Swift fails to mature, dates 18-year-old Kennedy

Photo Courtesy of Big Machine Records.

It has been exciting to watch Taylor Swift grow from a teenage songwriter to a full-blown country — and now pop — superstar. Comparisons to Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears aren’t appropriate; Swift has had no hyper-sexualized coming-of-age transition from girl to woman, and for that, many are thankful. She has been praised for upholding a wholesome image. Part of her popularity is due to how relatable she is. Her songs are taken straight from the pages of her diary, and chronicle one high-profile romance and subsequent heartbreak after another.

But with her newest single, “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” Swift shows that while she is willing to try a new genre and experiment stylistically with music, she isn’t willing to extend this same sense of adventure to the song’s themes and lyrics.

There is no denying the catchiness of the song, but the incessant whining makes it lose its appeal. A boyfriend who treated her poorly dumps Swift; he wants her back, she proclaims she hates him and revels in the idea that he can never have her. In the middle of the track, there is a spoken interlude that sounds cringingly immature rather than charming: “…and I’m like, I mean this is exhausting / Like we are never getting back together / Like, ever.”

To add to her immaturity, Swift is involved with a high school student. Connor Kennedy, 18, still attends boarding school, but that didn’t stop Swift from flying him out to Nashville to spend time with her. This is a strange move coming from Swift who has previously been involved with men in their 30s. Arguments of fate and true love can be made, but a different conclusion can be drawn here — Swift is afraid to grow up.

Her celebrity does not exclude her from experiencing the same feelings of confusion and fear that many early 20-somethings feel as they near the conclusion of their first quarter of life. But Swift should embrace adulthood, not run from it. She will never have to worry about the unemployment rate, or affording health insurance or paying rent in Manhattan on an entry-level salary. Her future is promising and she has the wealth to afford a freedom of lifestyle that most will only dream of.

The issue is not that Swift should shed some clothing layers in order to become an adult. She should be able to preserve a sense of youth and innocence to convey to fans that being a young adult doesn’t always mean partying and controversial photo shoots. The issue lately with Swift is her lack of authenticity.

She was linked to John Mayer — whom “Dear John” was allegedly written about — who once described Jessica Simpson as “sexual napalm.”

The romance with Kennedy is troubling. She seems to be having difficulty coming to terms with her age and the differences between her personal life and public persona.

Swift should be embracing adulthood, and dating a younger man is not helping her do this. She is a successful, beautiful young woman with the financial freedom to live her life out in a way most of us will still be aspiring to have in our mid-adult lives. Her success is partly attributed to how well the themes of her music resonate with adolescent girls, and older women. But the high-school-underdog-gets-heart-broken-but-manages-to-overcome-it gimmick can’t last forever. A break up anthem about a guy who doesn’t have a high school diploma yet won’t be cute, it just sounds creepy.

It’s time for Swift to realize she is no longer 15. She’ll be 23 in December and as Simpson once infamously said, “23 is old. It’s almost 25, which is, like, almost mid-20s.”

Reach the reporter at jrpallas@asu.edu