Ten years on from her debut album and, yeah, yeah everyone thinks Taylor Swift is awesome, but Hazel Davis loved her before she was cool, OK?
I’ve always been a country fan. It probably started by necessity. Spending (very happy) hours in the front room at my grandparents’ house, rifling through their record collection, I got my musical education courtesy of Bobby Goldsboro, Tammy Wynette and, of course, Dolly Parton.
I can’t tell you how many years I spent secretly wishing I didn’t love Dolly Parton (shameful years that I now regret). If any of my friends got a whiff of it they would laugh or, worse, ask what on EARTH it was. These days, of course, everyone loves Dolly. Grrr.
The same is true of Taylor Swift. I know people say this ALL the time but I really did love Taylor Swift first. I did. OK, so I wasn’t there RIGHT from the beginning (she released her first album in 2006 when she was about six(teen)), but I properly caught her in 2010 when she released her third, Speak Now, at the grand old age of 20. It bagged her a Grammy nomination for best album and it’s still one of my all-time faves.
The songs are smart, witty and catchy as hell and one of the most annoying things said about her at the time – that nobody says about the likes of Ed Sheeran – was that she wrote them all by her ickle self (and co-produced). Clever girl.
Songs like Dear John are classy and mature beyond her years: “Don’t you think 19 is too young to be played by your dark twisted games?” The songs are stupidly catchy; one listen and you’re hooked (as evidenced by the fact my children know the words to ALL of them), but contain effortless lines such as, “You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter.”
Of course, once I was addicted to Speak Now, I went back to Fearless. And it’s a corker, too. “She wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts / She’s cheer captain, and I’m on the bleachers,” Swift sings in You Belong with Me, a glorious John Hughesian teen angst epic.
I played Speak Now over and over again in the car and passengers would smile politely or mock me gently. I’d retort with, “And I can see you years from now in a bar, talking over a football game with that same big loud opinion, but nobody’s listening” (a line from the brilliant Mean).
Red (the one with all the songs about Harry Styles. Whatever) came out in 2012, making me wind the window down and sing about being 22 (literally the catchiest song OF ALL TIME) and “happy, free, confused and lonely in the best way.”
“The fact she writes effortlessly witty and listenable songs about totally relatable topics, her videos are hillaaarrrrrrious and she’s won TEN Grammys is not even why I love her best.”
Her delicious humour shines through in every line, “This morning I said we should talk about it, ‘cause I read you should never leave a fight unresolved / That’s when you came in wearing a football helmet and said, ‘OK, let’s talk’” (Stay, Stay, Stay).
Then Tay absolutely exploded all over the mainstream with 1989, featuring the barnstorming Shake It Off and everyone was all, like, totally into her. She became besties with Lena Dunham, talked about feminism and annihilated the haters with her goofy grin (I LOVED HER FIRST, REMEMBER).
Anyway, the fact she writes effortlessly witty and listenable songs about totally relatable topics, her videos are hillaaarrrrrrious and she’s won TEN Grammys is not even why I love her best.
I love her because she invites fans to her house and bakes them cookies. She really does. I love her because she scours her fans’ social media accounts, SENDS THEM PRESENTS and finds them in audiences and takes selfies with them. She paid off a fan’s college loan and once flew a super-fan to New York to watch her perform at the 2014 Jingle Ball concert. She also enlisted 100 fans to be in the Shake It Off video.
She surrounds herself with other women, potential musical and celebrity rivals, demonstrating that – shock, horror – women can support and be nice to each other and still be successful. Whothefuckknew?
Most importantly, she brought tights and shorts back and got Barack Obama to call Kanye West (I’m not even going to dignify his behaviour by reminding you of it) a “jackass”. Couldn’t love her more.
Taylor, call me, yeah?
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Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".