First thing’s first, normally I have Fridays off, and therefore write and/or finish up these posts then. My co-worker took a trip south of the 49th parallel for some American holiday or other leaving me to cover for her. Such is life, and also why this post may be shorter than most. Second thing’s second, which is that I have, improbably, actually blogged about Taylor Swift on two prior occasions.
In December of 2012 I spent some time discussing the interpretation of her work, particularly in light of those championing her hit “Mean” as an anthem for the myriad forms of persecution they were facing. Over half a year later I did my best to shame those who thought that voting for a 39-year-old to win a contest and thereby smell her hair would be funny [because it’s not]. One topic has continued to be so very, very relevant while the other has more or less turned out to be a one-time thing. Here’s a hint, it’s the one that has to do with how she’s perceived in the public eye-
The video for her latest chart-topper “Blank Space” has more YouTube hits than I thought was possible [over 100 million less then a month after it was uploaded] and you won’t find a more self-aware four minutes and thirty-two seconds on the video streaming site [I figure the exact duration makes that statement fairly truthful]. I was going to sum it up myself, but I’ll just let Caitlin PenzeyMoog [no, there shouldn’t be a space or hyphen there] over at The AV Club do it for me:
“In it she sings, ‘I’ve got a long list of ex-lovers / They’ll tell you I’m insane.’ Then she actually goes insane, satirizing her mediated role as if to say, ‘You want crazy? I’ll give you crazy.’ This smirking middle finger to her detractors—embedded in the rest of the album, where she continues to do what they judge her for—is an empowering stance”
Oh, and the short article she wrote is titled “The case for Taylor Swift, radical champion of self-esteem”, all of which I more or less agree with. I likewise stand by the fact that, as far as I can tell [and it really is from afar] she appears to be a twenty-five-year -old singer/songwriter who is trying to be a touch more true to herself than the average pop star and by doing so strikes a chord with young women across North America and the rest of the world. I mean, forget about how enamoured we are with Jennifer Lawrence, check out this gifset:
That last moving picture makes sends that chill up my spine that is brought on whenever viewing something really uncomfortable or awkward, and I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. Again, I can’t say for certain whether what’s up there is an act or not, but it elicits some very real emotions in me. Now that we’ve established that, ostensibly, Taylor Swift is a real person who does real things, let’s focus on the focus on her.
I don’t need to link to any other websites or articles to prove that we as a culture appear to be overly obsessed with her love life and its ups and very, very many downs. The whole joke [that she is clearly in on] is that T-Swift can’t hold down a man, hahaha.
Oh, sorry, I forgot, it’s that T-Swift can’t hold down a man, hahaha, and then she writes songs about them. How many times have you read, in one form or another, that if you date her you’ll end up having a song written about you? It’s not the highest-hanging fruit is all I’ll say, and I never thought much about it as a possible double standard [anymore than women are generally scrutinized far more closely than men are] until I saw the following comment on the article I linked to earlier by Caitlin PenzeyMoog [I wanted to make fun of her name, but that’s really more of a Dave Barry thing]:
I just want to mention that I’m fully aware I said earlier that this was going to be a shorter post and I’m pushing 700 words. That aside, Agog’s point is a cogent one, and frames the aforementioned double standard within the realm of music. Why is it that male musicians haven’t been criticized in the same way that Swift has in spite of covering the same topic in their own material? Furthermore, isn’t she just continuing on in the country music tradition of “done me wrong” songs?
While in between snide and/or “witty” remarks true discussion reigned throughout the comments section, and the conclusion more than one person came to is that Taylor Swift is young and will grow up. Thankfully this is an ongoing [and existing] process with Lena Dunham explaining feminism to her being simply one step of many [something that wasn’t altogether clear when I first wrote about her]. Some might argue that twenty-five-years-old is a few years past the time this should’ve been learned, but hey, it is progress.
At the end of the day Swift remains an impressively influential young woman who remains very much in the public eye and is very conscious of this fact. While it’s very easy to dismiss her for the content of her music it should be taken into account that maybe we’re not the target audience and that it doesn’t resonate with us for a reason [PenzeyMoog’s article makes some excellent points and you should definitely read it], as well as considering that we may not be using the same critical lens we do with her on other artists out there. At the end of the day we should also acknowledge that watching her enjoy herself in the audience is possibly one of the best parts of music awards shows, hands down.