Taylor Swift Can’t Be the Voice (or Even a Voice) of a Generation

She was everywhere, and then she was everywhere. I cannot get away from Taylor Swift. And while I’ve never particularly liked her (mainly because I think she’s a middling (at best) singer and a feeble songwriter), lately my ire’s been growing, and I’ve gone from mid-level annoyance to pre-wrath. She’s just so”¦drippy. And that’s all fine and good for a cheesy pop singer who’s treated as a cheesy pop singer, but when a cheesy pop singer begins to take over the world, it stops being fine and good.

I’ve tried grass roots complaining, starting with what I’d hoped would be sympathetic ears from other adults. But whenever I attempt to bitch about how limited Tay-Tay’s vocal range is or how trite her songs are, I’m always stunned to find she has a hidden army of adult supporters. People frickin’ LOVE Taylor Swift.

Okay, okay, fine still. You can like crappy music without inviting any bad feelings from me. I like a lot (a LOT) of crappy music. But it is NOT fine, when you try to tell me that you like Taylor Swift, not because you’re inexplicably drawn to her particular brand of crap music, but because you think she’s good for the kids. Because you think she’s a role model who has something to say. Because you think she’s a voice of her generation.

No, no, no, no, no, no. Not okay.

Taylor Swift CANNOT be the voice of her generation, and there are three basic reasons why:

1. Taylor shares very few experiences with the generation she’s purported to represent. She didn’t go to high school, for example. From about age fifteen on, so that she could tour, Taylor did a hybrid of homeschooling, online schooling, and working with tutors. She completed a “diploma” sometime in her 19th year of life. You may recall that Tay couldn’t go to her real prom, so she had BMI and Sony throw one for her, where she was crowned prom queen, natch.

Now, I’m not saying you’ve got to have a prom story (preferably a terrible one, where your date chews snus and accidentally dribbles on your dyed satin prom shoes, or something) to have had a legit adolescence, but the fact that Taylor was already famous enough by the time of this particular rite of passage to skip out and stage an artificial alternative, says something about how removed she is from the experience of most people her age.

After high school, many kids will go on to college or trade school, start working in their first “real” jobs, or maybe join the military. Heck, they might be working for the City, man (all Dazed and Confused like). But they won’t be doing anything that would be familiar to Taylor Swift. Despite growing up extremely privileged, and having amassed her own fortune, Taylor didn’t go to college; nope, she either decided it wasn’t important for her to get additional education, or she decided unleashing more garbage music on society was a better way to get educated.

And Taylor has most everything she could want (materially, at least). That alone sort of prevents her from representing a group of people who are known for their brokeness. Most people her age are living off student loans and/or trying to scrounge up rent/pho/beer money from under the futon.

From school to choir trips to softball games to first roommates to class lectures to financial struggles to hanging out with a gaggle of your own broke-ass peers, Taylor seems to have missed every aspect of teen angst, besides learning that crushes are hard.

Which brings me to the second reason Taylor doesn’t represent people her age”¦

2. She’s stunted. Despite some extraordinary life experiences Taylor seems to be far less mature than her peers. {Which might be one of the reasons she dated a 17-year-old boy when she was 22 (ew). And yes, I would definitely think it just as gross if it were a 22-year-old man dating a 17-year-old girl.}

Her song “22”, her big attempt to really relate to people her age, does not at all ring true. I’m well past 22 but when Taylor sings, “It feels like a perfect night to dress up like hipsters,” I can clearly remember that at 22 you’re supposed to be a hipster, not just dress like one. And the rest of the song, “It’s miserable and magical, oh yeah, tonight’s the night when we forget about the deadlines, it’s time, uh uh,” feels like the sentiments of a person who read about young adulthood on the internet. Though “22” does get one minimal prop from me: even though it does mention breakups with boys, it features this theme a little less prominently than EVERY OTHER TAYLOR SWIFT SONG EVER WRITTEN, so I’m giving it two points for that.

