I’ve never really felt strongly about Taylor Swift’s music one way or another. But I do believe that when you say you have a guilty pleasure in music, you should never actually feel guilty or embarrassed for enjoying it. So that is why I am unapologetically enjoying the latest Taylor Swift single “Shake It Off”!
Oh my goodness, it’s just so much FUN. I hadn’t heard the whole thing until recently. I’d heard part of it before and liked what I heard. Then one day I had the radio on and I got to hear it start to finish. I just could not get enough of it! It was in my head all day! I knew this one was going right in the old iTunes library ASAP.
I’m reading that this is Taylor Swift’s first full venture into full, straight-on pop, and “Shake It Off” is a pretty good first step! Okay, it’s more than that – it’s a brilliant leap with a beautiful landing! It’s upbeat and catchy and makes me want to dance. In other words, it’s everything a pop song should be!
It actually reminds me a lot of Toni Basil’s “Mickey,” at least in the beginning and in the underlying beat throughout. Taylor’s voice sounds great here. There are even times when I think she sounds a little like Christina Aguilera. Not as an imitation, but in the strength and clarity of her voice.
What’s the opposite of a diss track? I feel like this is that, in a way. She’s dusting off her shoulders, holding her head high. She’s not going to lower herself to the levels of her critics, she’s going to celebrate herself as she is.
Have you ever noticed how Adele can write two albums about breakups and exes and angst and win Grammys, and she’s celebrated for it? Taylor Swift does the same thing and she gets classified as a self-absorbed teeny-bopper. The difference? I guess one sings R&B and the other sings country pop? Oh, no. I guess it’s the fact that they’re both in their mid-twenties and one has supposedly dated more high profile men than the other. Gee, this whole time I thought we were judging musicians based on their music, not their personal lives.
This song is a great reaction to all that criticism. Taylor Swift is just living her life. She considers what people say about her: she stays out too late, goes on too many dates (and here she rightfully laughs at what a ridiculous idea this is), but she can’t make them stay. But she keeps cruising and won’t stop moving because of the music in her head. Yes! Music makes everything better! She’s dancing to the soundtrack of her own life.
There’s even a bit of spoken word in the middle: “Just think while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world, you could’ve been getting down to this sick beat.”
Don’t waste time on the haters, heart-breakers, and fakers. You’re so much better than that and life is so much sweeter! As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Okay, so this is one of those famous yet disputed quotes. But she definitely said “Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway.”
So now I think it’s time to talk a little about the music video. There’s been some criticism for her featuring twerking. The video features many other types of dancing, but twerking was the style that was criticized. The reason being that she is a white woman and twerking is seen as belonging to African American dance culture, therefore by featuring it in her video, she is using African American women as props.
Now, let’s go back a little to the time that I talked about Lily Allen’s “Hard Out Here.” Looking back, I think I still agree with the criticisms I made. I mean, she sings “Don’t need to shake my ass for you ’cause I’ve got a brain” and then features women of color shaking their asses. It was defended as parody or satire, but I fail to see whether she’s shaming women who shake their asses or celebrating them. There’s a lot of doublespeak going on in this song and video.
So I’ve also been thinking about whether I can apply these same criticisms here, and I don’t think I can. Where Lily focuses almost exclusively on African American bodies (the twerking AND the champagne being poured on their butts AND the slapping of said butts), Taylor doesn’t particularly focus on any one type of body. If the African American women (and it’s not exclusively or even mostly African American women) who are twerking are props, I think so is everyone else in all the other styles of dancing. And there are people of color in all the other styles of dancing (except, it’s been noted, the ballet dancing, sadly).
I think the difference here is that the dancers (every one of them) are all scenery, in a way, and Taylor is trying so very hard to fit in by imitating them, though she’s not doing a very good job of it. And that’s because she was never meant to. She was meant to be herself. She’s not graceful like the ballerinas. She drops her pom-pom when she tries cheer leading. She’s not able to immerse herself in interpretive dance. And she sure can’t do that awesome finger-dancing (or whatever that guy is doing at 1:17 – it’s hypnotic!).
But I can see where the twerking (and even hip hop) segments would make people uncomfortable. I feel like she could have tried break dancing – like trying to spin on her head but flopping over. Would’ve worked for her! Twerking is a tricky one though. In an interview, Taylor admitted that the dancers were trying to show her how to twerk, but it just confounded her. I think she could have made this more clear!
If you want to read more about this, Feministing had a great point-counterpoint about this (the counterpoint article links to the point article). As for me, I’m not going to say anyone’s right or wrong about this. I’ve stated my opinion and respect all others.
Anyway, Taylor Swift looks like she’s having SO MUCH FUN in this video, and I love that! I just want to jump in there and dance with her, like she does with her fans at the end. Yes, those are some randomly (I think?) selected fans! And that is where we see her at her most comfortable, her most Taylor. This is the Taylor the fans love, and when it comes down to it, aren’t those the people who matter most?