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The Swiftie Phenomenon

The phenomenon of Taylor Swift and the exploration of nostalgia and emotional connection through music.

The Swiftie Phenomenon
Violet Chernoff

Violet Chernoff

February 8, 2024
2 Minutes

Hating Taylor Swift is a manifestation of internalized misogyny. Or, at least, that’s what they say. Nowadays, everyone loves Taylor, and those who don’t have somehow violated an implicit female alliance. The Swifties — the non-defective, woman-supporting group — are everywhere. They’re even in the small, niché Providence movie theaters, watching Taylor Swift: The Ego Tour and living, or reliving, the Eras Tour. I know this because a group of my friends, dressed in Lover blues and Folklore grays, filled a row in the Avon and spent their Thursday night scream-singing Taylor’s beloved lyrics. 

The Swiftie fandom is so vocal and so ubiquitous that Taylor Swift articles have become commonplace. We — the slightly defective and possibly woman-hating group — get enough of Taylor in the never-ending tour clips, Travis Kelce rerun TikToks, and, really, the rest of social media. However, in lieu of the October 27th release of 1989 (Taylor’s Version), I wanted to do a light-hearted interrogation of her sweeping impact. My family friend wrote an article for the New York Times about Taylor’s affect on her psychiatric practice; Taylor seeps into therapy sessions, evoking empathy, jealousy, or unshakeable obsession in teenage girls. Clearly, the fad runs deep.

To clarify my perspective and lull any confusion, I am a self-identified Swiftie, but not a die-hard fan. That’s why I’ve separated myself from the fanatical Swifties, as it wouldn’t be fair to overstate my interest. Like most twelve-year-old girls, I sang You Belong With Me in my bedroom and wrote a Mad Libs version of it tailored to my crush. Like most fifteen-year-old girls, I liked the idea of a ‘reputation era’ and felt some sort of vengeful teenage angst. But I’m not following the ‘betty’ throughline or the Joe Alwyn romance/breakup at all. In fact, I thought his name was James.

My friend Elliott Stephanopoulous (‘25), on the other hand, very much knew it wasn’t. She is an avid Swiftie; she follows every red carpet look and, certainly, every relationship development. To know Elliott is to know that she loves Taylor Swift, which, I think, highlights the prominence of her obsession. “There seems to be a Taylor song for every phase of my life or a memory I can pinpoint to it,” she says. “Also, loving her since I was little and going back now and actually relating to the lyrics is special.” Taylor’s earlier albums remind Elliott of her childhood, while the later ones remind her of her adolescence. 

Brown Art Review’s Editor-in-Chief Colette Rohatyn (‘25) feels similarly. “I think that 1989 was actually the album that solidified my love for Taylor as a teen,” she says. “Her younger albums were nostalgic because they were the first songs I owned on CD and memorized, but with 1989, I always wanted it on.” 1989 is the soundtrack of her college experience in general, making it Coco’s favorite. Hence, the apparent importance of the re-release, despite Harry Styles’s absence from the album. 

As a semi-Swiftie, I’ve never quite understood the significance of the re-releases beyond the technicalities of money and music ownership. “My dad used to laugh at me and my sister for screaming the words to ‘We Are Never Getting Back Together’ or ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ because he knew we couldn’t actually relate. Then Red TV [Taylor’s Version] came out and I was at the tail-end of my first real relationship, so it felt full circle to have loved her songs when I was younger with no understanding, and then feel so connected to the lyrics of the re-release,” explains Elliott. This kind of irreplaceable nostalgia and emotional connectedness makes sense to me—it is exactly how I feel about Harry Potter, which, I suppose, was my intense adolescent fixation.

Here’s the thing: As a twenty-year-old, or, more specifically, as a somewhat melodramatic twenty-year-old girl, it can feel difficult to find someone with a similar emotional range to you. Song lyrics mitigate this issue, as they distill complex emotional phenomena into appealing little sentences. They make you feel seen and heard and understood in ways that only art can—and, for the sake of argument, in ways that only Taylor Swift’s art can. In my mind, this desire for understanding is the only thing that can explain the Taylor mania. Ultimately, she is our demographic’s ideé fixe.

(Cover Image: Image courtesy of Violet Chernoff)

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