How to Talk to Your Teens About Taylor Swift’s New Album

For those with Swifties in the House

Taylor Swift and I have a complicated relationship. She doesn’t know it, but we do. It started in 2015 when my husband and I surprised our oldest daughter with concert tickets for her “1989 World Tour.” We purchased the tickets months in advance and planned a mini-vacation around it. I was a Swiftie and excited to see her perform, but I was most looking forward to sharing a special night with Caitlyn. With our signature red lipstick, we showed up at the gates and handed the lady our tickets. She scanned them once, and the green light didn’t come on. She tried it again. Nothing. Then she looked at a security guard, and they exchanged a knowing glance. The security guard told us to follow him to the ticket counter to get it “sorted out.” 

We followed him through a labyrinth of hallways down into the bowels of the arena. No one told me I was holding fake tickets, but I suspected I was. We had tried to save money by buying from a third-party site, and it had backfired. What was I going to do? I was concerned that our evening was in jeopardy, and I was embarrassed that I had fallen for a scam. We ended up at a special ticket counter where a handful of tickets were available for us fools who had tried to save a few bucks. Our options were to spend three times as much for seats on the floor or sit in the nosebleeds, practically behind the stage. You can guess which option I took.

It took a few songs, but I was finally able to “Shake it Off” and enjoy the rest of the show. Despite our rocky concert beginning, things were simpler between Taylor Swift and me back then. I didn’t particularly approve of her lifestyle, but I could enjoy her music and concert with my daughter without squirming. The world and Swift’s music have changed a lot since then, and that’s blatantly obvious in her latest album, “The Tortured Poets Department.”

This album is distinctly darker, edgier, and more adult in its content, and yet is still appealing to younger audiences. My youngest daughters are now the same ages Caitlyn was when we saw her in concert (14 and 16), and I feel differently about supporting her work now. It feels like I’m making a moral decision when I listen to her music. How will it affect my girls to hear and see a beautiful young woman sing about a lifestyle that isn’t only objectionable but is in outright defiance to God? Even though my daughters have had a strong Christian upbringing and hold their own personal convictions, will they be able to discern the subtle influences and outright lies they’ll be exposed to when listening to Swift’s music?  

Swifties in the house

Don’t we all feel the tension of navigating media influences, both for ourselves and our children? The speed at which information comes at us is accelerating, and we’re making split-second decisions on things we’re hearing and seeing all the time. Is this good? Is this true? Is this helpful? Sometimes, those decisions are easy to make, but when there’s a cultural relevance to something, it’s harder to dismiss or ignore. For Christian parents, with Swifties in the house, we have to thoughtfully and prayerfully decide if her music aligns with our beliefs, promotes our values, and squares with Scripture. Once we’ve decided that, then what? How do we equip our kids to listen with discernment?

We’re asking a lot of our teens to separate what’s got a catchy beat from what’s propagating damning lies. They need our help, even if they don’t realize it. Often, we approach this subject with guns loaded, ready to go to battle. But this automatically puts our kids on the defensive and isn’t effective in winning them over. We need God’s help to reason with them, show them what God’s Word says, and appeal to their discernment.

7 ways to encourage discernment in your teen’s music choices  

1. Pray!

Before you talk to your teens about their music or video choices, pray! James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” God does not disapprove of your desire for wisdom but delights to give you a generous supply when you ask him for it! Consider the best timing and setting for talking to your teens, and pray for their hearts to be receptive to your teaching (Prov 4:20). 

2. Ask questions.

Instead of starting off the conversation with your concerns about a particular song or artist, ask them, “What do you like about that song? What do you think those lyrics meant? What would be the end result of doing that thing they’re singing about?” Asking good questions puts the burden of proof on them to explain what they like and why. Sometimes, when they have to say it out loud, they’ll realize the error.

3. Don’t react.

This can be challenging, but put your poker face on and listen to the music they like without reacting. Don’t squirm, contort your face, sigh deeply, or roll your eyes. Ask them what the song was about and make them do the work of telling you. Before you tell them what’s wrong with it, find something you liked or appreciated about the song, and then calmly explain what you found objectionable and why. 

