To begin, I formally apologise to those natural-born T-Swift fans. You’ll have to forgive me. Truth is, I’m not a fan of country, or pop, which is rather unprogressive of me in this heavily enthusiastic generation. I also haven’t agreed with some of her past statements made online. So, I never joined you in the line up to her concerts the day before the show in my sleeping bag and nor did I dance around the room to ‘You Belong With Me’.
However, hope is not lost.
The release of her documentary, ‘Miss Americana’, truly changed my tune. It’s easy to feel a certain way about someone when you see them for a short period of time all glammed up and living the high-life, but when you see them in a situation similar to your own, stripped down and doing their night time routine, or even just away from the crowd – there’s a sense that they are truly human just like you. This person feels pain just like you do. You begin to empathise with them on a greater level as your eyes are opened to a perspective that reflects parts of your own.
Created for the Sundance Film Festival, director Lana Wilson followed Swift for a final 85-minute cut with surprising intimacy for an artist always kept at arm’s length. The film begins with Taylor cozied up on her couch with her old journals placed in front of her. She begins to go through her old diary entries… “My moral code as a kid and now was a need to be thought of as good. It was the total belief system I subscribed to as a kid. Do the right thing, do the good thing.” This is a child that has grown up, yes with privilege, but also with a decent serving of insecurity, self-criticism and enormous pressure. It goes in my mind, that if you’re striving so hard to be perceived as ‘good’ – then you must believe that you are not worthy in your current state. Ironic how this package seems to come hand in hand – you’ve got all the toys and treats, but none of the human fulfillment.
As the documentary continues to unfold the lines of Taylor’s journey to stardom, we see how quickly she went from a young girl projecting innocence through her country vocals and performing the national anthem at sporting events, to one of the world’s biggest, most followed and critiqued pop icons. The pace of fame reminds me a lot of what went on with Justin Bieber – and what we saw in his documentary ‘Seasons’.
As both stars began to gain attention, the whole world’s judgement began to weigh on their shoulders. It very quickly became about their dating life, emotional states and personal experiences rather than their talents. As a society of self-proclaimed critics, we are so quick to make judgments online, often forgetting that stars weren’t born stars. Think of how many mistakes you’ve made in your life thus far, how many wrong things you’ve said, questionable choices and unfavourable paths taken. Now, put a spotlight on it that shines so bright the whole world can see it. The learning process of life becomes that much harder, doesn’t it.
“It just gets loud sometimes” – Swift.
Taylor has continued to be open with how she’s received backlash in the media for years and how it’s impacted on her mental health. Amidst tours, writing and recording all her music, she would still have to battle life in the public eye. At one point in her career, the #TaylorSwiftIsOver hashtag was trending at number one. She later admits the comments on her body in pictures taken by the pap or fans led her to at times, starve herself. She lets us in on her coping mechanism when she catches herself scrolling through photos and comments these days, “We’re not doing that anymore. That didn’t end us up in a good place”. I really respected those thoughts and the strength in her mindset around that, and how she has now allowed herself to be a beautiful and healthy weight for her height.
Taylor has further begun breaking silence on issues her team would prefer she kept quiet about in order to protect herself from even more critique. The documentary shows Taylor standing up to fight against a high-profile DJ in a sexual assault case, encouraging woman to speak out when they’ve been wrongly treated in support of the Violence Against Women Act. Taylor also made her first political statement in the 2018 midterms and has continued to state her opinion publicly with the current elections. It seems Taylor Swift has decided to share the voice that almost got swallowed by the sound of the media speaking for her.
Unlike other artists of this age, Taylor Swift forever wrote and co-wrote all her own music. We see snippets of this throughout the film and it is truly an exceptional sight to see. Lyrics seem to flow to her lips so fluidly and her dedication to the studio sees hit songs sometimes pumped out in days. This was the glue to the entire documentary, and I feel Lana Wilson did a fantastic job at trying to bring it back to Taylor’s hard work ethic and talent throughout the external noise of the piece. You could say with confidence that Taylor Swift has done an incredible job at staying strong through the blizzard of media and negativity she’s received. The way she handled all the challenges and obstacles thrown her way with such dignity and grace, really changed my perception of her as a person and artist. We should almost consider ourselves lucky to be able to hear new releases coming out of the works.
Perhaps I’ll give Tay a spin on the playlist, a little more often.