The best magazine article on Taylor Swift I’ve ever read. 

In defence of Taylor Swift (by a 27-year-old heterosexual man)

Taylor Swift writes angsty ballads enjoyed by girls between the ages of about nine and 16. She sings about ex-boyfriends who, on the whole, come off as total saps. She mostly gets played at sleepovers or makeover parties or in Abercrombie & Fitch. And she is my guiltiest pop pleasure.

On a recent Friday afternoon at GQ, control of the stereo fell to me. I loaded my iPod’s “recently played" list and cued up Swift’s Harry Styles-based break-up anthem, “I Knew You Were Trouble". Looking around at a room of raised eyebrows, I explained myself in a way that probably sounded like irony. “She is super hot,“ I said. “And her music is first rate.”

Truth is, I have never been more genuine.

The stats are on my side here. At a time when the music industry is financially arid, she has not only coined a personal fortune of £107m via 22 million album sales but has done so – at least on her first two LPs, Taylor Swift (2006) and Fearless(2008) – playing country. On the way, she has scooped 165 awards, including seven Grammys, and Fearless has won more than any other country record in history.

Granted, popularity doesn’t always equal quality, but Swift’s lyrics absolutely do. Whereas Rihanna has songs delivered to her shrinkwrapped, Swift collaborates. And, OK, she’s no Byron, but poetically she’s certainly better than Bieber. Take her catchiest track, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", which at first sounds like an unambiguous marching order for Jake Gyllenhaal. On closer reading – and stick with me on this – it’s got a lot more going on. The beat in the middle of Swift’s opening line makes us think we’ve heard to the end of the sentence, before surprising us with an extra part that revises the whole meaning: “Remember when we broke up [pause] the first time". Their relationship is in a cycle, which her use of repetition throughout the song suggests is inescapable. Just as the words “Like, ever", which fall after she speaks the line “We are never getting back together", seem to emphasise both her resolve and uncertainty at once. Someone should tell Jake.

Swift’s tunes stay with you like tattoos. She’s the girl-next-door and that’s the point. Her wholesome, honey-haired looks recapture the all-American sweetheart, that long-lost ingénue squeezed out by Valley girls and cultural jadedness. Judging by the protective outrage that flared when Kanye West had a pop at Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards perhaps we never fully got over her.

So why is the internet full of things like “The Hater’s Guide To Taylor Swift"? And why did the office balk at that song? Put it down to good oldfashioned rockism that enshrines “authentic" (read: shoe-gazing) auteurs. Though in Swift’s case that’s misplaced. Yes, the way she turns up to awards ceremonies dressed like she’s going to prom could read as phoniness, as might her radio-ready tunes. But that’s not artificial; that’s just her. The girl plays a mean guitar, writes her own material (sort of) and infuses every one of her tracks with cask-strength personality.

Or, to put it another way, she is super hot and her music is first rate.


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