The Philistine

Taylor Swift and Oh So Sure

The singer-songwriter Paul McCartney (CH, MBE) recently toured Australia, stopping off in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney (two nights), Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and even Newcastle. Younger Quadrant readers may remember “Macca” (not to be confused with Macca’s) as a member of a long-haired skiffle band from Liverpool that enjoyed some passing success in the 1960s before its members went on to pursue even more successful solo careers. By all accounts, the eighty-one-year-old Macca is still sprightly (I think that’s the right word for an octogenarian rocker), still popular, and still magnificently long-maned. He ploughed through thirty-nine songs in his Sydney set, starting with “Can’t Buy Me Love” and ending with “The End”, a fifteen-word ditty that just pips William Carlos Williams’s poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” for teenage memorisability.

Sir Macca played to sold-out crowds numbering in the tens of thousands, then travelled onward to play even bigger venues in Mexico and Brazil. All the major newspapers in Australia published reviews, and all were positive. Quadrant Music, sadly, gave the tour a pass. Alexander, the editor of this “forum to promote humanity’s very best ideas through the discussion of art music”, apparently didn’t think that Macca’s music constituted “art”. Fair enough. When the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio came around, Keith’s sole act of commemoration was to give an extra page to the humour columnist. Quadrant may be Australia’s leading literary magazine, but it is after all an Australian literary magazine.

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Alexander certainly won’t be so complacent when Tay Tay comes to down. Tay Tay (known to fans over the age of thirteen by her stage name, Taylor Swift) will be playing four gigs in Sydney and three in Melbourne this February. Sir Macca played cosy venues like Allianz and Marvel stadiums; Tay Tay will rock the Accor Stadium (capacity 83,500) and the Melbourne Cricket Ground (100,024). Quadrant should be there, for all forty-five songs (Tay Tay is a little younger than Sir Macca). The good, the great, and (most importantly) the generous in attendance at November’s Quadrant dinner were all agreed on the need to attract more young readers to the magazine; a good place to start would be a thorough (and positive) Tay Tay review. Maybe make it an online special. Or use it to launch Quadrant TikTok.

Just after he left Australia, Sir Macca shot to number one on the UK singles chart with his AI-enabled Beatles single “Now and Then”. It must have felt nice. Tay Tay would know. Only thirty-three years old, she’s already had eleven number one albums in the UK. All told, Sir Macca has hit the UK number one fifteen times with the Beatles, twice with Wings, and eight times as a solo artist, but it took him sixty years to do it. Tay Tay has had eleven number ones (numbers one?) in the last eleven years. When the Beatles’ remastered Red and Blue greatest hits albums were released in 2023, they were boxed out of the UK number one by Tay Tay’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version) re-recording. And if that’s not impressive enough, both 1989 (Taylor’s Version) and Tay Tay’s 2022 studio album Midnights hit number one in all five English-speaking countries, plus Ireland.

Tay Tay’s biggest hit of all time is “Shake It Off”, first released in 2014 on 1989 and re-recorded in 2023 for 1989 (Taylor’s Version). For those who haven’t yet done the maths, Tay Tay was born in 1989. Whether you know it or not, you’ve heard “Shake It Off”. If you have great-grandchildren, you’ve been to the supermarket, you’ve shopped in a department store, or you’ve simply been near a car passing by with the windows down in the last ten years, you’ve heard “Shake It Off”. It’s a breezy, boppy song about a girl (presumably Tay Tay herself) who isn’t going to let anyone get her down. She knows that there are “liars and … dirty, dirty cheats” in the world, but she is sanguine about it. As she sings: “Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break / And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake”. Her response is quite mature: “I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake / I shake it off, I shake it off”.

Tay Tay was only twenty-four years old when she wrote those lyrics, the same age as Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan was when he wrote “How does it feel? / To be on your own / With no direction home / Like a complete unknown / Like a rolling stone”. Judging the quality of poetry requires a highly developed aesthetic sense (that’s why we have Barry), but any grown-up adult can size up a twenty-four-year-old at a glance. On their most famous lyrics, Dylan takes the prize for petulant schadenfreude, but the award for emotional maturity goes to Tay Tay. If (God forbid) one of your young descendants is going to seek enlightenment from a recording artist, better it be Taylor “I never miss a beat / I’m lightnin’ on my feet” Swift than Bob “Now you don’t seem so proud / About having to be scrounging your next meal” Dylan.

For a positive, forward-looking, quintessentially American view of life, trust your young ones to Tay Tay. Smart, athletic, sentimental without being moody, sassy without being bratty, and most of all successful in business—she is the ideal American woman, which in this day and age makes her the ideal American. And nowhere is Tay Tay more popular than in her native United States. A small-town girl from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, Tay Tay moved to Nashville at the age of fourteen to pursue her country music dreams. Her supportive parents moved with her. She released her self-titled debut album in 2006 (at sixteen), and it went septuple platinum (that means it sold more than seven million copies, but it sounds more knowing to write “septuple platinum”). The album was reviewed by the New York Times, which anointed Tay Tay “the most remarkable country music breakthrough artist of the decade”. Her MySpace page boomed.

