In her album Red, Taylor Swift quoted poet Pablo Neruda in her liner notes: "Love is so short, forgetting is so long." I am thinking 'What does she know about love and relationships?' But maybe I am wrong. At 24 years of age, Taylor Swift has successfully made a name for herself writing love songs - most about heartbreak and sordid ex boyfriends. Who also happen to be really famous people. Maybe there is a lot one can learn about love from the Taylor Swift discography.
The case of Taylor Swift is a most peculiar one, there is no historical precedent for her. Her path to mega stardom does not fall in any established pattern - she was not a former Mickey Mouse Club host, she did not star in a TV show about a schoolgirl moonlighting as a superstar, was definitely not in a sex tape or reality show. She is a girl from Pennsylvania who moved to Nashville to became a teenage country singer who was inspired by Shania Twain and Faith Hill, and would later make the huge crossover to Top 40 territory. She is a global pop diva who masquerades as a confessional singer-songwriter. When showing skin and being 'sensational' is the norm in today's pop, Swift remains prim and PG 13. She offers modernity, forwardness, and youth that traditionally stood for opposite values.
But what can Taylor Swift teach you about love?
As a girl, I was often confused by Taylor Swift, and her songs, as well as her as a person. She sings songs about being forever together, possible marriage, being young, breaking up forever, doing better than ever post-break up; an insight to a girly girl's diary basically, and she is always with a boyfriend or rumoured heavily to be dating someone. I've watched interviews with Taylor Swift and when asked about her songwriting she gets all animated talking about the emotions she feels that gets channelled into her writing - which leads to the mandatory probing question: Who was it for? Taylor will then display the part secretive, part shy, and part smug look that she has perfected for these sort of situations. And why do people care so much about which song is for who anyway; this lady is a frikking millionaire and running a bloody empire. That is why Taylor Swift confuses me.
Still, we gotta give it up to her that she writes her own stuff, even if it came from her diary/emotions. It may be too quirky, too personal but she seems to understand feelings real well - we get people saying they relate to her songs even they haven't gone through a break up/relationship. There have been some moments where I find myself to be in Taylor Swift songs, and for a while I say a quiet thanks in my heart to her for putting it so succinctly in the form of a pop song.
Unlike Avril Lavigne who never grew up with the times (music-wise), Taylor did a pretty good keeping up with girly feelings. From her self-titled debut in 2006, she has progressed quite substantially in sound… and depth. When she was spilling teardrops on her guitar then, she's quite proud to sing a sassy tune about bad boys being trouble. Literary icon and filmmaker Susan Sontag once said: "Nothing is mysterious, no human relation. Except love." Uh, no. Taylor seemed to break all the rules there. Now let's go through a journey of Taylor Swift's discography and love lessons.
A Taylor Swift Playlist
Taylor Swift (2006)
A young lass taking on the music industry, her brand of country pop was still not quite accessible enough to everyone. Taylor was just 16 (but really using too much make-up) when this album was released and was earnest about young love and being happy, and also being betrayed by young love. As much as overly sweet songs ('Our Song'), she had weepy ones too like 'Teardrops On My Guitar' which pretty much catapulted her into fame.
Songwriting wise; simple, really just tapped into memories and feelings, and also quite wholesome like a lot of country songs there is. Swift enjoyed a lot of commercial success with the album but being her first album, she still had a lot of space for improvement.
What I Learnt: Young love is… swift.
Back again, and more in control with her emotions, Taylor moves on to a more pop sound while still retaining a slight country twang. Her confessional and diarist brand of songs may be relatable to some but may fall into uniformity - as with this album.
With songs like 'Love Story' and 'White Horse' and really cringey fantasy imagery, she showed that she had an ideal notion of love. White horses, 'You be the prince / I'll be the princess', Romeo and Juliet (dude, they die), ball gowns and balls, fairy tale endings, first kisses that make you dizzy, boys on the football team, and in 'You Belong With Me', she managed to summarise an entire John Hughes film in a song and music video.
What I Learnt: Everyone has an idea of what perfect love is, and what we think at 15 is going to change. It's cloyingly sweet at times, but we also get an insight to Taylor Swift's mind and we are not the same person man, although 'You Belong To Me' is probably what every girl must have felt at some point. Taylor Swift has makes me cynical about love all the time.
Trivia: She won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video for 'You Belong With Me' but her acceptance speech got hijacked by Kanye West. Thanks for the memories Mr Kardashian.
Speak Now (2010)
She upped the ante and this album contains the infamous songs about her exes Joe Jonas and John Mayer. It's not much different than her previous album. If Fearless was junior high school, then Speak Now is high school graduation year. Her fairy tale ending is now apparently getting married with cute kids and cute birthday parties. Her confessional style has now taken a turn for the dramatic.
What I Learnt: Girls are really imaginative and can get a little intense with feelings, and even borderline mean. And if you cross them, there will be dirty laundry.
Ah another new album every two years, we see a pattern now. Dramatic Taylor Swift is here to stay and making a mega career from it. Red is indulgent and personal but also very, very fun. Making the full crossover from country, Taylor tapped on hot music trends such as dubstep, punchy dance pop, and self aware indie references in songs. She also looks way different now compared to 2006, gone are the tight curls and garish eyeshadow - looks like the hipster culture has got to Taylor Swift.
What I Learnt: In 1822, French writer Marie Henri-Beyle, also know as Stendhal wrote an on excellent treatise about love. In it, he said "Love is like a fever which comes and goes quite independently of the will, there are no age limits for love." Taylor Swift is well aware of this, selling love as a wondrous, decentralised thing thing easily accessible to everyone. In its entirety, the discography of Taylor Swift is full of youth's delightfully quaint biases but also of timeless, boundless, universal human truth. From the eyes of a girly girl that is.