I remember listening to and enjoying ‘Love Story’ on the radio. Back then, I didn’t know or care about Taylor Swift. There was this song on the radio I loved. Every time it came on, I would crank the radio up. There was something beautiful and nostalgic about the song. It reminded me of a classic Bollywood romance. A tale of star-crossed-lovers like ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’. Except this was in the United States, in English, and on the radio. This country ballad had tugged at the heartstrings and found a place in my heart.
Back then I didn’t know if the artist was a feminist or not. I didn’t know if she was a Democrat or a Republican. I didn’t know if her values were progressive or conservative. And I didn’t care either. It didn’t matter at all. It was all about the music. The song made me happy. I enjoyed listening to it. Everything else was irrelevant. So much so, that I, an avowed hater of country music admitted to enjoying a country ballad.
It was much later that I discovered that the artist I enjoyed so much was Taylor Swift. Yeah, I am not quick or sharp. Over the years I enjoyed several Taylor Swift songs. Somewhere down the line, the love for the music translated into a love for the artist. After all, the music and the artist are both intertwined. I followed her evolution from country to country pop to pure pop to whatever genre ‘Reputation’ is.
Here we are today. Taylor Swift is the most polarizing musicians of modern times. It is evident that she is no longer the innocent teenager who looked defeated and bewildered when Kanye West interrupted her on stage. But is she really this evil snake that people make her out to be?
On one hand, Taylor Swift is an evil and conniving manipulator who has hissed, clawed and stung her way to the top. On the other hand, Taylor Swift is an exceptionally talented musician who sells records even during a music industry downturn. On one hand, Taylor Swift is an Aryan Goddess anointed by Neo-Nazis and the alt-right. On the other hand, Taylor Swift is in a secret relationship with Karlie Kloss.
In a nation divided along hard political lines, Taylor Swift appears as the only bridge across that divide. If we had a Venn Diagram of all the various groups and factions at loggerheads in the United States – Taylor Swift would be at the intersection. That is the importance of being Taylor Swift.
Now Taylor Swift is not without genuine problems. However, refusing to be transparent about her politics is not one of them. To be politically vocal or silent is a personal choice that must be respected. Unfortunately, Taylor Swift is not being afforded that choice. In being silent about her political leanings, Taylor Swift is showing a high level of regard for her fans. This is a fact that is barely appreciated.
We all want the people we like to align with our worldviews and values. Sometimes we realign ourselves to fit those we love. Sometimes we make those we love to realign themselves to fit with us. In staying silent, Taylor Swift is protecting herself and her fans from the obligation of realignment.
I am a progressive liberal. There is that part of me that aches for Taylor Swift to proclaim herself a progressive liberal. I know that my image of her will be tainted if she were a conservative. Country music is traditionally affiliated with conservatives. I know that some or all of Taylor Swift’s beliefs will not align with mine. However, politics should not prevent music from bringing joy to people. Politics shouldn’t take away that feeling I had when I listened to ‘Love Story’ for the first time. So I am grateful to Taylor Swift for not making her politics public.
There are probably conservatives who ache for Taylor Swift to proclaim herself as a conservative. They are afraid of her being a progressive liberal. They know that the entertainment industry is known to be progressive. Pop music and Taylor Swift’s new home Manhattan are at the liberal end of the spectrum. So there are probably thousands of fans who are grateful to Taylor Swift for staying true to her roots.
And in being silent about her politics Taylor Swift has accomplished something very few celebrities can accomplish – being the bridge between two worlds. She has created a middle world where hundreds of thousands of people gather to enjoy her music. While this world is tainted with petty celebrity squabbles it is devoid of the political toxicity.
Music is a powerful tool that can heal and bring people together. As long as Taylor Swift remains politically silent, she wields powerful influence over America through music. Music is what can endear a country ballad singer to liberal America. Music is what can teach conservative America that you can and should have a diverse squad of friends. And while her notion of feminism is still problematic, it opens the idea of feminism to people who believe feminism is a dirty f-word. ‘Reputation’ is also the most sex-positive album from Taylor Swift. The small town country girl who once sang only about fairytale love songs has grown up. So has the fandom with her.
Let us not forget that Taylor Swift is also an infinitely talented musician. She is a singer, songwriter, and an astute business person/publicist. Her music has evolved over the years. It takes incredible talent to go through so such transformations. People may criticize her for writing about her exes. But art is often about personal experiences and lessons learned from it. I cannot help but feel that some criticism of Taylor Swift is rooted in the fact that she is a powerful woman.
There is that problem where the alt-right has adopted her as the blue-eyed blond queen of the superior race. If so the #Kaylor rumors are true. Not to be flippant or callous, but if the alt-right does have a secret plan to install Taylor as a Goddess and have everyone bow before her – that is a future I can live with. It is a far more blissful alternative than President Cheetos hate-filled agenda.