Let’s get one thing straight. I’m not a Taylor Swift groupie. Not even a little… although I will admit to sometimes secretly rocking out when “I Knew You Were Trouble” comes on my daughter’s playlist.
My 7-year-old girl is not a Swift super-fan either, but she likes a handful of tunes, along with random selections by pop divas such as Katy Perry and Pink. Thankfully, she also likes alt-rock like The Dandy Warhols, The Strokes and Green Day… whew!
The other day, she came in from school and asked me to find the new Taylor Swift song on iTunes – aka “something with ‘shake’ in the title.” We found “Shake It Off” easily enough and if you haven’t yet heard it, I’ll warn you it is not the kind of song you listen to just once. We downloaded it, played it several times, and then decided to check out the video on YouTube.
The song is catchy, danceable, upbeat, and uplifting – the kind of pop tune that gets stuck in your head. My daughter and I watched the video (at full blast) half a dozen times, until my 8-year-old twin boys finally retreated to another room to finish their homework in peace.
Apparently, I’ve just discovered what more than 43 million Taylor Twitter followers and throngs of adoring fans already know. This girl is fun to listen to – and more than that, her songs have a message.
I immediately got the not-so-subtle subtext of “Shake It Off” – but did my daughter? I asked her what she thought of the video. Mind you, she just started third grade and the beginning of the school year comes with a lot of pressures – make new friends, reconnect with old friends, dress a certain way, be strong, be creative, be smart…
Here, in my daughter’s own words, is her reaction:
Basically she is saying people can criticize her and they can hate her but she’s just going to shake it off. She’s like: “Ok, you can say that, but I’m going to just keep doing what I do best because it’s my thing. I’m going to block out all the sound. I’m not going to listen to the people out there who are laughing and hating and criticizing me. I’m just going to be like: who cares?”
She’s telling us about how people criticize her and saying they can break your heart, they can laugh at you, they can hate you – so she comes out as showing all the people out there she’s actually a really good person, not one of those crappy old meanies.
Her song applies to everyone’s life because in life you’re not going to have an easy-going smooth life. In everyone’s life there’s going to be a time or two when people criticize you. You’re going to get criticized so her song really helps me and all the other watchers behind the screen because everybody’s going to run into a challenge — so it makes us feel better and I’ll just shake it off. I won’t care, I’ll just shake it off.
Wow. Well, done Taylor Swift!
As a mother, “Shake It Off” appeals to me for multiple reasons – I can only imagine how it would resonate if I was an adolescent girl. As my daughter so aptly pointed out, its message is to disregard the critics, shake off the negativity, and stay strong. For both kids and adults that’s an important message – one we often forget. Second, it tells you to do things your own way, to be yourself – even if you’re awkward and a Grammy Award-winning mega-star.
I also like the fact that Swift realizes how influential she is with young girls and says things publicly such as: “If you’re a singer and on TV and in the living room of some 12-year-old girl, she’s watching what you’re wearing and saying and doing… That’s what little girls do, so there is a big responsibility and I take it very seriously.”
Swift is a celebrity, so no doubt she thinks about every move she makes – but the fact that she feels a responsibility to set a good role model makes her different. Sometimes her message is subtle, like when she tweeted homespun pictures of herself baking cookies with the caption: “Winter = baking season. It’s on.” Sometimes her message is more public – like when she bares her wounded heart during performances.
At the ripe old age of 24, Swift continues to dominate the charts and capture hearts. One Huffington Post teen writer spelled out 13 life lessons learned from Taylor Swift. Another HuffPo fan poured her heart out in a personal letter: “Dear Taylor Swift, As I prepare to graduate from high school, I would like to take a moment to say a sincere and infinitely grateful, ‘Thank you.’ … You empathized with me when no one else did. You inspired me to grow and to share… Taylor, thank you for being the soundtrack to my adolescence… thank you for empathizing with my feelings, and more importantly, for showing me that it’s okay to feel at all… I think it’s so courageous of you to share your growing process through your songs.”
That’s a lot of powerful message packed into a few pop songs… but whatever makes our children stronger, makes ’em better. I’m a big believer in exposing kids to music. Music wakes us up, cheers us up, calms us down, gives our same-old-same-old life a soundtrack of sorts… and occasionally, delivers a really potent, really positive message. For my daughter and me.