Taylor Swift - Starlight
For the first 24 seconds of “Starlight,” I thought Taylor Swift hadn’t just gone a bit Max Martin, but the full Dave Audé (spoiler alert: she hasn’t).
In other Taylor Swift news, “Stay Stay Stay” is very jaunty, but doesn’t the guy Taylor’s so keen on sound like the worst sort of passive-aggressive nice-guy jerk?
Taylor Swift - 22
Song of the Day: Taylor Swift - 22
She has really outdone herself with this one! It sounds like all my favourite female pop-rock singers of the past decade. Amy Studt, Sinead Quinn, Michelle Branch, Avril Lavigne, Ke$ha and Fefe Dobson all in one. As an album, Red has its ups and downs, but when it’s good it’s really good. I’m feeling very proud to be a long-term Swift supporter these days and it’s great seeing so many people finally recognising the brilliant pop star she really is.
I’m not quite sure why I’m invested in this particular bit of pop-star soap opera, but I like this song even more when I imagine that it’s about Swift’s friendship with Selena Gomez.
I was somehow unaware that Taylor Swift had released a video for her new single; she’s basically full-on trolling now, it’s pretty awesome. I’m wondering about the semiotics of her glasses; back in the “You Belong With Me” video she wore hipster-nerd glasses to signify “nerd”; now I guess she’s wearing them to signify “hipster”? I mean the whole aesthetic of the video is kind of Wes Anderson hipster-retro; is this due to a change in the cultural significance of these kinds of reference points, or a change in Swift’s audience, or what (there’s a whole country music tradition of referencing to dismiss hipster/urban/coastal fashion in music videos). On the other hand, Swift’s air-quote sarcasm about her boyfriend’s emotional processing are kind of in line with the “just butch enough” style Robin James identifies in the “You Belong With Me” video.
Taylor Swift - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
Every complicated feeling I have ever had about Taylor Swift is described perfectly by the strange face I pull at the lyric, you’d find some piece of mind / with some indie record that is probably so much cooler than mine. Is she finally singing about something I can relate to - that weird I’m-indier-and-therefore-adulter-than-thou relationship vibe? (We’ve all met these assholes, come on, gender notwithstanding. The people who constantly want to one-up you on literally everything? No, just me? Got it.) Is it ironic? “LOL, I’m a pop star [note: is she?], and you think I’m stupid, but I’m not”? Or is it - and I fear this the most - a casual dismissal of the value of all other music outside of the modern pop/mainstream music canon, the one that is both self-aware and self-centered.
Why would you not read it as the first of these, though? All the lyrics are in the service of rubbing this boy’s nose in Taylor’s supposed “immaturity” (the “oo-oos,” the “likes,” the “never ever ever”); with a dash of the second option, because the Max Martin production reinforces her performance of “immature” in its poppiness. And why would you read that lyric in the sense of the third option? Has Swift ever given the impression of being dismissive of the non-mainstream? The opposite, I would have thought; she’s always seemed to have a bit of a chip on her shoulder about the exclusion of country from the mainstream (a chippiness which, given the relative sales and coverage in mainstream tastemaking media of country and indie respectively, isn’t entirely unjustified).
another overview of recent Taylor Swift debate
one of them consists of things Taylor Swift actually does (like writing lyrics and singing songs) and the other consists in large part of other people’s decisions and perceptions. A lot of the most pointed criticisms of Swift go out of their way to ignore Swift’s own voice, which is a little weird.
Here’s the thing: it’s not so much that the two camps are talking about different aspects of Taylor Swift as it is that music critics are talking about Taylor Swift in particular and cultural critics are talking about Taylor Swift as an exemplar of more widespread issues.
The problem is, though, that the kind of “cultural criticism” the anti-Swift people are engaging in is bad cultural criticism, and, indeed, is bad in a way that ends up being sexist. Ignoring the details of Swift’s lyrics and performance doesn’t just erase her voice, it substitutes the cultural critics’ imagined version of the response to the music to the actual responses of Swift’s listeners, erasing the voice and perception of her (mostly young, female) fans.
The model of cultural criticism animating the anti-Swift people seems to be didactic: if Swift narrates a sexist scene, this is taken to be an endorsement or even celebration of this, which endorsement is then transmitted seamlessly into the minds of the listeners. This underestimates the way in which listeners are able to negotiate these narratives and respond with both recognition and criticism, and the way in which this negotiation is an inherent part of Taylor Swift’s work (perhaps the best example here is “Love Story,” the patriarchial fantasy of which can’t be understood without paying attention to the way this very same fantasy is rejected in “White Horse”).