29 Feb 2016

We've Got Bad Blood : An Essay on Taylor Swift

Ask me a few months ago my stance on Taylor Swift and I'd probably pour out something sickly sweet about adoring her; being in awe of her flawless transition from country queen to pop princess... 
But, as the hype around '1989' subsided and her penchant for inviting stars on stage with her continued, I began to grow bored. My once well played copy of '1989' found its way under my bed, rather than in pride of place next to my stereo. It was not her annoying brand of, what is just rather samey pop songs that began to take its toll on me, but the hypocrisy surrounding her supposed feminism, and while I'm at it, NME's blatant worshipping of her. I remember beginning to read NME and loving their criticism of mainstream artists, yet they seem to have swapped all this in an attempt to appeal to a wider readership. 


Instead, they hail Swift a pioneer of "fourth wave feminism." It was this phrase that sparked a tirade whilst on a train back from London. Taylor Swift has this supposedly accessible and subtle brand of feminism. Not unknown to call out the music industry, she's praised by her tween adorers who both idolise and see her as a role model. However.. Hypocrisy lies in her choice of stage companions. Seemingly rejecting her own principles and endorsing a dangerous message. Synonymous with misogyny, I am, of course, eluding to Pitbull.

A few years ago, ex-Radio 1 DJ Sara Cox spoke out about sexism in the music industry and her refusal to play Pitbull himself on the radio. His collaboration with Ke$ha on 'Timber' seemed to legitimise rape with lyrics such as “She say she won't but I know she will.' To allow this airplay seemed dangerous in the messages it was demonstrating to young teens.

From then on, Pitbull epitomised misogyny and sexism in the music industry for me. The constant objectification of women used to appeal to the male gaze that dominated his music videos. This continued until what felt like betrayal from Swift. For months I had praised Taylor and admired her effortless glide from the country genre to mainstream pop. Initially I was excited by her hobby of inviting fellow musicians on stage, I loved her collab with Haim and was a tad in awe of her contact book, but * drum roll * Then came Pitbull.

To some, this may seem a little too harsh, but I was so disappointed when Taylor Swift and Pitbull collaborated on her tour. Pitbull served as this symbol of everything sexist in the industry, that Swift was not unknown to speak out about. This man sings about rape for gods sake! DJs have refused to play him on the radio, with Sara Cox complaining she felt it highly inappropriate for children - young girls especially to be hearing lyrics such as these and for their sexual knowledge to be moulded and constructed by songs that perpetuate the view that women are mere objects who adhere to male desire and wants. 

Swift has such a young fanbase and the fact she often speaks about subjects and issues that Pitbull could be included in,  felt to me like she was ditching her apparent beliefs in favour of exposure. After this I avoided her as much as I could, refusing to dance to Shake It Off however catchy it was. Don't even get me started on how sickly I found the Bad Blood video, when before I'd probably have been empowered by the all girl cast.

It's not that Taylor Swift isn't, as the NME say, an advocate of fourth wave feminism. She is important in her open criticism of the music industry and claims she's been made aware of fourth wave feminism and spoken about it as a result of her friendship with Lena Dunham. However, her collaboration with Pitbull seemed to me just hypocritical, and it felt as if this wasn't something she'd personally chosen, as if it was done for the exposure it would gain, as, to be honest, I can't ever see inviting a misogynist on stage being a logical decision.