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A tale of two Taylors

by Mary York, Digital Sports Editor

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Taylor Swift’s new single “Look What You Made Me Do” is being decried by every cynic and crowd-following coward as proof that our perfect country princess has finally gone totally nuts. “Has anyone checked on Taylor lately?” one Facebook user wrote. “Like, is she doing okay?”

The undauntedly loyal faction of Swifties—and a slew of fair-weather fans who are enjoying Swift’s darker side—are defending the song as a masterpiece of vengeance, a real “stick it to the man” kind of song.

Little is said about the quality of the song itself, except in vague reference to the records it has already shattered—including biggest Spotify debut with 10.1 million streams in 24 hours.

Discussions on the subject, which are usually short and cryptic, are not about whether Swift’s song is a good song, but rather if it is a good “Taylor Swift song.”

The distinction is important.

Sure, it is a little petty. The song is the epitome of the millennial mindset—empowering victimhood.

And maybe they are right. No one made you write the song, Taylor.

But a look at the video makes a compelling argument for Swift’s genius. In every sound bite there is a reference to the many witch-hunts she has been subjected to by the media since her early rise to fame.

The video includes everything from her girl squad and highly publicized feud with Katy Perry to several of her more recent boyfriends and Kanye’s regrettable, unforgettable interruption during her 2009 VMA acceptance speech.

She even includes versions of herself representing the metamorphosis of who she has become as a person and an artist. There’s the curly-haired country Swift, red marching band Swift, Swift during her bangs phase—all dead, according to Taylor.

And as a die-hard Taylor Swift fan, that makes me a little sad.

I will be the first to defend Swift’s disturbingly narcissistic sense of humor, self-deprivation and defensiveness.

I think she’s a musical genius, not because she can sing all that well, but because she writes songs so many of us had been singing for years, we just did not know the lyrics till she wrote them for us.

Swift’s music has literally gotten me through every major life change, heartbreak and road trip of the last decade.

When she wrote “Teardrops on my Guitar,” I had a hopeless crush of my own.

“Change” was my anthem for all of senior year because “somebody else got what you wanted again…and you’re getting sick of it” was just too familiar a feeling.

And if Taylor could say, “I believe in whatever you do,” then maybe I could too.

And who has not felt the very real pain of Swift’s bridge in “Enchanted” when she wistfully sings, “Please don’t be in love with someone else.”

I have.

But here is where I have trouble with my girl’s new hit song. I grew up loving a Taylor Swift who taught me how to love fearlessly, even if it hurt.

I was taught that life is full of chances to begin again. I was taught that “time can heal most anything,” and this person who wants to “get smarter, get harder in the nick of time” is a stranger to me.

I was taught to shake it off, and clearly, she has not been able to do that herself yet.

Swift seems to have finally given in to the haters. They clearly have a lot more influence over her music than she is admitting. Just look at the title.

Old Taylor would not have stood for this.

Her haters have always been present in her music as a backdrop that she tunes out, negative voices she decides not to listen to. That was the kind of music that inspired us. Perhaps she was a more vulnerable Taylor Swift, but she made the rest of us strong.

That is why I do not like her new single.

Maybe this is the new face of the country-turned-pop artist. Maybe it is one of many to come. But she sounds a lot like that “big loud opinion…ranting about the same old bitter things…alone in life, and mean.”

So I am not going to sing this song.

The old Taylor always told me not to.

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