Oct 23, 2020 | OPINION | By Emma Logan | Illustration by Xixi Qin
On July 24, 2020, Taylor Swift shocked the world by announcing the release of her eighth studio album, “Folklore.” This album achieved multitudes for Swift. She became the first artist in history to debut both an album and single at #1 within the same week, achieved the biggest debut sales week of 2020, released her sixth #1 ranking single, and stirred talk of Grammy consideration for later this year. Many critics claim the album stands as an example of her ability to write within different genres and appeal to a new alternative audience.
However, “Folklore’s” largest accomplishment was that it made liking Taylor Swift OK again.
I grew up a proud “Swiftie.” My mom drove me to Target to buy the “Speak Now”CD in 2010. I stayed up all night for the release of the “Out of The Woods” music video. This is not a unique story for young girls in our generation. My love for Taylor felt communal as her music blasted on school buses and at birthday parties.
However, in 2016, my freshman year of high school, Taylor Swift’s popularity seemed to hang in the balance. After various online disputes with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, she seemed to fall out of favor in the mainstream media. Her ability to control her image in the media was now manipulative. Her songwriting was basic. Her boyfriends were pawns.
Suddenly, all my friends who memorized her lyrics by heart alongside me turned their backs on our childhood idol and thought themselves unique for buying into all the hate.
As a young girl who leaned on Swift during some of my most formative experiences, seeing her torn down was crushing and alienating. I was painfully aware that liking someone so unpopular would translate poorly for my social life.
#TaylorSwiftisOverParty was trending worldwide.
In spite of all this backlash, Swift continued to kill it. She contributed a powerful voice to the #MeToo movement, suing her sexual harasser for a symbolic $1, making a public stand against victim blaming, and paying legal fees for Kesha as she took an abusive music producer to court. She also deliberately staffs her team with a diverse group of people, reflecting the varied makeup of her fanbase.
In the last five years, Swift has slowly become more public about her political beliefs. She now openly supports Democratic candidates and policies like the Change Act, which seeks to fund and treat Alzheimer’s. She is a powerful advocate for the rights of artists all over the world, as seen in her Apple Music letter and continuous battle with Big Machine Records. I am proud of her.
With time, spurred on by Swift, I grew into a more confident young woman and wore my continued love for Taylor with pride. I cried tears of joy when she released “Reputation” and I put “Lover” on a mixtape for my first real boyfriend. I openly talked about my admiration for Swift in school and learned to not shudder when others referred to me as “The Taylor Swift Girl.”
Although the explicit negativity placed upon her brand during 2016 has slowly faded, I continue to consider my opinion on the subject as an outlier. Or at least I did until “Folklore.”
Following the release of “Folklore,” Swift suddenly became “indie,” and therefore newly discoverable. The beauty and relatability of her newest work surprised those that disregarded her years before and seemed to offer bandwagoning fans a chance to prove their “quirkiness” by accepting her again. This was shocking to me, as someone who previously experienced massive backlash for the exact same thing. Although a part of me is slightly resentful that the personal resilience and passion for Swift before is no longer needed, I am not trying to gate-keep Taylor Swift. I love that more people are supporting her and benefiting from having her beautiful music in their lives.
However, know that “Folklore” does not render Taylor Swift suddenly worthy of your time. It means you are finally open to hers.
But maybe we all just need to calm down.