“The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? ‘Cause she’s dead.” -Taylor Swift, 2017
According to Taylor Swift, her latest album Reputation marks the division of her life into what the world has almost universally agreed is “Old Taylor” and “New Taylor.” Sure enough, there’s a vast difference between “Teardrops on My Guitar” and “Look What You Made Me Do.” The variations at each end of the almost 10 year spectrum of Taylor’s albums is pretty clear. Taylor Swift’s first album, Taylor Swift, was full of country songs about teenage romance, while her current album is largely comprised of angsty pop songs. As one of many students who fueled her early-to-mid teens with “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me,” I went on a journalistic mission to uncover what Stanford students think about Taylor’s metamorphosis.
In general, it seems like many students prefer Old Taylor. One particularly scathing, but well thought-out comment said: “New Taylor is like an angsty third-grader pretending to be an adult. That’s what the quality of her latest lyrics reflect. The beats may be good but the words are gibberish. Old Taylor was a dreamy English renaissance poet. All she talked about was love and unrequited love. It’s repetitive and very white. However, the lyrics are beautiful in construction, even if the actual substance of the song is more ornamental than meaningful.”
A less angry, but more mourning, freshman told me, “I like the old Taylor Swift because I could cry to her music because it was so relatable. Now I just cry because it is what it is.”
Other students noted Taylor’s shift in genre as one of the reasons for liking Old Taylor better. One said, “I like Old Taylor better because I like country music more than I like bad pop,” and another agreed on liking Old Taylor the country singer, commenting, “I’m not a country fan at all, but I like Taylor Swift singing country.”
A few students cited celebrity drama as one of the reasons for disliking Old Taylor. One student was very frustrated with New Taylor, ranting, “I think that New Taylor is just trying to play off of her ongoing feud with Kanye and Kim which should have been over a long time ago. But she’s just playing it out with her album Reputation, and she’s trying to make something that should’ve died a long time ago live.”
Another said the drama of New Taylor’s music shouldn’t be the final judge of her latest album. “I have noticed that some of the same themes have come up a lot. Her new stuff can seem a little petty, but I think that the scars can really run deep with the conflicts like with Kanye, and I think that’s valid. Honestly, I just like listening to it.”
In contrast, there are quite a few students who are in favor of New Taylor. One student matched the burning passion with which some people hated Taylor but in defense of her change: “I think a lot of people don’t like the new Taylor because they liked the old Taylor so much, and it’s so different, but I think she’s still a decent songwriter, and they’re just good in different ways. The old Taylor was good and it was l so relatable, but you can’t expect her to keep producing that same type of music because her life is no longer relatable. So now it’s more like angsty and pop but it’s fun to jam out to. It’s a good running playlist.”
Some of the most interesting opinions came from those who disliked Taylor Swift or felt totally indifferent. One Swift-hater believes “she went from a trash heap to a trash heap that was set on fire,” ironically contrasting with another student who thinks “her new stuff is fire.”
A student who was entirely unimpressed by Swift entirely asked, only somewhat sarcastically, “Are you talking about T-Swift? The evolution of T-Swift? The de-evolution of T-Swift where she just got worse?”
Other students didn’t note a specific preference between Old Taylor and New Taylor. A few called attention to what I’ve dubbed “Transition Taylor.” Transition Taylor is the not-pop, not-country Taylor contained in the album Red. In the words of one freshman, “Red is the best album ever, and the farther you get from Red in the timeline, the worse it gets.” A different student decided that “Transition Taylor was really where her artistic vision flourished.” Yet another student didn’t start listening until Red, characterizing her music since that album as “really good pop music with refined vocals, good variety and a lighthearted appeal.”
In summary, just like the gap between Old Taylor and New Taylor, students at Stanford have an entire spectrum of opinions on her music. One effectively concludes, “I think I would like to be Old Taylor’s friend and give the New Taylor a TV show.” Really, Old Taylor and New Taylor are different people with different music styles. So, whether you think Old Taylor should “Stay Stay Stay” or “Everything Has Changed” for the better, this probably won’t be “The Last Time” people are polarized over Taylor Swift.
Contact Kiara Harding at kiluha ‘at’ stanford.edu.