Last Monday I took advantage of a friend’s spare ticket and went to see Taylor Swift at the O2 in London.
I normally take myself pretty seriously. I’m not keen on wilfully making a fool of myself, e.g. by dancing, or drinking lots of alcohol. I guess I’m scared of losing people’s respect.
But for some reason that I can’t fully explain, I enjoy the feeling of my own ridiculousness that I sense when I, a 26-year old man, listen to Taylor’s music.
Maybe it’s because it’s hard work maintaining a respectable persona, and it feels good to actively separate myself from that for a while.
I guess it’s what many people would call a “guilty pleasure”, but I also genuinely think she’s a really talented songwriter, and even if the content of some of her songs doesn’t exactly speak deeply to my soul, I still appreciate the talent that’s on display.
There is, however, one particular aspect of the actual content of some of Taylor’s songs that I really do enjoy. I like the way she conveys a feeling of unrestrained happiness.
My favourite example at the moment is Stay Stay Stay.
Perhaps things are changing, but it seems like, at least for most of the time I’ve been aware of popular culture, it’s not been considered cool to express happiness. Cool people are cynical about everything. (Perhaps this is just a British thing?). The cool movies are the ones that don’t have happy endings. The cool musicians are the ones that sing about their dissatisfaction with life.
Don’t get me wrong, I often tend to take a pessimistic view of things too, but I believe God created the universe with the intention that we experience unrestrained joy, and that this would lead us to see God himself (as the creator of such a joy-inducing universe) as indescribably glorious. So while I also love a lot of songs that express angst because the world is broken and we don’t experience that joy perfectly yet, I enjoy songs that express something like the kind of joy that I think God designed us for, and I find that in some of Taylor’s songs. (I like Owl City for the same reason, and he also seems to have a similar relationship with God.)
I also appreciate how Taylor seems to still be genuinely amazed by the fact that so many people want to see her perform. I think this sets a good humble example to her fans. Some other famous musicians seem to think they have the right to expect everyone to pay attention to them and do whatever they ask to make them happy, but Taylor seems to be there to serve her fans. She seems to genuinely value other people’s happiness more than her own. I wish I was more like that.
Having said that, I don’t think her example is perfect. For example, she seems to idolise romance. In fairness, I imagine the men she’s dated have to take a significant share of the blame for her numerous break-ups, but if, as some of her songs seem to suggest, she’s pinning her hopes for lasting happiness on a man, she’s always going to be disappointed, because no man (or woman) can live up to that.
The only one who can bear the weight of that kind of expectation is the God who created you, who designed you with that desire for love, and wants you to find satisfaction for that desire in a relationship with Himself.