Taylor Swift songs as elements of well-being

| October 12, 2023
Over the years, Taylor Swift has captivated millions with her incredibly diverse discography which has evolved with time, telling countless stories. With 10 studio albums and more than 200 songs released, her body of work includes a little something for everyone. Heartbreaking bridges, vivid lyricism, and a variety of themes create a vast library of iconic music. So iconic, we couldn’t help but highlight the intersection of Taylor Swift songs with the eight elements of well-being.

As an avid listener and long-term fan of Taylor Swift, I’ve always been inspired by her artistry, songwriting ability, and stage performances. Somehow, she always knows how to perfectly translate indescribable thoughts, feelings, and emotions into each song. This post will journey through eight songs, each from a different era, and the eight corresponding elements of well-being. We also have a helpful resource list if these songs inspire you to explore all the great Hopkins stuff you can use to support your own well-being.

Physical: “Shake it Off

“But I keep cruisin’
Can’t stop, won’t stop movin’
It’s like I got this music in my mind
Sayin’, “It’s gonna be alright”

To kick off the list is the lead single from the album 1989, “Shake It Off.” In this song, Taylor introduces her synth-pop-inspired 1989 era with upbeat, energetic lyrics that encourages people to deflect negativity from “haters, fakers, and heartbreakers.” Instead of letting hate get to her, Taylor decides to just keep moving as she shakes off unconstructive criticism and minor troubles.

All this “moving, grooving, and cruising” is some great physical activity which contributes to physical well-being. If you ever need to shake off the stress of your day by supporting your physical well-being, try the O’Connor Rec Center on the Homewood campus or the Cooley Center in East Baltimore. Listed below are links to all these great physical well-being resources and more.

Emotional & Mental: “Happiness

“Haunted by the look in my eyes
That would’ve loved you for a lifetime
Leave it all behind
And there is happiness”

“Happiness” from the evermore album is a slower song that describes the heart-wrenching backstabbing of one friend by another, causing the end of a long relationship. Taylor describes the intense emotions felt by one of these friends as they look back on “all the years [they’ve] given” being torn apart. Rage, disbelief, and sadness are intertwined into each line of this song. Still, “Happiness” ends with a flicker of hope, as Taylor writes, “Leave it all behind and there is happiness.”

The range of emotions described in “Happiness” probably parallel a lot of Hopkins students’ personal experiences. The university offers many emotional and mental well-being resources, including Mental Telehealth, the Calm app, the Stress and Depression Questionnaire, and more.

Social: “I’m Only Me When I’m With You

“And I don’t try to hide my tears
My secrets or my deepest fears
Through it all, nobody gets me like you do”

For social well-being ,we’re taking it way back to country Taylor with the song “I’m Only Me When I’m With You” from her 2006 debut album. Switching it up a little aesthetically and thematically from “Happiness,” this heartwarming song expresses a deep connection and closeness with another person. Taylor writes about this strong bond that brings out the best in a person and reveals their true self.

Looking for ways to make social connections just like the one portrayed in “I’m Only Me When I’m With You?” A great way to start is getting involved with the nearly 400 student-run organizations at Hopkins including some from all schools.

Sexual: “Dress

“Say my name and everything just stops
I don’t want you like a best friend”

“Dress” from reputation is an obvious choice for the sexual well-being spot. In this song, Taylor depicts an intense desire to be more than just a friend with another person. Heated imagery and lines like, “only bought this dress so you could take it off” suggest a passionate love between two people.

Going hand in hand with passionate love, Hopkins offers many sexual well-being resources including Safer Sex at JHU which provides free condoms and other barrier methods for all students. The Dear Tyler and Jay relationship advice column is a great way to get answers to all your questions about love, relationships, sex, and dating.

Spiritual: “Karma

“Karma’s a relaxing thought
Aren’t you envious that for you it’s not?”

“Karma,” from the album Midnights, is an upbeat, rhythmic song that takes a jab at Taylor’s greedy wrongdoers and shady conspirators. She claims that karma, a complex concept of cause-and-effect with roots in various religion traditions including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, is afflicting her enemies and rewarding her with love and peace.

Speaking to New York magazine, Dr. Sarah Jacoby, an associate professor of religious studies at Northwestern University, gave Taylor a decent grade on her actual understanding of the concept of karma: “I think she got a B. Even though we could nitpick about ‘Karma is my boyfriend,’ truly that makes no sense, ‘karma is a God’ no, it’s actually not. I’m not saying that [the song]’s somehow profoundly Buddhist; I wouldn’t go that far. But she amused me in her wordplay, and that wordplay showed an understanding of virtue and justice and the price of negativity.”

Exploring ideas about your sense of purpose, and what it actually means to live a good life, is at the heart of spiritual well-being. A great spiritual resource located on the Homewood campus is the Interfaith Center which offers educational and social gatherings for more than 20 religious organizations.

Financial: “The Last Great American Dynasty

“The wedding was charming, if a little gauche
There’s only so far new money goes
They picked out a home and called it Holiday House”

Financial well-being is next up and with it, the song, “The Last Great American Dynasty,” from Taylor’s indie-folk inspired album folklore. “The Last American Dynasty” tells the story of Rebekah Harkness, one of the previous owners of Swift’s Rhode Island mansion. Harkness was an eccentric woman who married into a wealthy family, and the song highlights her unconventional choices and peculiar personality while drawing parallels to Taylor’s own life.

The underlying monetary references (ie, being able to afford a mansion and various other outlandish stuff) in the song relate directly to financial well-being. Some great financial resources include blog posts like “How to Read a Rental Contract” and “Grocery Shopping 101” and a master document of all the free stuff offered to JHU students.

Professional: “the Man

“They’d say I hustled, put in the work
They wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve”

Next up is the song for professional well-being, “The Man” from the album Lover. This quote by Taylor from a CBS Sunday Morning interview explains the song perfectly: “There’s a different vocabulary for men and women in the music industry, right? A man does something, it’s strategic. A woman does the same thing, it’s calculated. A man is allowed to react. A woman can only overreact.”

The song’s depiction of differences in professional opportunities connects back to professional well-being. Some great resources to help you find personal satisfaction and enrichment from your work are listed below. These include career services and life design resources to help students succeed in their career paths.

Environmental: “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version) (10 Minute Version)

“We’re singin’ in the car, getting lost upstate
Autumn leaves fallin’ down like pieces into place
And I can picture it after all these days”

Last on the list is the song for environmental well-being, which acknowledges the influence of external surroundings on personal health. “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version) (10 Minute Version)” paints the picture of a breathtaking and heartbreaking relationship with detailed lyrics that describe the setting and environment of the story. Those “autumn leaves” are a big hint that this romance isn’t an evergreen one, even if the couple is enjoying the short-lived beauty of the season.

Some resources that can positively influence your environment and your relationship to it include the Homewood Sustainability GIS Map and more listed below.



Emotional & Mental