Op-Ed: What do you mean you ‘don’t like Taylor Swift’?

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Photo credit: Promotional poster for "Love Story"

Cover for Taylor Swift’s most recent song release: a re-recording of her 2009 song “Love Story,” which she now has the full rights to. Taylor Swift made her debut into the world of music in 2004, at age 14. Since then, Swift has released nine studio albums and set multiple of records for music sales and awards, but is still met with intense criticism of her talent and success.

By Thea Leimone, Culture Editor

Seventeen years in the music industry. Nine studio albums. Ten Grammy’s. Thirty-two American Music Awards. Billboard’s Woman of the Decade. American Music Award’s Artist of the Decade, and you’re telling me Taylor Swift is overrated?

This is not meant to persuade the world to become die-hard Swift fans, but rather to re-evaluate how we view one of the music industry’s most famous and successful (female) artists. Like many others, my awareness of Swift grew as her career did, regularly played on the radio with upbeat “Shake it Off” and the catchy “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and her statement awards show performances and runway outfits always caught my eye. But as her music career took off, so did the public’s hate of the young, blonde, smiling country-pop star.

In the eyes of the public from age 15, Swift was criticized for her many boyfriends, her body and every ounce of her personal life the media was able to glean. The public began to recognize her as the female equivalent of a player, considered disdainful when it’s a woman, and as her pop songs are primarily about love, the judgments of her as a person bled into criticism of her as an artist.

Then the #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty blossomed.

To say I didn’t hop on the bandwagon of thinking Swift was indeed a crazy, manipulative serial-dater would be a lie. Of course, I believed People Magazine, Twitter and the masses: it was cool and trendy to hate on Swift. Her career seemed to be over — the public, (with a helping hand from the media), had finally toppled one of the most successful women in the music industry.

Swift entirely disappeared from the public eye for two years.

Then, in 2017, Swift released her fifteen-track album “Reputation,” and everything changed. She masterfully took every truth, lie and twisted story that had swirled around her reputation (no pun intended), and created a no-skip album to accompany her most powerful era yet.

Swift has since reinvented herself twice more, releasing a documentary and three albums in three years, and is now going on to re-record five studio albums which she now has the full rights to. I have since become a devoted “Swiftie,” and yet I’m constantly hearing the decade-old comments of “Taylor Swift is so basic,” “She’s boy obsessed” and “Her music sucks” that seem to encapsulate all the issues the public still has with her.

Let’s deconstruct these: “Taylor Swift is so basic.” Being “basic” is the newest way for men, really boys, to bring down women and girls’ interests. There is absolutely nothing wrong with liking music, fashion, art or anything that is trendy… it’s trendy for a reason, people like it. Boys use this phrase to insult, and make girls feel inferior; girls, unfortunately, internalize this misogyny and tell themselves “Taylor Swift is so basic” so I can’t like her, and any girl who does isn’t cool.

“She’s boy obsessed.” Swift has dated 12 men. Drake has dated 14 women. Now, who is the media always posing as the serial-dater? Furthermore, why is there anything wrong with a woman dating multiple people? This criticism of Swift has been spouted by every celebrity magazine, talk show host and teenager trying to seem “cool.”

As a result, every girl begins to understand that it’s not acceptable in society to ‘date around’ or to be into guys because that’s what determines your worth, that’s what people look at in school, in your career and even in your family. Such double standards are even addressed in Swift’s song “The Man,” where she questions why men can date many and are seen as a “player” or a “ladies man,” and that never infringes on their career credibility as it does with a woman.

Lastly: “Her music sucks.” You may be a punk rock fan and songs about forbidden romance don’t float your boat, and I’m not here to convince you it should. But more often than not, this comment and others like it are used to make young girls’ taste in music seem inferior because it’s sung by a woman. Not only that, but comments like these give people yet another way to tear down a successful female. Swift exists in a male-dominated field and yet she has held her ground and built herself a career that has lasted over a decade — an impressive feat for a male, and doubly impressive for a female. You may not love the upbeat pop that flows through many of Swift’s songs but objectively, an overwhelming number of people do like it; the album sales and music awards speak for themselves.

So no, Swift is not overrated. And before you go making a snide remark about her, know that it certainly won’t be affecting one of the best-selling music artists in the world, but that you’ll be perpetuating the trend of tearing successful women down.

In the words of Swift, “I want to work really hard while society is still tolerating me being successful.” You can be part of the change. We can dismantle the double standard around female success. While you’re at it: go ahead and give her music a try too.