Culture

All the Taylor Swift songs that have changed my life

In honour of the recent release of Queen Taylor’s new album, Reputation, I’m taking a trip down memory lane, to all the songs that really mean something to me.

To me, Taylor Swift isn’t just catchy pop songs, failed relationships and dramas with Kimye. I’ve loved her music since her first album came out and she was a curly-haired country singer whose songs primarily consisted of moaning about how no-one loves her (weird in a way how we’ve come full circle…) Her songs have been with me while I’ve fallen in love, made best friends, feared for the future of my relationship, found confidence and basically grown up.

I’ve never come across an artist whose songs speak to me so directly; which, I guess, is why she’s so popular. Because even through all the fame, she still seems to identify with every millennial girl, capturing the heartbreak and insecurities, but also the thrill of love and the solidarity of friends.

And while I don’t yet know which Reputation songs will change my life (although I’m sure they will), here are just some of the Taylor tunes that will stick with me forever.

FEARLESS: “I don’t know why, but with you I’d dance in a storm in my best dress, fearless” 

I think this was from the first Taylor Swift song I’ve *ever* loved. It’s all about diving head-first into a relationship and giving everything you have. It reflected exactly the kind of romance I visualised in my 14-year-old head.

MARY’S SONG: “I’ll be 87 and you’ll be 89, I’ll still look at you like the stars that shine in the sky. Oh my, my, my”

Again, this was exactly the romanticised version of love I dreamed about in my early teens. It’s about a couple who meet as children, fall in love as teens, and last forever. I guess because me and Laurie are a bit like that, it still gives me goosebumps if I listen to it now.

THE WAY I LOVED YOU: “I’ve been screaming and crying and kissing in the rain, and it’s 2am and I’m cursing your name. So in love that I acted insane, and that’s the way I loved you”

When I genuinely felt I had fallen in love, aged 16, this song spoke to me in so many ways. Our relationship has never been perfect – we argued a lot. I remember one fight where we were genuinely screaming in the pouring rain in the park next to our school. It probably wasn’t healthy for a teen relationship, but Taylor romanticised it and that kept me going – which was probably for the best, as we eventually grew out of that (mostly).

FIFTEEN: “In your life you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team. I didn’t know it at fifteen”

So me and Laurie actually did break up at one point. He wasn’t the boy on the football team, but he was cool and I wasn’t, and I thought my life was over. It was only three months in, and he’d told me he just wanted to focus on his GCSEs (lol, those were the days). I thought this was just an excuse, and that he actually fancied someone else. I went home, pushing past my mum who hadn’t a clue what was wrong with me, got into the shower and played this song. I cried my eyes out for maybe an hour – and came out the bathroom pretending nothing was wrong. We got back together a couple of weeks later, but the song never lost its resonance. I wish every 15-year-old girl would listen to this song, to remember that teen heartbreak isn’t the end of everything.

THE BEST DAY: “I’m thirteen now and don’t know how my friends could be so mean. I get home crying and you hold me tight, and grab the keys. And we drive and drive until we find a town far enough away. And we talk and window shop til I forgot all their names”

Taylor’s mum in the song always sounds exactly like my own mum. The most supportive, loving one there is. And every time I was bullied, or anxious, or not sleeping at night, she could turn it into the best day. I wish I was talented enough to write a song for her.

UNTOUCHABLE: “Because you’re untouchable, burning brighter than the sun. And now that you’re close I feel like coming undone. In the middle of the night when I’m in this dream, it’s like a million little stars calling out your name”

I don’t know why this one got me so much, it’s a lesser-known Taylor song but perhaps my favourite one throughout my teens. I guess it summarises that dream-like state of falling in love, where everything you want seems so tangible yet also so out of reach.

THE STORY OF US: “I’m standing alone in a crowded room and we’re not speaking, and I’m dying to know if it’s killing you like it’s killing me”

Laurie and I must have had these kinds of fights a million times – at parties or in school – silently seething and trying not to let the other one know that we care. I like to think we’re a bit more mature now (but probably not).

