tress-fess (via isabelthespy):
Speak Now is such an interesting album to me because a lot of the narrators are, like, straight-up terrible and ~crazy~ girls, just blatantly and in a way that can be nothing but intentional, and, like, conceptually, thinking about Taylor Swift the writer, Taylor Swift the Real Girl, and Taylor Swift the White Dress Surprise Face Public Figure we or she or someone has her turned into, thinking about those together, I don’t know, it just makes this album and its irrefutably girly nastiness so fascinating to me. The stalker ex in “Speak Now” who ruins a wedding (the whole song is chirpier than Taylor’s usual voice, grating if you’re not too busy being charmed to death by the lash-fluttering wickedness. she’s shocked she was uninvited? she’s mocking the dress and She Gets The Guy!? What? but, also, yes yes yes!!!) and the petty girl-hate of “Better Than Revenge” are the big examples but a kind of gum-smacking audaciousness permeates the whole album (in the best way)) and yet, they all really, really work? They’re really great? I really like “Better Than Revenge” and like, you can probably fuck off about slut-shaming, maybe, because vintage dresses really don’t give you dignity, you know, that’s not a lie. (I am kidding about “fuck off about slut-shaming,” but not about loving that song and not wanting to hear about why I should not.) I’m not sure what my point here was, other than that I like and appreciate all of those songs, and not in spite of the terribleness Taylor has chosen to endow the various girls of her creation with, but because of it.
I like this a lot, both because Heinous Bitch Taylor Is One Of My Favorite Taylors but mostly because people so rarely acknowledge that Taylor is an author who makes deliberate creative choices and makes works that, in the way all works do, get born into the world and become independent entities separate from the woman who created them. And it’s absurd that people don’t recognize this because Taylor has always identified from the very youthful beginning of her career as a songwriter and specifically a country songwriter, that is, someone who tells stylized stories to communicate emotional experiences that aren’t exclusively personal: so, in the tradition of the grand Nashville machine, but also, like, Hayes/Porter and Holland/Dozier/Holland and Rogers and Hammerstein and Leonard Bernstein et. al. But people — both fans and, even more so, detractors — want to treat Taylor as someone who can do nothing but spew helplessly her personal life into the public sphere: not a creator but a conduit.
Or, qua Erika:
[M]en are allowed authorship in a way women aren’t, the choices men make when they write are treated as choices, but the choices women make when they write are so often treated as flaws. Or just the only thing they are able to do. How often does anyone ever think that when women write, it is a way for them to create a world that they control?
Taylor isn’t allowed to be a sophisticated storyteller the way male songwriters are; she’s not allowed in her music to blend the fictional and the real or to create worlds that can simultaneously exist and not-exist; we react to her music by insisting that everything she says is only her blank reflection of real life. (Rappers are treated this way as well, and to some extent so too are other African American artists, which is why people have such trouble understanding the interplay between performance and authenticity in hip-hop; see also Erin Aubry Kaplan and John McWhorter commenting on Arthur Spears.)
And this is why I’m extremely uninterested in discussions of Taylor’s dating life and how it manifests itself in her music; I see the obsession with it to be a denial of her creative agency as a songwriter. Like Ed said:
People get too caught up in who Taylor Swift sings about, and ignore what she sings about. For instance, “Dear John” is as much about teenage naïvety as it is about John Mayer, but good luck getting a thinkpiece green-lit about that.
And, I mean, I know Taylor encourages discussion of who-X-song-is-about through hints and demurrals, and whether that’s for her own commercial or personal reasons, I can’t dismiss entirely the purpose of this kind of exegesis. But confining criticism of her work to tabloid talmudics is terribly limiting.