On Learning to Appreciate Life for What It Is, Not What We Hoped It Would Be

Or life lessons from reviewing Olivia Rodrigo’s “GUTS” and Taylor Swift’s “Midnights”

Ashley Broadwater
Human Parts
Published in
3 min readNov 3, 2023

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A white woman with red hair is standing outside by tall plants at sunset. She’s listening to music using headphones and smiling.
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels

On the glorious morning of October 21, 2022, I woke up, grabbed Dunkin’ Donuts, and settled into bed. It was a workday, but I had already planned on taking the day off. Taylor Swift’s album “Midnights” had just released, and like any Swiftie, I needed time to listen and process.

Some songs immediately popped out to me as potential favorites — “Maroon” and “Vigilante Sh*t,” for example— but others, well, didn’t.

In fact, I remember frankly low-key hating the voice modulation in “Midnight Rain” (which is probably one of my favorites now) and I was upset that “Sweet Nothing” and “Mastermind” (also bangers) weren’t the heart-wrenching songs I’d been hoping for in the months after a breakup.

The same thing happened when I listened to Olivia Rodrigo’s “GUTS” for the first time. Her first album, “SOUR,” has been exactly what I’ve needed at times. It’s helped me feel less alone in having experienced unhealthy relationships, and it’s debatably some of the best sad music out there. (Can you tell I love sad music?)

“GUTS,” on the other hand, came across as more of a rock album about teen angst — at least to me. Sure, it had songs like “vampire” and “the grudge” that fit my strict criteria, but overall, the album didn’t hit like “SOUR” had (and still does).

Nevertheless, I continued to listen to these albums both accidentally and purposefully. I wanted to watch the music videos, so I heard the songs that way. They came on the radio while I was driving down the road. I listened to the ones I liked, and as the song after them played, those grew on me, too.

Over time, more and more of the songs on “Midnights” and “GUTS” became my favorites.

How?

Well, there’s the concept of the “mere exposure effect.” In other words, the more you’re exposed to something, the more you like it. A 2021 study in BMC Psychology is one of many examples of research that backs this up. I’m sure there are other valid scientific reasons out there, too.

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Ashley Broadwater
Human Parts

Freelance writer on multiple platforms. On Medium: writing tips + relationships. UNC-CH Journalism + Media. Newsletter + more: www.linktr.ee/ashleybroadwater