Bryce Rudow is a freelance political/pop-culture journalist and he likes music. You can send all hatemail to [email protected] and tweet vitriol at him @brycetrudow. Go to his website: BryceTaylorRudow.com
Hi, hello, and welcome to Fall. There’s a lot going on in the column this week, so let’s get past the shameless plugs quick and get to it.
Please check out:
Thank you, and onto the music!
- Taylor Swift – 1989
Part of me wanted to fuck with you guys.
In fact, a large part of me wanted to just post “I Wish You Would” and claim that it was some new Swedish indie pop star who had taken the big drums and anthemic nature of HAIM and infused it with a dose of throwback saccharine pop.
You would have eaten it up.
Except the truth is, this is Taylor Swift and it’s about time we stop being such assholes about her.
We don’t actually hate Taylor Swift anyway; we hate what she stands for. Or, more accurately, what we believe she stands for. A writer worth Googling named Luke O’Neil once tried to explain this same phenomenon when it came to people bitching about hating ‘hipsters’:
“You don’t hate hipsters, what you hate are assholes. You don’t hate someone because of their haircut, you hate them because of the smug, shit eating grin floating underneath it. Or because you don’t like the way that they hate things different than you hate things. You know, tangible, important shit.”
You don’t hate Taylor Swift because ‘she sucks.’ You hate Taylor Swift because she represents the ‘average’ 20-something year-old girl, and as Lena Dunham and Broad City have proven with dead-on parody time and time again, the ‘average’ 20-something girl is something pretty easily hated at first glance. Worse still for TSwift, we’ve ‘known’ her since she was just a teenager — the only thing worse than a 20-something — so we’ve actually been keen on using her as a ‘straw pop-star‘ to burn for almost a decade.
And now, for some, Taylor Swift has reached the Kanye West Level of Automatic Hatred (the KWLAH), a tragic place celebrities reach when they get shit on automatically, even when they do or say something deserving of merit, solely because of their past reputation — think of it like The Boy Who Cried Glass Ceiling, only instead of everyone dismissing Kanye even when he makes the sporadic good point, it’s everyone refusing to accept Taylor Swift for what she is, namely a very talented songwriter with an incredibly low EQ (emotional quotient), an All-Star team surrounding/protecting her, and the shrewd business sense to know not to rock the boat too much when you’re the only who can afford a yacht.
And let’s remember exactly what ‘reputation’ we’re judging her for anyway.
To recap, she was a teen country singer who wrote her ‘best’ material between the ages of 16-19 and who fell into fame quick because country is secretly more popular than pop, and when she showed she was ready/she was forced to adapt her sound to something even more commercially accessible, the music business guided her to superstardom. Then, once her records sales began unfathomably skyrocketing and we got to see her romantic comedy-esque trysts play out publicly in tabloid headlines, she left herself open up to the same criticisms we throw at our all pop stars these days: the questions about authenticity.
But why is it we’re expecting a 25-year old to be ‘authentic’ in the first place?
Between the ages of 22-25 I went through four different career interests, three complete wardrobe changes, two serious girlfriends, and a lip ring (and a partridge in a pear tree). Sure anyone who spent any time with me would have said I wasn’t being my ‘authentic’ self, but as Thought Catalog so boldly illuminated, that’s what your early 20’s are for, finding out who the real you is.
So, with that in mind, can we give Taylor Swift that same amount of slack so that we can actually begin discussing that almost 1/3 of the songs on 1989 are somewhere between good and great (“Out Of The Woods,” “All You Had To Do Was Stay,” “Shake It Off,” “I Wish You Would,” “Wildest Dreams,” “Clean,”) and that even the more nauseating songs on the album are still admittedly the kinds of songs that I could see people who like bad music really enjoying on Hot 99.5 about 8 times an hour?
Because “Out Of The Woods” and “I Wish You Would” are some of the best takes on HAIM’s vintage pop sound you’re going to hear, and “Wildest Dreams” just showed Lana Del Ray how to make that whole genre less mopey/more viable, and I’ve already written about how “Shake It Off” is the perfect pop song for a navel-gazing, reaction-obsessed 2014 music landscape.
And that doesn’t have to mean we’re anointing 1989 the album of the year; it’s far from it.
If you’ve ever disliked Taylor Swift for any reason, there is most likely a moment or song on this album that will reinforce that opinion. But there are moments during this album — especially if you’re shameless enough to listen to the voice memos on the deluxe version that shows the original backbones of these songs — when you realize that Taylor Swift, at 25, is just a sponge who is taking the same well-constructed pop songs she has been writing since she was 16 and parroting them back in the style of music that is most popular at the time. Only she has the kind of talent to keep this momentum going for a long time. Right now in 2014 she may be writing thinly veiled diss songs to exes and palling around with Lorde and releasing meta ‘crazy ex-gf’ music videos, but you’d be a fool to bet against Miss Swift not continuing to adapt both as a person and as a musician.
I mean, imagine if after this tour she meets some dreamy 34-year old guy whose big into liberal politics and Bob Dylan and then all of a sudden we’ve got Taylor “Human Sponge” Swift using her powers for neo-folk albums and voter registration events. It’s not completely out of the realm of possibility right?
Okay, that might have been asking a bit too much from her.
I need to shake it off.
Too Long; Didn’t Read: You don’t actually hate Taylor Swift. “Out Of The Woods” and “I Wish You Would” are great songs.
Update: Apparently I’m not the only one experiencing newfound TSwift appreciation, as I have since been informed of this wonderful SNL skit. I apologize for not doing my Taylor Swift parody due diligence, but trying to do internet research on her is like Googling ‘murder.’
