“Swift writes about her life so directly that the listener is forced to think about her persona in order to fully appreciate what she’s doing creatively.” – Chuck Klosterman

Now look: I really like Chuck Klosterman. I read his books, enjoyed his columns when he was The Ethicist for the NYT, avidly awaited his podcast chats with Bill Simmons, about college football and pop music and random self-searching thought experiments. He’s way smarter than me; a vastly better (and infinitely more accomplished) writer; probably an order-of-magnitude better thinker. And he’s spent some amount of time actually being around TS, interviewing and observing her for a profile he wrote on her a few years back, where all I’ve done is imagined having a single coffee with her and how it would remake my world.

But I think he’s dead wrong in that quote above. Exactly wrong. In fact, it bothers me how wrong he is, because he’s saying that her music is somehow not enough on its own, and the biography (as told through other media) of the musician is the key to decoding how great her music actually is.

Extend that and it also says the biography of the potter is what really makes the pot. That provenance is more significant than gut-reaction. That we must become vacuums of all the peripheral flotsam of the culture we desire, to fully “get” the culture we’ve somehow missed.

Fuck that, Chuck.

I don’t give a hot damn about who song is about; what it says about them in the (now virtual) liner notes. Whom Taylor has been dating and for how long and what the gossip blogs have had to say about it. The critical supposed-think pieces, baiting their clickbait hooks as if their lives depended on it — oh, because their financial lives actually do depend on it — {insert quote about a man not believing something if his salary depends on not believing it – Ed.} — click click clickity click. Never trust a critic who hasn’t spent years trying to do the thing they’re criticizing. Otherwise, it’s just all frustrated-artist speculation, Schadenfruedian pedestal-toppling and pent-up wish fulfillment.

[Discursive Loop: frustrated-artist speculation, Schadenfruedian pedestal-toppling and pent-up wish fulfillment. Good tag line.]

“Which is more than they can say.”

The videos, while occasionally entertaining, don’t do much for me. If anything, they diminish the songs, like a mediocre adaptation of a favorite novel. Clearly, they’re aimed straight at the 14-year-old segment of her audience. But, I swear, some part of the songs is aimed directly at me, the jaded, 46-year-old, ‘reawakening for/after the Fall’ guy.

(They are Swifties; I’m just swift. But man, when I get that TS tattoo on my forearm — in medieval S T O N E C A R V I N G script, of course — it’s gonna lock down Coolest Dad Ever status, come middle school. I might even beat out Dorian for the Most Preferred Carpool Driver job. [See my post on Linked In!!!] “OMG, how does your Dad already know all the lyrics to Call It What You Want? And he likes White Horse, too? A-maze.)

All that said, there are bits about her public persona that I like. She has charisma to burn; I would cast her for the role of Muse in the remake of some Jon Hughes movie. Banging on her drumkit like her life depended on it, or whatever. I can see why the Big Pop Machine decided it could make her famous. Don’t think I’ve watched an entire interview, because they’re painfully self-conscious — image grooming — and they also belie the depth that can be found in some of her lyrics. Either she’s a better slow writer than fast talker, or there have been a lot of other people feeding her words to sing over the years. (It’s probably a good dose of both. Even so, she deserves all the praise; when I am speechless at a turn of phrase or the nuance of a repeated line, I think of her. The byline still gets the credit. We ghost writers knew the score when we signed on. “That’s how it works. That’s how you get the girl.”)

Oh! Except there’s this one live performance on YouTube — complete with allergicly-wretched lead-in promo, and couched in whatever Star Search type show those fucking things are these days — there’s this one video that, even compressed by that awful format and venue is simply incandescent. I mean, so much so that I really need to track down the audio version. I am a lifelong sucker for a great bridge, or late break, especially when the music drops and the vocals jump to the top. J U M P. And in that one, TS just eviscerates any doubts about her singing chops; the spot where her voice almost breaks just about breaks me, every.single.time. That’s not ‘a limited range’. That’s the empty spot deliberately left in the pattern of a Mimbres bowl, so the spirit can get out. Wabi-sabi, jackals. G.T.S.)

