As I started to get into the school year, I noticed more and more posters pop up advertising Taylor Swift-themed events. Like The Well pub, for instance, which hosted Taylor Swift Trivia Night and a party for 1989 (Taylor’s Version) release night. I also began to hear more conversations about her music among students on campus.
This isn’t to say there wasn’t discussion around her music last year either, but I’ve noticed an increase since the Eras Tour. For this reason, I wanted to ask students how they felt about the rise in popularity concerning Taylor Swift and her music. I was interested in hearing all opinions — negative, positive, or neutral.
So, where was I going to start? Well, where else to start but at a place of opposition? A student named Timi, with whom I have been friends for a while, sat down with me to discuss her opinions on this topic. I asked her how she felt about Taylor Swift becoming as popular as she is, and Timi said this:
“It’s just kind of confusing to me, actually. I like unique or weird music. I need strong instrumentals and bold, full sounds. I hate early 2000s music or anything reminiscent of it. To me, Taylor is a really boring musician. Like, I’m sure there is a fan out there for every artist, but I never expected this much dedication and love directed towards an artist that isn’t — in my opinion — that unique or revolutionary.”
Timi also commented on Taylor Swift coming up in conversation with other students. She said that often it becomes an argument since she doesn’t feel the way the vast majority do about Taylor’s music. Timi also stated that Taylor is capitalizing off nostalgia instead of making something new and experimenting with different techniques, and isn’t “revolutionizing” the genre. My friend’s comments were interesting to consider, and helped me ponder why exactly I enjoy Taylor’s music. Her thoughts also helped me understand those who don’t.
Additionally, I asked how Timi feels about the massive explosion of Swift’s image on the @UBCOstudents Instagram page, and around campus. She stated:
“Well, it’s slightly annoying. Like really, Taylor is your role model. Taylor is the glorified symbol of white girlhood, her lyrics are centered around universal experiences — usually white and middle class — [and] generic enough to be relatable.”
In discussing whether Taylor Swift overshadows many other artists, she commented:
“Well, I think Taylor obviously has an impact even though I don’t recognize what exactly that impact is. Other artists also have their impact. I think if we were to get into who is deserving of recognition in today’s world, we wouldn’t be able to avoid criticizing the whole music industry. Class, nepotism and all the people rendered invisible because of capitalism and celebrity culture — it would be a long conversation.”
I thought this was interesting because discussing Taylor Swift seems to lead to discussions about “industry.” Music production, consumption, and the conversation surrounding both are never black or white.
Next, I talked to three students with positive or “positive leaning” opinions. I spoke to a student named Matt Doyle, who I met through Instagram; Conner Van Empel, who I met at the Well Pub while playing pool; and Jayati Gupta, a singer who regularly performs at UBCO events and posts Taylor Swift covers on her music Instagram account.
Matt commented on the increase in popularity of Taylor Swift by saying:
“Not everyone is into Taylor, and [those people] still deserve to have their likings played to. That being said, I would like to see more than just Taylor being represented because as much of a huge Swiftie that I am, I do have other interests. I don’t necessarily have anything against it but variety is important, is all. Despite all of the hype, Taylor is just one part of a huge collection of
popular artists that all deserve to be recognized equally.”
My other friend Conner commented on the Taylor Swift explosion with his argument:
“Well, her music has a good beat. I think if your music is good, in general, a rise to fame makes sense. I think personally from the outside, she was a bit bigger on the radio in the 2010s and is less potent on the radio stations I listen to nowadays, although I can relate to ‘Cruel Summer.’”
Conner also stated that he was surprised by the increased popularity of Taylor Swift, and seeing images of the performing artist around campus and in the media increased his curiosity. He also stated that although Swift has increased in popularity, he sees nothing preventing other artists — like The Weeknd for example — having a similar “boom” in popularity.
In regards to why exactly Taylor Swift has grown in popularity, Jayati theorized by commenting:
“I know a lot of people who recently got into her music because they heard one song and that was their gateway in. I truly think she has something for everyone. She spans so many genres with her albums and has lyrics that are extremely relatable to young women like me – especially in some of her earlier albums. It feels like she has experienced what I'm going through and is somehow able to put it into words lyrically. A lot of times, younger women are told that their thoughts and feelings are frivolous or portrayed as being ‘silly,’ and her music does the opposite of that. It validates you.”
Interestingly enough, Becca Evans, the communications and marketing manager for the Students’ Union of Okanagan (SUO) Events, commented on this by saying that the demographic most interested in Taylor Swift-themed events at the Well Pub are female-identifying students. Becca’s remark is an entirely different conversation surrounding girlhood and feminism in relation to Taylor Swift’s music, but nonetheless, it is still valuable to mention.
Regarding how Jayati feels about Taylor Swift’s fan base on campus, she said:
“I feel good as a fan. It feels like there's a community that exists for Swifties. I’ve been to several of those events, and they’re always organized super well, and I’ve made some friends through it too! The friendship bracelet swapping also encourages community.”
As for an overall image of musical artists, Conner added:
“Personally, I’d like artists to be more separated from the work they produce, although with the amount of passion going into different works that may be very hard. The reason I’d say this is that people may change for the worse or better over time — cough — Kanye — cough — but for the time when a song was made, that person should be thought of to preserve the positive feelings of that art piece for time to come. This is a more blanket statement for all genres.”
Next, I reached out to Becca Evans — mentioned earlier — and SUO communications assistant, Kelly Yuste, through email and sent them a few questions in regards to their Taylor Swift-themed events. Becca commented on all of my questions as a representative of her and Kelly’s work.
Firstly, I inquired if Becca had heard an increase in conversation around Taylor Swift on campus in general. She said this:
“I am not a student myself, but I am a Taylor Swift fan. I wear Taylor Swift t-shirts and merch on campus and often get compliments on them — so the Swifties are out there, and they are plentiful! We hope to do some more Taylor-themed events next semester as well, because it is fun to see a community of people that are all passionate about something and finding community and camaraderie in that.”
I asked why Becca and her assistant Kelly decided to host Taylor Swift-themed events at The Well, and they said they decided to host these events based on 2 reasons:
1. They are both huge fans of Swift, and they were passionate about it.
2. Taylor Swift has become a huge topic in pop culture as of late, with her re-recordings and her Eras Tour success. So, they figured there would be a large demographic of students who are Taylor fans.
I asked what their reasons for hosting Taylor Swift-themed events were – if they were to get more engagement for SUO events, or just to bring people together, and Becca replied:
“This was the first time that myself, as communications manager, was so closely involved with the inception, planning and execution of an event. The listening party was my assistant Kelly’s idea, so shoutout to her! As for the reason we hosted these events, it is all about creating an inclusive and fun campus life and environment. We try to do a diverse assortment of events through the year. What is the difference between hosting a Taylor Swift trivia night versus hosting a FIFA video game tournament? Both cater to specific audiences and are both widely popular in different groups!”
Becca also commented on the Taylor Swift events at the pub:
“Catering to this audience is fun because they are so excited to have an event that involves something they are passionate about. Both of our events were so positive and fun, and I think everyone had a good time. The events were enthusiastically received on social media before the event had even happened and were well attended!”
As I finish writing this article, with Taylor Swift playing in my headphones, I pause and take a moment to realize that, firstly, the various people I reached out to for this article, are Taylor fans. Which was not on purpose, but perhaps a little biased? Mostly, I made the mistake of not opening the discussion for criticism particularly around Taylor Swift’s (lack of) activism and private jet usage. Rather, this article focuses on her music, which only scratches the surface of the opinions of UBCO students.