“I see a fan/you see a spreadsheet”: first thoughts on the new Taylor Swift album

I’m a fan of Miley.

Miley speaks to me, in a way that few boys manage. Her new album is midway between those two peaks of her creative life: the moment in Hannah Montana: The Movie where she whips her wig off to reveal the real singer underneath, and the death of her pet blowfish, Pablow.

  • SPOILER: her fans don’t care!
  • SPOILER: the night Pablow died she and her friends went out for some food – someone chose sushi, and someone thought it funny to order blowfish. Miley freaked out, and turned vegan.
  • SPOILER: I have not verified either anecdote.

Half the album is her referencing the wig (c.f. the lovely duet with her godmother, ‘Rainbowland’, the title track) and half the album is her referencing Pablow, or at very least the various mood swings and inner fragility that first led her to the Pablow incident. Her voice is stunning: alert and alive to the possibility of endless emotional eruptions, twisting and turning as the moods take her (and often these moods are dark, despite her protestations to the contrary on too-sweet swansong ‘Malibu’).

As she sings on the so-bleak-and-savage-it-has-scarred-me-traumatised-me-fucked-me-off-and-left-me-useless-as-yet-another-impotent-salivating-fan ‘Love Someone’:

Ever since the day that I met you/I knew you weren’t the one/But nothing ever stops me from forgetting/Packing all my shit and moving on

Hold up. Forget Pablow and Taylor and even Brexit for a moment and savour the sweet savage directness of that line, Ever since the day that I met you/I knew you weren’t the one.

Seriously now. This is Ramones good.

Plus, this is the greatest vocal performance (from both performers) I have heard in 2017 and I cannot move past it.

As this blog rightly points out, Cyrus can make more of an impact in a 13-second teaser clip than most singers can in a full song. Just sayin’.

As I say, I am a fan of Miley.

I am quite a fan of the next song, too. Apologies if this seems too obvious to even type, but this is Gravediggaz good.

Taylor Swift, though.

Let us just say that I remain unconvinced by first listen.

There is bitterness, yes. Bitterness in itself is not interesting (just look at Donald Trump for proof). Does the bitterness translate across the numerous spread sheets, the breathy whispered vocodered asides, into darkness? If Taylor Swift’s new album is not dark to reflect the mood of 2017, the zeitgeist (as her music has managed to brutal-beautifully so often before, particularly with 1989)… then what is she attempting to do? She builds on the cult of personality, her reputation but I never figured that to be one of her strengths. Ever. Hence her burgeoning reputation as an Aryan poster boy – those assholes do not like their celebs to have baggage. (See also Katy Perry.) She must lose every time on personality against Kanye, against Miley, against Beyoncé – and she must lose so often, it must hurt. Hence the bitterness, I guess – seems somewhat petty though, complaining about your lot in the world when you actually run the world.

Miley is clearly – and sometimes painfully so – thinking of her audience every time she steps up to the microphone. But what does Taylor envisage?

A spreadsheet?

There is plenty of EDM. There are several guest appearances from pop stars chosen for their commercial potential rather than their artistic merit. Nothing wrong with that, of course: everyone can be an artist, even Ed Sheeran.

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