Taylor Swift

Everyone knows Taylor Swift.

As one of the biggest pop stars, possibly ever, Taylor is constantly in the public radar, and her music the subject of many levels of scrutiny. Since her first album, Taylor Swift, was released in 2006, Swift has gone through a musical and personal translation. Songs from Fearless like “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” were among the more popular songs of hers back when I was in 6th grade. When she released 1989 in 2014, her style had completely transformed from country to pop. It didn’t come as a surprise as her music had been changing gradually with each new album, but it brought about a new Taylor.

I don’t tend to follow celebrity lives at all, but reading an interview for Rolling Stone from just before the release of 1989, it seems like Taylor started to live independently. Swift was criticized a lot for all of her songs about unnamed boys and the fact that none of her music seemed to be about anything else, but 1989 departed from this with music about somewhat more complex topics. The music isn’t novel but it is good, at least in my opinion. I don’t tend to listen to a lot of pop, but I gave 1989 a lot of listens during 11th grade.

Taylor Swift, from what I can tell, has a bubbling and almost erratic personality. She can jump from idea to idea and her success is doubtlessly because of how quickly she is moving. Being famous is something Taylor realizes she chose on her own accord, but she is somewhat tired of the constant eyes on her and unending attention she has to put up with. Having to constantly be alert for people attempting to steal music or steal glimpses takes its toll, but Swift does her best to respond gracefully.

Along with a change in music styles, you can see a change in Swift over her decade long career in the way she presents herself to the public. People used to be crazy about her long curly hair, until she cut it short and let it lay straight or wavy. Her style is adorable, in my opinion, and she seems to always be smiling.

My favorite song off of 1989 would have to be “Wildest Dreams” which reminds me of Lana Del Rey but is still very clearly sung by Taylor Swift. Pure pop it is, and there isn’t any country left in the music. This was intentional, as Swift thought that it was hard to do both pop and country well at the same time, and instead decided to focus on just one, growing as a musician in the process.

Recently, Taylor Swift has been taking a break from social media, apparently while recording her new album. I’m excited to see if she continues to take her music in a new direction and starts to make some riskier musical choices, helping to move the genre of pop forward as such an influential artist.


Björk, as a whole, can be described as art pulled from somewhere deceptively beautiful, a dark crevice that produces something untouchable yet physically overwhelming. Her music is only one of the elements that creates this persona, and paired with her way of life, Björk creates an entirely unique experience. Not every musician is given the opportunity to have an exhibit dedicated to them in the MoMA, but the location was perfectly befitting of Björk.

In all honesty, I am no expert on her, but I know enough to know that she is entirely her own form of art. As a musician, every one of her album takes a new idea and expands it into something beautiful. As an artist, her entire way of life and wardrobe could be put into a book resting on the coffee table of the waiting room for a top interior design. In fact, a book of this sort exists, the evidence of her MoMA exhibit. At the same time, Björk is somewhat of an enigma, and understanding exactly who she is isn’t an easy task. (At least, I wasn’t able to in the 20 minutes I spent researching her for this post.)

What most fascinates me about Björk is her most recent album, Vulnicura, which is backed by a mix of strings and electronic beats, and is completely taken from live recordings during her tour. Björk’s voice travels through a huge range, and isn’t comparable to other musicians that I know of. As a whole, Björk’s music lies in some other dimension.

To some, both her music and her exhibit at the MoMA don’t quite hit home. An article discussing a visit to the exhibit, which was featured in 2015, describes it as hagiography, accusing it of overly exalting Björk as something more than she is (a human).

I don’t know where I stand on the issue. I know that I enjoy her music, and I know that I find her interviews intriguing. Although, at the same time, she doesn’t manage to pull me into all of her music, and I haven’t managed to listen to much beyond Vulnicura. The songs on the album are fragile and the notes seem to hang by a thread.

If you want to hear something different, I would recommend checking out Björk. She lived in Iceland for the beginning part of her life before moving to London with her 2 and a half year son. Even at 49, her music is not settling into any sort of regular form, but continuing to transform. Whether you enjoy it or not, it’s hard not to acknowledge the fact that Björk is creating something that helps to keep things moving forward. I can’t help but wonder if Lady Gaga draws inspiration from Björk’s bizarre sense of style and way of living. Making art is one thing, but living as it is an entirely different one.

Julien Baker

The first time I saw Julien Baker’s Audiotree session, I fell in love. Her simple guitar looping paired with a beautiful voice and melancholy words made for the perfect trio, so I was struck from the beginning. Her guitar is a beautiful pale blue, and because I don’t know anything about guitars, color is about the only thing that strikes me. Her rainbow guitar strap gives an added flourish, subtly expressing her queerness. If you have time, I definitely recommend watching the full 30 minute session, which includes four songs and some very intelligently answered (and asked) interview questions.

