In Defense of Taylor Swift: There is Nothing She Does Better Than Revenge
I’m a nineteen-year-old male. I was the captain of my high school baseball team. My walls are filled with some of the most heteronormative posters you can imagine: “The Hangover,” “The Departed,” and Fenway Park at night. I once bought a t-shirt that says “Players get it twice a day,” and I didn’t even do so ironically. But above my dresser between Zach Galifianakis and Jack Nicholson hangs a poster of the tween pop princess herself, Ms. Taylor Swift.
Before you put down this article, I offer a plea. She is one of the easiest targets for anyone that despises mainstream music: her specialty is love songs, her average concertgoer is “almost in high school,” and her squeaky-clean image is as vomit-inducing as the super sweet almost-smile she has on the red carpet.
I sometimes feel like I have a Confederate flag hanging on my wall when people see this poster there, and I can read their eyes as they put a little mental tick mark next to my name and think: “Damn, haven’t you moved past that phase already?”
She is, by all accounts, too squeaky clean for the college crowd. But why all of a sudden do we mock a celebrity for having too much class? Swift’s strategy for gaining new fans is charm and class—as opposed to Miley Cyrus, who decides to ostracize as many of her tweenaged fans as possible, first by posing nude with her father in Vanity Fair, then by seductively licking the frosting off of her boyfriend’s penis-shaped birthday cake.
Swift deserves a fighting chance to prove that nice girls do finish first. Hell, she’s been romantically linked to sexy evangelist and soon-to-be starting quarterback for the New York Jets, Tim Tebow. The guy literally performed miracles in Denver last winter. Can any bad girls say that about their boyfriend?
Admittedly, her music is pretty one-dimensional. But try naming an artist for me that has sustained such oomph in the industry by exclusively writing about young love. Perhaps Beyoncé is the best comparison: after three albums, Swift has won six Grammys on twelve nominations, while Mrs. Sean Carter posted three Grammy wins on nine nominations.
In fact, after the nineteen-year-old performed at the Grammys, critic Steve Lefsatz said “she killed her career overnight.” Swift stormed back and produced the song “Mean,” a vicious attack on her critics. She smugly sings: “I can see you years from now in a bar...drunk and rumbling on about how I can’t sing.” Swift performed the song at the Grammys this past year and took home two Grammys for it. You decide who won that battle.
It’s hard to imagine seeing a stadium filled with 100,000 twelve-year-old middle-schoolers and calling the performing artist a “good songwriter,” but that’s just what Swift is. No artist in music has ever captured the zeitgeist of teenage love more profoundly than Swift. Jim Morrison is a legend for capturing, song after song, the feelings of being young and reckless. Why should Swift not deserve just as much credit for capturing, song after song, the feelings of being young and in love?
She writes every single one of her songs. This is perhaps Swift’s most compelling characteristic: she takes song subjects that Kelly Clarkson or Justin Bieber would have made annoying and turns them into poetry. In “Haunted,” she coos over a 40-person string symphony that “You and I walk a fragile line/ I have known it all this time/ I never thought I’d see it break/ Never thought I’d see it...”.
T-Swizzle, as T-Pain (really) calls her, offers something for everyone. Tell me it doesn’t help to know that her mom, too, helped her after every crappy day in school (“The Best Day”). Tell me you don’t get a little emotional when you hear her compare the sound of her father’s footsteps coming home from work to the sound of his footsteps moving her into her new apartment (“Never Grow Up”). Tell me you don’t feel a swelling sense of camaraderie when you hear her dedicate an entire song to John Mayer’s incredible douchiness (“Dear John”).
Taylor even touches on Vampire Weekend-esque mockery of prep school girls, writing, in “Better than Revenge,” that a girl who stole her boyfriend can’t use vintage dresses to buy dignity.
She claims, in that same song, that there is nothing she does better than revenge. Do you disagree? Think I’m wrong about any of this? Feel free to let her know. She might just turn your criticism into a Grammy.