Popular figures are just as capable of “jumping the shark” as TV shows and movies, and it’s official: Taylor Swift has crossed that line and left it in her rear-view mirror.
I grew up with Taylor Swift. I was her target audience. My sisters and I bought her albums as soon as they came out, and I memorized every line she ever sang. I was, to put it lightly, a fan.
Swift released her new album, “Lover,” on Aug. 23. With it, any warm and fuzzy feelings I had about her were gone. She openly bashed conservative politics, took up cliched complaints about white privilege, and began selling bubble gum pop with tinny, insincere lyrics.
I’m done. We are never, ever, ever getting back together.
Some of my best memories include Swift. My friends and I drove through the mountains in the Shenandoah blasting “22.” My first heartbreak could be summed up by “Dear John.” I knew no level of sadness a Swift song couldn’t help.
Where are all those relatable lyrics and emotions now? Maybe I outgrew Taylor, but maybe she left me out in the cold. And maybe our differences have something to do with her newfound political activism.
Taylor Swift Loves Partisanship More Than Her Audience
In the era of political division, Taylor is embracing partisanship in a big way. “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince,” with lines like “We’re so sad, we paint the town blue,” sounds like it was written to be a Democratic campaign song. “This song is about disillusionment with our crazy world of politics and inequality, set in a metaphorical high school,” she said in an explanation on Spotify.
This isn’t her first crack at activism. She wrote in 2018 that she could not support Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn because “I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender, or who they love. These are not MY Tennessee values.”
So instead of supporting the woman running for office, Taylor threw her support behind the straight, white, cisgender male in the race: Democrat Phil Bredesen. (He lost.) That move doesn’t quite align with a quote from Taylor’s latest interview with Vogue, where she claimed, “Rights are being stripped from basically everyone who isn’t a straight white cisgender male.”
Speaking of males, track four of “Lover,” “The Man,” is a fantasy of what life would be like if Taylor were a man. This concept forgets one key factor in her mythos: If she were a man, she probably wouldn’t be a pop star.
More importantly, Taylor is denying that femininity is a part of her. There’s a level of envy here that is completely misplaced. The reason we all loved Swift when we were young was that she fearlessly embraced her identity. Strong women don’t do what the rest of the world tells them to do. Strong women have feelings and aren’t afraid to share them. Strong women don’t care about the haters — they shake them off.
Pledging Allegiance for Profit
So far the public hasn’t thought of Swift as the first person at a pride parade. But the girl who used to be known for singing about heartbreak wants to reinvent herself as an LGBTQ icon. Her “gay anthem,” released in time for Pride Month, told everyone they “need to calm down,” and they’re “being too loud.” She chided the right for speaking up and being heard over her echo chamber.
This move might appeal to LGBTQ activists, but what about the rest of her fans? We were there when she was a shy, awkward teenager singing about Joe Jonas letting her down. We stood by when everyone criticized her for not making political statements in the whirlwind of 2016. We bought her albums when she refused to put them on Spotify.
Swift’s new, politicized strategy isn’t working. Even LGBTQ people are questioning whether Taylor is just trying to profit by pledging allegiance to them. After the release of “You Need to Calm Down,” a Daily Beast article said her lyrics sounded like “attempts at being woke that read more like the ramblings of a cringey relative who’s watched one episode of Drag Race.” Ouch.
Frankly, Swift’s political themes throughout the album are awkward, misplaced, and depressing. She sings, “American stories burning before me/ I’m feeling helpless, the damsels are depressed.” Taylor, you need to calm down.
The fact is, Taylor Swift is not suffering. She has a net worth of $360 million. There is no need for her to feel helpless when she has so much money that she can buy her way out of anything.
Taylor Swift fans aren’t 15 anymore. We’ve grown up. Maybe she should grow up with us.