Look, I know what a lot of people think of Taylor Swift. I just happen to disagree with those people.
When the subject of her new album, “Lover,” came up (when I brought it up) at brunch recently, I watched my friends’ faces turn to a collective frown.
Not to quote a recent Swift single, but, as for ME!? I am used to feeling alone in my Taylor Swift fandom.
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I’ve been listening to Taylor Swift for more than half of my life. That’s not the kind of relationship you turn your back on. And I have no reason to, because Taylor Swift is great at making music.
I remember sitting on the floor of my childhood bedroom next to my “Spongebob Squarepants” boombox, listening to “Teardrops on My Guitar” and other tracks from her first CD. At 13, I thought Taylor Swift singing, “You’re tied together with a smile, but you’re coming undone,” was the saddest and most relatable sentiment imaginable.
That was it. That’s when I decided I’d always be loyal to Taylor Swift. Forever and always. That has meant standing by her side at every turn, through Kanye West call-outs and genre change-ups and, in general, people not getting her, or her humor, like I do.
When I think about Taylor Swift, I think about sitting in the passenger’s ,seat of my best friend’s silver Volkswagen Beetle, where we echoed every syllable of “Hey Stephen,” and “You Belong with Me” during morning drives to school. I think about the “Speak Now” era, when Taylor Swift provided a feels-so-real language for dealing with the highs and lows of teenage life. When we had a crush, we sang, “You are the best thing that’s ever been mine.” When one of our hearts got crushed, we went for a drive and turned the volume way up to, “All you’re ever gonna be is mean.”
I think about my first Taylor Swift concert. And my second. I go back to singing “I’m feeling 22” on my 22nd birthday.
I go back to that country road in my hometown, where I ran so many miles listening to Swift’s “Red” album. I think about going home from the bar early last New Year’s Eve to watch her “Reputation Stadium Tour” debut on Netflix. I think about smile-singing along to “Begin Again” after a good first date. I think about crying in the airport to a bunch of sad Taylor Swift songs — a whole subgenre of her collection — after a breakup.
Her songs have been stubbornly, delightfully, comfortingly playing in the background of much of my life, helping me make sense of things.
And yet, it has always felt uncool to love Taylor Swift, which is weird, because I never feel cooler than when I’m singing along to Taylor Swift songs in my car.
Lately, I’ve been on the defense again. When I hear friends — or overhear strangers in the next room at a party — call Swift’s new songs annoying or say she comes off as fake, I tend to quickly jump in and recite a Rolling Stone article calling “Lover” a masterpiece or some other piece of pro-Taylor Swift evidence.
Deep breaths, I remind myself in these moments. Taylor Swift isn’t for everyone, I guess. I accept this, even though it makes little sense to me.
Sure, it bothers me when people don’t take Taylor Swift seriously.
It bothers me more when people make fun of Taylor Swift fans — or call us “basic” — for liking her so much. There are different corners of the musical world for everyone. That’s the beauty of music. We all get to like what we like.
If you’re a Taylor Swift hater, of which she has plenty, I probably won’t convince you otherwise at this point. But I can tell you about my favorite song of hers, one that’s never been a radio hit.
It’s a nearly six-minute song called “All Too Well” that twists and turns through a tale about remembering every painful detail of a relationship. It swells up to lyrics like, “I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here, ‘cuz I remember it all too well.” If you’ve ever thought of Swift as a shallow singer, just listen to her belt out, “And you call me up again, just to break me like a promise.” There’s a reason Rolling Stone ranked it as her best song ever.
As Swift told the magazine recently, “All Too Well” didn’t get much recognition until about three years after she released the tune. She said, “I think it often takes a lot of time for people to understand how they feel about music.”
In the same story, Swift said something that made me feel very seen: that her music tends to assign itself to a moment in someone’s life.
”So when you’re dealing in memory curation in a way, if they have memories that include one of my songs, they go and they live their lives and those memories become further in the past and more nostalgic to them, and the music becomes more important to them.”
I have 13 years of those kind of memories. And I want them all. Because, by now, I’m more of a Taylor Swift fan than ever.