Taylor Swift: Lots of songs, little growth

By Alex Stedman

If you haven’t heard country singer Taylor Swift’s catchy new tune, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” here are the basics: It’s about one of her ex-boyfriends, and they’re never, ever, ever getting back together.

While breakup songs have been a staple for most musical genres, there’s a fine line between art and tabloid fodder that Swift seems to have no problem crossing. Many of her songs come across as vindictive and vengeful. Rather than using songwriting as therapy, she uses it as a weapon.

Mean breakup songs are not uncommon. Most of the boy-band generation will remember the Backstreet Boys’ hurtful “Don’t Want You Back” and N*Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye.”

The problem reveals itself when Swift’s songs become less about quality music and more about entertainment. I’m not saying breakup songs are bad. If I thought that, then I would have a pretty narrow selection of songs to choose from. But there are better ways to do it. For instance, Adele’s album “21” is known for being about her breakup with a boyfriend. She executed it tastefully because no one in the media has any idea who her ex-boyfriend is. She did not set out to trash him like Swift. Some of Adele’s songs may be perceived as bitter (“Rolling in the Deep” and “Rumor Has It”), but she’s still not trying to throw him to the media dogs.

Swift doesn’t have such a classy track record. She publicly slams her ex-boyfriends to the point of raising a small army of fans against them. One of her most famous offenses happened in 2008 on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” when she blasted ex-boyfriend Joe Jonas by saying he broke up with her during a 27-second phone call.

Then there was “Dear John,” which is allegedly about Swift’s relationship with musician John Mayer. Mayer told Rolling Stone that he was “humiliated” by the song, in which she sings, “Don’t you think 19’s too young to be

played with?”

Of course, it’s difficult to keep your private life private when you’re in the spotlight, but publicly talking about old flames isn’t mature. It’s childish, petty and sends out a message to young fans that they should act spiteful toward old flames.

By now Swift has developed quite the reputation for herself. Big entertainment tabloids have already started rumors about whom “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is about. Jonas has already jumped to his own defense and said there’s no way the song could be about him. Now reporters are sifting through her ex-boyfriends, speculating whom it could be.

Even if she does not explicitly say whom “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is about, the media will speculate because of the low blows she has dealt in the past. Isn’t it the music that matters? To Swift, who has the talent and work ethic to create quality music, it seems like the music matters less and less. Her public statements just add fuel to the fire.

Swift’s development as an artist has taken a backward turn as well.

There’s hardly any denying she’s a talented singer and songwriter, but the lyrics are becoming cattier. She released “Fearless” in 2008, when she was 18, so her behavior was almost excusable then.

Four years have since passed. Instead of becoming more mature, her songs have become excessively vengeful. She said her new album, “Red,” is all about her past relationships, so it’s likely not to get

any better.

I am not calling out Swift for writing breakup songs. She’s a young girl in the dating world, so of course we can expect a few. But there are plenty of halfway respectful breakup songs that don’t result in media frenzy directed at the ex-boyfriend. Swift has been in the music business and in the spotlight for years now. There’s no real excuse because she should know the media well.

The first step is to stop putting down ex-boyfriends. If she can stop doing that, then perhaps we can focus more on the music. Until then, we just have a big, messy gossip show.