4. Resist preaching.

I don’t mean you shouldn’t tell them the truth, but resist preaching at them. If they’re Christians, ask them, “What does God’s Word say about that?” If they’re not Christians, this is an opportunity to highlight the differences between darkness and light, truth and error, and goodness and evil. Gently draw out conversations about the lyrics you are hearing.  

5. Don’t forbid them (but turn on explicit filters).

This may not work for every family, but once something is forbidden, it’s automatically more appealing (just ask Eve). It would be unrealistic to tell my 14 and 16-year-old daughters they’re forbidden from listening to Taylor Swift because it’s everywhere around them. However, her new album is laced with profanity, and I can at least control that. Do all you can to keep filters on and the channels of your communication with them open.

6. Offer better alternatives.

Music is a gift from God, and your children should see you enjoying it. With instant access to millions of songs, find music you can agree on as a family. Do your research. Mix up the genres. Go to music events together, and turn up the volume! 

7. Be authentic in your faith.

One of Taylor Swift’s new songs, “But Daddy I love him” has these lyrics:

God save the most judgmental creeps
Who say they want what’s best for me
Sanctimoniously performing soliloquies I’ll never see
Thinking it can change the beat
Of my heart when he touches me
And counteract the chemistry
And undo the destiny
You ain’t gotta pray for me
Me and my wild boy
And all this wild joy
If all you want is gray for me
Then it’s just white noise
And it’s just my choice

What a tragedy if this is the kind of “Christianity” Swift has been exposed to. It’s the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do type of hollow belief system that kids can sniff out a mile away. Being a part of a gospel-saturated church that proclaims the excellencies of Christ, our dire need for him as sinners, and his amazing grace is the messaging we need on repeat. Let your kids see you and hear you worshiping God and seeking their forgiveness when you sin against them. With time and maturity, they’ll recognize your faith as real and not as a sanctimonious soliloquy they never see.

All too well 

Taylor Swift is no stranger to complicated relationships. She once proclaimed, “We are never ever getting back together.” I’m not ready to break up with T-Swift entirely, as I appreciate her old songs and recognize her talent. However, the common ground I once had with my kids and her music is rapidly dwindling away, which makes me sad. 

Many young women want what Taylor Swift has: fame, money, success, beauty, accolades, talent, and millions of adoring fans. However, the lifestyle she sings about only ends in heartbreak and misery, and I think she knows it. As a mom, I want something different and infinitely better for my kids. 

John Piper said, “I believe with all my heart that what the world needs is radically bold, sacrificially loving, God-besotted freaks–aliens. In other words, I am inviting you to say no to the world for the sake of the world. The world does not need more cool, hip, culturally savvy, irrelevant copies of itself. That is a hoax that thousands of young Christians have been duped by.” 

Taylor Swift definitely has a cool, hip, culturally savvy vibe, which makes her attractive and dangerous. We need discernment in listening and boldness in raising Jesus-freak kids who love the Lord more than what the world offers. The world doesn’t need more Taylor Swifts to sell out arenas. It needs something far more dangerous: kids sold out for Jesus.

That’s something we know all too well.


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4 Responses

  1. This is solid guidance for a complicated issue. A lot of your points can and should be applied to other areas of entertainment both for kids and adults.
    Tricky world out there. We need an all-knowing Guide.

  2. My 22 year old and I were just talking about this yesterday. She’s incredibly music-savvy and caught in the struggle of trying to build her relationship with God while keeping a level head in regards to what the world feeds her (just like the rest of us!). We decided that it is a shame what artists will sink to in an effort to stay “relevant” and at the top of the charts. And I’m continuously racked with the ever so pithy quote of “But if you would just use your powers for good…..”


    Thanks to this video I have moved Taylor from my playlist to my prayer list. What does light have to do with darkness? Jesus said to let your yes be yes and your no be no, anything else is from the evil one.

    I truly appreciated your thought out article for future conversations with teens and young adults to broach the subject of their music choices (and my own), but Taylor is no more and my heart breaks for the status of her soul and eternity…

  4. Thank you so much Cara for this needed guidance and wisdom. Very equipping with practical verbiage I can use with my teen to navigate not only his musical but also cultural influences. Grateful!!

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