It’s funny, I feel like I have the ability to use your first name to address you, since it seems like we’re old friends. Because honestly, in a lot of ways we are. We’ve known each other for a long time.
When I was 14, I fell asleep every single night to your Fearless album. I would put it into my old school stereo, turn off the lights, and right from the first beat of “Fearless” my young heart felt like it had someone who knew exactly how I felt, a friend who sang about and knew the same dreams and desires that I had. You made me believe that true love was real and magical, that dreaming big and daring to be different were good and heroic things to be fought for. The world was wide open and the hope I had about love and life was encapsulated in “Love Story,” “You Belong With Me,” and “Fifteen.”
Then, when I was 16 you released Speak Now. I drove to school at 6:30 every morning for dance team practice, and my friend and I would sing our hearts out to “Mine” and “Enchanted,” as the inky black sky slowly gave way to the warm rays of morning sun. We made our Facebook captions (because Instagram didn’t even exist yet) the lyrics to your songs, and you became my friend on long drives when I earned my driver’s license and the newfound freedom that came with it. I was young, naïve, and hopeful, and your honest lyrics spoke into the deepest, most vulnerable places of my life.
Then I graduated high school and moved away to college in a big, new, unfamiliar city, where I was on my own for the first time. I was 18, discovering who I was without my small town and parents telling me who to be, and your album Red came out the exact same time I moved away. I would sit on the balcony of my 19th floor dorm room, look out at the city and listen to that album, where I would think and reflect on who I was, and who I wanted to become. Your songs and lyrics helped me sort through the questions that every teenager-turned-adult begins to ask about identity and the future.
Maybe this all sounds dramatic and stupid, but in a lot of ways it’s true – I have grown up with your music. I’ve journeyed with you as Kanye interrupted you at the VMAs, empathized about your breakups with Taylor Lautner and John Mayer as you let me into the universal heartbreak of love through “Back to December” and “Dear John,” and felt hope and encouragement as you stayed true to who you were as the years passed. You showed me what it looked like to be a woman who wasn’t influenced by the ridiculous culture of the media, when so many of the young stars from my childhood went crazy or fell off the deep end.
Because you, Taylor – you were the girl who baked cookies, who loved her cats, who rapped with T-Pain about never being in a club and not swearing. You were the girl who used her voice for good, who stood up for what was right, who showed me that there was power in being myself and not who the world wanted me to be. You wrote lyrics that explained how I felt and thought, even when I couldn’t put it into words myself.
Maybe my memories are tinged with nostalgia or I’m blinded by loyalty, but I sincerely believed you were a woman to be admired and looked up to. You were fearless, courageous, honest, vulnerable, and unafraid to feel deeply, even when the world criticized you and your songwriting. And looking back, as a 12 year-old girl growing up into a young woman, I see how much I was deeply formed by your example and your music.
But now it’s 2017, and things have changed.
You just released Reputation, and like a lot of loyal fans I was so excited for your new album, even if the first few singles you released in anticipation of it dropping were just slightly unsettling and very unlike the T-Swift I’ve grown to know and love. As soon as it came out I ventured to the nearest Target to purchase my copy and proceeded to listen to the whole thing straight through, in keeping with my personal tradition I have for your album releases. But what I heard is so different than any music you’ve ever put out before.
Gone are the thoughtful and emotionally gripping lyrics of my young teenage years.
Gone is the country singer who reveled in her innocence and love of music and songwriting.
Gone is the young woman with hope and confidence in the power of love and humanity.
Instead, all that remains are moody, vindictive, bitter songs about sex, drugs, and alcohol. The tracks on Reputation revolve around lust, obsession, meeting men in dark bars or your bedroom, dropping curse words and drinking in a way that seems to be covering up insecurities or wanting to seem cool and glamorous. Your album is a far, far cry from “Teardrops on My Guitar” and “Tim McGraw.”
I get it, Taylor, you’ve grown up. You see, I have too. I’m older, not so starry-eyed and naïve like my 14-year old self was. I am no longer a young girl. Like you, I have come to learn that love isn’t perfect and dreamy and romantic. It’s messy, tough, and it breaks us. Life is demanding, unfair, difficult, and I am wounded more than I can ever imagine.
And like you, I’ve tried to grow up in the way you’re singing about. I’ve used alcohol in destructive ways, I’ve used men to feel empowered and in control, I’ve cursed to make myself sound cool and fit in, and I’ve tried to craft my image in the way you’re doing now–trying to be powerful, feminine, dominant, mysterious, glamorous.
The problem is, buying into this hypersexualized image of femininity that the culture is pushing on us isn’t the answer. It doesn’t work, even though it’s what everyone is encouraging us to do. Ultimately it just makes us feel inadequate, empty, unfulfilled, and even more painfully aware of the brokenness. But it seems you’ve finally bought in, surrendered to the ruse and false truth of what the world defines as femininity.
I will always consider myself a devoted fan—we’ve come too far over the years for me to abandon that—but sadly, these things you’re singing and writing about I just can’t bring myself to listen to. I can’t sing along. Your new songs champion this state of sin and scandal you’re proudly exposing and inviting me to sing along with. But I can’t support this new lifestyle – because I know that deep down there’s no satisfaction there, no fulfillment, no joy, no life. And I want better for you, and for all the women who will be listening to nothing but this album in the months to come.
I guess it really is true. The old Taylor is dead. Your new album’s angry beats and brash lyrics are definitive proof of that. And from the sounds of it, your old music is dead too.
But, I believe in a God who was also once dead, who was totally destroyed and lost to the depths of hell. But, though He died at the influence of those in power around Him, through His death He conquered darkness, despair, and sin, and in its place ushered in resurrection and redemption.
And redemption is real. The resurrection is real. Not just for someone like me, but for every single person who touches and influences my life. It’s real for those I see on campus, on the street, and yes, even you, Taylor, whom I see plastered all over social media headlines, living in a world so different than my own.
So yes, it’s true, the old Taylor is dead.
But I know you can be resurrected, and I hope and pray for the old Taylor to rise again from her “Look What You Made Me Do” grave.
Your fan and friend