I didn’t jump on the Taylor Swift boat for a long, long time. When she first released Fearless—an album I didn’t think warranted such an unapologetic, self-assured title—I didn’t really understand what was making her stand out as pop-country singer. Sure, the lanky-limbed, golden-haired babe was cute and seemingly dorky in that Hollywood kind of way that negates any real sense of actual dorky-ness. Her songs were catchy, and her music videos were fun and inspired. She was definitely a refreshing change in the late 2000s from all the hyper-sexualized, breathe-y Lady Gaga and Rihanna videos that were then dominating YouTube. Here was a girl my age, singing about boys, using lovably cheesy metaphors, trying to identify with every single, homely 20-year-old—and yet, I hated her.
Maybe I was put off by Taylor’s unspoken motto, which was basically: “I’m like you guys! I get my heart broken too!” I didn’t want to relate to an overly-enthusiastic country star, someone I thought was trying way too hard with her high-waisted skirts and crimped blonde hair. Someone who came from a WASPy country club scene and rode horses for fun; she was someone I would have avoided in high school, so why should I listen to her music?
That was then, and this is, weirdly, now: I slowly started warming up to T-Swift over the last couple years, kind of getting her mass-appeal and also respecting it. When she released “Shake it Off” a few months ago, I decided it was time to finally invest in an album, and so I did. And I didn't even regret it. If you went from passionately loathing T-Swift to loving her wholly, here are the very recognizable emotional stages of converting to Taylor Swiftism:
1. Confusion: Who is this country-pop singer rando everyone is talking about?
Taylor Swift kind of just...appeared one day. At least, that’s how I remember it. She had a few hits before Fearless (“Should’ve Said No,” “Our Song,” etc.), but it was Fearless that made everyone stop dead in their tracks. I didn’t get it, and I didn’t understand what was so different from her and American Idol winner Carrie Underwood. What was Taylor really bringing to the table?
2. Disgust : Why is everyone losing their cool over this girl singing about her day at school?
I didn’t think songs like “You Belong With Me,” and “Forever and Always” were bad, per se. They were just so grossly basic that I decided to be a total elitist punk about it. Why were we glamorizing some girl's diary entry anyway?
3. Aggressive distaste: “firmly” standing by your belief that this is NOT real music
To be fair, I was really into the Animal Collective and Dan Deacon scene at the time, so anything that wasn’t overflowing with complex, digital audio-editing and LSD-fueled lyrics that only made sense after your third bong hit just wasn’t my jam.
4. Genuine concern for friends who had become entranced by Taylor Swift
Even my music-snob friends were blasting their beloved T-Swift in the car. Speak Now was out, and Taylor had won awards and been on covers of Glamour and Cosmo. She was the "real deal" to some of my friends at this point. It was honestly upsetting to watch her lord over everyone's iTunes collection.
5. Annoyance: her stupid music is never not on the radio
I dare you to go back in time to 2012 and get into any car, or walk into any Forever 21 and not hear “Back to December” or “The Story of Us.” It was truly a Swift plague.
6. Accidentally listening to “You Were Meant For Me” when you were vulnerable—and secretly liking it.
The thing about Taylor Swift, and what has made her so stupidly successful, is her very clever understanding of her audience. I think teenage girls especially weren’t connecting to Katy Perry's and Beyoncé’s sexually-charged lyrics on an actual, personal level, even if they loved them in some aspirational, superhero kind of way. So when T-Swift waltzed into the scene with her perfect bangs and sequined dresses, they finally had a young adult they could envision as their bestie. Taylor Swift was probably the true creator of “Bestie Pop,” aka, pop music that just got you, you know? And that’s probably what swayed me, truthfully: The fact that Taylor Swift just understood what it was like being the girl who didn’t get the guy, or romanticizing relationships that never got off the ground floor.
7. Downloading a few songs on the sly, but not entire albums because that would go against your moral code
You would never financially support Taylor Swift, but innocently owning a few MP3-versions of her tracks you downloaded from some virus-laden website didn’t actually mean anything.
8. Downgrading from loathing to ambivalence about Taylor Swift's success
I no longer cared that Taylor Swift was one of the biggest pop stars in the country. She was beating Beyoncé, and getting publicly dissed by Kanye, which only made us love her more. In fact, I’d like to argue that Taylor Swift single-handedly illuminated Kanye West as a true villain of the music industry, which was unfortunate because I really liked Kanye before the god-awful 808s & Heartbreak. Anyway. Taylor Swift was getting mass recognition, and I didn’t even hate her anymore for this, which was a big step for me.
9. Not minding that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler called Taylor out earlier this year, but also feeling slightly defensive about her
Remember when Fey and Poehler made that joke at the Golden Globes about how many guys Taylor Swift dates because all her songs basically encompass her failed relationships? It was funny, because Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are funny. But I wondered why this girl was getting attacked (by women) for making boys and love the subject of her songs when every singer literally does the exact same thing. Oh man, I was growing soft. Even if I wasn't yet a Swift fan, I was undoubtedly becoming a Swift sympathizer.
10. Feeling envious of her style and lipstick game
As you and Taylor grew a little bit older together, you maybe realized how on-point she looked all the time. Not only was she a pop-singer (at this point, she had shaken off her country roots entirely, a move you certainly approved of), but she was also a fashion icon. You could only show true ardor for her Tom Ford red lips and vintage dresses.
11. Getting “Shake it Off” lodged in your brain and not minding that much
It’s a good song, OK?
12. Caving and buying 1989, listening to it out of obligation to the Internet and pop culture and humanity
Like any human that has watched her society love something for a long time, you finally join in with them. But it's fine because you're really just listening so that you can be aware of something that is culturally relevant, right? It's not like you like Taylor Swift, but if this album is such a big deal, you really need to have listened to it...right?!
13. Really, truly liking 1989 and respecting the artist behind this fun, quasi-genius collection of songs
Wait, 1989 is actually really, really good. It feels genuine, and only slightly entitled, and mostly awesome. You like how it throws shade, but not too much shade. It's fierce. It doesn't care what you think because it knows it's stellar. It's confident without the cockiness. You're so sold, you're beyond sold. And finally, you are okay with your new love for Taylor Swift. You've come to terms and it feels good. I mean, it was bound to happen, right?
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