The Curious Case of Taylor Alison Swift

I’ve been a fan of Taylor Swift’s since September 13th, 2009. Most people would lie to you and say “I’ve been a fan since the very beginning,” but not me. This was a very specific date when something very significant happened. Less than a year after America had elected its first black President and Taylor released her second studio album, Fearless, she was nominated, and won, Best Female Video for her song You Belong With Me at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

That evening, two notable occurrences took place. First, a drunk and obnoxious Kanye West hopped up on the stage, insisting that Beyoncé Knowles–then nominated for the chart-topping Single Ladies —had one of the best music videos of all time. Later in the evening, upon accepting her award for Video of the Year, Beyoncé offered Taylor Swift the microphone to finish her acceptance speech from earlier.

This evening soured many people on Kanye West, made many others aware of Taylor Swift, and served as a moment of mutual respect in a music industry that had crossed all racial divides. It was a proud moment in Obama’s America; a moment that nobody needed Obama for. There were no politics. Only people.

For almost ten years after that moment, Taylor Swift went from being the darling of the country music scene to one of the most successful pop acts ever, and did so while remaining almost entirely apolitical. She recognized that alienating half her audience may not be the best path forward for a pop superstar.

She’d adopted this persona as a heartsick fairy tale princess who only wanted to bake cupcakes, give surprise gifts to her fans, hang out with her cats, and find Prince Charming somewhere down the line.

So what happened?

Related imageTaylor’s career was deeply invested in Big Machine Records, the music label she lifted off the ground, and vice versa. She had complete control and the money was good. She had made a name for herself, brought up new country artists, and cultivated a fan base (or Stan-base?) of Swifties the world over.

In 2016, three more monumental occurrences transpired. First, Taylor Swift had a very messy and public spat with Kim Kardashian and (once again) Kanye West over some of the language about her used in one of West’s tracks. Second, Taylor postponed her 7th and final album to be released through the Big Machine Records label due to the stress and anger she was receiving from non-Swifties. And finally, Hillary Clinton, with the full force of everyone in the entertainment industry behind her (sans Taylor Swift), lost the Presidential Election to Donald Trump.

With the release of her 7th album, Reputation, and subsequent tour, Taylor was finished with her label, and became one of the most valuable musical free agents in history. She had been through the eye of the storm, risked losing her fans, generated a lot of frustration due to her silence in the 2016 election, and had a successful stadium tour to promote her album.

And that brings us to today. After being acquired by Universal Music Group, starting work on her 8th studio album, and pushing 30, Taylor Swift decided it was time to show people who she really is in the pages of Elle magazine. Her self-written article titled 30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30, reads like a strange fiction concocted by someone who isn’t quite certain of her own real world identity.

Image result for taylor swiftShe explains her decision to cut off commenting from Instagram and other social accounts due to caustic responses from the Internet’s finest.

It continues in awkward fashion, as she analyzes and critiques her own changing body like a teenager noticing them for the first time. And while turning 30 may be a milestone in her own life, she bizarrely asserts that strange notions like the idea that her hair has suddenly become straight after 29 years of being curly, and that men could never possibly understand the horrors of aging.

She reacts in a somewhat confusing manner to the May 22, 2017 Ariana Grande concert suicide bombing. She claims that she constantly fears for not only her fans’ safety, but hers as well. In a thought experiment that would lead any rational reader to conclude “this is when I started carrying mace/a taser/a knife/a gun” she reveals that she now carries first aid gauze for patching knife and bullet wounds, seeming to imply a complete lack of either honesty or awareness of actual physical danger.

She vows never to let outside opinions and politics impact her own, which then begs the question, why all of this? And why now?

She casually blames the entire year two-thousand sixteen for her desire to learn how to mix her own cocktails; a woman in her late twenties. Furthering a narrative that she is a long-time home cook, she assures readers that she loves cooking several recipes including an appalling “only ground beef” meatball dish, and other entirely basic concoctions courtesy of solely celebrity chefs. Less disturbing is her celebration of acquiring a game-changing “garlic crusher” (an item that doesn’t exist).

Perhaps even more egregious than the whole cooking debacle she announces that she has learned to always believe the “victim” of sexual assault due to her own experience as a victim. Not to belittle Taylor’s legal butt-grab battle, but comparing her experience to those who have experienced actual sexual assault seems to cheapen it a bit.

Taylor then proclaims that now, at age 29, she is finally ready to get extremely political with her hundreds of millions of followers…a decision I’m certain will not go over swimmingly.

The remainder of her learned experiences are often somewhat sad. She regrets relationships, fake friends, trusting the wrong people, and not going with her gut more often. Surely, all of these sound fairly commonplace in American life.

What this article communicates with me is that while Taylor Swift has spent her career being a consistently aspirational figure, she has spent very little time figuring out what it means to be truly authentic.

