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By Caroline Curtis
I walked into John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia on Sept. 14, 2013 with two of my younger sisters and my mom. I could barely contain my excitement as I rushed to our seats at the very top of the arena. We had gotten there very early, so my anticipation was building for over an hour as I waited for her to come out. As soon as she did, all of the lights turned red and everyone, including myself, began to scream as loud as they could. I saw her walk down onto the platform as she began to sing. As she sang, she touched hands with all of the fans in the front rows and made them feel as if they were her best friend. That is the Taylor Swift I know.
When placed under the intense spotlight that is the music industry from a young age, many celebrities fail to remain the same person they were at the beginning of their journey. This is common among young celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears. Both of these stars went through significant changes in attitude, but both have since recovered and are now more stable. Being placed under the spotlight at such a young age invites the public into a celebrity’s personal life and the chance to watch them grow and develop. At sixteen years old, Taylor Swift released her first album, Taylor Swift, in 2006. Eleven years later, the world has seen a young, innocent girl, whose songs focused mostly on high school breakups, reinvent herself as a completely different young woman. The Old Taylor is dead.
Last month, Swift released “Look What You Made Me Do,” her first song since 2014. The three years in between these releases have been filled with questions, doubt, and curiosity as to what the future would hold for Swift. In the week prior to the release of “Look What You Made Me Do,” Swift wiped all of her social media accounts, leaving fans clueless and desperate for answers. The she began to slowly post videos of snakes to her Instagram, sending her fans into a frenzy. When it was announced she was going to be releasing new music, I was immediately excited and extremely curious.
I grew up as a dedicated Taylor Swift fan; I had every album, knew every word to every song, and I even went to a concert. But as time continued and both Swift and I grew up, I grew annoyed with her music, as I believe she has more recently put too much effort into trying to make statements with her music and does not attempt to sing. For me, it began with the release of her album Red in 2012 and when she cut off her ties to country music. After each song title in the album book, Swift wrote a short liner to her fans. These liners contain many hidden messages; these messages could be interpreted to attack or call out certain people from her past. This is when Swift began to focus more on hidden messages than creating music.
In her next album, 1989, which has sold over five million copies, the songs were less catchy and seemed to lack meaning and depth. The songs were oddly scattered in topic, and the album as a whole did not seem to fall under a single category. Another example of Swift struggling to make a statement with her music are the lyrics of her song “Shake It Off.” The song is about “shaking off” the hatred and judgement from those around you and doing your own thing. Although it is powerful, the concept has been shared and promoted over and over again by celebrities, and it is overused in the industry. Swift would have been better off remaining in country and not letting others’ opinions influence her song writing. At the MTV Awards in 2014, Taylor Swift performed with isolated vocals, and it shocked many people around the world. Swift struggled to hit many notes and clearly can not sing without autotune. As a result, her music has suffered. She now talks in a rhythm in every song; the sound gets very robotic, and the song often loses its meaning.
Last month, the first time I watched the “Look What You Made Me Do” music video, I was in utter shock. The video showed a completely new side of Swift that I was not ready for. The “New Taylor” has taken the form of a revenge-seeking, grudge-holding young woman that seems to be just seeking attention. The video has an ample amount of subtle attacks and hidden messages that have been interpreted as challenging many of her celebrity disputes in the past. These hidden attacks conform with the layout of Swift’s previous music, in that she keeps making efforts to condemn the acts of others and defame them. After roughly four years of this, fans are getting annoyed. The fact that she is trying so hard to make statements has carried over into her lyrics. The Guardian’s Maura Johnston claims that the new song is “visceral and almost sloppy.” Swift’s music is suffering due to the fact that she can not get over a grudge.
There are varied opinions among fans, including many at Collegiate. Lew Rice (’19), a long-time Taylor Swift fan, exclaimed, “I feel like her beat and rhythm is just perfection, there’s no one else in the game really like her.” Contradicting Rice, Claire Deal (19′) stated, “I liked her old music, but her new music is terrible.” Some people do not have an opinion on the New Taylor, like Margaux Gaeser (19′), “All I’m saying is you be you, Taylor; I don’t really have an opinion.”
Although the “New Taylor” continues to frustrate and disappoint me, I will continue to keep up with her progress and hope that one day she will return to the “Old Taylor” that I grew up listening to. When I was younger, Swift meant so much to me; she was somebody I looked up to and I believe she used to set a good example for young girls around the world. Now, she demonstrates acts of pettiness and rash behavior that not only reflect negatively on her image, but create a poor example for girls to follow.* I hope that Swift will be able to take a step back from where she currently is and realize the impact she makes on people across the world and begin to set good examples again.