ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Taylor Swift doesn’t give a damn about her “Reputation”


By Kamrin Baker

Photo by Jessica Wade/Design by Madeline Miller

Taylor Swift and I have a history.

The first time I heard her music, I was actually planning on purchasing a Carrie Underwood album (with my mom’s money, because, come on, I was in third grade), and they were playing “Stay Beautiful” in Wal-Mart. Her self-titled album slipped into our shopping cart, amongst the essentials of toilet paper and a gallon of skim milk. I ushered mom out of the store, frustrated that she was looking at expiration dates and prices. As soon as I knew it, I broke my nail ripping the seal from the CD in the family mini van and after “Tim McGraw,” I was in love.

In seventh grade, my mom called me out of school to let me buy “Speak Now” at the store. It was the same week I had gotten my first period. How did Taylor Swift know everything about being a woman?

In eighth grade, I was in my last year of Catholic religious education and had to choose a confirmation name. I chose Alice because it reminded me of Allison, Taylor Swift’s middle name.

In ninth grade, I met Taylor Swift. My friend Olivia and I stood in line backstage at the CenturyLink Center, and in a quick spit of 30 seconds and a formal picture, I got a hug from Taylor Swift. I told her that I had been working on writing a novel and that I dedicated it to her.

Photo courtesy of Kamrin Baker

Now I’m in college, I’ve never published a book, Olivia is married, and I don’t know if I’m even going to buy tickets to Taylor Swift’s next concert.

While I do feel Swift’s music has gone on a downward slide since the release of “1989,” my biggest issue with the pop star is her weak feminist attitude. Swift has only recently come out blazing using the terms “feminism” and “girl power,” and she does so in a way that seems more forced and more to her benefit, than in real regard to the overall equality and empowerment that the feminist movement is truly about.

Not once did Swift use her platform to denounce the orange Cheeto that we now call president, and even though I know a lot of people choose to remove themselves from politics, to hold such status in our society and keep your lips zipped seems wrong to me. There is a certain responsibility that holds hands with celebrity, and she seems to only be concerned about the latter.

I am also uncomfortable with the degree to which she “fights” the notorious and grossly over-reported Kanye West drama. I understand he wronged her, and I understand why she’s upset; however, I also think that Kanye, a talented black man with a mental illness and personality disorder, deserves a bit more credit than what he’s given. For someone who labels herself as a feminist, her view of human equality lags when it begins to include other minorities; most notably, people of color.

Swift is a generous person who does a lot for charities and fans around the world. Unfortunately, she is blind to the fact that her power-femme attitude lacks real activism. The woman knows how to play the Hollywood game and arguably, she knows how to write a pop song, but it’s important to consider other things that fall under the celebrity umbrella.

Taylor Swift isn’t going anywhere, no matter how eloquently we grace her with constructive social criticism. I’ll speak her language a little better and critique her music instead.

“Reputation” is the farthest step Swift has taken from her roots. I mean, she said it herself. The old Taylor is dead, right?

I adore songs like “New Years Day” and “Call It What You Want” because they sound like her older music and stick to a trend of smart analogy and skilled emotional intelligence. However, I find “Look What You Made Me Do” and “…Ready For It?” to be cringe worthy, immature and poorly executed; especially the former.

Swift most likely promoted her most poorly written song as the first single to her sixth album because she wanted the attention of a changed artist, and while I admire her bravery, I find that it completely missed the mark, which in turn, allowed people an option to stop listening.

The songs she saved for the “Reputation” release are much more mature and vulnerable (with the exception of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” although it is a bop.) and truly show a woman growing and learning in love and life. The sound of most of this album is more my speed than the original singles; pieces that carry a beat more electronic than she’s ever dabbled with before. It’s reminiscent of artists like Echosmith, LANY, and Banks, and for anyone who can follow the pop culture references, I’d call this album the soundtrack to Dark Betty Cooper in the CW drama, “Riverdale.”

Taylor Swift’s real heart and soul are smart and bold, but the common person has to dig to the bottom of her albums to really find and understand that. I see that as a reflection of her status in our society. She keeps the good stuff hidden for the true fans, for the people who ask not what she voted in the latest election, but how she’s been feeling lately.

And that’s kind of the point of the album. She doesn’t give a damn what we think anymore. She doesn’t care that she’s the cookie cutter for pop music these days. She doesn’t want to hear what we have to say about her politics. She’s over it, and it shows.

And so, the cycle continues: Apathy is cool. We care that she doesn’t care. She cares less.

It makes for good art, for catchy music, for sexy lyrics and sick beats, but what does it make for social, economic and political change or advancement?

Celebrities aren’t necessarily responsible for fixing the problems our government won’t, but with activists like Chance the Rapper, Lady Gaga and Kesha dancing on the charts, I wonder what moves Swift could possibly pull to dazzle us; to actually shake the world.

At the end of the day, my feminism allows Taylor Swift to do whatever the hell she wants. I will fight for leadership positions and climb the mountain to equal rights listening to “Getaway Car,” but I will also spend each step wishing Taylor Swift’s feminism brought the rest of us to the top with her.