Taylor Swift and Creativity (Or, the Art of Shaking It Off)

In connection with my previous post about Neil Gaiman and making good art, here’s a new one. Now, whether it’s good or bad is something I can’t say. Certainly, though, it’s something to look at, and I suppose be inspired by.

Taylor Swift needs no introduction. Ever since she became famous, she’s everywhere – whether on the music charts, on The Ellen Show, or on entertainment columns, her latest relationship break-up a feast for the public. She has a dedicated fanbase, of course, but she also has a lot of critics, and always, someone manages to find something about her to criticize.

1989: Taylor Swift’s latest record is a drastic departure from her previous country-pop outing, Red, and an even more drastic departure from her first albums, Fearless and Speak Now being two of them. After countless, country-fuelled songs about break-ups, and millions of record sales, 1989 takes Taylor Swift’s music to a new direction – and not just musically.

Taylor Swift just released her latest single, “Blank Space,” the second cut from 1989. It’s certainly not a lyrical gem, but it is amusing in its own right, with lines like “got a long list of ex-lovers / they’ll tell you I’m insane / but you know I love the players / and you love the game.” The song itself is catchy, poppy, and highly infectious – devoured over and over again by the millions of Swifties around the world – but the music video is something else.

Already mentioned is the fact that Taylor Swift has been criticized for a number of things – running through relationships like bullets being one of them. In “Blank Space,” she acknowledges this comment by injecting it into the song, and acts out the part of a crazed, overly clingy, insane girlfriend in the song’s music video.

Let’s not forget, too, the album’s first single, “Shake It Off.” Taylor pointedly ignores and makes fun of the remarks thrown at her (“I go on too many dates / but I can’t make them stay / at least that’s what people say”) and instead uses the criticism – baseless as they seem to be – as fuel for her art. In this case, of course, music.

Why am I talking about Taylor Swift, and how she makes fun of critics through her music?

The point I’m trying to drive home is this: Taylor Swift is an example of a person making good art, out of the negative things being thrown at her. She builds up on the negative comments and uses them to make something that she – and her fans – are happy with.

Creativity can spring from anywhere, at any time. Creativity, and creating something, can certainly be inspired by anything that is otherwise insipid, baseless, or just plain hateful. Experiencing anything that’s far from good can become a good base for a story later on. Being criticized is a normal, every day thing, but it is up to one if the criticism – especially that which is not constructive in any way – will be taken seriously or will be, instead, used for the better.

Finally, this is Taylor Swift, and so the art she makes out of negative comments about her is bound to get positive response anyway. However, as single-tracked as her music may sometimes seem, there is a valuable nugget of wisdom that she imparts: “shake it off.”

So do what Taylor Swift does. Use criticism as a springboard, as a launching pad to jump off into the wonderful, reckless abandon of creation.

Also, a final note: for anyone out there who is planning to write satire, to start with, you can take cues from Taylor Swift.

Some Interesting Things:

Take a break, and listen to Taylor Swift’s new single, Blank Space.

(P.S. I’m not promoting Taylor Swift – just her ways of dealing with criticism and working on something satirical.)

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