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Taking a Closer Look at Taylor Swift

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 09: (NO COVERS) Taylor Swift attends In Conversation With... Taylor Swift during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox on September 09, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
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TORONTO, ONTARIO – SEPTEMBER 09: (NO COVERS) Taylor Swift attends ‘In Conversation With… Taylor Swift’ during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox on September 09, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Taylor Swift, a multi-genre singer, songwriter, and producer is controversial. Although some people believe that she “can’t sing” or “only writes break up songs,” it is undeniable that she is talented, some even naming her the modern day Shakespeare. Colleges such as Stanford University and New York University are even offering courses that study her songwriting. She uses vivid language, imagery through colors and clothing, and allusions in her music. 

For someone interested in English, literature, or songwriting, Taylor Swift’s lyricism is a fun, relevant, and vital thing to study. Her use of tone and language are comparable to great writers of the past, however her topics are more modern and relatable. Her language is more advanced than some other songwriters, using words like “Machiavellian” (“Mastermind”) and “calamitous” (“The Lakes”), with some fans even joking that someone should have a dictionary open when listening to her music, but her strong language choices only add to the value of her songs and to the reasons people would compare her to people like Shakespeare.

Swift uses imagery in her songs as well, especially colors. In her album, Lover, she uses the color blue as an extended metaphor for sadness and the otherwise bittersweet feeling of being in a relationship. In “Paper Rings”, she describes this bittersweet feeling, singing “I’m with you even if it makes me blue/Which takes me back/To the color that we painted your brother’s wall/Honey, without all the exes, fights, and flaws/We wouldn’t be standing here so tall.” Taylor Swift also uses clothing when writing songs. Dresses appear often in her music, like in “Dear John” when she sings “Don’t you think I was too young to be messed with?/The girl in the dress, cried the whole way home.” “Dear John” was written after Swift’s relationship with John Mayer ended. She was only nineteen years old at the time and he was thirty-two. The girl in the dress is meant to be vague, to say that the mental abuse and grooming that she endured while in the relationship could really happen to anyone. The dress represents innocence and the naivety of young women, especially when trying to gain fame. 

Taylor Swift alludes to classic literature often. She has been known to write a lot of her early songs when she was in high school, where she would have read these classics. One of Swift’s most famous allusions is in “Love Story”, released in 2008 on her second studio album, Fearless. She writes, “Little did I know/That you were Romeo, you were throwin’ pebbles/And my daddy said, ‘Stay away from Juliet’” which is a reference to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which at Gloucester High School is studied in English 9. She also makes reference to The Great Gatsby often, one of these lines being in “Happiness” where she quotes one of the main characters, Daisy, saying “I hope she’ll be a beautiful fool.” She also sings about the novel’s cover, singing “sapphire tears on my face, sadness became my whole sky,” which alludes to the book’s royal blue color and teary face illustrated in the night sky (“Bejeweled”). 

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While many believe that Taylor Swift is too girly or an otherwise untalented singer-songwriter, she uses literary devices that prove her intelligence and skill, which explains why colleges are beginning to study her work.

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About the Contributor
Hannah Cupp, Co-Editor
My name is Hannah Cupp. I’m sixteen and I am a junior this year. My dream is to either write for the New Yorker or teach high school English. This is my second semester of journalism and I plan to take two more next year. The newspaper means a lot to me, not only as a journalist but as a student. I think it is beyond important for students to be informed about things going on in the world. I am a huge believer in freedom of the press, as it gives everyone a voice.

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    Shelby RayneSep 28, 2023 at 8:04 am

    10/10 love Miss Swift