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I’m a Wife and Mother. Here’s What I Think of Taylor Swift’s New Album.

I’m a Wife and Mother. Here’s What I Think of Taylor Swift’s New Album.

Taylor Swift is probably one of the most famous women on the globe, and her recent album is no exception to her notoriety.

The Tortured Poet’s Department, like most of her work, focuses heavily on romance, rebellion, and heartbreak. But is Swift’s work a positive or negative influence on our culture? What message is she sending to her audience?

(Note: Songs which have lyrics exemplifying the topic of discussion are listed in parentheses.)

1. Sliding Away From True Love

Swift’s perspective on true love seems to move backward rather than forward. Her first songs dealt with seeking real connection, savoring the innocence of young love, and finding lasting commitment (“Love Story,” “You Belong With Me,” and “Fearless”). Her lyrics even called out bad behavior in other women and encouraged fans to be unapologetically themselves (“Mean,” “Haters Gonna Hate,” and “Shake It Off”).

Now, the majority of her songs focus on heartbreaks (the newest “Fortnight” and “I Can Do It With A Broken Heart”), falling for the wrong guy (“I Knew You Were Trouble”), on-and-off romances (“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”). It’s a strong reversal of the common human experience of learning from our mistakes. Most of us learn from our first relationships, move on from our breakups, and try to do better next time. That’s how we get to healthy romances and marriages.

Yet Taylor Swift’s timeline showcases a turnaround from believing in lasting love to bitterly resigning herself to the next inevitable breakup. If true love and being happy is the goal (most everyone will say this is a good goal), her attitude toward achieving it is sliding steadily backward. Is this a classic example of simply producing trendy or relatable music? Or does it signal a deeper shift of perspective?

2. Worsening Mental Health

A curious theme has cropped up in Swift’s recent work: overt references to mental health struggles and personality disorders. Swift could legitimately be struggling: Things like eating disorders, depression, and anxiety are rampant in Hollywood stars, and Swift presents songs as an insider’s view of disorders such as anorexia nervosa, covert narcissism, toxic behavior, and even alcoholism (“Anti-Hero,” “Blank Space,” and the most recent “Fortnight”).

Perhaps most concerning are her lyrics about abusive romances, which at least three of her latest songs portray (“My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys,” “Mad Woman,” and “Illicit Affairs”). Abusive relationships are always dangerous and never normal. So is this heavy focus beneficial for Swift’s fan base? Are young women all over the globe actually suffering serious mental health and personality disorders? Or has contemporary culture developed a horrified fascination with psychological deviancy?

Whatever the case, entertainment has begun framing these serious concerns as normal, common, or even glamorous (think of the popular series Euphoria). Yet life-altering trauma is still abnormal for the average young woman, and depictions of it may not be helpful for public consumption.

3. Everlasting Adolescence

A final theme worth noting is that Taylor was born in 1989, which means she will be 35 on her birthday this year. Interestingly, though, her songs still read as adolescent, celebrating teenage rebellion and even physical lust (“But Daddy I Love Him” and “Guilty As Sin?”). Most of the lyrics in her previously noted breakup and relationship songs offer similar levels of immaturity. This type of adolescent thinking should not be normal for a 30-something adult.

For the sake of comparison, Taylor Swift is six years older than I—and I am currently expecting my third child with my husband of over five years. Of course, I remember the teenage days of unrequited crushes, heartbreak, and overactive emotions. I also remember growing up and leaving those phases behind me. And it was precisely growing up and learning how to regulate teenage emotions that prepared me for lasting love.

Not maturing emotionally would have left me stuck in a teenage emotional rollercoaster, hoping that if I just “met the right person,” love would fall into my lap. But life doesn’t work that way; we need to be the right person to find true love and meaningful relationships.

Swift’s songs make me wonder whether or not she (along with other celebrities) are aware of this. Her public serial monogamy throughout the last decade seems like it’s lacking core elements to true commitment. Her recent song “The Tortured Poet’s Department” has a lyric which hints at a still-haunting longing for marriage and commitment:

At dinner, you take my ring off my middle finger

And put it on the one people put wedding rings on

And that’s the closest I’ve come to my heart exploding.

Honestly, this is a sad lyric. Does it exemplify women buying into feminist narratives and hookup culture, only to later realize they wanted a traditional relationship all along?

These themes could simply be expressions of a difficult life in the spotlight. They could be a songwriter merely reflecting pop culture trends to remain relevant. Or they could be a cry for help in a fruitless quest to find meaning in a lifestyle rejecting traditional values. Whatever the case, we should question whether her themes are constructive or helpful for us to listen to—much like we should be questioning television, social media, and digital programming of all sorts.

Image credit: “Taylor Swift” by Eva Rinaldi on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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  • Avatar
    Lysander
    May 10, 2024, 11:04 am

    It'll be (mildly) interesting to see what happens to these female celebrities when they can't pretend to be adolescents anymore.

    I think an inherent problem is that there seems to be an unavoidable tension between a more "trad" lifestyle and being a celebrity, and so young women don't get exposed to the former (which is now changing with TikTok, etc.).

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    • Avatar
      Cadence McManimon @Lysander
      May 10, 2024, 2:58 pm

      An interesting point about the rise of social media showcasing traditional lifestyles. Thank you for reading! 🙂

      REPLY
    • Avatar
      Amy@Lysander
      May 10, 2024, 6:16 pm

      I completely agree, especially with your take on being a trad wife versus a celebrity. So many of the younger generation idolize the social media and YouTube stars and lifestyle. Movies and TV have gotten away from traditional lifestyles and, along with social media, have glamorized the celebrity lifestyle more than it was in the past. I'm very fortunate that my daughters are more interested in the "trad wife" life, but the reactions when people hear they just want to get married and raise a family are almost always that of shock and trying to recommend that they go to college or go travel before they worry about that. I have hope that things will sway back in the other direction, but there really is a mental health crisis of all sorts these days and I blame much of it on social media.

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      • Avatar
        Cadence McManimon @Amy
        May 10, 2024, 8:15 pm

        Social media is definitely causing mental health crises these days — thank you for reading!

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  • Avatar
    Nancy Allen
    May 10, 2024, 1:26 pm

    Believe it or not there are WONDERFUL, humble, independent music artists out there who still believe in giving their best with INTREGRITY. Loren Allred is all that and such a beautiful person, inside and out. She sang NEVER ENOUGH in THE GREATEST SHOWMAN and is now coming into her own popularity with a variety of genres.

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  • Avatar
    Mildred Bailey
    May 10, 2024, 1:47 pm

    Taylor Swift is mentally unbalanced.

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  • Avatar
    Annie
    May 10, 2024, 4:18 pm

    Very interesting take! Although catchy, adolescent is the perfect description for Taylor Swift songs.

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  • Avatar
    Nan
    May 13, 2024, 5:57 pm

    I heard a few of Taylor's early songs on the radio. I thought they were pretty good. Now, I look at her videos which reference Satanic worship practices, and I ask my own daughters not to play her music for my Grandchildren, lest their ears become polluted with evil. I spend a lot of time with them, and have begun to play Bach, Mozart and Beethoven in my car instead of the junk they hear everywhere else.

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