Taylor swift Teary-eyed ‘loses’ one of her best friends- she’s dear to me

Taylor swift Teary-eyed ‘loses’ one of her best friends- she's dear to me


In this op-ed, Jessica Phillips explains how Taylor Swift helped her deal with the grief of losing her best friend.

I remember that phone call like it was yesterday. It was just before 7 a.m. on a cloudy Florida morning, the week after Easter. I had just woken up and planned to steal the bed sheets from my sister so I could get back to sleeping until midday. But my phone rang and put a stop to that. Somehow I knew the next few seconds would change my life. I just wasn’t ready for how.


Taylor swift Teary-eyed ‘loses’ one of her best friends- she's dear to me

Elin had been in a car accident on the Black Mountain while traveling back from Swansea with three of our friends. They’d gone to the beach, been bowling, and had taken one of the girls for her first Nando’s. It was a carbon copy of a day I’d spent with those exact four friends so many times before, except this time they’d chosen the mountain route home. It still snows on the hills of South West Wales at that time of year, and the blind bends and sharp edges that make the landscape the focus of Canon cameras and oil paintings also make it unforgiving. Elin died on impact. She was 19-years-old.

In the year after my best friend died, Prince George was born, Andy Murray won Wimbledon, and Taylor Swift released 1989. Each landmark moment was another buzz, reminding me that Elin would be a teenager forever and these were things she’d never know. It was Taylor’s album release, and the albums that came after 1989, that hit me hardest, because they would have been something special to us. I wanted to talk to her about how Taylor had shaken off her country roots and swapped her Dolly curls for a slick bob. Discuss how she’d lost her Nashville grit but won me back with “I Wish You Would.” I longed to hear her rip into Reputation and dissect the latest Kanye drama. For us to be completely drawn back in by Lover and sing “The Man” as fearlessly as we did “You Belong With Me” when we were 15.

Instead, Taylor Swift’s voice became a substitute for Elin’s. When she plays on the radio, I’m transported back to a night in 2009 when Elin and I travelled to Wembley for an up-and-coming country star’s first London tour date. She was promoting her Fearless album, and spoke to us in a way Britney and Ciara’s cool-girl pop couldn’t. We had questionable sweep fringes, an unhealthy obsession with Lucas Till, and more Nobel Peace Prizes between us than dating experience. We’d finally found our cheerleader, and here she was a few feet away playing “Hey Stephen” on her acoustic guitar. For an hour and a half we weren’t outcasts, but two girls enchanted by someone who understood.

That was Taylor Swift’s appeal. She wasn’t overtly sexy or confident, and dancing definitely wasn’t one of her natural talents. But she believed in herself enough to follow her dream and used her vulnerability to prove the naysayers wrong. Her songs were lived experiences put to melody, which validated unspoken feelings of teenage girls 4,000 miles away. Sure, we didn’t have many bleachers or pick-up trucks in our little corner of the world, but we were battling our own insecurities and pining after Welsh replicas of Tim McGraw. Taylor made us feel seen and became the ‘after’ representation of the ‘before’ years we were muddling through. To us, she was hope in cowboy boots.

That hope is what I clung to in the aftermath, whenever I saw a red Ford KA drive by, when Elin’s birthday passed, or I saw someone on the street with a cow lick or Jane Norman dress. I’d listen to the lyrics of “Change,” feeling as if they were penned especially for me, like Taylor had written a rally cry for me to carry on. Even if it was without my friend who’d laugh at my little sister’s slapstick jokes, give the warmest of bony hugs, and save me from anxious riptides which would often suffocate me.

Ten years on from that night in north London, Taylor continues to share advice my friend can no longer give. Each new record has become an acoustic embrace that brings me a little closer to someone drifting further away. 1989 was a guide to moving to London, Reputation a blueprint for reinvention and Lover a scarlet letter unashamedly inked in self-love. When Scooter Braun purchased Taylor’s back catalogue, and the dispute over whether she’d be able to perform songs from her first six albums escalated, I felt personally wounded. To me, those masters didn’t have monetary value, they were big sisters and best friends. Having them taken away was like losing the stardust that tied me to Elin.

When Taylor accepted her artist of the decade award at the 2019 AMAs by singing a medley of her back catalogue, I was reunited with the sound I fell in love with and the magic it sparked. The 10-minute set reminded me of all the break-up anthems and statement hits that’d helped me with everything from local bullies to the loss of a doe-eyed friend with a strange penchant for Mark Owen. The fact that Elin didn’t get to see the end of the 2010s, which we’d started together at Wembley, still isn’t something I wholeheartedly accept. But what I do know for certain is that Taylor Swift has been a friend to me in ways she’ll never know. And for that I’ll be grateful, forever and always.


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