I wasn’t raised to like country. The bar was set far higher. I listened to Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits Volume III on repeat at age ten. I played 45’s by The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Temptations and The Four Tops on a ladybug record player when I was a mere kindergartener. I’ve been subjected to countless jazz concerts and Diana Krall albums. The Quincy Jones and friends album, “The Dude,” regularly plays in the family minivan. “Good” music, classic music, is what I was taught to like.
But then destiny took a hold of the situation. My freshman year roommate moved in to our room at DePauw with a country-music obsession, Taylor Swift included. As I educated her on the other musical selections available in the world– Coldplay to Matchbox 20 to Eagle Eye Cherry’s “Save Tonight”–her constant playing of songs on repeat began to influence my musical tastes. It started as something I would block out. Then the tune would stick in my head, annoying me as I found myself singing the chorus to the catchy country pop song about pick-up truck rides with a teenage boyfriend. Then it happened: I wanted a Taylor Swift song.
I kept it hidden at first. I was certainly not a Taylor Swift fan. She was bubblegum country, twangy and too perky for my tastes. But the one song purchase turned into another, then another, and before I knew it my T-Swift song collection was pushing ten.
Song purchases turned into a curiosity with the 21-year-old artist. I have a tendency to pick up magazines with her presence gracing the cover, reading the feature stories and admiring the beautiful photography that coincides with the articles. But what was first a mere music collection and interest has turned into quite a large amount of respect for the singer.
Taylor Swift, is, in reality, a well-managed brand. Just like Oprah, Martha Stewart. But Swift sells a brand that speaks to the heart of American girls across the country. She’s the girl next door and looks the part. She sings about things we know about it, ranging from stupid boys to mean girls. But she’s also a business savvy non-controversial figure who thinks about her fans, thinks about her actions, thinks about her role model status. She doesn’t seek to be “more adult” like so many other teen stars who have entered the over twenty range. She’s come of age gracefully with a plate of chocolate chip cookies in one hand and arm extended for a hug with the other. She isn’t dancing on table tops or getting arrested for shoplifting. Instead, she reaches out to her fans in video blogs and Tweets and lives in a literal fairy tale of a condo in downtown Nashville.
So these days I’m willing to admit it: I like Taylor Swift. I would even go as far as saying I admire her for her drive and determination. Just don’t call me a full-fledged country music fan.