For years, I loved to hate Taylor Swift.
My tweets about her were mean. There was bad blood. I couldn’t shake it off. Why? Gossip about the musician’s relationship breakups colored my perception of her. My inner music snob chafed at what I perceived as a gimlet-eyed pursuit of all-conquering stardom.
In 2022, Ms. Swift is bigger than ever. If Ticketmaster’s servers melt down today, it’ll be because tickets just went on sale for her 2023 stadium tour. Last month, the megastar’s 10th album, “Midnights,” became Spotify’s most-streamed album in a single day. It sold over a million vinyl copies in its first week. Songs from “Midnights” occupied all 10 top spots on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
Ms. Swift’s success was anathema to me. I always used the mute button whenever I came across her music. Then two years ago, a friend of mine came over to my house and implored me to stream a song Ms. Swift had released, “The Last Great American Dynasty.” It’s a Gatsby-esque tale about the uproarious life of Rebekah Harkness, an early 20th-century socialite who lived in an ocean-facing mansion in Rhode Island. “There goes the most shameless woman this town has ever seen,” sings Ms. Swift. “She had a marvelous time ruinin’ everything.”
Then comes the lyric plot twist. Ms. Swift breaks the fourth wall and reveals that she is now the owner of that historic home. We realize that the song isn’t just about people throwing shade at Ms. Harkness. It’s a meta commentary about how people perceive the songwriter.
I was floored by Ms. Swift’s masterful songwriting. I glimpsed the person beyond the persona I’d built up in my mind. I had judged Ms. Swift. I hadn’t truly listened to her. Were there other areas of my life in which I’ve had similar blindspots?
“Midnights” is a conceptual album about things that keep Ms. Swift awake at night. The album’s lyrics are more self-reflective (and sweary) than recent releases. Its downtempo electronic sound is the latest chameleonic shift in a bold career that has already spanned country, pop, and folk. On October 21, Ms. Swift convened a novel listening party for it. At midnight, millions of people logged onto streaming services for that rarest thing in pop culture: a vast shared communal experience. And I was among them, proud to be a fellow Swiftie.