Honestly speaking, up until today, I’ve had absolutely zero to say about Taylor Swift. I mean, I’m not supposed to have anything to say about her. She doesn't matter to me, but then — her music isn’t for me. I don’t wish her ill or anything. She’s just not on my radar. Why she’s on anyone’s radar is another matter. Personally speaking, I don’t think her music’s all that exceptional, but again — it’s not my concern.
In my former place of employment, however, Taylor’s name was routinely invoked. Whenever I expressed my absolute lack of affinity for her or her music, I kept hearing the same incredulous retorts. Evidently, she writes her own stuff. Kudos for that. And wouldn’t I rather my daughter have a role model like Taylor Swift than, say, Ke$ha or Nikki Minaj or Katy Perry or __________ (insert coquettish pop starlet of your choice here)?
I don’t have an answer for that. I mean, honestly, from what I can tell, my kids know who Taylor Swift is, but they don’t express a lot of enthusiasm or familiarity for her music. That’s fine with me. I’m sure there’s a day coming soon wherein my kids will listen to music that they dig, and there’s a huge probability that it’ll be music that I find unfit for human consumption, but that hasn’t happened yet. Normally, here’s the part where I boast that my kids can name songs by Devo and SWANS when they hear them, but that’s simply because they hear me playing that stuff.
At the end of the day, my kids will like and listen to whatever the hell they feel like, and there ultimately will be precious fuck-all I can do to stop or dissuade them from it. My own parents tried to get me to disavow my fandom for KISS back in the day, which backfired on a positively herculean scale.
But back to Taylor Swift.
This week, it was announced that — in transparently crass synchronicity with the release of her latest album — Taylor Swift has been named the Global Welcome Ambassador for New York City.
Regardless of that strenuously dubious (and ultimately meaningless) title, the question remains …. Why Taylor Swift? What does she have to do with New York?
She was born in Pennsylvania, but evidently spent most of her life in Nashville, Tennessee. If I’m not mistaken, she only bought apartments (notice the plural, please) here in April (somewhere down in TriBeCa). Seven months later, that she should represent this fine, storied city in any capacity is beyond laughable, regardless of your taste in music.
That would seem to go without saying, no?
Earlier today, though, I was having a conversation with a friend about the changing face of this city, looping back to our ongoing discussion of how this place has closed and how that place is going out of business. My friend had sent me a photo of the former entrance to Some Records, a once-mighty stronghold of punk rock vinyl that was formerly perched on East 6th Street (don’t bother looking for it now, obviously). As is usually the case in these exchanges, we both came around to the fact that the city that we’d known and loved was really no longer there. Sure, I may wander the streets of the Lower East Side in my vintage Cop Shoot Cop t-shirt, listening to Kraut on my headphones and vainly searching for antiquated Missing Foundation graffiti and ancient Rock Hotel flyers, but that New York City (so often slavishly rhapsodized here on this weblog) is effectively GONE, replaced by avenues peppered with frozen yogurt joints, banks, 7-11’s and Le Pain Quoditiens.
The particular subcultures I was enthralled by are now memories, but so is the diversity and the soul of bygone eras. Apologists will continually cite the maxim that “change is the only constant” in the urban environment, but that’s a shallow cop-out.
But that’s just my tastes and my experience. Folks from all walks of life and all areas of interest express the very same laments that I do. The particulars may be different, but the chorus of the song remains the same — the character of New York City is changing, and not necessarily for the better.
When my wife and I talk about moving out of Manhattan as we periodically do, it used to send me into a a panic. But now, with so much of what I loved about the city I was born and raised in having already vanished or in the process of vanishing … the notion of leaving doesn’t sting quite as bad.
With all that mind, maybe Taylor Swift does accurately represent this city after all.
Watch her instructional guide to "New York Vocabulary" here. ... maybe have a bucket nearby.