I feel like when you hear the word “swiftie” or consider a Taylor Swift fan, I think that people still imagine a 12 year old girl, but us old Taylor fans have grown up not just with her music, but alongside her. She released her first album when she (and I) were both in high school. We graduated high school the same year, and the single 22 came out literally right before my twenty-second birthday. (Also, Taylor still uses Tumblr. Do you know any current day tweens who even know what Tumblr is?)
Taylor Swift is special to me because she has always encapsulated what is going on in my own life, literally with every single album.
I’ve spent today listening straight through the older albums that I don’t listen to as much anymore, and I severely underestimated the emotions that would come along. Like Taylor’s life, my life can be cut into Taylor Swift album generations, and somehow each album came along just in time to also be forever associated with the current boyfriend of the era.
The first time I listened to Taylor Swift, it was Tim McGraw (of course) and it was in the car outside of a mall in Dallas. The song came on the radio, my friend who was with me and my mom knew the song and loved it, and made us stay in the parking lot until the song was over. When we got home from that trip, I of course made my friend burn that CD for me (sorry Taylor, I’ve made up for it I swear) and the rest is history.
I don’t remember the first time I listened all the way through Fearless, but I do remember it being there for me on one of the most emotionally intense nights of my life (at 17), and I so clearly remember driving up and down Paseo and Tramway in Albuquerque while processing news that I’d gotten, screaming the lyrics with the windows rolled down, until finally my voice was giving out and I drove to my best friends house. I also used “Change” as our ‘bonding’ song when I was the assistant coach of our show-choir, and although that sounds like the cheesiest thing I’ve ever written, it was a year of high-highs and low-lows, and the night that I introduced the group to that song as our anthem going into the biggest competition of the year was special. I cried real tears when that song came on in my car earlier today. Fearless is maybe my favorite album of all time and holds a special place in my heart.
Speak Now is my least favorite album overall, but that doesn’t mean I still have attachments to individual songs. Even though I rarely return to this album, I was surprised with the early college memories that popped into my head with this album today. Memories of late, LATE nights, moving friends into shitty apartments, walking across campus, imagining the romance and heartbreak of this album in tracks like Enchanted and Last Kiss – and Mine is a song I’ve carried with me into my current life and listening to it today made me wildly happy that… how is that my life now?
Red is tied with Fearless for my overall top album, and State of Grace, Holy Ground, Everything Has Changed, and Begin Again are some of my all time favorite songs. I remember the first time I listened to this album was on the city bus on my way to campus (I was in college at UNM a long time guys – two albums worth). I remember feeling like a fraud of a fan that I went to class on time instead of finishing the album in one listen (bad timing on my part) – but again, this album was a massive jump in maturity for Taylor too, and somehow looking back it makes sense that this was the time I started to grow up too.
PHEW 1989. Who doesn’t have an experience with 1989? I had finally moved to California when this came out, and I wanted the Target deluxe edition (obviously) AND it came out on a day where I was closing at work (retail life) and so I woke up early, went to Target right at opening, and drove up and down the San Diego coast line in my totally breaking down old college car (actually the same car from the Fearless story earlier) listening to it in full totally freaking out that my car was going to breakdown somewhere and I was going to be late for work. (I wasn’t.)
I remember hearing Welcome to New York as the first track and feeling the exact same way about finally moving outside of NM and into a city I loved so much like she did, and again, had this moment of understanding. I ALSO felt like finally the world was getting to know what I’d loved about Taylor for so long too with this album! The immense cultural success meant I got to listen to it everywhere I went.
(side note – I’ve never gone to a concert. Sometimes I feel like it makes me less of a fan, but part of it is that they’ve just never really worked out time wise but I think I have a little ‘never meet your heroes’ fear over it too – that being said, I AM going to the Lover tour.)
1989 was a time when we were still very much making ends meet, just starting out on our own, and so when she came to town we didn’t go to the concert, but it was at Petco Park (a baseball stadium) and so my wonderful friends came with me to sit down across the street on the curb where you can hear the entire concert. While the sound was super distorted and you couldn’t make out what she was saying in between songs, I still loved that moment.
Reputation I was determined to not make the same mistake I did with Red and not finish it in one sitting, plus this was the one time where I did feel like everything in my life was settling down, I was getting married, had a serious job, grad school, and Taylor’s life was turned upside down. I waited weeks to listen to the album from start to finish (WILD), but finally my sister and I listened to it together driving to Disneyland (where else).
Something that is true of all of Taylor’s albums as she’s grown up but that comes to mind specifically when I think of Reputation is how she has always managed to talk about sex in a way that isn’t explicit or in a way that is shy and hidden. It’s just an intense part of her relationships and her life and she just talks about it as it happens, and as it relates to her lovers. It is tangled up in her songs pretty seamlessly and as someone who grew up with her, it always meant a lot to me that she knew how to be a strong role model without pretending that sex wasn’t a part of the picture.
And then she started releasing tracks for Lover. It was by sheer luck that we were in Nashville for my friend’s 30th birthday THE WEEKEND that Taylor unveiled her ME! wall, so of course us and our basic white asses marched ourselves there to stand in line and take pics (thanks to Meredith and Becka for waiting in line like great sisters even though they had no interest!)
While I’m obsessed with Me and You Need to Calm Down, Archer and Lover both are being soaked up by my heart in a way that most other music isn’t. Her growth in her lyrics and in the way she still shares herself so openly continues to move and inspire me to share more of myself with my close ones and with the world. (hey world). Lover specifically is a track that I know I’ll keep close forever. I can’t wait to see what else she has hidden for us.
Lastly- I’m the last 2 years Taylor has also come to know publicly that being quiet about your beliefs and your politics is no longer acceptable, and her getting vocal with her politicians had a massive impact in the last year. A queen that continues to inspire. Suing for A DOLLAR over sexual harassment to make your point? Iconic.
And so as my intense teenage emotion has grown and matured, so has hers, and I’m so glad I live in a world where I get to share navigating life with Taylor Swift, through my headphones. Old Swifties still on Tumblr unite – I’m here with you for this glitter, pastel filled DREAM BOAT we are about to hop on. ❤