Taylor Swift has told her relationships through music. The album-by-album story that unfolded covers young love, first betrayals, fantasy fairy tale love, toxic breakups, true love, friendship, aging, deep heartache and many other related topics. The albums are each uniquely characterized by the tone they carry and each covers a different chapter in the singer’s life.
Taylor Swift began her rise to fame by opening a gig for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw in 2006. Many people currently in college or recent graduates grew up around Swift’s rise to stardom. With several peaks and high CD sales early in her career, the young singer was played on the radio and featured as one of the top CD picks in many grocery stores. It was hard to miss the influence she had on the youthful years of our generation.
I was younger on the spectrum during the artist’s initial popularity and many albums came out a few years before I discovered the full meaning of many songs. Still, my friends and I collected new CDs and sang Taylor Swift songs whenever we had the chance.
The stories of my first crushes were told to the tunes of “You Belong with Me”, “Tim McGraw” and “Love Story”. These songs center around young love, a fantasy of imagining a fairy tale future love, the pain of losing a crush and feeling invisible to those you have feelings for.
These early albums are full of romanticized dreams or deeply felt pain. The highs and lows of young love were well articulated. For many, Swift’s lyrics contain what was and still is an extremely relatable narrative.
Swift’s strong popularity in my age group is a reflection of the fact that the way she experienced relationships is true for us. Looking towards younger audiences, the following is dwindling with a large portion of fans in their twenties. Ever since we were old enough to begin to imagine love and partnership, we have done so through the lenses of our environment. Movies, TV shows, and music had a big hold.
Many of us were just before the age of the iPhone and played CDs on a loop or had a few favorites picked out on an MP3 player. Our environment was dominated by a few popular mainstream artists rather than the broad access to songs that exists today. It has changed the way we view our relationships and the ups and downs that come with them.
As we entered the later years, we headed more into high school with first kisses, boys with cars and learning some first truths about the downsides of love, so did Swift, as evidenced by the songs that were published.
“Fifteen”, “Picture to Burn” and “You’re Not Sorry” typified several early heartbreaks for my friends and me. The lyrics often reflected experiences rather than just the general feeling of pain. As a generation defined by our parents’ high divorce rate, many knew that love was no rosy fantasy. By giving words to the feelings of being invisible, used and angry, Swift gave a melody to our truth.
By the time we were going on dates and having serious boyfriends, the albums Speak Now and Red were out. The Red album taught us that the bad boy’s treacherous love, while hard to ignore, leads down dangerous roads. It showed us that love burns strong and pain is often part but not the end.
“Begin Again” was a story of learning to love after heartbreak and “State of Grace” highlights the feeling of the perfect moments before and the downsides. The darker tones of Speak Now evoked enchanted love and harsh but necessary farewells. With “Mine” the tale of finding someone who loves you through the hard parts and “Last Kiss” bringing words to those who know love alone is not enough.
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is a breakup song that made almost every breakup playlist I’ve ever heard. “I Knew You Were Trouble”, “Back to December”, “Better Than Revenge”, “Last Kiss” and “Treacherous” also topped the list. These each tell a different aspect of a breakup. From knowing you should never have dated the guy, to cheaters, to being the one to leave someone, the detailed description is part of each person’s journey through love.
The diversity of experiences in music makes Swift’s songs universally influential. During the recent re-release, it became widely known that “All Too Well” had been the soundtrack to many heartbroken souls. Swift spoke her truth in her music and in many ways she gave so many ways to express her emotions and process her feelings.
The latest albums tell a story that takes a moment away from love and describes a time of self-discovery, hurt and life changes. There was a time when each of his albums played a part in my life.
Growing up, Swift had an album for every aspect of a journey through love. From the onset of young love and the innocence of early crushes, to the toxic heartache that forces us to find ourselves, his songs have found their way onto the soundtrack.
From my high school friends and those I’ve met over the past three years, to the Twitter masses and strangers around the world, Taylor Swift is the only commonality I’ve ever seen.
Even though she’s not your favorite artist, you know her, you’ve heard her songs and at some point they were the soundtrack to a point in your journey with love. The way she pours her own experiences into the music brings out a relatable story that gives voice to the many feelings associated with love and its loss.