She’s not a showstopper, nor does she come off as someone who would seek a career in entertainment, but she is extremely intellectual. Her opening lyrics poke fun at the fact that every one of her songs is depressing, with the words, “Wish I could write songs about anything other than death.” In her interview, Julien says she does her best to come off as honest in her musician, and rather than creating a separate persona as a musician she tries to relate her persona as a musician to her day to day self.

I personally wish I could be as articulate as Julien Baker, who clearly expresses herself both in her music and her interviews. Additionally, music isn’t even Julien’s first priority in life, as she is currently putting herself through college at the same time and is majoring in education and literature, with the goal of teaching after college. She started in audio engineering but realized she wanted to do something less technical and commercial. After her own experiences with teachers as a student, she wanted to be able to directly influence future humans to grow, in a way that is less abstract than music.

Personally, my high school teachers were some of the most influential people in my life, and I loved so many of them. They acted as positive role models and I myself am considering entering the profession for the same reasons as Julien Baker, in order to shape people positively. Overall, I am constantly struck while listening to Julien that I want to be her friend, and I think we could relate to each other in a variety of ways. She’s 21, the same age as my sister who I’m very close to, and I could see her acting both as a role model and a friend.

Although I love Julien Baker’s Audiotree session, I am honestly not the hugest fan of the rest of her music, finding her album to be a little over produced. The rawness of the music she plays above marks it as even more beautiful. If you’re like me and love to listen to a good sad song, I would definitely recommend checking Julien Baker out! Her beauty as a person and a musician is unmatched.

Lauren Mayberry

During my sophomore year of high school, my taste in music transitioned briefly into a phase where I listened to a lot of synthpop, with my favorite bands being Chvrvhes and Purity Ring. On one rainy morning, I decided to look to see if there were any nearby shows by Chrvches, and instead found an incredible human being as the head of the group. Everywhere I looked, I saw articles about how Lauren Mayberry, the lead singer, was not accepting in any shape or form of misogyny and was completely willing to speak her mind at anytime.

Lauren Mayberry is from Thornhill, Stirling, Scotland, and was 23 when she formed the band in 2011 with two of her friends. Ever since the band’s first album, The Bones of What You Believe, Chvrches has been in the radar, with the album ranking fifth of the Sounds of 2013 list by BBC. While I’m definitely still a fan of their music, Lauren Mayberry’s character has stuck with me to an even greater degree.

In 2013, shortly after the release of their first album, Mayberry published an article with the Guardian on the topic of online misogyny. She wrote about her experience reading sexual messages directed at her on her band’s social media pages. After posting a screenshot of one such message on Facebook, her post spread to the eyes of thousands, and many people told her just to suck it up and deal with the fact that if you’re a part of the public sphere, people will say inappropriate things to you. One person even responded with, “This isn’t rape culture. You’ll know rape culture when I’m raping you, bitch.”

Lauren Mayberry did not accept this response. Her article is extremely well articulated as she explains that criticism and sexually agressive comments. As a musician, she believes that you should expect people to dislike your music and give you criticism. You shouldn’t, however, be forced to put up with inappropriate messages and harassment. No matter how famous you are, it’s not appropriate for anyone to say anything to you that is objectifying, yet we expect our celebrities to simply put up with this. Mayberry is doing her best to push back against this trend and show that this is not okay.

Mayberry consistently sends a message that objectification and misogyny are in no way okay, through articles about catcalling and online comments alike. She also published an article detailing an abusive relationship she was in, sharing what it’s like to miss the warning signs. Whether or not you like Chvrches’ music, their lead singer definitely acts as a positive role model.

Chvrches came out with a second album in 2015 called Every Open Eye, which I haven’t actually listened to. However, I’m sure it’s full of a similar energy to their rest of their music, with Lauren Mayberry’s voice floating over it all.

Lady Gaga

Perhaps one of the most iconic artists of our generation has been Lady Gaga, otherwise known as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, which is quite the mouthful. Although I’ve never followed her too closely, after last weekend’s Super Bowl, it would have been wrong to choose any other artist to highlight.

Personally, my middle school dances were full of Lady Gaga’s music, which was wild and dancy and fun. Even as a pop artist, Lady Gaga was able to create something that was uniquely hers, with a very specific sounding voice and style of music. But, obviously, she is almost equally as famous for her wild choices of apparel and decision to wear clothing that is…not traditionally clothing. From a dress made of meat to a dress made out of kermit the frog, Lady Gaga has not been one to stray from the outrageous.

Her performance at the Super Bowl was definitely a tribute to her original performance style, with songs ranging from “Born This Way” to “Poker Face” and what appeared to be a leap off of the stadium onto the stage below. While the leap was staged, her shiny silver outfit was not, and was closer to some of her crazy outfits.

However, living a life where everyone knows you as your art form, rather than who you actually are, you are forced to put out a persona that might not align with who you are all of the time. Now that Lady Gaga has reached 30, her style and music has turned down a notch, becoming more introspective, especially with the song “Joanne” about a deceased aunt, that is actually the name of the entire album (and Lady Gaga’s middle name). The album shows a calmer Gaga too, with a much simpler design and picture of her wearing a simple pink hat.