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A totally biased review of Taylor Swift’s ‘reputation’

On November 10, Taylor Swift had the physical release for her 6th studio album, “reputation.” I remember the day for two reasons; one because I rushed out to buy the album (twice) in order to move up in the priority list for Reputation Tour tickets on Ticketmaster…and two, because it was released on the 10-year anniversary of the death of Kanye West’s mom, Donda!

Just a coincidence, I’m sure…🐍

TSwiftToday, however, December 1st, marks the day that her album becomes available on all streaming services so that even the casual fans and those not desperate for front-row tickets can listen. So I held off on my official review until now!

The mainstream has been slowly shying away from Taylor Swift. The blond white female pop star motif is seem by some as problematic. The only way you’re allowed to be a blond pop sensation is if you’re already aged-out like Gwen Stefani & Christina Aguilera…or all your fans are gay, like Britney Spears.

Here, in the land of the living, Taylor Swift just put out the best pop album of the year; and quite possibly, the best of her career. But an album is only as good as the songs on it, right? So let’s go through each delicious track one by one…

1. …Ready For It?–The first track on this album pairs nicely with the recently released music video. It creates a powerful opening to the record, but also lets you know exactly what you’re going to get a mixture of catchy pop choruses and angsty rap-inspired tracks. Any single verse from this song beats a clumsy Eminem cypher hands down.

2. End Game (feat. Ed Sheeran & Future)–This may be one of my favorite tracks on the album. I can forgive the obligatory “let’s bring a notable rap-guy into a pop song” trope since it actually fits the song. Swift has done this before in a now conspicuously missing remix of Bad Blood with Kendrick Lamar.

3. I Did Something Bad–In an album themed entirely around Taylor Swift’s transformation into kayfabe pop princess to problematic alt-right queen (kidding…or am I?), this song encapsulates her flippant mood in the face of losing an integral part of her character.

TSThe character of Taylor Swift, in pop kay fabe, is a serial dater who hangs out, parties, and travels with an elaborate who’s-who squad of celebs and models.

But something happened between last year and this year that turned all of that upside down. It seemingly began with a petty feud over lyrics with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. That’s when we first saw the “snake” come out.

But then, it moved on to Swift being constantly criticized for not speaking out publicly during politically hostile and fiery moments when it seemed like almost every one of her contemporaries couldn’t keep quiet.

We may never know what cost Taylor Swift her fake friends, fake relationships, and (sorry) reputation…but I have a theory.

4. Don’t Blame Me–Another album highlight, Don’t Blame Me sets a larger than life tone early on. There’s a very smooth and sultry feel in this track that perfectly puts Swift’s new “good girl gone bad” imagery on display.

5. Delicate–Tracks 4 & 5 blend together perfectly in a kind of digital harmony. This track almost serves as a break after the first several songs that Taylor hits her fans with. In Delicate, she essentially asks the listener if they’re still on this ride with her–do we believe her new persona, or are we suspicious?

And if we’re ready to go forward, we can get crazy again.

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6. Look What You Made Me Do–Obviously if you ever listen to music you’ve heard this album single. This almost-irritating track quickly gets stuck in your head, and when you realize that it’s just a retooling of I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred, it all starts to make sense.

The oddly manic music video for this song caused many to speculate about Taylor Swift’s intentions and what story she was prepared to share. The music video is actually more intriguing and worthy of a vast pop culture discussion than the actual song, but that’s a story for another day.

The song also includes the very cringe line “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh–cause she’s dead!” but we can forgive her this once.

7. So It Goes…–After Look What You Made Me Do, the album begins to slow down into more traditional pop ballads. There’s nothing wrong with this, and the total shift in mood is actually pretty exciting given that most artists have been releasing albums that sound like one long song.

8. Gorgeous–If you were worried that this album wouldn’t sound anything like the Taylor Swift you used to know and love, you’re in luck. The entire second half of the album is more in line with what you’ve come to expect from the tha Tay. Gorgeous is self-referential, self-deprecating, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

It even contains an audible “Ugh…” in response to her own reference to her beloved cats.

9. Getaway Car–Every time I hear the beginning of this song (and it’s been many times), I can’t help but cringe a little. The opening lyric It was the best of times, the worst of crimes can’t escape giving me douche-chills and I keep expecting her to say:

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10. King of My Heart–I’m pretty crazy about the heavy bass in this song. It’s a scattered type of song, but I think/hope that was intentional. It’s almost as if it doesn’t know what it wants to be–an acoustic ballad, or an unhinged jungle beat jam–and I’m happy with both, especially when thrown together. It conjures up an elite metropolitan romance, aggressively regal in some ways, youthful and defiant in others.

