Friday, April 17, 2015

My Dark Descent Into Taylor Swift Fandom

It's been warm in Knoxville this week, warm enough that when it wasn't raining I was driving around with my windows down. That means that anyone close enough to the car can hear what I've been playing, and all this week it's been Taylor Swift's 1989. (Last week it was Steve Grand's All American Boy, which you should buy both because it is a decent debut album and also because you can hear a man singing pop songs about loving another man's sexy body.) I didn't stop to think about how weird this might seem until tonight when I ran into a friend in the Kroger parking lot on my way home.

"Joel, is that... are you listening to Taylor Swift?"



"I like her."

"You like Taylor Swift now? You?"

I do.

I like Taylor Swift.

Let me take a minute to explain how this happened. I mentioned it once before, when I wrote about how much I didn't like Beck's Album of the Year. I buy CD's, rather than just downloading the album on iTunes or Amazon, because I don't want to download every song on any album until I know if I like them or not. Sure, I could still do that with digital music files, but if I have a physical CD and don't like it I can take it to McKay's and trade it in for store credit, like I did with that crappy Beck CD. I can't do that on Amazon or iTunes. Granted, it's not what I paid for it, but it's better than nothing. With that idea in mind, I purchased Taylor Swift's CD thinking that I wouldn't like it, but also thinking that I should at least listen to it before pre-judging.

On my first listen, I was immediately scornful. After hearing "Welcome to New York", the first song on the album, my immediate response was, "This sounds exactly the way someone who wasn't alive in the '80's thinks 80's music sounded like." It gave me the same feeling that photos of sorority "80's Nights" parties does. It was very synthesizer heavy, sounded a little processed, and even though it didn't have any beats or chords in common with it the song sounded to me like a knockoff of Nu Shooz's "I Can't Wait". It was later pointed out to me that Taylor Swift actually was alive in the 1980's. She was born in 1989. By the time I finished a first listen of the entire album, I believed that my preconceived notion of Taylor was still correct: She was the kind of girl that I would advise a straight guy friend to immediately break up with, because there was a seething undercurrent of "clinging nutbag" to all her songs.

I'm slow to react, though, so Taylor Swift kept playing in the car for the rest of the week.

By Wednesday, I realized that I liked the third song on the album, "Style". It was catchy, moody, and I might have gotten hooked a little by the reference to James Dean, but also it's a song about how you should really stop dating this guy but you keep dating him anyway because you're both a little obsessed with each other and when you're good together it's great but really you should just break it off for real this time because you keep crashing and burning and that's happened to me before when I was younger and Oh my God, I have something in common with a Taylor Swift song.

Taylor Swift and I connected.

It was like a door opened, and I suddenly began to hear all of the songs on the CD in a different way. I understood that yes, Taylor and I can be a little mental sometimes, but we've both dated a lot of guys who are jerks. And we kept dating them. We remain hopeful, but Jesus, we sure can pick them, can't we? By Friday of that week, five days into my Taylor Swift listening experience, I realized that even though Kelly Clarkson is my go-to for music when I'm mad about a man (because every time I hear a song by Kelly Clarkson I want to go find a man who wronged me and kick him right in the junk), there was room in my heart for my girl Taylor.

So yes, I like Taylor Swift now, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

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