Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Signs Of the End Times: Taylor Swift Thinks We're All Stupid

She knows she should smile at you..but she doesn't
want to...
Since the second death of 101.9 WXRP, I've been stuck in the store listening to a variety of pop and dance-oriented pop radio. That's the only choices you have if you're interested in English language music in New York City, unless you like hearing rock music from thirty years ago while a succession of old grey haired white people start pontificating on music history endlessly. The incursion of sports talk radio onto the FM dial here, beginning with WEPN and ending with WFAN has driven modern and alternative rock music off the dials save for weird pockets where, let's say, Mumford and Sons and Goetye show up on 102.7, the adult light contemporary station 'Fresh FM.'
It's listening to Fresh FM that made me come to this conclusion...namely that Taylor Swift Thinks We're All Stupid.

No, really.

You see, apparently Ms. Swift decided this year she needed to reposition herself as a pop star. No longer happy with being a country-tinged folkie with some mild pop crossover appeal, she's gone full out in her new album, Red to make herself on the level with Katy Perry, Pink, and all the other pop tarts in the modern firmament. And her first step towards pushing her peers aside was 'We Are Never Getting Back Together.' It's a female empowerment break-up anthem, which is a pretty safe bet for a mission statement when becoming a pop diva--Alanis Morrisette managed to squeeze a several album career out of one song where she equated breaking up with movie theater blow jobs, and some would say that Pink's entire later career is built around her insisting she's through with her ex-husband.

And it's a thoroughly, absolutely wretched misfire of a song.

I feel bad for this guy...and I shouldn't.
There's a number of reasons why, as an artifact out of the context of the times in which Ms. Swift had it released, it fails. Her vocals are awfully artificial, wavering back and forth between a strange mannered sing-songiness and very snotty plainspeak. The melody is just a repetitive drone punctuated by Swift's 'ooooooo'ing--and it frequently stops and starts, most significantly towards the end when everything pauses so a lo-fi Taylor can 'act' her way through a brief soliloquy that ends with her reciting the song title for the nineteenth time. And the lyrics are supposed to be pump-the-air-cause-gals-are-doing-it-for-themselves....but the POV character comes off as nasty and borderline sadistic. By the time the song is over, you have sympathy for that Kennedy boy, or John Mayer, or whoever it is this song is directed at. That's right; this song is so obnoxious it makes me feel sorry for John Mayer, a man I have utter loathing for.

But what may be the worst sin is the way the rise-and-fall repetition ends up earworming us--because it's just drones round and round, and Swift's vocals amplifies its hypnotic quality that it settles in your reptilian brain and kicks your frontal lobe for a couple of hour before the melody finally fades.

Look, I know Taylor Swift isn't the first country folkie who tried to cross over into mainstream pop. But what makes her bid for the Big Time so wrong-headed is how....calculated it is. Say what you want about, let's say, Jewel's 'Intuition,' but at least it was concretely a Jewel song, albeit one that featured her dancing around in a spangly dress (I think it helps when looking back at that moment in Jewel's career that she did it not because she wanted to be a Big Stah, but because she was curious if she could). 'We Are Never Getting Back Together' is soulless, a breakup song written by someone didn't want to get anything off her chest, but wanted to write a breakup song. And in trying to emulate the perfect Dance-Oriented Pop breakup song, Ms. Swift inadvertently strips away the thing that sets her apart from the other pop stars of this age--that delicateness and genuineness that made everyone want to root for her. The Taylor Swift of 'We Are Never Getting Back Together' is fake and false and cynical...and expects you to not care that she didn't put a lot of effort into this song, because all you care about is the beat and how pretty she is.

Which is why Taylor Swift thinks your stupid. And you shouldn't let her continue to do so and turn your back on her.

But you probably won't. Which is why These Are The End Times.


  1. Replies
    1. He's written such horrifically bad and self-important songs as 'Your Body Is A Wonderland' (which takes a simile to nauseating extremes), 'Daughters' (which tries to disguise its creepy make-out king vibe as heart-warming wisdom) and, worst of all, 'Waiting For The Change' (which purports to be a profound statement, but is actually advocating non-involvement in anything)....and that's just his musical crimes.