I don’t know about you, but I’ve been listening to the newest Taylor Swift album, Red, non-stop. It’s officially out as of yesterday, but Swifties (That’s code name for Taylor Swift fans) and music critics alike have been passing around .mp3s like they were contraband. One song that didn’t hit the web before it hit stores? “22”. An ode to being an adult yet NOT being an adult. An ode to friends (Taylor’s got Ashley Greene, Dianna Agron, Claire Callaway and Selena Gomez, apparently). An ode to spending too much time getting ready to go out. And ode to the effortless rhyming of practically anything to “twenty-two”. Meanwhile, Taylor herself was born in 1989, which makes her actually 22. And for obvious reasons, this makes the song even more potent.
Taylor is “22”, but once she was “Fifteen” — also the title of a popular song off her first album, Fearless. “Fifteen” spoke of high school drama, first love and was so personal to Taylor that it “gets her every time” (thanks Wikipedia). It’s about her freshman year of high school, where she and her BFF Abigail Anderson encountered heartbreak. “Fifteen” is, in fact, written in retrospect — Fearless came out in 2008, and Taylor’s advice to her younger self encapsulated her own high school experience.
So how do the two compare? Has Taylor actually grown up from “Fifteen” to “22”? Does it mean anything that “Fifteen” is written out and “22” isn’t? Would Selena Gomez have hung out with Taylor in high school?
‘Cause when youre fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
you’re gonna believe them
and when you’re fifteen
feeling like there’s nothing to figure out
I don’t know about you but im feeling 22
Everything will be alright if you keep me next to you
You don’t know about me but I bet you want to
Everything will be alright if we just keep dancing like we’re 22
One thing’s for sure: “Fifteen” isn’t as easy to rhyme as “22”, but Taylor doesn’t let that stop her. At “Fifteen”, when anything tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe it. At “22”, we’ll stick to our friends, hook up with strangers and hopefully learn lessons with each song we write (well, in Taylor’s case.) Embracing the art of shameless flirting (“I bet you want to”) is perhaps a healthier version of the falsely confident teen boasts (“Feeling like there’s nothing to figure out”).
But in your life you’ll do things greater than
Dating the boy on the football team
But I didn’t know it at fifteen
Greater things like date Jake Gyllenhaal? I’m unsure if he played football in high school. Greater things like hitting the top of the Billboard charts? I hope so.
We’ll be out of here as soon as we can
And then you’re on your very first date and he’s got a car
And you’re feeling like flying
It feels like a perfect night for breakfast at midnight
To fall in love with strangers uh uh uh uh
I’ll argue that breakfast at midnight with your BFFs > riding in a car with “your very first date” any day.
Well count to ten, take it in
This is life before you know who you’re gonna be
We’re happy free confused and lonely at the same time
It’s miserable and magical, oh yeah
At “Fifteen”, Taylor’s unsure of who she’s gonna be. At “22” she’s “happy free confused and lonely at the same time”. Has anything changed? Sure, she’s not dating high school quarterbacks, but she is dating bad boy rockers (John Mayer) and A-list leading men (Jake Gyllenhaal). “Miserable and magical” never felt so apt for Taylor, whose heartbreaks turn into hit singles and whose once-normal life is now a series of talk show interviews.
I guess we’ll just have to wait for 2017’s #1 single: “twenty-seven”.