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I just don't get Taylor Swift



It’s freeing to just … not care about something, isn’t it? When friends start to wax poetic about the Eras Tour or their favourite Taylor Swift song, I listen politely as if they were talking about professional darts or French cinema, and a feeling of peace washes over me.

I do not need to love things, I think to myself. I do not need to hate them, either. I can simply watch them pass by like a leaf borne along a river’s current and say, “Well, that certainly is a thing!”

Granted, it is a lot harder when that thing is, by all indications, specifically made for you to enjoy.

While Taylor Swift can appeal to anyone, there is real data showing what a single peek at an Eras Tour crowd or a simple walk outside can tell you: Swifties are most likely to be White suburban millennial women like me. Minds much more qualified than mine have written about the tension between Swift’s position as a “voice of a generation” and how much that voice is or isn’t speaking for listeners of colour. That’s a different conversation worth having, but it’s not the one I’m getting at here.

Taylor Swift performs as part of the 'Eras Tour' at the Tokyo Dome, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, in Tokyo. (Toru Hanai / AP Photo)

What makes me itchy is the constant framing of Taylor Swift’s music among my peers (or at least my census-designated demographic) as an unassailable communion of girl-and-womanhood: A favourable review of “The Tortured Poets Department” in The Spectator calls Swift “the tortured voice of millennials.” On a recent episode of BBC NewsNight, author Kat McKenna said the “uniqueness of Taylor Swift is that she speaks for an audience that is not always spoken for.”

While I don’t begrudge people that kind of connection, there’s only so many times you can hear lyrics from “Cardigan” or “Cruel Summer” invoked like prayers before you start to feel like there’s something wrong with you.

You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath.

You showed me colours you know I can’t see with anyone else.

Great lines! Beautiful lines. To many fans, such stanzas are life-affirming poetry or, at the very least, quotable enough to adorn shirts and throw pillows and Stanley cups as crystallizations of their own identity.

But are they truly so unique? I have never gotten something out of a Taylor Swift song about love, loss, heartbreak, revenge, shame or self-actualization that I couldn’t have gotten from dozens of other artists. It honestly feels like I missed a day in White woman class when they explained, in detail, all of the ley lines of feminine kinship that are supposed to connect our paths with hers.

Again, I respect the Taylor Swift lovers. I have seen, firsthand, thousands of women at the starting gate of a novelty 10k race belting out “You Belong With Me” at the top of their lungs at 4:15 a.m. From inside the cocoon of my noise-cancelling headphones it looked joyous and fun, and who in the world would find fault with that?

Maybe that’s why the whole Not-Caring-About-Taylor-Swift thing stings. It does feel like I’m missing out on something. It does feel like the cogs of my life, and maybe even my identity, would be slightly more lubricated if I could eke out a single independent thought about Taylor Swift that wasn’t “She seems like a suitable role model!” or “I really admire her commitment to good bangs!”

(If you think this apathy comes from a place of snobbery, ha, you are wrong! I do not have good taste in music. My most listened-to Spotify tracks are Spanish gospel hymns and stuff with names like “soothing 438 mHz tone therapy for very delicate people.”)

Taylor Swift performs at the opening night of the global Eras Tour on March 17, 2023, in Arizona. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

Until recently, admitting to not enjoying Taylor Swift’s music was a bizarrely political statement. Said in the wrong circles, even such a mild admission could get you branded a hater, a misogynist, a contrarian bore or one of those adult women who still plays the “I’m not like other girls” card.

That’s not an overstatement. The Cut recently published a piece by a woman who ended a relationship with a friend who didn’t like Taylor Swift. More alarmingly, Paste Magazine elected not to byline its critical review of “Poets” because, according to an editor’s note the publication posted on X, a review of her 2019 album “Lover” resulted in the writer receiving “threats of violence from readers who disagreed with the work.” While these are extremes, there is always some anxiety in admitting you don’t care about something you seem expected to care deeply about.

However, the days of Taylor Swift as an ultimate cultural barometer may be waning. While Swift fans were thrilled with the release of her new double-length album (again, good for them!), critical reception was more mixed. Following the feverish media whirlwind of “The Eras Tour” and her impact on the NFL season as she supported her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs player Travis Kelce, people seem ready to talk about Swift in tones more tempered than slavering ardor or hardened, pointless hatred.

If you don’t love Taylor Swift, if you don’t hate her; if she is simply not something that affects your life whatsoever, it’s probably safe to come out now. Go, take your apathy, and be free.

AJ Willingham is a Senior Writer for CNN Digital in Atlanta. She covers internet subcultures, religion, positive news and various obsessions. Top Stories

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