[Damn, I guess I should link to it. Should I link to it? I’ve been making a point of not linking to things, ’cause it gets out of hand so readily. And I hate how the highlight pollutes all this pure black on white, like contours wrapping around a sacred curve. Nah. Fuck it. You go find it; I don’t care. Well; OK. I care. Ask me, if you want, and I’ll send it to you. We can be Friends. Or Followers. Or whatever the hell they’re doing on Snapchat.]

All I knew, this morning when I woke, is that if the remaining 11 songs are half as good as these four, two of which I already adore enough to just play them on loop almost every day, then you and me, TS — you and me are in great shape. I cannot believe I doubted you even for a minute. Like The OA, I’m really sorry for all the times I tried not to look you in the eye, afraid for the current pattern of my stars.

“Starry eyes sparking up my darkest nights.”


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I actually feel sorry for the sanctimonious jackasses who are too far gone to enjoy this. Populism, as we’ve seen in the mass hallucination that’s overtaken our Red zones, is its own reward. I really hope they — the too-cool critics, not the self-abnegating voters — are enjoying whatever else they’re listening to, instead, half as much as I’m enjoying this. If they’re not, then they deserve it. (“Some indie record that’s much cooler than mine.”)

Punk rock Penny can ridicule fantasy-novel-memorizing Quentin all he wants for looping Shake It Off in his head. We become King, in the end, and you’re just a cryptic library security guard with no hands, dude.

(Here’s another reawakening thought: when I first watched that show, I had no clue who TS even was. I’m so out of the mainstream culture, gladly so, that all those references were lost on me. Like I was watching a show made for someone else. (Hint: I was. The novels were for me. Thanks, Lev.) So, if I hadn’t later heard it on the radio, and bought it for Pixel — thinking only that she’d like it, and I could live with hearing that horn section a few more times — what would have been different? Would some other music have occupied 87% of my hindbrain these last few years, or would there have been no music at all? (It’s shocking, now, how little I listened to for a while there. Where “a while” is a euphemism for literally scores of months.) And so does that mean there’s some other singer or band out there that I missed, that would have been capable of filling that gap, that role? Or it was this or nothing? Or something not music, which I’m also lacking now? Stonecarving? Hard drugs? Poetry, for (The Old) God(s) sake? That’s a trip down the rabbit hole, if you’re inclined to follow that one. Loops galore. Danger; trout below. Look out for hope.)

Like the way truth will out, Taylor doesn’t need five star reviews by Dads who actually saw The Replacements play live. [Mother fucking piece of shit world: I didn’t.] She’s gonna get 9.4 million views in two days no matter what they (we) say. Populism is its own reward. [No, Bear! Stop inserting an apostrophe in “its”! You’re making me look like a fucking novice, and right about now it’d be super helpful for me to appear to have a few writing chops of my own.][More on that, later.]

[Hmm… hey, Witt, check this out: Maybe the third character, the one with the whip, is the polar bear. Like Iorek Byjornsson in Spyglass, a massive, armored beast. How can you not stare him down when he’s charging to devour you, rag & bone?]

[OK. What am I saying here that I’ll have to add to next week’s Things I Shouldn’t Have Said list? Aw, who cares? The time shifted last night, Pixel got up in the five o’clock hour, it’s gonna be a long Sunday, and I need this. Eff ’em if they can’t take a joke. Or twelve attempts at one.

“Sorry I woke you up at five o’clock.” So sweet. “That’s OK, little dude. I had some blogging to do.”]

Anyways. So yeah — pop music. Guilty. “If bein’ strong is what you want then I need help here with this feather.”
{See how he did that? Clever. – Ed.}

“A nuanced sense of humor does not translate on a general scale, and I knew that going in. I knew some people would hear ‘Blank Space’ and say, ‘See, we were right about her’. And at that point, I just figure if you don’t get the joke, you don’t deserve to get the joke.” – Taylor Fucking Swift, yo.