I don't know about you, but I just really love Taylor Swift. I'll admit that I had my problems with her in the past. I loved her songs, but I could not turn a blind eye to the homophobia in "Picture to Burn" or the slut shaming in "Better Than Revenge". However, Swift has grown and her music has grown with her. Her latest upcoming album 1989 is less about guys and dating and more about the introspective journey of self that Swift has taken over the last year. She's also, in that time, awakened as a feminist, something I always approve of. And she's not a passive feminist either. Case in point: Swift called out her sexist critics during her appearance on the Australian radio show Jules, Merrick & Sophie on Sunday. Spoiler alert: it was epic.
When asked about the criticism she received for writing about relationships, Swift went off. "The most important thing for me is maintaining artistic integrity, which means as a songwriter I still continue to write about my life. You're going to have people who are going to say, 'oh, you know, like she just writes songs about her ex-boyfriends,' and I think frankly that's a very sexist angle to take. No one says that about Ed Sheeran. No one says it about Bruno Mars. They're all writing songs about their exes, their current girlfriends, their love life, and no one raises a red flag there."
Swift is an artist that is famous, notorious, praised but mostly criticized, for writing songs about relationships and about her exes. Every single one of her songs plays like someone took a page from her diary and set it to music. They're all very personal and they all concern either relationships that she had or relationships that she wished she had. They're personal accounts or wish fulfillment, they're deeply intimate and universally accessible, they're a journey that we've been taking with Swift ever since her first self-titled album. So, yes, no one is going to deny that Swift does, in fact, write songs about her exes. She has embraced that. She's even joked about it.
However, the criticism that she receives for writing songs about love far outweighs the criticism that many male artists get for writing songs about love. Let's use her own example for a moment. In 2010, Swift released her third studio album entitled Speak Now. That same year, Bruno Mars released his first studio album entitled Doo-Wops & Hooligans. The Rolling Stone's review for Swift's album contained the line, "Sometimes you can even tell what chick flicks Swift has been watching from the song titles: 'Dear John,' 'The Story of Us,' 'Enchanted'." Nevertheless, the album got four stars. The Rolling Stone's review of Mars' album contained the line, "It's the year's finest pop debut: 10 near-perfect songs that move from power ballads to bedroom anthems to pop-reggae and deliver pleasure without pretension." Three and a half stars.
How many songs on Swift's 2010 album were explicit love songs? Nine of fourteen. Ten, if you count "Better Than Revenge", which was more of a cat fight song. How many songs on Mars' 2010 album were explicit love songs? Seven of ten. With 70% of Mars' album being love songs presumably about exes, why is it that it's Swift's only slightly higher 71% of love songs that get relegated to the chick flick category? Why are her love songs the ones worth pointing out as being love songs? Of course, it could be argued that this was Swift's third album to Mars' first, meaning that she's had a lot more love songs overall. Let's try again.
Swift's first mainstream album, her second overall, was her 2008 release of Fearless, the album that gave the world "Love Story" and "You Belong with Me". The Rolling Stone gave it another four stars and yet padded their review with lines like, "But she mostly sticks to her favorite topic — boys, boys, boys — in songs filed neatly under 'love-struck' or 'pissed off.'" For Mars' second album Unorthodox Jukebox , the worst they had to say about this four star album was, "On his second album, Mars sings endlessly about sex – wild, wind-swept, Wagnerian sex." (For the record, Fearless had a love song rating of 11 of 13 or 85% while Unorthodox Jukebox had a love song rating of ten of ten or the whole damn album.)
The Rolling Stone does not encompass the entire world of musical critics out there, but they do represent the overwhelming double standard that Swift so amazingly pointed out. When Swift writes a love song, it's girly and silly and all she ever does. When a male artist, such as Mars, writes an entire album of love songs, it goes without notice or comment. That is sexism and it's unfair both to Swift as an artist and to her music as an expression of herself. She is more than just the girl who writes songs about her exes and if she's not allowed to do it then why should every male artist ever be allowed to do it? The only thing Swift has ever done that makes her unique from other artists is being upfront about the fact that it's what she's doing. So, basically, she's being criticized for her honesty.
Let's just all universally agree to stop looking down on Swift for writing songs about her exes, shall we? She has grown and matured as a person. She's stopped naming names and warning people that this is kind of her thing. She has grown and we owe it to her for our constructive criticism of her to grow with her. Shoving her in a box of "girly love songs about her exes" is offensive on numerous levels, but it's also ridiculous considering the sheer effort that Swift has put forth to being a much more broad artist than just that unfair label. Are you a fan of Swift yet?
Watch the interview here.
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