Pop-country fusion combines two of my least favorite genres into one, and Taylor Swift embodies this bleak music perfectly. Although I’m no expert on her Swiftness, I have listened to and read about Taylor Swift more throughout the past week than any previous amount combined.
Did you know that Taylor Swift is no stranger to Forbes’s top 10 list of celebrity power rankings? Did you know that (almost) all of her lyrics are about a breakup or the heartache resulting from said breakup? Did you know that Beyoncé’s music video was in fact one of the best of all time?
All awards shows beside, Taylor Swift’s music has always left me unimpressed, and it continues to do so even with her most recent album, 1989. Her lyrics are generic, not empowering. Her instrumentals follow nearly the same pattern, time after time. Worst of all, Taylor Swift, with her enormous fan base, has yet to create any music that her listeners can turn to for empowerment.
Maybe Swift’s lyrics don’t have to be empowering, though. If her fans just want to hear songs about heartbreak and ache, fine. These are real themes and emotions and it is not uncommon for people to go through them. Her music might help her fans deal with rough patches by showing them that they are not the only ones who go through similar situations. Yes, her music is relatable to a lot of people and yes, the beats and hooks are undeniably catchy.
Swift’s image, one of a tall, skinny, good girl blonde, is extremely marketable. But why doesn’t she use her world-wide popularity and her extensive commercial appeal as tools to show her fan base and others that relationship problems do not define you?
I am more than certain that even if record labels might not think songs with empowering themes would sell; if Swift wanted them on her album, she would get them on her album. She can help give people an outlet to see that there is more to them and their life than the person that dumped them. She can, with almost propagandizing effects, show young people that they have the power to get noticed and speak their minds and bring about change.
I am aware that in criticizing Swift for not singing about change and getting involved and empowerment, I am forgetting that most musicians today do not use their social power to discuss important issues.
The thing is though, most musicians aren’t Taylor Swift. Most musicians do not have as large of a fan base nor do they have the same name recognition. This brings me back to her familiarity with Forbes’s annual Celebrity 100 list, which ranks the power of stars by their income, Google hits, media coverage, fan base size and more. Swift has been ranked in the top 10 of this list two times out of the past three years. She has undeniable star power which, in my opinion, also translates to the ability to empower young women by writing catchy songs.
But maybe Swift is in it for the money and not for the music. This is a harsh accusation, but when she does things like take her discography off of a free music streaming site like Spotify, it is easy to make such a claim. In regards to this move Swift said, “I don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.” It is a fact that the majority of a musician’s income does not come from record sales.
Swift was recently interviewed by a reporter at The Rolling Stone. In this cover story, she professed her obsession with Kendrick Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle.” After I listened to Swift’s 1989 in its entirety, I returned to Kendrick’s M.A.A.D. City. One lyric in particular stood out to me from the first song, “it’s deep rooted, the music of being young and dumb.” Kendrick is speaking to whether or not it’s love or lust that he and the girl he’s interested in are feeling, but they will eventually have sex because that’s the kind of decisions they make where he grew up. He says these decisions are deep-rooted in the music of being young and dumb. This lyric helped me make sense of much of what Taylor Swift sings about.
I’ll take Swift’s hit single, “You Belong With Me,” for an example. For those of you who don’t know, the whole song is about a girl trying to get her crush to realize that she is in fact a better fit than his present girlfriend.
She doesn’t write lyrics for the young and dumb, but if she doesn’t grow as a songwriter and create more substantive lyrics, it is hard to see much of her fan base, especially the listeners on the younger side, growing up either. Taylor Swift has a huge impact on those who adore her—she needs to start leaving a more positive message.