Like countless teenage girls, I have a longstanding relationship with Taylor Swift. I fell in love with her music immediately, memorizing her self-titled album when I was in third grade and seeing her live for the first time in 2008. Her impact on me, through her music and her person, has been profound. A lot of critics discredit Taylor's music, classifying it as substance-less pop, but I think it’s so much more than that label.
I was originally planning on discussing Taylor's overall influence on me, but the post was long enough only talking about her first two albums. I appreciate and have been thoroughly impacted by everything she's produced, so I might end up doing another post for Speak Now through 1989.
I've had Taylor's albums on repeat for the past nine years, as she's evolved into a multi-platinum artist and I've evolved into a 17 year old girl. Luckily, my own coming-of-age experience has largely overlapped with the development of her career, and I’ve been able to grow as she does with the unique era of each album, spending longer absorbed by some than others. Her songs have always been a sense of security and truth for me. Not only does she play a strong female protagonist in her lyrics, but she's always been remarkably vulnerable in her music. Since the start, she's validated my angsty teen feelings and crushes on various boys. The way the media has responded to her dating habits helped me realize the unfair differences in how male and female musicians are treated. She has always been so graceful and unapologetic about doing things her way.
Listening to Taylor's first album is insane because she wrote those songs when she was 14/15, and they center around first loves, high school drama, and finding your way and identity. "Tim McGraw" was my first favorite song by Taylor, and listening to it brings back an overwhelming amount of nostalgia. I didn't appreciate "A Place in This World" when I was younger, but it became an anthem in junior high; "Cold As You" is dark and strong and so mature; I've listened to "Invisible" a ridiculous amount of times thinking about a boy who didn't ever notice me. If you're emotionally stable enough to not tear up if you hear "Teardrops on my Guitar” when you're alone, I applaud and question your strength.
I think Fearless may be one of the best albums of all time-- you can see Taylor discovering that she is a brave, beautiful, influential force. She takes charge and shares her life lyrically. When describing the title, she said something that has never left me. By the way, this was when she was seventeen:
"For me, fearless is not the absence of fear. It's not being completely unafraid. To me, Fearless is having fears. Lots of them. To me, Fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death."
That statement really encompasses the album as a whole. I remember the excitement of turning fifteen so I could have a Taylor song for my age-- a guide to the year, one that I still follow. "You Belong With Me" was such an anthem. I still think about my fourth grade crush when I hear it. "Tell Me Why" and "You're Not Sorry" are about bad-love, being with boys who lie and don't care the way you're supposed to in a relationship. There are some about that on the first album, but her view on Fearless is much more mature and healthy. They're songs about realizing you're better than the way teenage boys are likely to treat you, a message I luckily absorbed and came to understand over the years. "Forever and Always" was supposedly about Joe Jonas, my favorite Jonas Brother, so that made it even better. This album is art and a guide to high school for any teenage girl. I've sobbed to these songs, but I've also scringed (screaming + singing) to them with friends or driving in my car.
Right when it's perfect on its own, a platinum edition was released a year later with six more songs that deserve a pedestal of their own. "Jump Then Fall" is about how easy it is to fall in love, and it gives me butterflies each time I hear it. "Untouchable" is a sort of darker, mysterious ballad about somebody who is far away and stunning, and people are drawn to them but too scared to get close enough to touch. "The Other Side of the Door" was my favorite song when the platinum edition was first released, definitely a scringer.
Basically, Taylor feels sort of like my older sister in the way she's held my hand and assisted me through the coming-of-age process with her music. I was able to watch her mature and discover who she was gracefully amidst a life in the spotlight. Though Taylor has established herself professionally and gained an enormous influence, she still started out as a confused teenager, and that gives me hope for my own life.