It’s somewhat hard to believe that the Taylor Swift that was once engulfed in media backlash is now the same Taylor Swift that is now on a plinth so high that it feels like no one will eclipse her.
During her 1989 era, she received unfair backlash and had the experience of “millions of people hate you very loudly” due to a web of lies that was spun against her. Lies spun in response to her discomfort at the way she was being portrayed without her consent. In a manner that was objectifying and discrediting of her efforts in her career thus far.
Misogynistic backlash is nothing new, many women have experienced it; take Piers Morgan’s tirade against Little Mix’s Strip music video or Sabrina Carpenter getting the wrath of the internet for going through a breakup. Women can barely do anything without it being picked apart like a crow pecking at a corpse, Swift has “watched as women in this industry are criticised and measured up to each other and picked at”. So, the fact that Taylor Swift has embraced and spoken (and sang) about the critiques she has faced is part of the reason she has lasted this long. But that’s not the only reason, to reduce her to the double standards she has faced would be unfair. Swift has persevered as instead of letting “that scrutiny break them… (she) just keeps making art”.
Swift has this chameleon-like quality to her yet has an unchanging core of quality songwriting, genres may change but the essence of her songwriting remains.
She talks of this reinvention both lyrically and in her 2020 Miss Americana documentary saying “everyone’s a shiny new toy for like two years. The female artists I know of have had to reinvent themselves twenty times more than the male artists… constantly having to find new facets of yourself that people find to be shiny”.
All this change to explore the depths of her artistry more, she wasn’t adapting to the music environment, she was changing the environment itself.
Her songwriting has always been the way through which we often learn her thoughts on what is being said about her, she was sick of the double standards, so she wrote The Man and Mad Woman. She was the crazy woman who dated men just to write about them, so she wrote Blank Space to ridicule this narrative, “whatever they wrote about me became material for musical satires” (Billboard). It is this beautifully designed response that means that an air of mystery constantly surrounds her, media outlets may tell you what they think she is, but she defines herself through her writing in a way that is pure genius to witness. In a way that silences the narratives written about her but not by her.
Swift manages to write deeply but even her most personal songs find resonance with her fans, All Too Well being a prime example. Telling the specific story of one relationship but in a manner that means anyone who has been stung by a breakup can relate to, she has mastered not only writing her experience but the human experience.
Swift has elevated herself to a mode of timelessness by not writing for anyone but herself, even when she addresses the critics, she does it through a lens that is so uniquely hers. She writes until she just can’t stop, as with Folklore and Evermore as they are “a collection of songs that flowed like a stream of consciousness.” She has a hunger and passion for songwriting that is so resplendent that you have no choice but to marvel in awe of its brilliance. Swift is all-encompassed by it, so we have no choice but to be so as well.
To think that in 2020 Swift was thinking that Lover was “one of my last chances as an artist to grasp onto that kind of success” and now years later she is breaking records and reaching historic achievements with Midnights. It is a testament to what undeniable talent can do.
Swift writes of love, womanhood, and life with all the nuance and complexity that explores every corner of it, she captures what it is to be the heartbroken girl, the exhausted figure who is sick of trying, the head-over-heels in love person, the woman who is sick of the patriarchy and all it has done to her. She captures feelings you didn’t even know you had and words them in a way that feels like no one else ever could. A way that is so perfect it feels like the only way it should be written. She is truly a writer that is as rare as a lightning strike.
By ascending to this timelessness, she has become the kind of icon that will be discussed for decades to come. She has answered her own question of “ask me why so many fade but I’m still here” (Midnights, Karma). Her mastery will be studied, and her songs heralded as the standard of what a good song is. Swift’s timelessness resides in her unyielding desire to stay true to her pen and her vision.
Feature Image Credit: Rolling Stone