Sometimes an album you now treasure was once something you couldn’t bear. We owe a lot to second listens. Last week marked the beginning of a certain mega-tour that simultaneously broke the internet and a whole lot of aspiring concertgoers’ hearts. So the timing for opening up about a specific one of these eras seemed pretty perfect. Sound off, Taylor Swift fans.
If one artist defines my childhood, with all those years spent listening to CDs on the boombox my parents let me borrow, it’s easily Taylor Swift, with Kelly Clarkson as a distant second, but honourable mention.
While self-titled was Taylor’s beginning, mine was Fearless. I had her tracklist memorised, always skipping to track 6 for ‘You Belong With Me’ and straight to track 10 from there for ‘The Way I Loved You.’ When Speak Now came out I spent many a night listening to ‘Enchanted,’ fantasising that one day I, too, would be whisked away from the dance moments after meeting the inevitable love of my life, leaving him to dream about my gorgeous dress and stunning personality.
We cried and danced together with Red, me too young to truly understand why she would leave a three-month relationship so crushed, but raging at Jake Gyllenhal anyway. I even stuck with her during the beginning of her full-pop era with 1989.
But in the gap that would come between albums, from 2014 to 2017, I began to stray. It seemed to me that every time I heard the name Taylor Swift, it was in connection with a snarky comeback she had made on Twitter or a night on the town she had had with her “girl-gang” filled with models, actresses, and other superstars. Long gone was the girl crushing on her classmate, thrilled after her first kiss. She had been replaced by this media-savvy pop star who appeared to be out to take down anyone in her way.
When Reputation finally came out, I couldn’t even give it a chance. The promos and angsty, clapback-filled songs like ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ simply confirmed my suspicions that my Taylor, the one soundtracking my youth, was gone. I scoffed at the Swifties who were fawning over the tracks and even refused to listen to Lover when it came out, turned off by saccharine, bubblegum tracks like ‘ME!’ and ‘You Need To Calm Down’ which she chose as singles for the record. I wasn’t just a disenchanted fan, I became fully anti-Taylor. I was too cool for her tricks and the riddles layered within her albums and widely declared my disdain.
Until a Tik-Tok came along with ‘Getaway Car’ in the background. This was during a time where I was tentatively dipping my toe in the Folklore and Evermore pool, coaxed back by her pure melodies and lyricism. I knew this sound on my For-You-Page was my once-beloved Swift, but I couldn’t name the track. I rushed to Google, typing in the lyrics I was hearing, wondering if it was a bonus track I had missed off an earlier album. But alas…it was from REPUTATION?!
It couldn’t be! There could not be a good song, nay, a great song, on the same album as ‘Don’t Blame Me.’ Nor could she ever make any sensible points when she had been on a media rampage! Surely ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’ was filled with unnecessary digs at the exaggerated actions of ex-friends and past lovers. However, a year later when I would have a friendship of my own end in disaster, Taylor’s Reputation was there to articulate my feelings, backed with plenty of “sick beats” (and no, I am also not a fan of ‘Shake it Off’). They just kept getting better, with ‘Dancing With Our Hands Tied’ making an appearance on my party playlist and ‘I Did Something Bad’ getting me through my sweaty runs as my breath ran away faster than I did.
If I had misjudged Reputation so badly, I figured I should give Lover a shot. I was in awe of how much I had missed again. I came crawling back, begging for forgiveness just like Joe Jonas definitely did in 2010 before he realised Sophie Turner existed (but seriously Joe, breaking up via a 27-second voicemail? That’s just cold).
Do I qualify Reputation as a perfect, no-skip masterpiece? No, but I did indeed learn my lesson. Never again will I let media frenzy and an artist’s shifting identity keep me from giving a new record a chance, nor will I allow one bad record to taint everything that comes after. My bad, Swifties, my bad.