Shaking off Taylor Swift
We were both young when I first saw you. I close my eyes, and the flashback starts. I’m standing there… a sad middle school girl in suburban, 93% white Hunterdon County, New Jersey wondering why the boy I thought was the love of my life just did not reciprocate my romantic feelings. The bulk of my friends responded with the classic “he doesn’t know what he’s missing out on” and “you will find someone better”, but they didn’t get it. You did. I had “You Belong With Me” playing on repeat for days. I was the girl on the bleachers, waiting for him to realize that what he was looking for was there the whole time
Then, each time I lost my on-again-off-again not-at-all-official whatever-the-heck-he-was in high school, you were right there with me. I loved Joe Jonas, but I knew how you felt when he didn’t mean his promise of “forever and always”. I didn’t always listen to you, but I knew you would be there when I needed you the most.
As the college process began, however, we began to grow apart. By the time I finished my first year away, you became someone I only took note of when your pictures popped up on my timeline. You fell in with all the other friends I left behind when I left for college. No animosity, no fighting, but also no sparks flying.
This past summer, you sent me on a completely unexpected emotional roller coaster. I still cannot count the times during sophomore year and the beginning of summer I spent dancing to your “1989” singles. I shook it off and wrote someone’s name in the blank space. Now, however, I am engulfed by the bad blood I feel between us.
All song references aside, I have a few things to talk to you about before we can return to mad love. While I want to believe that you are an advocate for small musicians and gender equality, I can’t shake the feeling that you are merely a businesswoman. Whether or not musicians should be businesspeople is a conversation for another time… what we need to discuss is your idea of activism.
You’ve expressed time and time again that music should not be free. I find it particularly confusing that you use this argument to justify removing your music from Spotify, yet you neglect to erase your hits off Pandora. Spotify pays artists directly while Pandora pays ANOTHER company that eventually gives artist a percent of the profits. Needless to say, I find your actions contradictory.
Regardless of your actions, I have to say that I respectfully disagree with your reasoning itself. By denying non-paying listeners access to your music, you are essentially saying that only a certain class of people deserve to listen to your music. To someone with your wealth, $12 per album does not seem like much. However, to most minimum wage workers, that could be 2-3 hours of work depending on where they live (and that is just in America). And please, can we talk about your concert tickets? A friend and I were more than ready to buy tickets to see you in concert. We pull up TicketMaster, and boom, $150 for nosebleed seats. I understand that much of your wealth comes from ticket sales, but many artists continue to maintain luxurious lifestyles while charging less per ticket.
Then there was your show-down with Apple for its 3-month free trial of Apple Music. In your letter to the company, you say, “This is not about me.” Then, you say some beautiful words about how your fight is for the struggling artists. It is all good and well, but how much is it really doing for the artist? Do your actions end there? Let’s think about the next step. My ideas for you include having these “struggling artists” open for your shows, featuring them in your songs and being featured in their songs. Get to know these artists and expand from your pre-existing A-List friend group.
Speaking of your friend group, how did you managed to befriend all of the thin, famous money-makers across all media? Your main friend group is often referred to as your “gal pals” or the “girl squad”. Yes, a group of successful female-identified bodies in different fields is impressive, but yours is still extremely problematic.
Before I continue, let me emphasize that no body type should be criticized to empower any others. Thin and toned are body types, and your friend group should not be criticized for their own bodies. However, your new crew represents only one type of beauty– thin, white (or fair-skinned), tall. Being someone that does not fit that mold in any respect, I feel othered, and I am not the only one who is receiving the message that you are sending out. For a self-identified feminist, you do not seem to be concerned about the feelings of many women and girls who are hurt by this message of narrow perfection.
In fact, you and the media surrounding you like to throw around the word “feminism” extremely inappropriately. While you identify as a feminist, women’s rights seem to only matter to you when your actions and motives are being criticized. I can forgive the things you said about Camilla Belle in “Better Than Revenge”, because it was written in a different time. People can grow, but how can you explain “Bad Blood”?
Katy Perry, as irrelevant as I find her, hit the nail on the head with her sub-tweet about the whole Nicki-Taylor debacle. Though some may think Katy responded to gain street cred, she was not wrong when she said, “Finding it ironic to parade the pit women against other women argument about as one unmeasurably capitalizes on the take down of a woman…” I understand that you apologized for that, but you did nothing to actually stand up for other women, specifically women of color. Nicki accepted your apology but also included, “you should speak on this”. But did you ever? As a woman of color myself, I no longer feel like you can be here for me. Feminism does not stop at protecting you from reviews that claim you write about boys too much.
While we are talking about this, I also have to ask: why did you join Nicki on stage at the VMAs? What does that show besides the fact that Nicki was gracious enough to forgive you? In my eyes, her performance became more about you than her musical talent.
Taylor, I love you. I cannot pretend that I do not think most of your songs are total jams. But I also cannot see you act like this anymore. I want you to succeed. You have so much potential both politically and musically. I just hope that you do not take your power and wealth for granted. Please let me back in; I hate feeling disconnected from you.