I’ve got a Friday morning routine: when I get on the tube, I plug into the New Music Friday playlist on Spotify. And it’d be same old if after a first song I didn’t start cackling. I thought, “Oh girl, I get you. Everyone’s going through this phase when they’re nineteen…” Wait, she isn’t nineteen? Okay, you can’t be that forever, can you? And look what she made me do. I’m writing think pieces about music now.
I also have an ambiguous relationship with Taylor Swift’s music. When I was younger, I decided to make a music video set out to her I Knew You Were Trouble, the trouble being the ticket inspector on the local trains (and my dad’s mate even borrowed the uniform for this, bless her heart). I never quite liked the whiny lyrics and accusations threw at everyone who’s done her wrong, and at the end of the day playing the victim card is what always pushed her further, so I decided to shake it off my playlist.
But a couple of weeks ago, she stood up against sexual assault. I might not be her fan, but I couldn’t celebrate it more: we still live in a society where it’s acceptable for a man to blame the victim for something that wasn’t her conscious choice. It’s really respectable that she decided to be a role model and show thousands of girls that you can fight through this horrendous experience. For a brief moment, I thought she might stay on course: imagine if she actually harnessed that girl power. Imagine if she decided to make the difference.
Of course, getting into showbiz doesn’t oblige you to take a stance on politics or issues in the society. You might want to decide to detach from big political shifts that turn the world upside down. You might decide you won’t speak about your opinions. However, you don’t get to say how feminist you are and fail to criticise the obvious instances of sexism on the public scene. You’re sporting a special brand of hypocrisy if you do and it doesn’t make me want to give two shits about what the meaning of what you’re saying is. All about you, and only when it’s convenient for you? You need to be goddamn interesting to hook me on this, and I don’t buy the second part.
I hear you saying, wait, she’s a popstar, her life is probably a thousand times more interesting than yours (and you wouldn’t be far from the truth, to be completely honest). Taylor had an uneasy relationship with the gossip media that depicted the different shades of her life. The breakups torn to pieces, people assessing her psychological stability after breaking up with John Mayer, Harry Styles or Calvin Harris – it must be a strain to be in the public eye and have people rub salt in the wounds. But just imagine how the gossip press dragged Amy Winehouse: dealing with addictions, toxic relationships and an eating disorder can’t be compared to what Taylor experiences.
Again, a lot of stuff she’s done was carefully directed for publicity. Hiddleswift springs to mind: a totally fake relationship that quickly got uncovered. The Kanye West feud made him a villain, but it was soon exposed by Kim Kardashian, who confirmed that her husband sought the permission for using the lyrics. And the tweets to Nicki Minaj when the rapper stated her opinions on racism in the music industry? The singer decided to criticise her for pitting women against each other instead, totally derailing the argument and not realising that what she did was not exactly supportive. Taylor spoke from a privileged position, then failed to learn along the way, and the criticism about these events was legitimate. She could’ve decided to break away from it by saying enough is enough, changed her behaviour and turn to empowering rather than crying snake wolf.
But then, she dropped Look What You Made Me Do and I wonder no more.
You can choose to make your art about the problems of everyday life that feel relatable – and Taylor does just that. If you’re looking for a song to cry over, she’ll give you the entire palette, and after learning my lesson, I try not to judge pop music for what it is, and it can be really good at times. But when so many artists understand that they’ve got a voice to empower the society, I wish she used her authority to show her audience that being a woman doesn’t mean accepting victimhood, but fighting against it. Take cues from Beyonce, who knows how to do it damn well. TURN IT UP.
Taylor could show the girls that listen to her that each and every one of them has the choice to detach themselves from others criticising their personal lives and live to the fullest. She could realise that there isn’t that many people out to get her: she still gets her airplay and the top chart positions at the end of the day. And, most importantly, she could learn from her own mistakes and decisions she made in the past.
The revenge track that she penned doesn’t sound much like that: instead, it yells “karma, bitch” out loud and presents the singer as someone who needs to tear others down to promote her image. And maybe it’d be fine to project her feelings that way in a song or two if it wasn’t a part of a never-ending PR campaign and a dreadful extension of dead drama. Shake it off, girl. Don’t give them a reason, and take your chance to reinvent yourself. And don’t worry, you can sit with our “squad”, because we stand together here.