You know what would be awesome? If adults would quit apologizing for liking Taylor Swift.
No, seriously. For the last two weeks, since the release of Swift’s new album 1989, I have found myself surrounded by perfectly normal adults expressing massive amounts of guilt for buying it/listening to it/enjoying it. And it’s making me crazy. Nay, it’s annoying the crap out of me.
Listen, adults. You’re adults. You can like whatever in the hell you want. You are allowed to enjoy things that are catchy, popular, and enjoyed by people younger than you. You are allowed to put an album on repeat in the car and learn all the words. You are allowed to relate to the lyrics. You should be able to say, “Yeah, I like it,” and not feel bad about it.
SO STOP IT.
Stop blaming your kids for having to buy Taylor Swift albums, when in reality you’re the one who’s really into her. Stop blaming pop radio for getting her songs stuck in your head, when you’re the one surfing the dial to find the station playing “Shake It Off.” Stop pretending like you don’t read Taylor Swift interviews and think, “hey, that girl has a pretty good head on her shoulders.” Stop pretending you didn’t secretly like that onesie she wore to the VMAs.
You are allowed to like Taylor Swift and also Nirvana, the Avett Brothers, The Pharcyde, Love and Rockets, or whatever kind of music you listen to that makes you feel cool and welcome among your peers. Despite what you believe, liking Taylor Swift does not negate your fine taste in music. Your super-fab vinyl collection is not going to lose value because you download a Taylor Swift album.
You can like Taylor Swift and nothing terrible will happen to you. A rock-n-roll angel will not lose its wings.
So STOP PRETENDING you don’t like it and STOP APOLOGIZING for it.
Here my own brief history of music fandom:
- As a child, my family listened to the likes of Don Williams, Stevie Nicks, Crystal Gayle, Anne Murray, Charlie Daniels Band, George Strait, Jimmy Buffet and Willie Nelson. My stepdad liked classic rock, and regularly had the radio in the garage tuned to one of those stations with a “Get The Led Out” segment at 5PM each day.
- The first album I bought with my own money was Midnight Star’s No Parking On The Dance Floor. (Man, I wish I still had that.) My elementary-school best friend and I listened to Michael Jackson, Madonna, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Duran Duran, and that ilk. I spent many an hour at the skating rink gliding in circles to the strains of Chicago and REO Speedwagon. (“Cause I can’t fight this feelin’ anymoooooooooore/I’ve forgotten what I started fighting foooooooooooor…”)
- In high school, I fell in with the “skater” crowd. I listened to The Cure, The Smiths, New Order, Gang of Four, The Dead Kennedys, The Dead Milkmen (“Bitchin’ Camaro, bitchin’ Camaro/I ran over my neighbor/bitchin’ Camaro, bitchin’ Camaro/now it’s in all the papers), the Ramones, & etc. I had friends with awesome vinyl collections. I went to punk shows. I worked at an alternative radio station where I met the guys from Social Distortion and Royal Crescent Mob, Charlatans UK and Matthew Sweet (on the “Girlfriend” tour, not the later one when the music wasn’t as good).
- In college, I worked at the school newspaper, and was on the receiving end of all the free demo CDs from all the small, indie record labels. By the time I graduated I had over 2000 CDs. From 1993-97, I went to dozens of concerts. I broke a toe in a Public Image Limited mosh pit trying to get to Johnny Rotten’s beret – which is now in a box in my basement marked “Sentimental Stuff”. I made out with musicians. I ate Chinese food with Toad The Wet Sprocket. I dreamed of being a writer for Rolling Stone.
- Post college, I started a webzine with some friends and continued to write about music. I interviewed a couple dozen bands at the beginning of the “hipster” era, all with names beginning in “The.” (I’d link you to these masterpieces, but they seem to be missing from the Internet. Strange.) I went to a whole bunch of shows by way of the guest list. Eventually, I noticed I was older than everyone else at these shows, and I started losing interest. I buried myself back in my music collection and pretended it was 1994. I finally saw The Ocean Blue in a tiny club in San Francisco. A friend of a friend produced a Cocteau Twins album. I went to a dozen Counting Crows shows and saw Chris Isaacs when he toured each summer.
I tell you all these things, because about the time I started burning out on The Next Big Thing In Indie/Punk Bands, I became an *NSYNC fan.
Oh, yeah. If you thought liking Taylor Swift was bad, try being a 26-year-old *NSYNC fan. Especially when, in the olden days, people admired you for your taste in music and envied your access.
Why did I become an *NSYNC fan? Because that ish is freaking catchy, ya’ll. *NSYNC songs are perfect for car-dancing, and sometimes ridiculous, and sometimes beautiful. Those boys said dumb things in interviews while flopping around on each other like puppies and wore some of the worst outfits ever. It was FUN to be an *NSYNC fan. So much fun that I’ve seen them in concert nine times.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
I like Taylor Swift for the same reason I liked *NSYNC, because her music makes me happy. I own all her albums. Three of them have been in the CD changer in my car for years. Years. I think she’s a great songwriter – even when she gets hung up on kissing in the rain or dancing in the living room or it being December. Some of her music gives me The Feels, and some of it makes me bop my head or shimmy my shoulders when I’m driving to work. Sometimes she hits a sour note or writes a line that is too cheesy and I feel empathy toward her. She is still a work in progress, but Taylor Swift is the Real Deal.
When my kid is singing a Taylor Swift song from the backseat I don’t have to worry about changing the station, unlike, say, Ed Sheeran, who teaches her that drinking gin and having one-night stands is totally cool. I don’t have to worry about her catching on to the fact that the Tove Lo song “Habits” says “I’ve gotta stay high” instead of “I’ve gotta say hi,” which is how Claire sings it.
But I digress.
If Taylor Swift makes you happy, if Taylor Swift makes your commute better, if Taylor Swift songs sometimes remind you of the poetry you wrote in high school in a good way, please, by all means, listen to Taylor Swift. You’re an adult. It’s your goddamn right to like Taylor Swift. If other people think it’s important to ridicule you for it, they’re not very nice people, and you should get new friends.
I’m 39 and I love Taylor Swift. My formerly cool-kid-validated taste in music is not negated by this fact. (Sorry, but it’s totally not.) I’ll stop listening to Taylor Swift when you pry her albums out of my cold, dead hands. I’m not going to apologize for it, and you shouldn’t, either.