’Cause when you’re 15, and someone… sings about your unending angsty teen feels, you become a devoted fan who pays big $$$ for concert tickets!
That’s the kinda ’ship I had with T. Swizz for the better part of my teen-dom: She had the perfect bop for post-first kiss feels—I obviously threw on “Our Song“ and “You Belong With Me“—and she wrote hours of music perfect for rebounding from my first, rather dramatic, breakup in ninth grade. At a point in my life when I felt like no one understood me, Taylor Swift became my safe haven (and she just happened to also be a beautiful singer-songwriter with a glittery guitar). So, it felt only right to beg my parents to drop an insane amount of gwap on merch and multiple opportunities to fangirl over her IRL.
But now, after years of ceaseless loyalty from myself and others, Taylor’s brand has taken a strange, dark turn and, I gotta say, I feel cheated!
Allow me to explain. When I was 15, yes, I listened to “Fifteen” a lot, but I also just adored all things Taylor Swift. She was earnest in all the right ways and she seemed to be one of the only pop artists writing (at least some of) her own stuff. Not only that, but big bad Kanye had just stolen her shine at the 2009 VMAs and Taylor found a way to rise above, because people throw rocks at things that shine—right?! She was touring with her stellar new album Speak Now, and YAAS, Taylor was coming to Toronto! Cue my young and innocent tears of joy.
Being 15, I had limited (read: no) funds, so I had to convince my dad to buy me a ticket for virtually no reason—it wasn’t my birthday and Christmas was months away. Knowing that I was completely enthralled with the singer, he spent somewhere around $200 for a single ticket in the upper rows of the upper bowl at the Air Canada Centre (#BlessThatMan). When I arrived, sporting my dollar store cowboy hat and all the glee of a young lady about to breathe the same air as her idol, my friends and I found our seats… behind a horizontal pole, under which we had to slightly duck if we wanted a view of the whole stage.
Yes, we were miles from the stage and yes, we only saw Taylor’s face when she floated around in her moving balcony (so. damn. cool.), but it was still one of the best nights of my life to date, and that concert sustained my love for her well into university. That’s when Red came out, and though there was something noticeably different about her sound, that album was still chock full o’ tunes versatile enough to take me from car to gym to exam prep and back.
But I wish I’d known that, for that Taylor, Red was the beginning of the end. In 2012, Taylor’s feud with Katy Perry went public after some of Taylor’s background dancers left her tour early to dance with Katy. Two years later, Taylor released Bad Blood, an aggressive message for Katy about all the shady shit that transpired between them. In that time, Taylor transformed herself from a sweet country singer to a spiteful pop queen, and she initiated several other conflicts with celebs like Kim Kardashian, Lorde and Demi Lovato.
Taylor’s brand pivot was one of the harshest and most surprising in the industry, and, TBH, it felt like she abandoned all her OG values. The Taylor I grew up with would’ve never sabotaged Katy Perry’s album release date by also releasing music on the same day, she would not have been so eager to fight with other women to make more money, and she definitely wouldn’t have been down for a “beat the bot” scheme which requires her fans to buy more of her music and merch in order to access tickets to her live shows.
As Anne T. Donahue writes, Taylor has “lost her footing as a result of her inability to be a person before being a pop star.” Maybe she got too famous too fast, or maybe she was this way all along, but I would still be a mega-fan if the old Taylor was around. Instead, all I’m left with is a blurry mirror selfie, an annoying outgoing voicemail of Taylor talking about the death of her old self (salt in the wound, much?!) and a few tunes that I can turn on when my friends and I want to feel nostalgic.
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