How the world caught up with Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift has always been a lightning rod for controversy. Not because she herself is controversial but because as one of the leading women in music, people want to see her fail. Every feud, every breakup, every single slip up yields a dozen disparaging headlines for the masses to revel in. The simple truth is that people have always looked for reasons to hate her. That’s why when Kim Kardashian and Kanye West branded her a fake and a snake back in 2016, it led to thousands and thousands of hate tweets, negative Instagram comments and even death threats. However, with the release of her latest album, folklore, a triumphant, acoustic, tour de force, there seems to be a shift in public perception of her. It’s as if the smoke around her has cleared and for the first time, people can see her as she always has been, charming, brilliant, beautiful and a master of her craft. After 14 long years, the world has finally caught up to Taylor Swift and this is how.

Back in 2006, when Swift first entered the music scene with the release of her self titled debut album, Taylor Swift, she was country music’s newest sweetheart. She was sweet, earnest, talented as hell and not yet successful enough to become the target of backlash. Of course, the thing about Taylor Swift was that even if she wasn’t hated, she was reduced to a punch line for grown men. She wrote songs about what it is to love as a teen girl, a subject that for centuries the media has deemed unimportant. Nevermind the quality of her songs or the fact love was never the only thing she wrote about. It was easy for people to ignore her music that didn’t fit the narrative forced on her. 

It didn’t matter that she was the youngest artist to ever win the Grammy for Album Of The Year for her second album, Fearless. It didn’t matter that she was a chart-topping phenomenon. It didn’t matter that she was selling out concerts and making a name for herself. For so many, she was still just the bud of break-up jokes. 

As a young girl, I let societal opinions of Taylor Swift diminish the love I had for her. At the age of 10, when my uncle told me that Taylor Swift wasn’t “real music,” I listened. I also distanced myself from her because I thought to be a feminist, I had to reject things that were traditionally feminine. This practically made Taylor Swift the enemy. She wore pretty dresses, dated pretty boys and liked make-up. She was unapologetically girly and the world didn’t know what to do with it. 

As I got older, I realized that I can believe in equality and still like the color pink. Big shocker. I also developed a mind of my own which came with my own music taste. When I revisited Taylor Swift at 13, I was shocked to realize that her music was…well, good. And as I’ve grown, she has too. She has matured as a songwriter and a person. She has developed a political voice, explored different music genres, mended old friendships and fought legal battles for the simple right to own the music she created. She is in a newfound state of grace and people can see it when she walks and hear it when she talks. 

It’s been a long time coming, but the surprise release of her latest album folklore was the final push the public needed. folklore was met with almost universal acclaim and suddenly people who had spent years ridiculing her music were shaken by the realization that she’s not the talentless pop princess they made her out to be. She’s a poet. And while, yes, folklore is one of the best bodies of work she’s ever released, it shouldn’t have taken an indie album for her to gain respect. 

Taylor Swift was good when she was 19 years old, singing in a princess dress, and rewriting the ending of Romeo and Juliet just because she could. Taylor Swift was good when she was 22, wearing fedoras and writing one of the best break-up songs of all time about Jake freaking Gyllenhaal. Taylor Swift is good now, with her curls and cardigans, writing about existentialism. She has always been good, it just took some people a little while to figure that out.