A few years ago, I resigned myself to liking Taylor Swift
. I was an early twenty-something girl from Oregon, and I had a lot of feelings. When T. Swift came on the radio, and none of my too-cool friends were riding shotgun, I turned the volume up noticeably. I won't try to justify it any other way than simply saying: she was, to me, the young pop star at the time with the most integrity. Besides her sham-surprise at winning or being interrupted at awards shows, she was the least annoying of the tween artists of the early 2010s. She wrote and performed her own music, much of which was about being an independent young woman with naive, but honest, ideas about friendship and love. I liked and identified with her.
This was circa 2012-2014, when a younger (then) pop star by the name of Miley Cyrus
was wreaking absolute havoc on the cutesy-but-precocious image Disney had so carefully crafted for her. She grinded on Robin Thicke at the VMAs, talked incessantly about how much she loved drugs, and just generally looked like she wasn't showering a lot. I don't think I saw single picture of her without her tongue sticking out for a solid two years. I didn't take issue with her pushing the image of Miley Cyrus as a sexually and professionally liberated rebel--I thought it was annoying that she was so obviously doing it for attention, rather than for her own empowerment.
In 2013 and 2014, both Cyrus and Swift, respectively, dropped chart-topping albums. In 2015, Cyrus dropped a second, less successful album (Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz
, God help us) before going quiet for a bit. Then, this August, both Cyrus and Swift reappeared, both releasing singles that will be followed this fall by full-length albums.
Cyrus' single "Younger Now", is actually good. And she can sing. Don't forget that this girl's godmother is Dolly Parton, with whom she once did a killer rendition of "Jolene." She was raised by and around legendary musicians, so she knows some stuff.
She's still Miley Cyrus, and I forgive her for injecting her weird outfits and whatever crazy music video antics she gets up to into this upcoming album. She's making songs about her realizing mistakes and trying to fix them. She's writing about being a three-dimensional person. That deserves some praise.
Meanwhile, Swift has released "Look What You Made Me Do", a song about being an asshole. Seriously, she used to write songs about how being a bad person meant you were going to end up nowhere--and now she's giving us this? Melodically, the song is whatever--it's fine. But this re-branding Taylor Swift is trying to do doesn't make sense. For years, Swift made songs about taking the high road. Some supposed celebrity beefs don't mean you swap personalities with Cersei Lannister.
I hope Swift changes directions for the rest of this album. I hope she makes songs that showcase her clever songwriting, her awareness of real-people problems, and her pop chart-topping prowess, without succumbing to press-pleasing and pot-stirring nonsense. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I hope she starts thinking and acting like Miley Cyrus... Is Swift just Cyrus during her Dead Petz
phase? Will she revert back to the beginning - country music - in two years after the release of Reputation?