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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

Taylor Swift pic

Taylor Swift: A golden calf or voice of a generation

An argument against Taylor Swift

Article 1: Whether Taylor Swift is an idol 

Objection 1. Taylor Swift does not represent an image or concept separate from her own identity; that is to say, Taylor Swift is objectively Taylor’s Version. She has historically gained fame on account of her reflections on her own past romantic relationships. Moreover, the disputes over ownership of music, in no way, negate Swift’s personal identity pervading through all aspects of her music. 

Objection 2. Taylor Swift fails to point toward a transcendent being in either her personal life or musical content. Her music addresses relationships and past experiences and touches on the theme of self empowerment. There is no connection between these human emotions and experiences with that of a higher being. If Swift does not point her audience toward a transcendent being, could it be possible that she is pointing to herself as a god? This would be implausible by virtue of the numerous breakups and the emotional vulnerability, as expressed through her music, that ensues. 

Objection 3. Taylor Swift is regarded as a popular musical artist and performer — a celebrity, nothing more. Worship would require some sort of formalized ritual to be performed in the honor of the idol, none of which exists for Swift. Furthermore, the only plausible party that could act as worshippers are her fans, which demonstrate general fondness and excitement for her art; however, none of their actions could reasonably be concluded as worship. The frequency and fervor with which fans engage with her music are merely indicative of the social preferences of 21st century custom. 

On the contrary, Taylor Swift resembles the image of a god that is held as an object of worship. 

I answer that, Taylor Swift is an image not of herself but of an enticing concept, that is one’s self as god and receives devotion because of it. Swift acts as a vessel for a message to be announced to the masses; consequently, she is not conveying her own message but rather that of those who control and employ her, that is the music industry, broadly speaking. The topics of her music are closely tied with the persona that she has been developing for years. These topics include but are not limited to temporary romantic relationships, self empowerment, friendship and heartbreak and betrayal — a direct offense to the god of self. The composite of these topics define Swift’s persona, that is one whose past relationships and experiences have helped her grow into the resilient, inspiring individual that she is today. Moreover, these experiences affirm one’s deity. Her discography is sacred scripture that her audience engages in order to discover one’s own divinity through the example of the Taylor Swift persona. As a result, the audience is consumed in unhealthy passion and is weakened with respect to the integrity of the mind. 

Reply to Objection 1. Taylor Swift embodies a concept that is not her own identity or of her own will. The controversy over music ownership with Scooter Braun is indicative of how attractive her music is to third parties who wish to exert some control over Swift and receive the subsequent profits. It would be unwise to think that such desires for power and profit cease to exist as a result of a new record deal. Moreover, the employment of multiple writers and ghost writers, perhaps, for her music weakens her claim to authorial ownership. It is not surprising that the consumer preferences deemed suitable by the music industry correlate to the music that Swift presents, which is why her popularity has been long standing. 

Furthermore, I do not contend that the identity that Swift once presented to the world, that is at the beginning of her career, was her own. I argue that the specific identity that has more recently developed her popularity is one that is exaggerated, manipulated in such a way by the music industry that it continues to respond to consumer preferences. Swift responds, or rather is compelled to respond lest she experience financial loss, to this circumstance by producing or reproducing music that aligns with the identity favored by the music industry. 

Reply to Objection 2. Taylor Swift does not point toward the transcendent being but rather a mortal being that is held in the same regard as a god. This mortal being is one’s self. She is a messenger to bring forth the teachings of how to regard oneself as god, not only that but also she is an exemplar of such teachings. Her theme of self empowerment is just disguised pride, that is thinking that your excellence and gifts comes from you alone. Within pride, or worship of self, does one find himself or herself desperately attempting to control his or her world. With this lens applied to Swift’s situation, one will find that her attempt to stay number one in popularity by means of producing yet another album, coupled with tours, made possible through a ridiculous workout routine is questionable. How many more millions does a billionaire desire until one is satisfied? How much more fame? And what is the cost? If money and “self growth” comes at the expense of 12 publicly known failed romantic relationships, perhaps there is another avenue to explore in honorable profit-making and personal development. However, the cycle will continue and Travis Kelce could very well be the 13th. 

Reply to Objection 3. It is precisely the frequency that her fans listen to the music and the fervor with which they do so that is disturbing. In a world full of noise, we are not able to be comfortable with the silence of our thoughts. Therefore, we outsource our thoughts with those of another, that is Ms. Swift. As a result, in the occasions where personal thoughts may arise, they are summarily commandeered by the noise of another. With the inordinate frequency comes a deleterious consequence on your psychology. From psychology flows action, and from action flows habit. From habit flows the formation of either virtue or vice. Given that the source of the thoughts, that is, not your own, one must conclude that your habits are liable to malign manipulation. There is a submission of intellectual liberty when one subjects oneself to an addiction of this sort. 

With regard to her concerts, a type of formalized ritual, and new releases, it is disturbing to witness the lengths that her fans will go to see or listen to her. One is eager to sacrifice money, time and even one’s own life in exchange for something that provides no genuine value. I am convinced that sentimental value is the only thing gained. Genuine value entails a cooperative exchange done so with the intention of willing the good of another on the grounds that they are another human being. However, given the power Swift has over her fans’ minds, I am unconvinced that the exchange is cooperative and that Swift’s intentions are necessarily virtuous. 

Jonah Tran is a sophomore at Notre Dame double majoring in finance and classics with a minor in Constitutional studies. He prides himself on sarcasm and his home — the free state of Florida. You can contact Jonah by email at jtran5@nd.edu.