How I Feel About New Taylor Swift Music as a Rock Fan


A turntable spins a record.

5 years ago, I knew every song released by the pop star Taylor Swift. Like any girl my age, I would scream my heart out to Look What You Made Me Do and dreamt of my future relationship when I listened to The Story Of Us. But as I grew, so did my taste in music. Now, instead of listening to 1989 on repeat, I listen to things like psychedelic music, classic rock and grunge and have completely sworn off “pop” music. But when Swift’s latest album, Midnights was released on October 21st, 2022, I decided I needed to see what all of the buzz was over Taylor Swift’s newer music and maybe expand my music taste in the process.

To succeed in understanding Swift’s appeal, I needed to start where I had left off. The last album by Taylor Swift I ever listened to was the 2017 album, reputation. At this point, Taylor had made a complete turn from the music I had grown to love. The album was nothing like her first three wavy-haired, country albums and since I was beginning to despise any popular music, it didn’t have the appeal Red and 1989 had on me during my youth. This meant I needed to start my journey on its subsequent album, the 2019 Lover.

When I started this album, I was surprised by how much I already knew. I hadn’t purposely listened to any Taylor Swift in years, but around a quarter of the songs, I was already aware of. Since I was reintroducing myself into pop music, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy to listen to this album was. For me, I believe that some of the draw to this album come from its similarities towards the old, nostalgia-filled Taylor Swift albums. Now, nothing on it struck me as particularly groundbreaking, the lyrics were pretty basic, as were the musical components, but that did not stop me from bopping my head along to the beat of a few of the songs. Songs like I Forgot That You Existed and Paper Haze are far from anything I normally listen to, but the beat and lyrics are catchy and got caught in my head quickly. I thought the album blended together very well, and it matched up well to its vibrant blue and pink album cover with its upbeat songs.  Although I wasn’t a fan of the slightly dirty I Think He Knows and got bored during The Archer, I was pleasantly surprised by the album.

After that, I moved on to the first of two 2020 albums, folklore. This album was completely different from the last album. This album was far less “radio-friendly” than the previous album as the songs were a lot folkier, as the title suggests, than pop-like. The entire album felt far more laid back and creative than anything released by Swift. Overall, I felt like the point of the album was Taylor trying to reintroduce herself yet again to the music industry, not as the person that sang Shake It Off, but as as artist that can add to the music world, instead of sticking to a criteria that creates a single. In my opinion, she did a fabulous job at this, especially in my personal favorites, invisible strings, this is me trying and hoax. Even though it was a new sound for her, the music in this album worked great. Her lyrics, the interesting background musical components and her voice all added greatly to its flow. Out of all of the albums I listened to, this one was by far my favorite. It also had my favorite album cover. The black and white forest photo works perfectly for the aesthetic of the album and it blended well with the album title, and the fact that all songs were lowercase. For pop music, I loved almost everything on this album, except for the song exile. The mix of Bon Iver’s voice in a slow Taylor Swift song almost put me off for the rest of the album. I almost had to turn it off, just because of that one song. Luckily I didn’t, because the album turned around for me again very quickly though when the song mirrorball came on, and I liked every song from then on.

In 2020, the album after folklore was followed by its sister album, evermore. Not only was this album released in the same year as folklore, but it also followed the general feeling of the album. It was also mostly filled with folk-like music and has the same, rustic-y cover, with Taylor facing the woods. Overall, this album was very calming, but it almost felt too similar to its predecessor. I didn’t think it was a dud, but it felt too much like an attempt to recreate the success of folklore. There were no songs I particularly disliked, except for another Bon Iver song called evermore. On this album, I really enjoyed the songs champagne problems and no body, no crime, but some of the other songs sounded too similar to the songs on folklore or other songs on the album. In my opinion, this album has multiple songs with really interesting guitar and bass riffs and a lot of the songs had very creative lyrics. Overall, I think this album had almost too much blend between the songs, and to truly enjoy the potential this album offers, it is better to listen to the songs on their own.

When I finally got to the album that had started this whole “experiment,” I am not going to lie, I was very tired of Taylor Swift. I hadn’t gone on a music binge that long since I first discovered The Beatles. Unfortunately, the 2022 Midnights did not particularly pull me out of the slump. While I absolutely loved the slightly retro cover of the new album, nothing else on this album really stuck out to me. To make sure it was not some side effect of four hours of pop music, I gave it a second listen and I came to the same conclusion. The album was slightly boring. While I had a couple of songs from the album that I enjoyed listening to, You’re On Your Own, Kid and Question…?, the rest of the album kind of felt like filler songs to me. This album had very personal lyrics and it was cool to see Taylor being able to express her emotions through music. She talks about her issues with food, anxiety and depression in this album. Unfortunately, I thought the music portion of the album didn’t live up to the lyrics. I personally have never been a fan of the synthesizers, sound effects, overdubs or autotune in pop music, which I think might have contributed to my general opinion of this album. While plenty of Taylor’s songs used the same tactics, I thought the private, personal songs would have done better without it. This album may not have got its surprise factor from its songs, but it definitely got it from somewhere else. I was particularly surprised to hear the amount of cursing in the songs. I am no stranger to profanity through my frequent heavy-metal binges and Taylor had used profanity in her music previously, but not nearly as much as this album. Even though this album was my least favorite Taylor Swift, I still don’t think it was a failure. It just doesn’t seem like this album was made for me, and I am ok with that.

During my journey, I decided to talk to avid Taylor Swift fan, junior Abby Standley. Standley is such a Swift fan that she went to the 1989 tour and plans on going to the Midnights tour. She enjoys all types of pop music and her favorite artists besides Taylor Swift are Harry Styles, Katy Perry and Rihanna. She thinks the best part of Taylor Swift is that she can “instantly connect with her fans.” Standley enjoys the album reputation and her favorite song is This Love. She was really excited when the album came out and thinks it blended slow and fast songs together really well, with her personal favorite song from the album being tied between Maroon and Midnight Rain. Getting to hear the excitement Abby had through Taylor’s music really helped me to come to my own conclusions on Taylor Swift’s music.

Even though I will probably never listen to the Billboard Hot 100 willingly, exposing myself to a different type of music than I am comfortable with was certainly not as horrible as I expected. I learned many things through listening to recent Taylor Swift music. I learned that I can like pop music. I really enjoyed at least one song from each album I listened to, and probably would listen to them again. I got to see how much joy this type of music brought to other people after talking with Abby Standley. Through Taylor Swift, I got to experience some childhood nostalgia again. I may not listen to Taylor Swift on a tight rotation, but I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to hearing it on my car radio and I am happy that I decided to give variety a try. Who knows, maybe someday I could even like Ariana Grande.