I thought about boys and breakups at 22, but I was also a first year law student, so I thought about other stuff too, like prior restraint, and the reasonable person standard, and getting a ride to the bar, and oh, shit, what if no one ever hires me?! If Taylor’s music is any indication (and we write what we know, right?), she appears to think about: a) boys; b) breaking up with boys; c) how mean boys can be; and d) pillow fights. And despite what Glamour magazine would have us believe, I think this magazine’s readership knows that young women think about a lot more than dating and being cute.

But Taylor’s been so far removed from everything that leads to most young adults’ development, that where she is at 22, seems like where most kids are at 16. And it just feels sad. Every time she sings about another boy (or man, Jake Gyllenhaal, what were you thinking?!) who broke her heart after they twice went out for coffee, I cringe a little. Liking boys, and wanting them to like her, and feeling sad when they don’t like her, seems to be the single defining experience for Taylor Swift. And that bums me out.

Which, of course, brings me to the third reason Taylor can’t be the voice of a generation.

3. She has nothing to say. Countless artists got started young, and great things came from the type of disenfranchisement that youth can bring to music, but Taylor just blathers on about Tim McGraw, and gives a super hokey interpretation of Romeo & Juliet, and laments how she got roses but let them die (oooh, deep).

Her lyrical choices appear to be based entirely on what rhymes (or almost rhymes); content-wise I feel like she’s going out of her way to not have a thought or opinion about anything that might matter.

They’re like songs made up of excerpts from a 7th grader’s diary.

There’s a lack of self-awareness in Taylor Swift’s music and persona that rub me so much the wrong way. It’s just so disappointing. She explains with pride in interviews how much she doesn’t care what critics think. And that can be good, I’d hate for her to be solely defined by outside forces, but paying attention to how others perceive what you put out in the world is important. We coexist with each other, so what others think is (or at least can be) important. A willful avoidance of that indicates a high level of self-absorption.

And on top of my prior beefs about Taylor’s focus (in music, if not in life) being almost entirely based on liking/chasing/pining after boys, she’s completely beholden to empty trends. The song that’s most frequently assaulting my ear holes these days is “I Knew You Were Trouble.” In addition to the trite lyrics and breathy no-range singing, she appears to be experimenting with dubstep (?) for no apparent reason whatsoever. Somebody explain this choice to me.

And I weep (okay, a bit of overdrama there) that this minimally talented (and I think I’m being generous when I say that) young person has stumbled onto this platform and is doing nothing with it.

Taylor’s probably a really sweet kid. She appears to do a good job of being nice to her fans. But being absolutely everywhere does give her the opportunity to do something more than just be nice. And at 23, I don’t want Taylor to be a really sweet kid, I want her to be a woman of substance. Which is why I haven’t pulled any punches here. By 23 I wasn’t getting a sugar coated message anymore and young, precious Taylor shouldn’t be getting (or giving) one either.

So here’s my message, sans sugar: Say something, girl! Just. Say. SOMETHING.

5 thoughts on “Taylor Swift Can’t Be the Voice (or Even a Voice) of a Generation”

  1. I like the music video for “You Belong With Me”, especially the underhanded message of, “I’m in marching band, I’m generally a tomboy, and I would much rather read in my room than go out to a crazy party, and that’s cool,” to which both my high school self and current self completely relate.

  2. I actually do like Taylor Swift’s music, but I see the points raised above. I, personally, think that everything that people make complaints about comes back to the second point. She is emotionally stunted. Had I not gone to college and become a celebrity, I, too, would probably still be worrying about dudes and breakups and what not. I also have to wonder if her music label keeps her pumping out the same kind of music because they know that is what sells.

  3. I have absolutely no clue if she has a Dutch fanbase, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song by her here, on the telly or radio. Maybe it’s because MTV doesn’t show music anymore. Anyway, she’s so incredibly beige to me. She should start singing Carly Rae Jepsen’s songs (she’s 27) and Jepsen can move on to “grown up” pop. Everybody wins.

  4. Traditionally, I have remained neutral on Swift because I’m one of those people who listens to classic rock or progressive news radio only. Finally a little while ago I youtubed her to see what the fuss was about. I learned that I knew most of her songs bc pop music is in the background everywhere. Turns out she sings every song that makes me roll my eyes. Please never let anyone that old who sings songs that juvenile ever be the voice of a generation.

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