Tomorrow, Taylor Swift drops the first single from her upcoming album, Reputation. If this is the first time you’ve heard of it, then lucky you.
It’s been some week on that front. She tweeted this image of a snake, and everybody I know goes bonkers. “Why did she post a photo of a snake?” “What is that all about?” “Is she going edgier?”
I’m used to this. This isn’t the first time the world has gone gaga over Taylor Swift. When I first got wind of that snake tweet I figuratively bowed my head and sighed not again. Well, to be more exact, I tweeted this.
While I was asleep, more details were released. There was the album title; there was the newspaper-y album art; there was news of that new single dropping tomorrow. I may have slept late – I couldn’t sleep, and yet I couldn’t get myself to be productive while awake – but I missed all this, so imagine waking up in the morning, checking your social media feeds while in the toilet, and seeing everyone literally go gaga over Taylor Swift. She “broke the Internet”, again, so to speak.
“Only Taylor can take all the hate against her and turn it into a work of art,” one exaggeratedly adoring tweet went. “All hail our queen!”
Not again, I thought, again.
I never really felt much for Taylor Swift. I get why she’s popular, but even if I wanted to, I could never have a compelling reason to jump on to the bandwagon. I’ve reviewed her last couple of albums, but I will be the first to admit they were obligatory critiques. I don’t usually like that, but in this case, it’s easy to get away with it. Just echo what everybody says and you’re good. (I did listen to the albums, and I found them inoffensive.)
“Taylor Swift is one of the greatest artists of our time,” another tweet went, probably. I don’t know; everything gets blurry at half past four in the morning. But it doesn’t sound implausible.
Clearly many love her songs. Perhaps they can relate to her themes, or perhaps they like how she knows her way and forges on. I think that’s part of the appeal. Her recent songs suggest a headstrong, independent woman; her recent actions – calling on Apple Music for royalty equality, her recent court victory over a former radio DJ accused of sexual assault – mirror that image. But then a part of me thinks this is all done for the show. I’m not saying they’re all contrived scenarios, just that everything is so calculating, done with maximum impact. It’s all perfectly legal, but if you know me, you’d probably understand why I feel uncomfortable about this. It’s like politicians claiming they have widespread support in their speeches, insisting they have a country’s best interests at heart in their speeches.
I don’t hate Taylor Swift, but, well, yes, I get annoyed at all the adoration. The album has not even dropped.
This is why I am afraid of writing this essay about Taylor Swift.
This is when I get branded as a hater, when anything that’s not “Taylor Swift will save pop music once again” is branded as an affront to their queen. Perhaps I’ll be branded as a misogynist – my annoyance at all this is proof that I am just another man who’s threatened by the success of a woman, another man who must reassert his masculinity or be diminished by this new world order. You just don’t like a woman who says what she wants to say. Like she’s the only one.
But it’s more likely it’s all in my head, bleary from having to wake up at half past four. Maybe there is no conspiracy. Maybe it’s just me being surrounded by adoration – from everybody – I cannot understand. Whatever the case is, Tay wins this round. And all rounds, because she is the queen, and we are lucky to be alive at the same time as her, and we must understand, at all costs, that we are, indeed, lucky to be alive at the same time as her. Sigh. What a time to be alive. [NB]