Watching Lady Gaga in an recent interview for Rolling Stone, it’s clear being a star has taken a toll on her. She says she misses “people” most of all, because when all eyes are on you, it’s hard to form a quick bond that’s unrelated to fame.

Nonetheless, her music is as popular as ever, with a fourth number one album. The Gaga in my eyes will probably always be the one who wrote “Born This Way” and that my dances seemed to pay tribute to. Past the bizarreness, this track showed that doing your own thing was okay, a message Lady Gaga has definitely taken to heart. As a female in the music industry, she doesn’t care at all what others think of her.


One summer night, the August before my senior year of high school, my friend Harly texted me and asked if I wanted to join her on a nighttime drive.

Now, to put this in context, Harly’s nighttime drives were the stuff of legends. Her jeep, with the top down, transported you into some ethereal world where you were surrounded by the dark coolness of night and filled with the energy of music blasted all the way up. I had never before been given the honor of joining her, but tonight would be the night.

When I asked my mom if I could leave without knowing exactly where I was going, she gave me a quizzical look before hesitantly agreeing. Harly picked me up, and after a quick stop at Starbucks (she ordered a coffee, I bought chocolate milk), we were on our way.

We drove up to Jo Hays Vista, a lookout with a view of State College below, and the stars above. Sitting on top of her jeep, we laughed and looked out to the pinpricks of light, both above and below, before spying a stray shooting star.

On our way back down the mountain, Harly asked me to put her phone onto her favorite night driving song, and the first chord to “Ribs” by Lorde soon filled the air. I took in a deep breath and closed my eyes, letting the night pass by me.

When “Pure Heroine,” Lorde’s first (and so far, only) album, came out, I was shocked by how much I related to the lyrics describing suburban life and its eternal reach. As a State College native, I know what it’s like to live in a world where nothing seems to change. So many summer nights were spent driving or chatting at random fast food restaurants, because there was nothing much else to do.

Lorde was only 17 when she released “Pure Heroine,” and ever since she has captured the heart of teenagers and young adults everywhere with her stark lyrics and vocals. Although I often envy her accomplishments at such a young age, I’m definitely a fan.

Her look is wild, with a mane of hair that any lion would envy, and dark makeup accentuating her pale skin. Lorde is more than just a musician, but an icon of what one can become.

When driving down the mountain with Harly, “Ribs” gave me the impression that even the mundane matters, and that growing up is scary but not the end of the world. The music gave me a sense of wholeness and I could feel its energy in my own chest. Although never complicated, Lorde’s music has captured so many of the complexities of growing up and feeling like there is always more, but not knowing where to find it.

Mitski Miyawaki

From the first moments I heard the album “Bury Me At Makeout Creek” a few weeks ago, I was completely entranced by the Japanese-American artist known as Mitski. Although the music quickly turned from something sad and comfortable into something much more angry and aggressive, somewhat out of my comfort zone, the pure energy and skill in the music drew me in.

There is so much to be impressed by when it comes to Mitski: her exceptionally clear and controlled voice, her relatable and straightforward lyrics that hold impressive depth, and the feminist message in both her music and her interviews. As a Japanese-American woman producing Indie-Rock music, a genre that tends to have a large percentage of male artists, Mitski has a lot of room to make a statement. Her song “Your Best American Girl” from her most recent album, “Puberty 2,” discusses race issues, while also being filled with the same stark musicianship as the rest of her music.

The main reason I love Mitski is because her lyrics are never apologetic. She lives her life and knows she makes mistakes and sometimes ends up hurt, but she is aware that she is only human.

In the song, “First Love / Late Spring,” Mitski expresses the fear of being vulnerable enough to fall in love. Her lyrics, “one word from you and I would jump off of this ledge I’m on baby / tell me ‘don’t,’ so I can crawl back in,” paint the image of being so close to admitting how much someone means to you, but wanting desperately to in order to return to safety. With incredible skill and precision Mitski is able to describe a complicated and universal emotional experience. She continues with the lyrics, “and I was so young when I behaved twenty five / yet now I find I’ve grown into a tall child,” sharing how the vulnerability of love resembles the vulnerability of youth.

While Mitski gives a strong feminist message in her lyrics/attitude and at the same time expresses her experience as a Japanese-American, she said in an interview that she hated being viewed as a role-model simply because of being a public figure. In an interview with The Creative Independent, Mitski shared, “I’m not trained in politics. I don’t always know the right thing to do. Sometimes I say the wrong thing. I don’t want to be a role model, because I might do the wrong thing.” At the same time, this doesn’t stop her from tweeting about political stances on her twitter. It appears the spotlight does little to lessen her passion.

As a young female artist, Mitski does a lot to share her emotions expertly. And although Mitski’s music isn’t mainstream, she has a message many can relate to. Her rawness will draw you in, but just a warning: it might not let go.

Check her out on Bandcamp!