11. Dancing With Our Hands Tied–This track is a good example of a solid beat with fun drops, but a song that feels lyrically hollow. However, if you can tune out the words, it’s still a fun song to dance to.

TAYLOR112. Dress–The album is starting to wind to a close with some of the more provocative tracks on the whole record. My guess is that this will be a fan favorite both due to its inherent sexuality and its pop mastery. It includes one of the most evocative lyrics I’ve ever heard from Taylor Swift: I only bought this dress so you could take it off.

13. This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things–Have you ever noticed, no matter how many times you listen to an album, there’s always a track that seems to come out of nowhere? A track you could swear you never heard before, even though it’s been there all along? I don’t think this song was on the album yesterday, I swear to god.

But now that I’ve discovered it, I can’t stop listening to it. It’s possible I’ll play it out and start to hate it, but as of now it’s my favorite track on the album and I’ll go crazy if I get to see it live. If you want a comparison, I’d say it’s the We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together of this album.

14. Call It What You Want–I believe this track was the third single released, and that was an appropriate choice. It acts as a finale to the album, even though it’s not the last track on the record. Call It What You Want perfectly sums up the mood of the album and it might be the track I’d most like to see covered by other artists. The song totally rules, and the lyrics are exceptional.

The whole feel of the album has this Tony Robbins aesthetic of “fuck everybody else, live for yourself” and I think that’s what makes it great.

15. New Year’s Day–I was going to write a whole thing about how Taylor Swift appeared in a movie called New Years Eve and that this could be a call back to that persona she played in that movie…but…then I realized that movie was called Valentine’s Day, so it shit on my entire point. Anywhooo–

While the lyrics are a bit more ‘adult’, you wouldn’t be able to tell this song apart from something she put out 4 albums ago. It’s a beautiful, melancholy pop song that likely would have been a bonus content track, but Swift decided to grace us with 15 songs this time; and I’m so glad for it.

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Prophets of Rage is a Cringe Masterpiece

1You may have already forgotten (good for you) that the “rap rock supergroup” Prophets of Rage formed last year featuring most of Rage Against the Machine/AudioSlave, two members of Public Enemy, and B-Real of Cypress Hill.

The amalgamation of middle-aged artists who have never written a good song in their 30+ years in the industry (with the possible exception of Chuck D) were described by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine as “…an elite task force of revolutionary musicians determined to confront the mountain of election year bullshit, and confront it head on…”

Leave it to Communist “artists” in Che Guevara shirts to tell you whose opinions deserve to be violently “silenced” in this video for the incomprehensible Radical Eyes.

Last January, when Prophets of Rage came onto the scene, people were excited for a refreshing hardcore take on the “system” and the “racist evil” of the man running for President–a man who couldn’t possibly win.

Predictably, the project’s excitement and virility went flaccid, and a major album release from Prophets of Rage in September 2017 falls on deaf ears. But that won’t stop Tom Morello and Chuck D trying to sound cool on the failing Daily Show while they stumble through tired political rhetoric and drag their feet through another version of the same song they’ve been making for three decades.

None of this stopped me from checking out the album out of morbid curiosity. Let’s call it…my version of “cutting.” I’m always anxious to test my tolerance for pain. To get the full effect, you’d have to force yourself to listen to these individual tracks (don’t). But let’s establish that they all sound the same, and they’re all faux-edgy with goofy outdated record scratches. Now let’s get into the best part: the cringe lyrics.

TRACK 1: Radical Eyes

Can’t resist don’t even draw / All the things all you do / Now your part on the trees / You’ve distracted again / Your fantasy when you walk and for the fight for the win
They didn’t hear my cry / He said fuck my pride
The say I’m radicalized
(See my radical eyes)

It’s actually amazing that the album starts out like this. It’s the most apt introduction to what the rest of the album is going to be. The lyrics make no artistic or literal sense, and it’s clear that whoever is writing the words is deeply struggling for loose rhymes that sound like they may be intentionally deep. They’re not. But what else is new for Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, or Cypress Hill?

TRACK 2: Unfuck the World

No Hatred / Fuck Racists / Blank Faces / Time’s Changin’ / One Nation / Unification / The Vibration / Unfuck the World!

There are so many good lines in this track, but the desperate attempt for the chorus to become a chant reminiscent of Green Day‘s “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA” is palpable. This is Black Eyed Peas level cringe.

TRACK 3: Legalize Me

Yo, where those candles lit / Teenagers blown to bits / I’m filling radio with hits / Prime nights at the Ritz

I’ll be honest, it was refreshing to find out this song wasn’t about illegal immigration. But it was distressing when I couldn’t fathom what else it could possibly be about. I don’t know. You tell me. Weed, maybe?

