For eight years, I was almost positive that Taylor Swift was writing songs about my life.
“Teardrops on My Guitar” was undoubtedly about my unrequited middle school romance with the boy with cool shoes and mad skate skillz. Granted, his name wasn’t Drew, but the rest of the song was so uncannily relatable that she must have used a pseudonym to protect my sk8r boi’s young identity. (The sound of a skateboard scraping the pavement still makes my heart flutter.)
And even though I wasn’t “Fifteen” during my freshman year of high school, I did learn that there are “things greater than dating the boy on the football team,” regardless of how shiny his pearly whites may be.
“The Story of Us” was undeniably written about the boy three Decembers ago that I texted all month about a potential winter rendezvous, which culminated in getting shot down minutes before having to sing chipper Christmas classics for choir in front of the entire school. Talk about a silent night.
And “All Too Well” was a familiar slow burn, an admission of defeat — snapshot memories of losing myself to someone who shouldn’t have been in my life but was, for far too long.
But from the moment I heard the opening notes of Taylor’s record-breaking, chart-topping, feels-inducing, life-giving 1989, I knew these songs were not written about my life. And they weren’t written for Taylor’s “long list of ex-lovers,” nor for the haters who are gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.
These songs were written for Taylor and only Taylor, making 1989 her most personal work.
We don’t turn our calendars “Back to December,” we don’t hate that “stupid, old, pickup truck” that Taylor’s ex never let her drive, and we are not asked to think of her when we think of “Tim McGraw.”
Taylor has moved from telling to showing — capturing the essence of a specific moment or emotion, and funneling every little detail into atmospheric phrases: “The rest of the world was black and white / But we were in screaming color.” And through capturing that essence so poignantly, she remains relatable still — but on a level of complete emotional empathy, instead of “OMG, that’s totally me!”
Even on “Out of the Woods,” which is rumored to be about her media-frenzied relationship with Harry Styles, Taylor manages to make specific details (“20 stitches in the hospital room”) seem less particular, due to the song’s overarching metaphorical premise. “Are we out of the woods yet?” Taylor pleads repeatedly, searching for an escape. And in a pivotal moment of clarity — when “the monsters turned out to be just trees” — she realizes that escape was not to be found at the end of a relationship. Instead, the strength to escape was within her all along.
1989 is not a love story. It is not a teenage girl’s diary, lamenting over petty crushes and bad breakups. It is not the album that Taylor wrote so that her fans could relate or so that she could call out one ex after another for good deeds gone wrong.
1989 is Taylor’s return to her own skin, her born-again rejuvenation, marked by her first year of life. It is her most selfish work — but selfish in the best sense of the word. She has taken it upon herself to flee from the world’s perception of who she is and be 100 percent completely and unapologetically Taylor.
Like her past works, these songs are lyrically perceptive and emotionally enthralling, but this time around, they are not tainted by dedication to undeserving men and internal conflict. Instead, they are anthems born of Taylor’s cathartic reawakening — the silver lining amid the ruin of rumors and debris of disbelief.
The album’s final track, “Clean,” narrates Taylor’s necessary repose: “Rain came pouring down when I was drowning / That’s when I could finally breathe / And that morning, gone was any trace of you, I think I am finally clean.”
Taylor has taken the world by storm, and we are all invited to dance in the rain.