Two weekends ago I ventured out of New Haven and made a three-hour trek to Newark, N.J., for Taylor Swift.
Anybody who knows me a even little bit knows that I am a huge Taylor Swift fan. Probably nobody knows it better than my poor roommate, who had to endure me playing “Red” at full volume incessantly when it came out in October (“Did Claire leave already?” said one suitemate the night before Thanksgiving break. “No, she’s probably the one blasting the Taylor Swift.”).
Lately, TSwift has been getting a lot of flak. To that, I want to say — hey, leave Taytay alone! I think it’s unfair to judge a person we’ve never met based on a couple of tabloids or flash media appearances or a few lines from a song here and there. She seems all right in her cat videos to me, but I don’t really know her, so I’m not going to try to assess her as a person.
I do think, however, that we have something to gain from her music. I am speculating that most of you find a guilty pleasure in it. Maybe you listen to it “ironically.” I want to encourage you to drop the guilty and the ironically.
Taylor Swift is a pleasure because she lets me indulge in my emotions simply and unabashedly, and I think that’s important. Old dead philosophers advise us to follow reason and suppress all those terrible appetites. But without addressing the emotions that we all have, we’d probably just bottle them up and explode.
Taytay captures that shared need. Every day, she takes ordinary feelings and validates them by putting them into music with which you have no trouble singing along. Yes, there is beautiful poetry and there is beautiful music. But sometimes all you really feel is nothing more complex than “Stay, stay, stay, I’ve been loving you for quite some time” — as TSwift sings on “Red” — because it’s occurred to you that you’d like to hang out with a person for your whole life, this person who carries your groceries and has you always laughing.
Sometimes we know what the mature way of dealing with a breakup is, but sometimes we don’t want to be mature. Sometimes we want someone who will just let you gripe about that ex with the cooler-than-yours indie record. Sometimes we want someone who will disdainfully say things like, “Ugh, so he calls me up and he’s like, I still love you.” Taylor Swift is that person.
There are times memories seize us. Not tragic, epic, novel-style ones, but the tender little moments. Taylor Swift sings about dancing around in the kitchen in refrigerator light at midnight, or autumn leaves. We all have those moments, whether it’s swing dancing at Spider Ball or singing “My Heart Will Go On” at Crushes and Chaperones. They might have felt like movie scenes. We miss them, and we want to, like Taylor says, dance for all that we’ve been through.
Taytay was there when I was pining in my freshman year of high school about an unrequited love — “And there he goes, so perfectly, the kind of flawless I wish I could be.” She was there when I fell in love for the first time — “You are the best thing that’s ever been mine!” — and she was there when it ended. She was there when I graduated high school — “I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you” — and when realized I was growing up: “I just realized everything I have is someday gonna be gone.”
She was there without any pretention. She sang what I felt, and I could sing along.
I think we sometimes feel the need to make all our emotions seem deep and tragic, or that everything we appreciate and love needs to be Art with a capital A. But Taylor Swift reminds us that it’s OK to just express your feelings plainly for what they are.
“I write songs about my feelings,” Taylor said during that concert in Newark. “I’m told I have a lot of them.”
Taylor is right. We all have a lot of them, and it would do us good to embrace them. I love that Taylor Swift does and invites us to feel them with her.
Claire Zhang is a sophomore in Davenport College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .