I was super late to the Taylor Swift party. I have vague memories of hearing "Love Story" in college, but I couldn't have told you who it was taking such poetic license with Shakespeare. It wasn't until 2013 that a (Swift superfan) coworker introduced me to Red, and I spent the entire summer listening to "Trouble" on repeat. In 2014, I switched to "Shake it Off," and like the rest of the country wondered which of Swift's exes might be her "Starbucks Lover." But today, it seems like all Swifties must take a side — to keep "You Belong To Me" on their workout playlist, or play a now ironic "Mean" before moving the collective works of Swift into the garbage.
This summer has already been full of Swift drama. There's the tension between her and her ex, Calvin Harris, over song credits and the release of tracks and all kinds of subtweeting. There's the oddly hypnotizing relationship that may or may not be a publicity stunt/ I'm Still Here-esque performance art. And now, there's Kim Kardashian's SnapChat featuring a recording of Taylor Swift agreeing to lyrics referencing her in Kanye's "Famous." And Swift writing in a post on Instagram that she never agreed to be called "that bitch," accusing Kardashian of "character assassination." Is Swift lying? Or is she the victim? I'll be over here listening to "Our Song" while the internet figures it out.
As celebrity gossip and the public's access to damning details expands at an alarming rate, fans are going to have to start making choices about when a celeb's actions become too terrible to warrant enjoying his or her art. I've crossed several directors, actors, and musicians off my watch list because I don't want to support abusers. But I think many Swifties' rush to smash their Fearless CDs might stem from more than a deep moral objection to potential liars.
I never kept track of which exes supposedly inspired which songs because, to me, her songs have always acted as emotional blank slates.
Part of the appeal of Swift is the BFF fantasy — when you're dancing in your room to "22," scrolling through her Instagram, you can imagine you're a member of her squad, wearing a perfectly coordinated bikini, lounging by the pool in the soft glow of female friendship. And while it might not matter if your favorite singer is dishonest, it's definitely important to have a trustworthy bestie.
Before the latest wave of Swift drama, the biggest problem with her rep was her long list of ex-boyfriends. Critics accused Swift of strategically forming this ever-growing list, as if she needed former boyfriends in order to create her songs. Was she using these guys for her creative gain? I never kept track of which exes supposedly inspired which songs, because to me, her songs have always acted as emotional blank slates. They're perfect in their universality — so many of us could picture that significant other (or friend's ex) who kept coming back again and again. So many of us have dated (or crushed on) people we knew would be terrible for us. Swift's musical library isn't just a chronicle of her love life; it becomes a chronicle of the listener's broken heart.
Maybe Swift lied, maliciously and with forethought. Maybe she and Kanye and Kim are actually great friends pulling a prank on the American public. If I was considering her to be my elected official, getting to the bottom of that would be important to me. But as someone who just wants to enjoy "Blank Space," I'm okay with this less-than-perfect picture of Swift.