Well, guys, Taylor Swift has done it again! Another new song from her upcoming album is out today and it's AMAZING! I swear that's relevant information to this post. Just stick with me here.
I had been putting off this blog post until Taylor Swift released the album Lover, as I feel it, with it's butterflies and pastel aesthetic contrasting with the snakes and black and white of Reputation, would be perfect evidence to support my argument, but the title track came out and it has me pumped enough to go ahead and write this!
Before getting to this song specifically, let's get to my point that the trope of the suffering artist has to go.
I recently saw an article that said Sad Taylor Swift is the best, And it has a point. my favorite songs of hers are the heavier ones (just see my post on "The Archer"). And back when details of Taylor's super private relationship slowly started coming out, leaving people speculating if they would get married, I remember seeing comments from people wondering what she would write about if her heart stopped getting broken. So, I feel that point on Sad Taylor leads to a slippery slope that's all too common in the creative world.
This idea of suffering has often gone hand in hand with art. Just look at how we talk about Hemingway, Plath, Van Gogh...This trope of the tortured artist is an old one and it's dangerous for us artists.
It's dangerous to feel you, as an artist, must suffer to produce anything worthwhile. It's a feeling I've dealt with myself as a writer. My journaling is often tapping into my darker feelings and, while I have no intentions of sharing them publicly, I can't help but feel it's some of my best work. I struggle with this on a physical level, even. When Anna Timperley and I wrote Lost in Grey, sleep deprivation simply fueled my imagination, helping us breakthrough plot issues and hitting our word count for novel status. Now, when I struggle with writer's block (which is almost always), I have to physically tell myself that I'm not going to exhaust myself for the sake of trying to write.
As the great poet Andrea Gibson said in their 2018 Facebook post, which actually inspired me to think about this topic as it's been in my mind since the original post, 'your joy is as deserving of your pen as your grief.' Your happiness doesn't make it impossible for you to make good art! Happiness does not equate to lack of substance.
Now back to "Lover." The song is beautiful, and most importantly for this topic, her happiness is palpable. Listening to her talk about the joys of living life with her love, you can't help but smile. I'm sitting here listening to it (again) as I write this and my heart swells with joy hearing it. The emotion I get from it is like when a girl writes her name with her love interests last name all over a notebook. It's like she's so happily blown away that she can't believe it's actually happening while realizing the simple things they can do like having friends stay over, or not taking down the Christmas lights, because it's THEIRS, all while wildly smiling each time she says the word "lover" (I can't be the only one who hears that smile, right?).
And lyrically, I just love it. She has so many nods to previous songs, which is one of my favorite things about her songwriting. "Take me home" could be a nod to "Style". "Forever and ever," "Sweeter than Fiction." Christmas lights are even in "The Moment I Knew." And with the exception to the reference to "Gorgeous" by calling him as a magnetic force, each reference is a nod to heartbreaks past. It's like using these phrases again are a way to cancel out the pain from before. Taylor never fails us with her lyrics, and her happiness doesn't negate that truth.*
"Lover" isn't her first song written from happiness, though. We all know she can write a fun bubbly bop like 'Shake it Off" or "Me!", but she has deeper songs about happiness, too. Just listen to "Gorgeous," a song that describes the feeling of having a crush better than anything I've heard or read. Listen to "Call it What You Want", where you can feel how in love she is with the description of her "baby." She even gets hot and steamy about her love interest with her song "Dress." She has these beautiful songs of substance that don't stem from heart break, but from feelings of infatuation and love. and they're off her darkest album! It's possible to destroy this trope! And based on the hints leading up to the release of "Lover," I have a feeling she's going to keep proving that point. Just another thing that makes Taylor Swift a good role model.
And if Taylor Swift isn't really your style, you can find all sorts of examples of this out there, too! In fact, going to my favorite, King of Sad Songs, Conor Oberst has an entire album of hopeful songs.
The point is, we all go through dark times, and writing (singing, painting, whatever your medium) is a wonderful way to cope and process through those feelings so please, don't stop making art when you're sad. But don't limit yourself to needing to suffer to make your art. Don't sit in your misery for the sake of creativity. Your light art is as special as your dark art.
*Shout out to Taylor Swift super fan Blake Walker for helping me find references to older songs in "Lover." This blog would've had a lot less substance without him!
Hello! I'm Lindsey. I'm a writer with a ton of random thoughts bouncing around in my head. So I share them here in hopes that they reach others with these thoughts.