This is the second time in a week I’ve posted about Taylor Swift’s new video. The first time was when VICE decided to fact-check her goth cred:
Taylor Swift: NOT GOTH.
Maybe gothier than Marilyn Manson though. (Also not goth) https://t.co/VXmcB2A2Qq
— Jillian Tate (@jilliantate) August 26, 2017
Typically, I don’t watch pop music videos (because seriously, why bother, NOTHING WILL EVER BE AS GOOD AS IT WAS IN THE 90s) but due to the “Taylor Swift goes goth” allegation, I felt it was something I needed to sit through:
Typically, I have nothing against Taylor Swift. In fact, usually I find her songs well-written and catchy. I certainly have to hear them enough times around the house given that I have a pop-music obsessed nine year old who insists on listening to Sirius Hits 1 in the car (Paul and I listen to FirstWave or Lithium or AltNation or CBC3 when we get to choose, usually when Ben is napping)
This song, however, is just awful. It manages to repeat key changes while being totally devoid of melody. It’s speak-sung with repetitive lyrics. It’s like the video was conceived first and then some background noise was developed for it. The best description for it is “lemonade Crystal Light”. Only I think that’s actually an insult to citric acid.
By commenting on any pop culture, I hear the same sarcastic voice & comment that one would expect: well could you do any better? And the answer to that is probably no, no I could not. The thing is, it isn’t my job to write pop songs. I haven’t spent my life training and perfecting the craft of writing pop songs. Taylor Swift has, and arguably, she is very good at it. Therefore, I expect her to use that craft to produce a song with a melody, not a novelty piece.
One could also argue that Ms. Swift is trying to do something different, that this is part of a reinvention of herself, “the old Taylor is dead”, etc. The problem is that it just isn’t a well crafted song. Taken without the video, it’s slow and repetitive. Without visuals, it’s downright boring. It isn’t something that can be danced to easily because the beat is awkward. It’s different from the past singles that this pop ingenue has released, but lacks the familiarity with non-pop genres of music that could have provided more interest and engagement.
Or, to put it another way, if Taylor is going to go dark, listen to some goddamn Front Line Assembly and sample an industrial beat rather than just pulling together a weak song about revenge with a drum machine backbeat. Or if she is going to go cinematically dark, I am fairly certain that there are plenty of examples of how to do that
Why am I complaining about this pop music piece in particular? Partially because I’m up early thanks to some insomnia (it is hard falling asleep and staying asleep these days) but also because this music video just beat out “Gangnam Style” as the most viewed video on YouTube…and we are all going to have to hear it on a multiple times daily basis for the next few months. It’s all over my RSS reader like it’s a video and re-invention for the ages, like it’s a great, groundbreaking single. I’m not typically up on this sort of thing, but hasn’t this also been done? Like by Madonna? Or Lady Gaga? Or Beyonce?
I suppose my point is that I have to go yell at some kids to get off my lawn and rant about how all modern music is terrible. I just wanted to complain about this video in particular first before I do so.