- Eminem, Slaughterhouse & Yelawolf – SHADY CXVPHER
I just wrote 1,000 words on Taylor Swift.
Eminem just released an 18-minute ‘cypher’ video featuring himself, Slaughterhouse, and Yelawolf that is purely a capella and feels more like an episode of Def Jam Poetry.
This is just what we all need to shake it off.
BONUS: This is a slew of random notes I wrote down while listening to this/talking about this with peeps on GChat that deserve to be shared:
– JOE BUDDEN! I missed him!
– Joe Budden needs a hug.
– This is the easiest Yelawolf has ever made it to like him.
– “Benjamin: yelawolf looks like julian casablancas spent some time at rikers”
– Do you think the average white hip-hop fan knows who Slaughterhouse is?
– “I sometimes wonder what would happen if Royce Da 5’9 went through a mid-life growth spurt.”
– Eminem is, technically speaking, the best rapper dead or alive. The GOP still hasn’t gotten over the fact that our president can be black but can we just be okay with the fact that Eminem can rap circles around anyone? ANYONE.
– “Johnny: cyphers are cool.”
- The Walking Sticks – “One Sweet Thing” WORLD PREMIERE!
You know what you get when you’re patient and deal with Taylor Swift essays and 18-minute cyphers? A WORLD MOTHERF*CKING PREMIERE OF A NEW SONG FROM DC’S OWN THE WALKING STICKS!
I first wrote about The Walking Sticks back in June, pointing out that the addition of lead-singer Chelsea Lee was the smartest decision the two brothers that previously solely composed The Walking Sticks ever made, as she helped bring a bluesy, sultry vibe to their once-folk outfit. However, it’s actually the band’s manager — a really nice guy named James Scott that I met one night on the back porch of Paperhaus — that we can thank for this premiere.
After we met at Paperhaus, he shot me over an advanced copy of The Walking Sticks then-upcoming EP, Pop Dreams, and unlike 90% of the managers/PR people that say it, he actually wanted to know my honest opinions about the album.
After spending a few days really digging in to the EP, I let him know that I thought this was definitely the best stuff they have done so far but reiterated my continual knock on this band that Chelsea, while a superb addition, needs to do more if they’re going to try and write songs that, according to their own press release, are “for fans of Rhye, HAIM, Jungle, and London Grammar.”
But I ended my little spiel to James with this:
“You’ve got a talented band on your hands, and if I were you, I would actually double-up this single [meaning their first single, ‘Bang’] with ‘One Sweet Thing’ or when you do the next single, have it be ‘One Sweet Thing’ but send them out together. It’s a nice way to show the band’s range.”
And it looks like James actually listened!
Enjoy the fruits of my great advice/the world premiere of “One Sweet Thing,” a strong statement of a song from a band that is slowly finding their place in the DC music scene, and make sure to check out Pop Dreams now that it’s out.
- Jack On Fire – Grime and Crime Vol. 1
For anyone that completely hates me after 1,000 words on Taylor Swift, this might make up for it.
In fact, Jack On Fire may be the exact, polar opposite of Taylor Swift.
You see, Jack On Fire were debuted to the world via Washington City Paper a few weeks ago thanks to their first two singles — “Burn Down The Brixton,” and “I’m Not Your Fucking Baby” — and while that’s great press, that does suggest to Music Blogging Sherlock Bryce that most likely the pseudonymous Jackie and Jack that make up the group are either employed by WCP or friends enough with someone working there there that they could get said great press for a song whose most redeeming quality is that it shits on all the assholes that have ruined the U Street Corridor for the rest of us (that ruined it a few years before that for the people that actually lived there first).
But honestly, at this point, with bands like Loud Boyz and Priests proving (/reminding everyone) that intensity, earnestness, connections to the scene, and authenticity (there’s that word again) trump traditional songwriting and audio quality when it comes to this breed of punk music, why not have a band that isn’t afraid to just blindly throw lyrical molotov cocktails at the people that we’re all bitching about to each other anyway?
You know, the people:
– ruining U Street/H Street: “Burn Down The Brixton!”
– putting condos fucking everywhere so that I can’t even get service in my own bedroom (FUCK YOU ONTARIO 17 APARTMENTS): “Condo”
– doing cocaine and being assholes: “Cocaine (Will Turn You Into An Asshole)”
– catcalling women on the street: “I’m Not Your Fucking Baby!”
– illegally tapping our internet: “The NSA Has My Dick Pics”
Ya know, the people that we love to all hate (as I write this from the condo I rent having gone to Satellite Room after a show at 9:30 Club just last weekend).
But I am worried that Jack On Fire, like Loud Boyz, is going to be latched onto by a ‘hip’ section of the community only to completely alienate the rest of us who don’t ‘get it.’
I’d like to hope that since these guys obviously have something to say — in an email to WCP, which only furthers my theory that they’re intertwined, Jack describes The Brixton as “the epicenter of the overpaid white douchery that is choking our fair city” — they get the same kind of press coverage that an equally intelligent but unmatchably pretty Katie Alice Greer of Priests gets. However, something tells me that those overpaid white douchebags who read things like Washington City Paper and DCist don’t want to be reminded that they’re working 9-5’s that don’t fulfill them and spending their weekends getting drunk in dark, faux-kitschy bars in hopes of finding someone that might distract them from their waking nightmare with meaningless, emotionally-vacuous sex.
Or maybe I’m just being a pessimist.