How I fell out of love with Taylor Swift

It’s not you, it’s “ME!”

Aaron Rose is an assistant managing editor for The Cavalier Daily. 

It all started with the release of “Reputation” — that’s when I first noticed that Taylor Swift and I had drifted apart. 

I had just finished my very first week as a University student when Taylor released her first single “Look What You Made Me Do” from the album that was supposed to herald a queen of pop’s triumphant return to the spotlight. Beforehand, I had been a moderate Swiftie throughout middle school and high school — I liked her music and wasn’t afraid to admit it. So when the first single from her follow-up to “1989” was released, I expected the song to be a new mainstay on my morning playlist.

Except my plans hit a bit of a snag — I didn’t like the song at all. Moreover, I ended up not liking “Reputation” as a whole either. For some reason, I didn’t feel the connection in the sound, lyrics or imagery of the album that I had with other Taylor albums like “1989” and “Red.” Frankly, “Reputation” was flat-out boring to me, full of cliched, weak lyrics and worn-out themes.

I had hoped that Taylor would self-correct in her follow-up album, but the singles I’ve listened to so far from her new album “Lover” such as “ME!” and “The Archer” have similarly disappointed me. 

Upon this latest disappointment, my first instinct was to lament that Taylor had changed — somehow she had lost her touch. Obviously her rougher image and combative stance towards ‘the haters’ in “Reputation” had made her seem petty, or the unicorn and sunshine imagery of “Lover” made her seem out of touch. But the playful lyrics, catchy pop beats and youthful themes were generally the same across all her music. And “Reputation” — just like her earlier work — received mainly positive reviews from critics. 

Then it occurred to me that maybe Taylor wasn’t the one that had changed — maybe it was me. 

So much of Taylor Swift — her lyrics, her sound and her iconic pop culture moments — was entangled with my middle and high school experience that it’s hard for me to separate her music from memories in that era of my life. I remember going to intensely awkward middle school dances and listening to “Fifteen” while wondering what I would be like when I was actually 15. As a high school sophomore, I would melodramatically listen to “Bad Blood” whenever I felt like someone had slighted me and “Shake It Off” as a hype song before a test or swim meet. These songs have the benefit of nostalgia, and I don’t care about their merits in today’s context because they meant something special to me at one time. 

But now that I’m halfway done with college and staring down a new decade of my life, listening to Taylor’s latest work feels like a reversion to a past life — one that I’ve told myself that I’ve grown from for the better. Since “1989” was released, my last two years of high school and my first two years at the University allowed me to delve into different intellectual interests and to really come into my own as an individual with my own critical opinions and preferences. I’ve become more empathetic with other people’s experiences, aware of the problems of the world and, like any good English major, interested in the way language can convey complex human experiences. 

This personal evolution has had a major impact on the type of music I listen to. In the past two years, I’ve come to admire Brandi Carlile’s rich storytelling ability in her latest Americana album “By The Way, I Forgive You,” Lorde’s masterful depiction of the joys and pains of youth in “Melodrama” and Andrew Bird’s beautifully-crafted meandering melodies in “My Finest Work Yet,” just to name a few. Each of these artists presents a more nuanced view of the world in their lyrics and demonstrates a love of exploration and experimentation in their music that matches the zeitgeist of my current point in life.         

As college students, I feel like we all have our Taylor Swift — and by this I mean a celebrity, hobby or book series that we once loved not too many years ago, but now has lost its charm for whatever reason. I think we should take this shift as a positive sign of maturity — who wants to be the exact same person they were when they were 15 years old as a 20-year-old? I suspect not many people. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still have tremendous respect for Taylor Swift as an artist — how could you not with a two-time Album of the Year winner? She has a wildly successful career that any artist would be lucky to have and her fan base rightly celebrates that fact. I especially admire Taylor’s philanthropic efforts and her commitment to making the world a more loving place, as evident in her new anti-hate song, “You Need To Calm Down.” 

For now, though, I think it’s best if we went our separate ways. But who knows? When I finally get a chance to listen to the entirety of Taylor’s new album “Lover” — released Friday, just days before a new semester and a new chapter in my University career — it could surpass all my expectations, forcing me to come crawling back on my hands and knees. Or it could affirm my opinion that our relationship has run its course.

Either way, this would be good material for a break-up song.

Aaron Rose is an Assistant Managing Editor  for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at a.rose@cavalierdaily.com. 

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