Hating Taylor Swift: The World’s Old New Sport


So are we all supposed to be hating on Taylor Swift again? Is that what the summer of 2016 protocol calls for? Because God forbid that I’m out of fashion here. I mean when I was railing on Taylor Swift for saddling up with Max Martin on 1989 to manufacture derivative pop songs, I was chastised at large because didn’t I know that she stood up to Spotify and Apple, and how self-aware “Blank Space” was?

I thought Ryan Adams covering Taylor Swift’s 1989 was a horrible machination of Swift fever run amuck. Yet who was I to criticize a record that had outsold all others and defined the sound of a generation? All of a sudden I had No Depression readers and hipsters who usually hate anything that’s popular giving me shit for my misguided notions about Ryan Adams’ brilliant homage to a musical goddess. Have I been vindicated now that Swift’s ex thinks she’s a messy bitch, and she got caught in a lie by a Kardashian?

Do you hate Taylor Swift? Well you better if you know what’s good for you, because she can’t deliver an artificial ideal of perfection, and because her failure makes us all feel better about ourselves.

I’ve been doing this shit since 2008, whether it was hip or not. Remember in 2010, when the collective world was wallowing in the ridicule of Taylor Swift after she screwed up her duet with Stevie Nicks on the Grammy Awards? Here was Saving Country Music’s response:

This is the vicious pop cycle, and sorry, but FUCK YOU, I won’t participate.

This is how it works: the mass public overly glorifies an otherwise average talent to make themselves feel “inspired,” and then when the fall starts for their starlet, it is meteoric, and fueled by the jealous, narcissistic hunger of the pop public, tearing that person down with all their spite, sinking their nails into their flesh and feeding like animals off their destruction to fill their vacuous egos. It is a sick, pathetic, and all too predictable cycle that I will not participate in.

And I won’t participate now.

So Taylor Swift is done, is she? You’re sure of that? There’s no return from getting bested by a Kardashian, and the entire sham of her marketing persona being made public? That’s your final answer?

That’s how we all felt in February of 2010. Eight months later she was releasing a record that she wrote all by herself, produced herself, and sold 4 1/2 million copies on the way to winning two Grammy Awards for her song “Mean”—a song specifically targeted to her detractors post the 2010 Grammy debacle.

“But the cycle ends right now
‘Cause you can’t lead me down that road
And you don’t know, what you don’t know…”

The cycle did end, and no, we didn’t know. Then it was Red in 2012, and 1989 in 2014, and all of a sudden Taylor Swift was the biggest music star in 25 years and you even had Ryan Adams fans singing Taylor’s praises and defending her work, despite Taylor relinquishing more and more control of her music to others over this period. But it was popular to like Taylor again. Until it wasn’t.

It’s the Tiger Woods effect. Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neil, and any number of other high-profile athletes could be known for running around on their wives and be forgiven by the public because they have never set up a false image of perfection. But Tiger was supposed to be this vessel of virtue. Like Taylor. Like Tom Brady. And as soon as a scratch in the veneer shows us that lo and behold, they’re human, it’s hip to join the dogpile. It’s sport.

Perhaps Taylor Swift is a messy bitch. But show me a great artist who wasn’t?

So what exactly are we supposed to do now that Taylor cheesed off her ex-boyfriend and got caught in a semi-lie by Kim Kardashian? Do we regret 1989‘s Grammy for Album of the Year like Marisa Tomei’s Oscar? Are you really surprised that all of the staged Instagram photos were a facade? You really didn’t know this before? You think it’s any different for Ryan Adams or anyone else? Or is it really surprising to us that Taylor got angry for being called “that bitch” in a song, and had the image of her naked body splayed all over the internet in a video? Wouldn’t you get a little bit out of your skull in that instance?

Of course Taylor Swift is more marketing than man. And now that her music is an artifice of hired gun hitmakers like Shellback and Max Martin, she doesn’t even have that to fall back on like in 2010.

But counting Taylor Swift out? Not I.

Whether Swift is being couched as the biggest superstar in decades, or public enemy #1 on Twitter, she has always remained who she is: an average girl. That’s not a knock. It’s her average-ness that is at the heart of her appeal, and her genius is understanding this. She’s gorgeously average. It’s the vulnerability that she’s willing to expose through her songs that makes them connect with so many. Because we’re all flawed. Like Taylor. We just hate when she reminds us of that in the real world, so we take it out on her instead of ourselves.