Let me state up front that I do not listen to Taylor Swift. Until this past year or so I have been barely aware of her. It is the osmotic dynamic in which we live that I know anything about her at all. So when she became the Time Magazine Person Of The Year, I was amused but frankly unstartled.
I say “unstartled” intentionally, as in I was not blind-sided, shocked, or negatively put off balance. Mildly surprised, maybe, but hell, given the record of Time’s Person of the Year, anything is possible. (Hell, Kissinger was one, on the same cover with Nixon. Then there’s Rudy Giuliani…) All it represents is an assessment of impact on the culture. Taylor Swift is a pop star. She’s the first one to be so honored, but a cursory look at her impact suggests many reasons. The fact that she inspired record numbers of young people to register to vote alone says she’s more substantial than her detractors like.
Those detractors, now. I’ve been seeing, out of the corner of my awareness, for quite some time the nonsense heaped upon her. She is a single woman, who apparently, in the unfortunate phrase, “can’t keep a man.” As if that describes anything noteworthy, other than how some people clearly can miss the point. This seems to be the biggest thing, an insult somewhat disguised as pity. Really, though, it’s the kind of thing said of people who make the sayers uncomfortable. She’s single. So what? She runs her own business. Hm. She’s very successful. “But she’s—”
What? Unapologetically herself?
Her music is not what I choose to listen to anymore, but I will say, speaking as an an amateur musician, that she has chops and her compositional skills are far more sophisticated than people give her credit for.
But I suspect for a lot of her detractors it is her politics that disturb them. Combined with the nonsense about there being no man, it borders on an insistence that she’s an uppity woman with opinions who needs to be brought to heel by a man.
If Dolly Parton were 26 years old today, we might be hearing exactly the same things about her from the same quarters.
Here’s one of the things about a woman like Taylor Swift which I think bears a bit of examination, because I think it is what makes her both popular and derided, depending on who’s talking at the moment. Taylor Swift is unpossessable. The assessments by those disturbed by her would seem to swirl around this central characteristic. (She’s even re-recording early music to stick it to the record companies that tried to diddle her on ownership and royalties. She will own herself and her art, thank you very much.) If this is, indeed, one of the “issues” in play, then by all means, she deserves the accolades, and good on her. I think it goes without saying, but I will say it anyway to make it clear, that if this were a man, none of this would be an issue at all. In fact, it would be regarded as “normal.” Whatever that means.
The fact that I, who care almost nothing about her, know these things is a direct consequence of the impact she’s had, and that’s the point of the Person of the Year designation.
I’m going to go back to listening to what I usually do now.