You’re on the phone with your girlfriend—she’s upset. She’s going off about something that you said. How better to solve this relationship problem—and others—by texting pearls of wisdom from Taylor Swift’s oeuvre?
Rejoice, then, at the news that there is now an iOS keyboard that lets you efficiently send Taylor Swift quotes. Created by “a team of five female ‘swifties’ at Harvard Business School,” Tay Text features “300+ lyrics from 60+ songs.” These tweet-sized bytes are grouped into themes including “Just Beginning, It’s Over, Into You, Over You, Trouble, Growing Up, [and] Haters.” For the more adventurous or less picky, the keyboard will also randomly select quotes.
Tay Text capitalizes on Taylor Swift’s ability to write and deliver pithy bon mots. Lines like “we’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time” or “you made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter” are effective even when separated from their original contexts. The lyrical structure of a Taylor Swift song—closer to a series of life lessons than an aria—are ideally suited for texting.
As an artist whose lyrics are eminently textable, Swift’s songs have never really addressed this staple of modern communication. Alas, there is no Swiftian deconstruction of texting etiquette or Tinder messaging. Rather, in the video for “You Belong With Me,” she communicates with her neighbour and love interest through the medium of letters held to her bedroom window. It’s cute but are they the only teenagers out there who haven’t heard of texting? Similarly, in the fantasy sleepover universe of her music video “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” Swift tells off her ex using a decidedly antique phone. These aesthetic choices hint at the possibility that Twitter’s best parodic/informative account, @SwiftOnSecurity, might capture Swift’s actual attitudes towards communication technologies.
Computing has always been about giving users choices. Security is about not giving them the wrong ones.
— InfoSec Taylor Swift (@SwiftOnSecurity) May 4, 2015
Tay Text’s target demographic is not entirely apparent. At the point where you are willing to plonk down $1.99 for pre-typed lyrics from one of your favourite pop stars, it’s a safe bet that you already know the quotes by heart. Fandom programs you to vent “you’re not really sorry” or plaintively observe “You might think I’m bulletproof, but I’m not,” without an app’s help. Cultural consumption effectively turns fans into low-tech Tay Texts. The case for Tay Text, then, is quite simple: It’s a lot of fun to have 300 lyrics at your fingertips. In this context, they are not really phrases so much as they are emoji: quick, unitary expressions of emotion to be sent out into the world. You could always write these messages yourself but the point of pop music is that the sentiment is always a bit more polished in the hands of an expert. To use a kicker copied from Tay Text, it never goes out of style.