good laugh at it.
The song, album art, and the names are so bad that I’m waiting to find out that this is actually an SNL skit or some sort of Katy Perry revenge. Taylor can write good pop. And this isn’t it.
Now, because I think constructive criticism is better if you offer suggestions for improvement instead of just criticizing. Here are some things I would love to hear from Taylor. Maybe some of them will be on the album, but with a title like Reputation I’m not hopeful.

The Ups and Downs of being in a Girl Squad.

A song about how she has a friend that things are good with (which she does, right?)

My Relationship with Hiddleston was a Joke, Got You.

Look What I Did Because I’m a Grown Adult and I Make My Own Choices Good or Bad.

You Can’t Make Me Do Anything.

A song about being excused from the narrative that is as good as Burn from Hamilton.

It’s Okay to Have Feelings

It’s Great to be Rich (I mean, just own it at this point)

You Can’t Grab My A** And Get Away With It

A song about how she loves her mom

I Didn’t Want You to Know I Wrote it Until I Wanted You to Know I Wrote it.

Calvin Harris Isn’t Even His Real Name
Etc.
I think Taylor’s got a lot to give, but if she keeps going done this path of obsessing over her reputation and holding onto grudges she’s going to implode from the emotional strain. Like her music or not, I don’t wish that on anyone.

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