(Pictured: Taylor Swift onstage in 2008, still a regular person.)
I’m gonna start this post with stuff I’d normally put at the end because this stuff is actually interesting.
—Over at the Hideaway, HERC is counting down his personal Top 100 of 1977. It’s great reading, great listening, and hot damn it looks great, too. The easiest way to find the various installments is probably to click here to see them and other Hideaway 100 projects.
—Friend of the blog William has converted something he started on his Facebook page into a blog called The Music of My Life. If you dig the music-as-memoir schtick at my blog, you will enjoy William’s as well.
—Another friend of the blog, John Grinde, has written a book called “Your First Concert Was Hendrix?” and Other Musical Adventures. John grew up in the Madison area, so his story has plenty of local flavor for those of us who live around here. Even if you’re not from around here, you’ll recognize your own experiences in his book, and I recommend it. His stories about listening to the radio, buying records, and going to concerts will make you laugh, and will also make you think “Dang, I’d forgotten all about that.”
—A new post showed up at 7 Inches of 70s Pop this week. It seems impossible that it’s been over three years since the last one. Welcome back, Adrian.
On the flip is something not guaranteed to be interesting, and which could be completely wrong.
Life is too short for anyone to read too many Taylor Swift thinkpieces (or any Taylor Swift thinkpieces, I suppose), although Keith Harris wrote a good one. And now here I go.
Years ago, when I first became aware of her, I was happy to go on record as a Taylor Swift fan. Her appeal to me was in the way her songs were rooted in actual experiences lived by real people. “You Belong to Me” and “Love Story” are the best examples of this. Neither one betrays a hint of self-awareness. They’re just stories about stuff that happened, but whether it actually happened to her is irrelevant. They have a universality that’s a characteristic of the best popular art.
But the bigger Taylor Swift became, the more self-awareness began to creep into her songs. For a while, she kept it at bay. Her swelling superstardom didn’t become part and parcel of songs like “Back to December” (even though it was supposedly about breaking up with a fellow celebrity, actor Taylor Lautner), “Mean,” or “Sparks Fly,” and even “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” written as an earworm first and a song second, was still recognizably the work of an actual human being. But today, nine years removed from “Love Story,” her early songs might as well be Gregorian chant for all they have to do with today’s Taylor Swift (and the entire world of 2017, actually, but that’s another post entirely).
Taylor’s new single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” is pretty much exactly the opposite of an actual experience lived by a real person. (True, the song is supposed to have something to do with her feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, but if you think that negates the argument I’m making here, you and I don’t have anything to talk about and I wish you good day.) “Look What You Made Me Do” is nothing but self-awareness, and the most toxic, unlikable kind of self-awareness at that. The Taylor Swift of “Look What You Made Me Do” is a reality TV character, a wealthy bitch-on-wheels whose every word and action, even the way she chooses to make herself look, proclaims that she doesn’t need to care about other people, or to care about anything, really, except her own hardness. Her self-awareness—self-involvement is probably a better term—is so profound that she disappears up her own external orifice. (Any young woman who identifies with this iteration of Taylor Swift is probably deluding herself about her own self-image.)
She came off much better in her strong and forthright testimony in that sexual harassment trial recently. The Taylor Swift of “Look What You Made Me Do” is not real, and not attractive. Worst of all, in the end, she’s not even interesting.