TRACK 4: Living on the 110

Living on the 110 / There’s no end to the poverty, stopping me / You pretend there’s democracy, hypocrisy / This is the reality / Living on the 110 / There’s no end to the poverty, stopping me / You depend on democracy, hypocrisy / This is the reality

OK–finally we get a song with a defined purpose. The 110 is a California highway with lots of tent cities. Got it. Tom Morello said that everyone is rich and the tent city people are the ones suffering. Because Tom Morello lives in a world of grandstanding black & white. Sorry, Tom. You’re the elite. You’re sucking Trevor Noah’s cock while LA’s Democratic gov’t does nothing for homelessness. You do have democracy, Tom. But you depend on hypocrisy. Oh, shit. I should be Chuck D.

TRACK 5: The Counteroffensive

[Scattered Vocals Amongst Record Scratching] / Counteroffensive / Counteroffensive / Prophets of Rage / Counteroffensive / Prophets of Rage

Um…let’s call this one an “intermission”? Oof…

TRACK 6: Hail to the Chief

All Hail to the chief who came in the name of a Thief to cease Peace / He’ll be comin’ round that mountain / All Hail to the chief who came in the name of Thief to cease Peace / And he didn’t even run

It’s becoming more and more clear that this album was either written in 2003 and released today, or that it was written and recorded last weekend. Title makes it sound like it would be the album’s big ANTI-TRUMP song…but I’m not even sure what this is. Lots of cowboy references. I honestly don’t get it; nor do I see why anyone else would.

TRACK 7: Take Me Higher

Drones! / They got ya tapped, they got ya phone / Look out! / Drones! / They got ya trapped, they spot ya home / Cuz you’re a target! / Drones gonna take you out / Drones gonna shut yo mouth / Drones flyin’ checkin’ ya’ll out / Drones in the hood like ‘wow’

So far, that’s two songs in a row with titles that other artists performed much more competently. This one…this one was a doozy. I have to believe this is the last song they wrote. Tom Morello said “We need 12 tracks! We have 11!” to which Chuck D replied, “So what, man? I’m tired of writin’.” To which Cypress Hill responded, “What about just yelling DRONEZ?” And the rest is history. Seriously, though. This track is a fucking embarrassment to rap, rock, and rap-rock.

TRACK 8: Strength in Numbers

Standing on a rock / Staring at the cop / With the [?] / While you wanna hit the fucking blunt / We don’t want no pipeline / Injustice of a lifetime / Brothers turn away / Like they don’t see us spend a lifeline / High crimes / Does it make you wonder? / Stand together / Because there’s strength in numbers

Even the hardcore dedicated fans who scribe and dissect these awful lyrics have given up trying to figure this shit out. This is a mishmash of references to Left Wing causes randomly assorted with zero context. “Standing on a rock”? May be a throwaway allusion to the Standing Rock protest? Who’s to say? There has to be someone literate in this “super-group.” Right?

TRACK 9: Fired a Shot

Look who fired the shot / I just fired the shot / We fired the shot / Look who fired the shot / Look who fired the shot / I just fired the shot / We fired the shot / Look who fired the shot

Everyone in this “super group” has Down Syndrome. They should’ve called it Prophets of the Syndrome and gave all the proceeds to some kind of charity that takes WEED away from these water-heads.

TRACK 10: Who Owns Who

Know your rights but you should understand / Who owns who / Systematic breakdown / Know your rights but you should understand / Who owns who / We fuckin’ matter

I think this song is about immigrants crossing the borders, having sex with American women, burning the American flag, and then whining about how they own the streets and matter to the country. I disagree.

TRACK 11: Hands Up

Hands up x3 / Had enough x3 / What the fuck?

I truly hope you’re starting to sense a theme here, and I think if you’re playing along at home, you too could write a Prophets of Rage song (or really any Rage Against the Machine song).
Pick a phrase that’s mildly provocative, but only enough to rile up a 13 year old. Repeat phrase with some familiar power-guitar riffs and some archaic record scratches that make you sound even more out-of-it than you ever could have done verbally. Done.

TRACK 12: Smashit

They say what the must to gain our trust / But once the ballot’s cast they forget about us / Standing on a mountain high above the downtrodden / They forgot about Michigan like all is magnificent

Well it was a long road, but we finally made it. Last track of the album. The only possibly respectful thing I could say about this album is that it clearly would have been exactly the same no matter who won the election; but that has very sinister undertones. Because while their political ideology isn’t swayed by Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, they aren’t swayed by reality at all.

It’s all just a ledger of causes their retarded fan-base can feel politically stimulated over. Does anyone believe that these wealthy hall-of-famers give a shit about “the downtrodden”? Are we supposed to believe that these has-been performers whose aging fans only respond to out of nostalgia have any real clue about the nature of the world outside of violent rhetoric and communist iconography?

If you liked this album, you may want to have your chromosomes checked.

My review: Zero out of Ten Hot Dogs. Fuck it.

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