Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve: Is Taylor Swift Overrated or Overhated?

Taylor Swift is one of this generation’s most widely recognized musical artists. She has had many hit singles, albums, and even broken records she has set herself. However, with her widespread popularity, some people do not connect with her music and will vocalize their opinion any chance they get. But no matter how a person may feel about her music, there is one thing that everyone should agree on: Taylor Swift is a lyrical genius.

“Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” is a bonus track on Taylor Swift’s Midnights (3am Edition). The whole Midnights album consists of songs she wrote during her sleepless nights. This track is about her ex-boyfriend John Mayer, who she dated when she was nineteen and he was thirty-two. In this song, now thirty-two herself, she reflects on her relationship with him and why it was so problematic and wrong.

If I was some paint, did it splatter
On a promising grown man?
And if I was a child, did it matter
If you got to wash your hands?

In the opening lines of the songs, Swift is already addressing the fact that this relationship has defined both of their careers. She compares herself to paint, almost creating the idea that her speaking out about her relationship with Mayer “smeared” his career and her own. Despite all of her accomplishments, her previous relationship is always dragged into the conversation. She also points out that he was the “grown man” in the relationship and calls herself a “child.” This further pushes the point that he had all the power in the relationship and would get to control the narrative of how others viewed it while she, “the child,” would be seen as immature and foolish no matter how it ended. Mayer could “wash his hands” of the relationship, ultimately taking no responsibility for what happened during it and how it ended. However, Swift combats his behavior by saying that since she was a child when this happened, can he truly be able to “wash his hands” of it? Lastly, by including that Mayer is a “promising grown man” implies that he still has not lived up to the expectations the world has set for him and has not done anything truly striking. He is, most likely, widely known for this horrible relationship.

I would’ve stayed on my knees

And I damn sure never would’ve danced with the devil

At nineteen

And the God’s honest truth is that the pain was heaven

Before her relationship with him, Swift was religious and was very connected to her ideals. She illustrates that if she had never met Mayer and started a relationship with him, she would have stayed on the path of religion. She would have been connected to a much simpler and less painful life. However, since she was nineteen and didn’t know any better, the pain that she felt in this relationship was something that was seen as excusable. She wanted his validation and didn’t understand that the way he was treating her was horrible and damaging.

God rest my soul, I miss who I used to be

The tomb won’t close, stained glass windows in my mind

Stained glass windows are often used to depict Catholic and Christian stories. By stating that they still linger in her head, one can assume that she remembers brief memories of her previous life. However, they are shattered and will remain memories, nothing more. Swift mentions that she issues her old ideals and life. However, her relationship is something she wishes she could do away with. However, it won’t go away. No matter how many songs she writes expressing her feelings about the situation, this will be something that will always linger and haunt her. 

If clarity’s in death, then why won’t this die?

Years of tearing down our banners, you and I

Living for the thrill of hitting you where it hurts

Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first

When her relationship ended, she expected to fully understand the damage and trauma she was left with. However, years later, she still has questions and is confused about the whole thing. They have both said horrible things about each other and have denounced each other in hopes of distancing themselves from the relationship. However, they are still connected in some way. By denouncing his character to the public, Swift is able to find some comfort in the situation. However, this will never change the fact that because her relationship was so toxic, she had to grow up fast, effectively ruining her childhood. The last line is her pleading and begging to have her girlhood back because it may bring some clarity to this situation. 

All in all, this song is a reflection of an extremely toxic relationship that has left Swift with over a decade of trauma and sleepless nights. Her artistic language fully encapsulates this idea and really stresses to the listener how damaging a relationship with an older person can be. While people may only know Swift’s upbeat and carefree songs, they shouldn’t denounce her character or her music. She has proved time and time again that she can create brilliant songs, storylines, and carefully crafted music videos. So, if you view her music as overrated, simple, or boring, I advise you to get a new opinion. 

Is Maria from Trust an Existentialist?