Tay Tay’s father was a stockbroker in the Reading office of Merrill Lynch, and luckily was able to transfer to Nashville without having to quit his job. Or in the measured journalistic analysis of Salon magazine, Tay Tay grew up “the privileged daughter of wealthy plutocrats”. That was back in 2015, when the media assumed that because she got her start in country music, she must be a Republican. Now that she’s endorsed Joe Biden and condemned Donald Trump, she’s all right. She may be straight, but she is an ally for LGBT+ rights, once even dying her hair in the colours of the bisexual flag (that’s pink, purple and blue, like a bruise). She explained to curious reporters (and salivating fans) that she wasn’t coming out, but making a political statement because “rights are being stripped from basically everyone who isn’t a straight white cisgender male”. She has even apologised for not rallying to the side of Hillary Clinton in her 2016 hour of need. These days the only bad thing about Tay Tay is that she’s white.

In November, Tay Tay moved in with her boyfriend Travis Kelce in a “trial run” for marriage, as a “source close to” the singer revealed “exclusively” to the Daily Mail. Another source “exclusively clarified” to the Messenger that this was “completely untrue”. What is certainly true is that Tay Tay is driving ticket sales at Kansas City Chiefs football games. Her beloved Mr Kelce plays tight end for the Chiefs, and Tay Tay has been spotted attending his games. The Chiefs’ November 20 home game posted the largest live television audience for a “Monday Night Football” match-up since 1996, with 31.2 million people tuning in to watch Tay Tay watch Travis. The show’s weekly average non-Swiftie viewership hovers around 14 million.

Sadly, Tay Tay couldn’t make it to the Chiefs’ November 26 away game against the Oakland—er, Los Angeles—no, Oakland—no, really now, Las Vegas Raiders. Had she been there, she would have had a front row seat (well, a luxury skybox seat) to a horrific miscarriage of straight white cisgender male privilege. Reporting on the game, the black cisgender male journalist (sexuality unknown) Carron Phillips wrote a scathing rebuke of a public display of fan racism under the headline “The NFL Needs to Speak Out against the Kansas City Chiefs Fan in Black Face, Native Headdress”. The fan in question, Holden Armenta (aged nine), was photographed from the black side of his red-and-black painted face (red and black are the Chiefs’ team colours) while wearing a full-length American Indian feather headdress.

It turns out that young Master Holden is a Native American whose grandfather sits on the tribal council of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. As Phillips wrote in his column, “This is what happens when you ban books, stand against Critical Race Theory, and try to erase centuries of hate.” It sure does. As Tay Tay might say, race baiters gonna bait bait bait bait bait. Little Holden would be well-advised to keep his cool, holster his tomahawk, and shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake it off, shake it off. Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on, and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

4 thoughts on “Taylor Swift and Oh So Sure

  • Sindri says:

    Tay Tay (never heard that moniker before, Salvatore) was for years this constant background hum. I have memories of posters on bedroom walls, of music wafting through the house, of driving children and then adolescents to TS concerts or events, and even enduring a concert myself, before the fans flew the coop, taking TS with them. Could never quite become a fan myself, but you have to hand it to her.

  • Brian Boru says:

    As Harrison Ford said in Mosquito Coast; “Goodbye America, have a nice day!”.

  • David Isaac says:

    I have liked Taylor Swift from the moment she stood up, albeit briefly, against Spotify in 2014, although she eventually caved, relented or was bought in 2017. Like Hollywood the popular music scene is notoriously fake, so I do wonder whether her liaison with Mr Kelce has been engineered to help reverse the tanking viewership of the NFL, attributable to its performative virtue-signalling. But I hope that’s not the case and the pair might soon be married and raising a family. However ‘emotionally mature’ she seemed at twenty-five, nature is implacable and time is running out for Miss Swift.
    Sixty years on and Dylan’s song could apply to any pretty girl with the world at her feet, or it could be prescient of a still preeningly confident American majority being rocked by the cultural revolution of th 1960s which has led to now.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Heard her on the car radio but remain unimpressed, even as I tap along to it on the steering wheel. Good luck to her, I say. It figures that’s all I know about her, because I am firmly in the Dylan and Beatles demographic. I do have a twenty year old grandson ‘in a band’ though, which while it sounds to me like a cacophony of broken guitar strings, is winning prizes nevertheless. That’s my close encounter with contemporary music. He’s tolerant enough of his ancient grandma – so there is that.

    I don’t know how Quadrant’s going to span the generation gap.
    I’m not even sure that it should consciously try to do so.
    These things have a way of working themselves out as time passes.

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