MEAN: “But someday I’ll be living in a big old a city, and all you’re ever gonna be is mean. Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me, and all you’re ever gonna be is mean”

This could be applied to so many situations in my life, but when the song came out it was around the time I had my first job. It was in a local school uniform shop, and my boss seemed to really dislike me. I tried my best to do everything right, but when the shop closed over Christmas, she told me I didn’t need to come back. I had no idea what I’d done and was so upset about it at the time, but when I look back it’s actually sorta funny. I was so terrified I’d never be able to get a job again if I couldn’t even hold one down in a local shop, but now I’m writing for national women’s magazines in central London. And all she’s ever gonna be is mean…

LAST KISS: “I’ll watch your life in pictures like I used to watch you sleep, and I’ll feel you forget me like I used to feel you breathe”

When I was 17, breaking up with Laurie absolutely terrified me. Whenever I listened to this, normally on the E3 bus, I cried a little bit. The lyrics are so beautiful – another one is: “So I’ll go sit on the floor wearing your clothes, all that I know is I don’t know how to be something you miss”. They break my heart every time.

DEAR JOHN: “But I took your matches before fire could catch me so don’t look now, I’m shining like fireworks over your sad empty town”

Another beautiful breakup song that had no personal resonance but made me cry every time. Another amazing line: “You paint me a blue sky, and go back and turn it to rain. And I lived in your chess game, but you changed the rules every day.”

EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED: “All I know is we said hello, and your eyes looked like coming home. All I know since yesterday is, everything has changed”

I’ve had this so many times with people in my life. Not just Laurie, but some of my best friends too. It’ perfectly captures that feeling when you meet someone and you just know your life has changed for the better. And I think of those people every time I listen to this song (plus I friggin’ LOVE Ed Sheeran, duh).

OURS: “The stakes are high, the water’s rough, but this love is ours”

When Laurie went off to University, and I was staying at home for another year, I was absolutely devastated. I thought it was the end of us. But every time I visited him, and he’d be waiting on the other side of the 3 and a half hour coach, with a checked shirt and that cheeky smile, I knew we were going to be fine. Because it didn’t really matter what the odds were of our relationship lasting, it was going to last because it was us. 

22: “We’re happy, free, confused and lonely in the best way. It’s miserable and magical, oh yeah. Tonight’s the night when we forget about the deadlines, it’s time”

This song pretty much sums up my entire university experience, and maybe even the early twenties I’m experiencing now too. At Uni, I had the time of my life, but was probably also the most miserable too. That’s when my anxiety really took shape and I struggled a lot with the long-distance relationship too. But I remember belting this out in the shittiest club in Exeter, drunk off jaegerbombs and tequila shots and surrounded by my best friends, and being at my absolute happiest.

ALL TOO WELL: “You call me up again just to break me like a promise, so casually cruel in the name of being honest. I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here, because I remember it all too well”

This song doesn’t specifically relate to my life, but a) it’s just beautiful (definitely one of her best songs ever), and b) it was the exact story of my best friend’s heartbreak. We listened to it all the time together, and one night we belted it at the top of our lungs as we stumbled through Exeter after a night out. She got over that guy a long time ago, but still every time I listen to the song I think of her.

STAY STAY STAY: “You took the time to memorise me, my fears, my hopes and dreams, I just like hanging out with you all the time”

A perfect representation of my relationship with Laurie as we entered into our twenties. Less of the screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain; although that never ended completely, we moved into a much more settled period of being so familiar with each other and just enjoying each other’s company.

NEW ROMANTICS: “We’re so young, but we’re on the road to ruin. We play dumb, but we know exactly what we’re doing. We cry tears of mascara in the bathroom, honey life is just a classroom”

I can’t tell you how many tears of mascara have been cried in bathrooms with my best friends. We’ve gone through so many fallouts and heartbreaks – but we’re young, we’re learning, and we’ll get there eventually.

BLANK SPACE: “But you’ll come back each time you leave ‘cos darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”

I mean, this one literally doesn’t relate to me one bit but it’s some of Taylor’s finest work, so it had to get a mention.

CLEAN: “The rain came pouring down – when I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe. And by morning, gone was any trace of you, I think I am finally clean”

This song doesn’t relate to me directly, but I think it has some of her most beautiful and clever lyrics. Another one is “you’re still all over me like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore” (AMAZING). It’s all about finally getting over a lover, but I think it applies to getting over anything – whether that’s a break-up, a bad bout of depression or grief. The cleansing will be sudden and unexpected, but it will come.

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