I hear it all the time from my high school students: "Taylor Swift's old stuff was so much better." Admittedly I don't understand because I am yet to hear a T-Swift song that doesn't make me want to drive my car into the nearest utility pole. But I liken it to the discussions many of us normal people have about whether classic Aerosmith ("Dream On") was better than 2000s Aerosmith ("Don't Wanna Miss a Thing").
It's pretty clear what they're getting at when they're complaining about this – they think Swift sold out. She went from writing and performing her cute little guitar tunes about break-ups to performing a bunch of over-produced, over-scripted, over-autotuned, over-digitized, lyrically-deficient songs that rely strictly on their catchy repetition rather than their uniqueness or distinctiveness to sell.
And while I get their frustration, no one should really blame Taylor. If her goal is to make more millions, increase her notoriety, and promote her brand, selling out is what she must do. And not just musically. It's what she must do politically and culturally as well.
A good parallel would be what happens in the world of academia. In order to advance, you must be accepted and respected by your peers. That means conforming. You can't, for instance, hold to a belief in God's literal creation of the universe and expect to ever be published in peer-reviewed journals. You must conform. You can't caution that the climate change hysteria is overwrought and far more politically-fueled than scientifically sound, and expect to have your ideas seriously considered. You must conform.
The same thing goes in the world of entertainment. If you want to perform at the Grammys, you can't be silent on leftist political causes. You must conform. If you want to have any crossover appeal from country music into the world of pop, you can't think you'll be allowed to stay apolitical. You must conform. The most recent exhibit? Taylor Swift:
"There's literally nothing worse than white supremacy. It's repulsive. There should be no place for it. Really, I keep trying to learn as much as I can about politics, and it's become something I'm now obsessed with, whereas before, I was living in this sort of political ambivalence, because the person I voted for always won."
Translation: "I was facing questions from my peers about why I wasn't publicly on board the LGBT train, as well as speaking out against the fascist in the White House. They were starting to think I might be a closet conservative and I was risking being cut off. So now I'm dutifully conforming and learning all the things I'm supposed to say, like, ‘white supremacy is bad.'"
By the way, is it really considered brave and courageous to say what literally everyone with a functioning brain believes? It reminds me of the Babylon Bee headline:
Or as Caleb Howe bravely stated:
But this is the new, conformed mind of Taylor Swift that we'll be treated to going forward:
"I do think, as a party, we need to be more of a team. With Republicans, if you're wearing the red hat, you're one of them. And if we're going to do anything to change what's happening, we need to stick together. We need to stop dissecting why someone's on our side or if they're on our side in the right way or if they phrased it correctly. We need to not have the right kind of Democrat and the wrong kind of Democrat. We need to just be like, ‘You're a Democrat? Sick. Get in the car. We're going to the mall.'"
Sick conformity. In case there were any doubt, my students are right: we're never going back to the old Taylor.