“Fearless” was the first album I ever owned. I was 7. I remember taking it on long car trips and wearing it out on my CD player (I would be much older before I had an iPod). My favorite song growing up was “Jump Then Fall.” It’s a love song that sees Taylor encouraging the love interest to be brave about his feelings – “Don’t be afraid to jump, then fall/into me.”
(Note to the Associated Press Style tyrants: Me and the other Swifties just call her ‘Taylor.’ I cannot speak for all of them, but I do it because my relationship to her music is very personal. It feels like we know each other – I know her because she sings songs about herself, but her songs are also about me.)
It’s the earnestness in Taylor’s music that has stuck with me throughout the years. She’s often deeply uncool – “She wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts” – and unafraid to show it. I was once asked by someone genuinely curious (i.e., not a hater) why I liked her music, and I think my answer is because she fully embraces who she is.
Taylor is vulnerable on songs like “All Too Well” and “Treacherous,” and she’s goofy on songs like “22” and “ME!” She’s outraged on “illicit affairs,” intensely jealous on “You Belong With Me,” and utterly heartbroken on “Hits Different.” None of Taylor’s songs ever feel disingenuous – she’s the biggest star in the world and somehow always feels all too human.
She’ll probably be a billionaire soon enough, and yet a debt-ridden college student like me feels like I’ve known her my whole life. And really, I pretty much have. Taylor began her career very young, and it often felt like we grew up together.
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On my ninth birthday my mom took me to the store and got me “Speak Now.” When I was 14, I listened to “Fearless” one summer day on my boombox and was so inspired I spent the rest of the day writing poetry. When I was 18 and my girlfriend dumped me, I listened to “cardigan” over and over, hoping she would “come back to me.” And next month I’ll be 22, the most important birthday in a Swiftie’s life.
My favorite song is “Delicate.” For me, it is the epitome of Taylor’s fearlessness. She’s never been more vulnerable – “My reputation’s never been worse so/you must like me for me.”
You must like me for me – isn’t that a comforting thought?
Here’s the situation: you’re down and out, you’re at your absolute lowest, you feel like everyone hates you, you can’t do anything right, you’re staring into the abyss and the abyss is staring back, and then bam – someone comes along and sees all of it and they love you anyway.
Taylor is straightforward in the song. She tells the love interest that she likes him; and because she and I are the same person, she immediately follows it with, “Is it cool that I said all that?” It can be hard to accept, when your reputation’s never been worse, that someone likes you for you. It’s okay that I wear everything on my sleeve? You really don’t mind? You actually like that about me?
I’ve been in love three times in my life, and each time I told the other person that I loved them. I did not try to hide it. I wrote songs and poems and stories for them, and I showed them my work. You might be thinking I was trying to impress them, but I never thought of it that way. I was never under the delusion that if I played a song pretty enough on my guitar for them that they would love me – I simply was expressing myself and my feelings and hoping for the best.
I feel a little embarrassed telling you all this. Longtime readers know me for my many critiques of the economic system and American foreign policy and reactionary politics. I can talk all day about what’s happening in Gaza and the inherent contradictions of capitalist society, but it’s taken me months to put my feelings about Taylor into words.
RelatedOPINION: A day with Eugene Debs We set out for Terre Haute early in the morning. I had been up deep into the night writing, but I wasn’t tired — I was eager to visit the old comrade’s house. We stopped for a milkshake breakfast — I’ve been prescribed an ice cream diet after getting my wisdom-teeth removed — and then began the long drive south from Portage.
This is me taking my own medicine. In my life I feel I’ve been very Swiftian – “you are what you love,” she says at the end of “Daylight,” and that’s me. I’ve always made it very clear what I love. The people who do like me like my genuine self.
But this is the first time I’ve put it all down. I want everyone to embrace the cringiest, truest aspects of themselves – it’s a hard thing, and so I’ll go first.
When I had my first kiss, I went home and danced in my bedroom because I’d never been so happy. I decided to come to IU because the girl I was dating enrolled here – I had never even been to Bloomington until my freshman year began. I started watching “Gossip Girl” at the behest of a girl, and you know what? I love the show! And I don’t care who knows!
That must be what Taylor is thinking when she’s singing “Delicate” to a stadium full of people at SoFi in the Eras movie. These are my deep personal feelings, and I don’t care who knows them. I refuse to be anyone else but my genuine self.
Is it cool that I said all that?
Jared Quigg (he/him) is a senior studying journalism and political science.