“It’s a new soundtrack - I could dance to this beat forevermore,” Taylor Swift sings in “Welcome to New York,” the opening track to her groundbreaking new pop album, “1989.” The lyric sets the tone for the rest of the album; a departure from everything she has done previously, “1989” combines the synth-pop sound of the late eighties with songwriting skills that show marked difference from previous albums. Not only is the sound new and improved, but Swift’s lyrics demonstrate considerable growth and maturity as well. Having finally joined the ranks of self-identified celebrity women, Swift uses “1989” to encourage other women to take charge of their lives, ignore destructive criticism and lead lives of which they can be proud.
With the release of her music video for “Blank Space,” the second single off of the album, Swift shows a level of cynicism previously unseen in this once idealist, girl-next-door romantic. The song presents its singer as an “insane” girlfriend who “loves the players,” demonstrating Swift’s understanding of the fact that the media considers her a menace to poor, innocent men who just want a nice relationship.
Over the last years of her career, Swift has been heavily criticized for writing so candidly about her boyfriends; instead of viewing her actions as a woman confronting her emotions and allowing them to strengthen her — something that should be celebrated — the media only focuses on the supposed string of men whose hearts she breaks. No matter what she does, there is something to criticize. Whether it is too many men, overly-emotional lyrics, or passionately-dramatic performances, one of the only ways the media is willing to view her is as the crazy ex-girlfriend. In “Blank Space,” then, Swift seems to be saying, “You call me crazy? Let me show you crazy,” exposing how ridiculous her critics are once and for all.
However, it is not just her music that has shown growth and maturity. As a public figure and private person, Swift has developed greatly since the release of her last album. Where once she rejected feminism, she now regularly takes on feminist issues in interviews, not allowing anyone to give her heat for anything that her male peers also do and defending her fellow women as much as she can. In various interviews, Swift has also voiced her feeling that she sees her strong, successful, female peers as inspiration and not, as the media tries to paint them, as vindictive competition.
Additionally, Swift has used the release of this new album to make life just a little bit better for many of the dedicated people who have been with her since the beginning, paying back those who have made her career possible. Over the summer, Swift looked for fans who ran Taylor-themed blogs, commented regularly on her Instagram posts, or tweeted at her every day, then selected groups of them to come to her home and listen to the album before its release in what she called the 1989 Secret Sessions. However, her kindness has not stopped there; since then, many other fans have reported receiving gifts, letters and other surprises from the singer — and one lucky fan even got a house visit to boot.
With the advent of “1989,” Taylor Swift has reinvented herself. Once a young country singer unsure of her Place In This World, she has now become a full-fledged feminist pop singer who is completely comfortable being who she is and supporting others for doing the same. It is clear that Swift will continue along this path — her only way to go is up.