The movie Trust follows a teenage girl, Maria, after she is thrown out of her house. In the story, she meets a man named Matthew Slaughter and starts to dress and act differently. The two of them begin a relationship that would be considered pedophilia because Matthew is in his thirties while Maria is only seventeen. Putting that aside, the movie presents themes of existentialism. However, it is a little unclear whether or not Maria would be considered an existentialist.

In the book The Stranger, we get the perfect existentialist character, Meursault. He doesn’t let social constructs weigh him down and enjoys all of life by living in the moment. At the beginning of Trust, it is pretty clear that Maria would not be considered an existentialist. She is concerned with style, makeup, and love. She intends to marry her football player boyfriend, who got her pregnant. It is presented that she wants nothing more than to be married in life. However, when she meets Matthew, her appearance and priorities change. While some may consider this as her becoming an outsider to society, I don’t think her changing is specifically because she’s becoming an existentialist. Matthew is the one to provide her with new wardrobe and glasses. Even though with the new attire she would be considered an outsider, because Matthew told her to wear it would not necessarily be an existentialist move. Also, at one point in the movie, she asks Matthew if he loves her. He tells her that he admires and respects her, but does not think that mean love. Maria is still concerned with love and trying to find someone who will take a romantic interest in her. If that is something that she is actively working for in life, she would not be considered an existentialist.

All in all, I believe Mattew would be considered an existentialist, but by forcing that way on Maria, she would not be an existentialist. Exitentialism is a idea that one developes naturally. By forcing these ideas on Maria, she would not be an existentialist.

The Secret Woman

Although The Secret Woman was a relatively short story, it had many complex themes that should be discussed. The story is told through a husband’s perspective as we follow him through an Opera he attended without his wife, Irene. However, upon hearing a cough, he realizes his wife decided to go there without him. As he follows her throughout the night, his perspective of her completely changes. At the beginning of the story, Irene is described as fragile, shy, and overall, the definition of what a lady should be. However, as he experiences her having relations with other men, his perspective drastically changes. Suddenly, she is disgusting, crude, and immodest. This story highlights a very common problem in society and gender roles. The male gaze praises women who are submissive, kind, and gentle. Women should be alluring or else they are ugly, but not too alluring because then they would be considered promiscuous. This is exactly what we see through the husband’s eyes in the story. His wife is perfect in his eyes until he sees her at this party. After seeing her behavior at the party, he is almost distraught and starts to describe his wife as having satanic behavior. Seeing the story through his eyes is important because it shines a light on this certain mindset many individuals have. He was at the Opera for the same reasons she was there however, he completely neglects that fact and chooses to criticize his wife because she is no longer behaving the way he sees fit for a woman to behave. By shining a light on this, it makes it easier to see how harmful this mindset is for women.

Nabokov and What Makes a Good Reader

In his essay “Good Readers and Good Writers,” Nabokov mentions in a definative way that the worst thing a person can do while reading is to identify with a character in a book. He goes on to say that this is a lowly form of imagination that no reader should use. While I agree with Nabokov to a certain extent, I don’t find anything wrong with identifying with a character in a book. When reading, there is no way you won’t find a certain character that you relate to in some way. I think it’s pretty common for people to look for little things in a character that they relate to in order to understand that person or that story better. Personally, I find no issue with this and am guilty of doing this while reading. However, I don’t think everything an author writes is supposed to be relatable. Nabokov wrote the infamous story “Lolita,” which is a story that is narrated by a pedophile and is attraction to a 12-year-old girl named Dolores. This novel is very disturbing and is still a very controversial topic to this day. While reading this, I don’t think Nabokov meant anyone to try and relate to this story in any way. I think he wrote it to shine a light on an often disregarded topic because many people find it uncomfortable to talk about. However, on social media and in music, the type of relationship showed in Lolita is often romanitized and seemingly praised. I think this is very harmful because the book explicitly discusses how it is abuse and how a man abused his power over a little girl. This should not be praised or something that is strived for. All in all, I think it’s great to relate to a character in a novel or story, however, we should not mix relatiblity with praising awful actions. This is harmful in so many ways and can end up hurting people who are younger and can be easily influenced.