Song of the Day: Taylor Swift, "Mean"
So Taylor Swift's 1989 won the Grammy for Album of the Year last night. That in and of itself is not entirely shocking, even considering the 11 nomination haul for Kendrick Lamar's capital-I Important and endlessly inventive To Pimp a Butterfly. Swift is a commercial juggernaut, a hero to tween girls (the only demographic that still invests a healthy amount of money in music), and a reasonably gifted songwriter, although based on the massive crew of old Swedes that accompanied her on stage last night, it's getting harder to tell where her artistic prowess ends and her ability to pay hitmakers to curate for her begins. She's an ideal person for the old-ass Grammys to tether themselves to because it's a symbiotic relationship: The Grammys get the cooperation of one of the few superstar musicians left on the planet, and Swift gets the validation she seems to endlessly crave.
We kind of knew Kendrick was going to get hosed, right? When they gave away Best Rap Album, a category that has only ever been televised once before, it came across in that moment like a consolation prize for Lamar, who only an hour later would literally burn down the Grammys stage in a flurry of rise-up rhymes. (Alabama Shakes getting the chance to accept an award during the broadcast also signaled that they were not winning the big one at the end of the night.) So despite the fact that Kendrick's shackled rendition of "Alright" was by far the best performance of the evening and the fact that To Pimp A Butterfly was not only an idea-filled album but also a funky one, and despite the fact that Swift's performance of "Out of the Woods" was boring and ill-executed and that 1989 is as gross a celebration of whiteness as there is in the pop world, I had made my peace with the idea that Swift would walk away the big winner. And she is the first woman to win Album of the Year twice, which is nothing to sneeze at.
But man, what a drag her acceptance speech was. She actually let the following words spill out of her mouth: "I want to say to all the young women out there: There are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame. But if you just focus on the work, and you don't let those people sidetrack you, some day when you get where you're going, you'll look around and you will know it was you and the people who love you who put you there, and that will be the greatest feeling in the world."
In a word, "UGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH." My problem with fully committing to Taylor Swift over the course of her career has always been the fact that she trades on victimhood. It's one thing to write about lovers who wronged you, but it's entirely another to release a single that whines about what a critic said about your singing or how a famous rapper interrupted a television appearance. Taylor Swift is a young, rich, white, model-thin woman with famous friends—she is literally the least oppressed human on earth. Her tossing shade a Kanye West—a dude who bought her years of media sympathy that she is still cashing in on—is just the most petty, ridiculous complaint in the universe.
A few years ago, I wrote something for MTV about how much I hated "Mean," a song that clapped back at a critic who said that Swift sounded terrible during a Grammys duet with Stevie Nicks (an adjudication that pretty much everybody agreed with). In the video, she metaphorically murders the dastardly critic and also tries to equate a professional saying something critical of a famous person to middle school kids being taunted for being gay. In her little kitten brain, I'm sure she thought that was empowering bullied kids, but in reality it belittled the genuine trauma those victims were experiencing. Your suffering is not the same as their suffering, Taylor, because nothing you do or experience is like anything anybody else does or experiences. You are no longer one of us.
And then she has the temerity to release a single like "Shake It Off," which claims to present her as a breezy chick who lets stuff slide right off her back. But in reality she is the opposite of that! She's is actually a vindictive, power-mad lunatic who believes herself to be the target of a constant conspiracy to undermine her very existence. She's not an underdog, she's a sociopath.
And that's OK! If Taylor Swift leaned into her heel role a little bit more, my respect for her would grow a thousand times. But she doesn't give a shit about what I think (until she does, I guess).