As a long-time fan of Taylor Swift, seeing her new album “folklore” receive such amazing reviews has been equal parts gratifying and frustrating.
Gratifying, because everyone seems to think this album is good with a capital G - from professional critics to friends who have spent ten years telling me all the different reasons they despise Taylor (the greatest hits of those reasons? “She has boyfriends” and “she has friends”). Finally, everyone is seeing her as a talented song-writer and artist, and I can get into, like, 50% less fights at parties. Yay!
Frustrating, because everyone seems shocked that her new album is good. They’re floored by the complexity of the lyrics and honestly disturbed that they are willingly choosing to listen to her voice. From the critics who describe this as a “new Taylor,” to the friends who texted me to say, “Wow, this is actually good!” to the presenters I heard on the radio, who were so unsettled by the fact that they liked a Taylor Swift song, they spent about five minutes trying to come up with a reason for it being good that didn’t involve Taylor at all (“Who wrote this with her? Who produced it? Was it Jack Antonoff?” they asked, practically trembling from the shame of it all).
Make no mistake: Taylor Swift’s lyrical prowess and musical genius have always been there - from “Love Story” to “Blank Space” to “Cruel Summer.” If you didn’t see it, it’s only because you didn’t take her seriously enough to listen, until she swivelled from sparkly bodysuits and louboutins to old cardigans and the iTunes “Alternative” category. You didn’t take her seriously because her songs were pop and her fans were predominantly young women.
And that, I think, is the crux of it. Pop music, as a genre, is seen as inherently bad. Bottom of the barrel. Low brow. Certainly not art.
Of course, there’s terrible pop music, there’s no denying that. But there’s terrible music in every genre. There’s bad rap and bad country and bad alternative, too. Pop is the only genre that’s entirely written off, and why else other than the fact that it's the only genre where the audience is made up of mostly young women?
Here’s the thing: young women and the interests of young women aren’t inherently lacking in substance. Pop music - boy bands and Taylor Swift and songs that you can remember every single word to even if you haven’t heard them in ten years - are not inherently bad just because girls like them.
Almost every mainstream musical legend that middle-aged men worship gained their original success through the devotion of young women. Look at any photo of the crowds watching The Beatles or Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley perform - who do you see? Young women and girls who love what they love in earnest, without shame or judgment? Or balding men who still care about what’s considered “cool” in their 50s?
Young women knew that Taylor Swift was good before you did, just like young women knew that The Beatles were good before you did.
Maybe, just maybe, the things young women like are often quite good, they just tend to realise it years before you do.
And maybe, if you let yourself like what you like as a teenage girl does - without self-consciousness or considering what’s “cool” - your life would be a whole lot more joyful.Support Villainesse