Guys I really like Taylor Swift. Why do I feel embarrassed to say that?
The first time I properly listened to any of Taylor Swift’s music was when I worked in a clothes shop. We would get these hideous mix CDs sent to us to play in store and we would have to listen to them, over and over, until I literally wanted to kill myself.
I had previously worked in HMV and for a few years towards the end, I had control over what music was played in the shop. I tried to be varied and make sure I played a bit of everything but it just ended up being whatever I wanted to play. I threw in the odd pop song here or there that I thought was good but it was mostly, dreary, loud, angry, whiney, white male voices telling folks about their problems. And some banjos.
I knew I would be listening to ‘’young people’s’ music when working in the fashion world’but I miscalculated just how upsetting I would find it. There was wall to wall pop music interspersed with a splash of dance and I fucking hated it. I mean I hated it. I told anyone who would listen how much I hated it.
Every once in a while we would get a gem out of absolutely nowhere. Each CD featured, easily, a dozen offensively bad Pitbull efforts and some diabolical remix of a song I’d never heard of but sometimes, miraculously, there would be an honest to biscuits good song which is how I heard Style for the very first time.
Taylor is a bit of a lightning rod for me. She inspires lots of thoughts about music, celebrity, feminism, sexism, PR and Ryan Adams. It’s not her fault that she reminds me of him. It’s not her fault she reminds me of any of them now that I think about it.
My reaction to her music reminds me of how I feel about Kanye West’s music. Again it’s not her fault that she reminds me of him.
When her songs would come on in the shop I would think to myself “You know this monumentally popular singer who has sold millions of records the whole world over? Some of her songs are actually good!”
It was the ‘actually’ part that I started thinking about. I guess it’s just the music snob in me, or the curmudgeonly old man in me but I assumed her music was bland generic pop music and that she was just a massive PR machine.
Now look, I don’t want to think that any of this bias is because she’s a woman. I don’t want to think that but it’s definitely in there. I’m brimming with toxic masculinity!
I listen to depressingly low numbers of female artists. I have this problem where I like to identify or ‘find myself’ in songs so I find that much easier to do when it’s a man singing. Makes sense right? I listened to Green Day when I was in school because they were singing about things I felt at the time.
I always use this as the perfect excuse to not try any new music or different genres that aren’t what I’m completely comfortable with and let’s be honest, being a straight white male means I have plenty of real estate in the music world to feel completely comfortable with.
So the Ryan Adams thing. I now have a very messy relationship with him and his version of 1989. Let me just say this for clarity. I still really love Ryan Adams music I always will in spite of him being a piece of shit. But for the record Taylor’s 1989 is MILES better than his. And that’s not revisionist, that’s just the truth. 1989 is a fucking masterpiece of an album.
But when he released his version I heard people I respect say the same thing I said. “These songs are actually pretty good” as if a respected male artist covering these songs gave them credibility. Which is pretty depressing isn’t it?
I can’t imagine how hard it is to be a female musician. From having to deal with slimeballs like Ryan Adams and others like him, to having people like me write about whether it’s ok to listen to your music, to having people on the internet, supposedly respectable establishments, not just creeps and trolls discuss whether you’re pregnant because of an outfit choice? Exhausting!
There will always be different rules for female musicians and pop stars. Not just female musicians, just females. I don’t know how you guys do it. Honestly. There are rules and preconceptions around female pop stars and their fans. We all know what they are. I’m 35, I shouldn’t care about any of that.
I know what we’re all supposed to say is “ah I don’t care what people think” and that’s an admirable trait to have in most circumstances but I don’t have it. I always care what people think I do still hide my love of wrestling from people and I don’t tell people how often I listen to Taylor Swift. WWE and Taylor Swift paired together. That doesn’t happen all the time.
I wonder about getting older and how many more times in my life a pop star will make me want to listen to their music. Taylor Swift might be my last pop star.