Taylor Swift; The soundtrack of a generation’s relationships


by Shelby McCasland, Staff Reporter

Taylor Swift has narrated her relationships through music. The album-by-album story that unfolded covers young love, first betrayals, fantasy fairytale love, toxic breakups, true love, friendship, growing older, deep love heartbreak and many other relatable topics. The albums are each uniquely characterized by the tone they carry and each one spans a different chapter in the singer’s life.

Taylor Swift began her rise to fame as a concert opener for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw in 2006. Many people that are currently in college or recent graduates grew up during the era of Swift’s rise to stardom. With multiple chart-toppers and high CD sales early in her career, the young singer was played over radios and featured as a top CD pick in many grocery stores. It was difficult to miss the influence that she had on the years of our generation’s youth.

I was on the younger end of the spectrum during the initial popularity of the artist and many albums were released a few years before I would experience the full meaning of many songs. Yet, my friends and I gathered new CDs and sang Taylor Swift songs any chance we had. 

The stories of my first crushes were told to the tune of “You Belong with Me”, “Tim McGraw” and “Love Story”. These songs center around young love, a fantasy of imagining future fairytale love, the pain of losing a crush and feeling unseen by those you have feelings for. 

These early albums are full of romanticized dreams or deeply felt pain. The ups and downs of young love were well worded. For many, Swift’s lyrics hold what was and still is an extremely relatable narrative.  

The strong following that Swift has in my age group is a reflection that the way she experienced relationships holds true for us. Looking to a younger audience the following dwindles with a large portion of fans in their twenties. From the time that we were old enough to begin imagining love and partnership, we did so through the lenses of our environment. Movies, TV shows and music had a large hold. 

Many of us were just before the age of the iPhone and played CDs on repeat or had a few select favorites on an MP3 player. Our environment was dominated by a few popular mainstream artists rather than the wide access to songs that exists today. This changed the way that we view our relationships and the ups and downs that accompany them.

As we entered the later years heading more heavily into high school with first kisses, boys with cars and learning some first truths about the downsides to love, so too did Swift, as was reflected in the songs that were released. 

“Fifteen”, “Picture to Burn” and “You’re Not Sorry” characterized several early heartbreaks for my friends and I. The lyrics often reflected experiences rather than just the overall feeling of hurt. As a generation defined by the high divorce rate of our parents many knew that love was not a rosy fantasy. By giving words to the feelings of being unseen, used and angry Swift gave a melody to our truth. 

By the time we were going on dates and having serious boyfriends the Speak Now and Red albums had been released. The Red album taught us that the bad-boy treacherous love, while hard to ignore, led down dangerous roads. It showed us that love burns bright and pain is often a part but is not the end. 

“Begin Again” was a tale of learning to love after heartbreak and “State of Grace” highlights the feeling of the perfect moments before and of the downsides. The more somber tones of Speak Now told of enchanted love and hard but necessary goodbyes. With “Mine” the narrative of finding someone who loves you through the tough parts and “Last Kiss” bringing words to those who know that love alone is not enough.

“We are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is a breakup song that has made almost every breakup playlist I have ever heard. “I Knew You Were Trouble”, “Back to December”, “Better Than Revenge”, “Last Kiss” and “Treacherous” top the list as well. These each tell a different aspect of a breakup. From knowing you should never have dated the guy, to cheaters, to being the one leaving someone, the in-depth description fits a part of every person’s path through love. 

The diversity of the experiences in the music makes Swift’s songs universally influential. Upon the recent re-release, it became widely known that “All Too Well” had been the soundtrack for the many brokenhearted souls. Swift has told her truth in her music and in many ways given so many a way to express their emotions and process their feelings. 

The later albums tell a story that steps away from love for a moment and describe a time of self-discovery, hurt and life changes. There has been a time for each of her albums to play a part in my life.

As we all grew up Swift had an album for every aspect of a journey through love. From the start of young love and the innocence of first crushes, to the toxic gaslighting heartbreak that requires us to find ourselves again, her songs found their way onto the soundtrack. 

From my high school friends and those I have met along the way the last three years, to the masses of Twitter and strangers across the globe, Taylor Swift is the one commonality I have consistently seen. 

Even if she is not your favorite artist you know of her, have heard her songs and at one point in time, they were the soundtrack to a point in your path with love. The way she pours her own experiences into the music brings forth a relatable story that gives a voice to the many feelings associated with love and the loss of it.