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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Pop Decoded: Digging Deeper Into Music’s Most Misunderstood Genre: the Genius of Taylor Swift


I have always been enamored with writers who effortlessly capture the essence of the human experience through cleverly constructed metaphors and narrative storytelling. It was inevitable, of course, that by the time I was ten years old, I would discover and fall completely in love with Taylor Swift’s music.

Growing up in a low-income Cuban immigrant household, I faced many economic, health and emotional struggles. Listening to music became my therapeutic outlet. Swift’s music got me through the hardest times of my life because her songwriting made me feel so validated. Whether by complete coincidence or as a sign of the times, I felt Swift’s music mirrored my current headspace at the release of each album. 

Because I felt personally connected to the themes of Swift’s music, I always felt enraged when critics and the general public discredited Swift’s songwriting and musical talent, which is something that has happened to her throughout her career. The criticism that has been directed toward Swift has been riddled with sexism and the focus of backlash has been on her personal life rather than her storytelling skills. 

Throughout the 2010s, it felt like the DailyMail articles about Swift’s current and ex-boyfriends were never-ending, often consisting of misogynistic comments that slut-shamed her for playing the dating field. One such article from Popsugar quoted as recently as 2020,  “one of the benefits of being a massively successful pop star is that instead of having to agree to go on an awkward date with Ted from Accounting, you have a whole buffet of Hollywood’s hottest bachelors at your disposal. If anyone is a good example of this, it’s Taylor Swift.”

Swift’s perseverance in the face of this criticism has been admirable. At just 14 years old, Swift acquired a publishing deal with Sony. At that age, the average teen focuses on beating their high score on a video game or winning their next soccer tournament rather than writing songs for a major record label. When she was 20, Swift became the youngest person in Grammy history to win “Album of the Year” for her sophomore album “Fearless.” She quickly became a country superstar with hits like “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” dominating the Billboard charts.

Despite having co-written credits on every single track, critics doubted she actually penned her music. In an attempt to disprove her haters, Swift wrote her third album, “Speak Now,” entirely on her own — there is not a single other writer credited on that album.

The fifth track on the album, “Dear John,” cleverly explores the inner workings of a toxic and emotionally abusive relationship through the metaphor of the “Dear John” letter. Instead of focusing on the fact that a 19-year-old-girl penned the gut-wrenching lyrics: “Long were the nights when / My day once revolved around you / Counting my footsteps / Praying the floor won’t fall through again… / My mother accused me of losing my mind / But I swore I was fine,” the public decided to play detective and figure out which ex-boyfriend of Swift’s was the subject of the piece.

It wasn’t until Swift released her surprise indie-alternative album, “Folklore,” in July 2020 (and later sister-album, “Evermore,”  in December 2020) that Swift finally got the credit she deserved as a songwriter. Swift’s phenomenal storytelling abilities I fell in love with as a kid are at the forefront of the album. 

However, gaining recognition for her lyrical genius should not have required that Swift abandon the pop genre of her “1989,” “reputation” and “Lover” albums. Swift has been writing lyrical masterpieces like “my tears ricochet” and “champagne problems” since the beginning of her career. 

Swift proves pop music can be both danceable and have a powerful meaning behind it. After having her reputation almost completely destroyed by an edited phone call in 2016, Swift could have easily given up on music forever — which she stated she considered in her “Miss Americana” documentary — and abandoned her craft. But instead, Swift rose above the hatred, as she always does, and is now on track to win her third Grammy Award for album of the year. I am extremely grateful Swift persevered through the speculation and criticism and just kept on writing music. 

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  • P

    PaulJun 4, 2021 at 7:35 pm

    I’ve been playing rock guitar for 35 years. Any honest musician will happily admit that Taylor Swift is a musical genius, and a class performer. Whether playing to a small room, or a stadium of 75,000, her ability to mesmerise an audience is 2nd to none. I’ve only recently discovered her music, and it has blown me away with its quality and consistency. The 1989 album is a masterpiece. Anyone who doubts her talent knows nothing about music. I’m not sure the “slut shaming” you refer to is sexism, I don’t know many men who could care less how many boyfriends she has.. good on her, I say. It probably comes from (some) women, and a fascination with celebrity. Whatever, I love how Taylor uses the negative vibes for inspiration. People throw rocks at shiny things, and nobody shines brighter than Taylor.

  • A

    American Songs RingtonesFeb 16, 2021 at 12:50 am

    Great post about Taylor Swift.