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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Looking back at Old Taylor

A retrospective before “Reputation”

Look what you made Taylor Swift do.

Once a doe-eyed, curly haired, sparkly dress-donning country singer, Swift is back with a vengeance after a three-year hiatus, and let’s just say everything has changed.

Lyrical puns aside, the fierce Swift in the music videos for new singles “Look What You Made Me Do” and “…Ready For It?” is far, far removed from her former self.

So, how’d we end up here? This question calls for a thorough examination of her musical journey and dramatic public life, because love or hate her, it’s hard to deny the 10-time Grammy winner’s ability to shake things up.


Taylor Swift (2006)

Overall Feel: This album dropped in the days before Swift was labeled as a “serial dater” and manipulator, back when people solely focused on her music. And for a debut album from a 16-year-old, this album was genuinely good. Swift wrote most of the songs as a freshman in her Pennsylvania high school, and touched on dating and adolescent struggles. Swift’s freshman effort was a country album through and through, and it launched her into country music stardom.

Singles: “Tim McGraw,” “Teardrops on My Guitar,” “Our Song,” “Picture to Burn,” “Should’ve Said No”

Drama/Inspiration: No drama yet. Swift drew inspiration for this album from early high school relationships and observing those of her peers.

Graphic by Kaitlyn Patterson ’20.

Fearless (2008)

Overall Feel: Swift’s second album dealt with struggles of adolescent dating, including unrequited crushes, ‘forbidden’ love, and heartbreak, in a mostly country-pop style. The album title refers to the theme contained throughout the tracks of  fearlessness involved in love, according to Swift. This was the era of long, curly blonde hair, sparkly dresses and guitars and Swift’s lucky number 13 painted onto her hand – a simpler era, to say the least.

Singles: “Love Story,” “White Horse,” “You Belong with Me,” “Fifteen,” “Fearless”

Drama/Inspiration: Swift was romantically linked with Joe Jonas in 2008, and it was brought to light Jonas ended their relationship with a ‘27-second phone call.’ Swift was clearly not pleased, and so began her infamous, highly-publicized habit of writing breakup songs about famous significant others, which arguably commenced with her song “Forever & Always,” a track on “Fearless.”

Then there was the incident at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Swift took the stage to give her acceptance speech for Best Female Video for “You Belong With Me,” when she was shockingly interrupted by Kanye West, who took the microphone from her to utter the now-infamous line: “I’mma let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time.” This was the spark that ignited a nasty feud between Swift and West, but more on that later.

Graphic by Kaitlyn Patterson ’20.

Speak Now (2010)

Overall Feel: Swift’s third album, while still in the country-pop genre and dealing with similar themes of love and heartbreak, marked an evolution into a more mature outlook by Swift on her life and romantic encounters. Swift had originally planned to call the album “Enchanted,” after one of the tracks and due to the album’s enchanting, magical vibes but was convinced to change it to something that better represented the maturity of her musical sound.

Singles: “Mine,” “Mean,” “Back to December,” “The Story of Us,” “Sparks Fly”

Drama/Inspiration: On “Speak Now,” Swift addressed several fizzled romances and feuds with fellow celebrities. It’s rumored she was referencing her failed romance with Jonas in the slow, poignant ballad “Last Kiss,” and she also took a dig at one of Jonas’ new flings, actress Camilla Belle, in the sassy “Better than Revenge.” “Dear John” is a powerful, nearly seven minute long ballad addressed to an older, manipulative boyfriend. Critics speculate this song was addressed to singer John Mayer, who Swift dated in 2009-2010. Lastly, Swift addressed her feud with West which described someone who lost his way. She even performed “Innocent” at the 2010 VMAs, and during the performance played a clip of West interrupting her acceptance speech the year before.


Graphic by Kaitlyn Patterson ’20.

Red (2012)

Overall Feel: “Loving him was red,” Swift croons in the title track of “Red,” a line which became a theme throughout her fourth album; an album in which Swift sings of her toxic relationships and the tumultuous ‘red’ emotions that sprang from them. This album features collaborations with Ed Sheeran and Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, and showcases Swift’s shift into pop without fully leaving country behind.

Singles: “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “Begin Again,” “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “22,” “Red,” “Everything Has Changed” (ft. Ed Sheeran), “The Last Time” (ft. Gary Lightbody)

Drama/Inspiration: Much of this album is reportedly about Swift’s relationship with actor Jake Gyllenhaal, which ended in early 2011. Specifically, “All Too Well,” an emotional rollercoaster of a song, is linked to Swift’s heartbreak and attempts to move on after their breakup. “I Knew You Were Trouble” was reportedly inspired by a brief relationship with One Direction’s Harry Styles, a notion which  was indirectly confirmed by Swift on more than one occasion.


Graphic by Kaitlyn Patterson ’20.

1989 (2014)

Overall Feel: Swift’s fifth album, named after her birth year, marked her departure from country into the world of pop. Longtime fans were shocked by her deviation from a country sound and by the total revamp of her signature look. She ditched her long hair for a bob and experimented with edgier outfit choices, but Swift’s creative risks in both her music and image clearly paid off. “1989” won Album of the Year at the Grammys, making Swift the first-ever female artist to win the award two times, considering she won the same award in 2010 for “Fearless.”

Singles: “Shake It Off,” “Blank Space,” “Bad Blood,” “Style,” “Wildest Dreams,” “Out of the Woods”

Drama/Inspiration: While Swift took on general haters and her media image on previous albums, “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space” address Swift’s naysayers and her media image as a ‘serial dater’ more directly than ever before.  Then there is “Bad Blood.” This song was inspired by Swift’s feud with popstar Katy Perry, which reportedly stemmed from the fact that Swift believed Perry “sabotaged” her tour by stealing some of her dancers. The music video featured Swift’s girl ‘squad’ taking on a traitor (played by Selena Gomez).

Graphic by Kaitlyn Patterson ’20.

Reputation (2017)

What we know: From the three singles released from Swift’s sixth album thus far, it’s clear  “Reputation” will be yet another rebirth. After “1989,” Swift took an uncharacteristically long hiatus from both music and the public eye.

Recently, Swift has been featured negatively in the media, especially due to her feud with West being reopened. When Swift was name-checked in West’s song “Famous,” she rejected his lyrics as being derogatory, until a video surfaced from West’s wife Kim Kardashian West showing her verbally approving the lyrics in a phone call before the track dropped.

The first three singles (“Look What You Made Me Do,” “…Ready For It?,” “Call It What You Want”) and their music videos portray Swift’s shedding of her former image and finding her true self after being labeled by the media and haters for so many years. Her latest single, “Call It What You Want,” and its lyric video subtly hint at Swift’s refreshing new relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn. Whether this is for better or for worse remains to be seen. Either way, meet the ‘new Taylor’ on Nov. 10 when “Reputation” is officially released.

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