(Liya Rechtman)– I don’t get it. Ever since last week when I posted about chilling with a bunch of straight guys (a rarity in my life at times), and listening to T. Swift, I have been mulling over this question: Why do men like Taylor Swift?
I mean, I understand why pre-teen girls identify with her. She beautiful, sexy without being scary-sexual, and all around she’s the perfect princess. She is a feminist’s perfect nightmare of what a pre-teen girl would aspire to be. Her absolute Virgin/Whore dichotomies give the writers at Jezebel and Autostraddle palpitations. Not to mention the common themes of being saved by men, the importance of female youth/beauty, and getting approval from your father.
Despite how idealogically repulsive I find her lyrics, I couldn’t help but feel moved the first time I heard “Fifteen.” Okay, I didn’t fall in love with the football quarter back at my high school, but that’s partially because we didn’t have a football team. In other words, I felt like I really knew the feelings she was talking about. And that’s why she’s famous.
What I didn’t get was why all these straight, otherwise very masculine men, who wouldn’t give Katy Perry OR Lady Gaga and second glance, where going falsetto for "Love Story" I’m really not trying to say that there’s anything wrong with them liking female vocalists, but why does T. Swift catch their attention over anyone else? I don’t know my music that well, and I don’t have the best ear, so I cant really get technical here about the artistic merit of her albums, except to say that it is hotly debated. Here are the other theories I’ve come up with:
1) She’s hot – OK, this makes sense. She’s blond, pretty, and in high resolution.
But so are a lot of other musicians. And anyway, when you’re listening to her on your ipod, you cant actually see her, so I don’t know how this stands up.
2) She perpetuates the “myth of high school” – (h/t E.W.W.) Tay Tay didn’t actually go to high school, she spent those awkward years while we were learning geometry and puberty, well-groomed on a tour bus. This means that her experience with high school is an idealized, televised version, which she has never actually participated in
She knows only the good parts, or, at least, the nostalgia inducing parts. She is able to sing about the concept of a best friend or cute senior boys without having to remember that ketchup spilled on her jeans or those older guys creeping on her because she didn’t know any better (or no one noticing her at all because she still had braces). Now that we’re past all that, we want to look back at high school and remember it as that iconic period of our lives we were supposed to have. Everyone wants to remember first love.
This is a somewhat unique quality of Swift’s. Her contemporaries, namely Miley Cyrus and the Jonas brothers, spend a lot more time onstage in their music videos, singing into mikes. Swift doesn’t do that – she sings to her hairbrush and mirror.
3) They are “the boy on the football team”/ the general “he” – All of T. Swift’s songs are about the hunky (albeit somewhat faceless) guys who swoop her up, drive her in their cars, and deal with her dad on her behalf. They want to be the guy that girls like her look for.
4) The blackface paradigm – (h/t BigGoodisss) That is to say, admiration across otherwise unacceptable social boundaries. The 1800s white performers would apply black theatrical makeup for their shows. It wasn’t acceptable to have black musicians in white venues yet etc, but white culture did (and arguably still does) admire black musical culture and imitate it. They could appropriate elements of another culture while being established as a different group. Similarly, post-teenage men don’t have to acknowledge identifying with the girly-ness of Taylor Swift songs, but listening her music mockingly allows them to culturally identify with girls, without giving up that status claim.
5) She’s easier to deal with than a real girl/musician – Minutes before we got into the car and started playing T. Swift, my friend’s current romantic interest called him. She is a Smithie and a hot mess of an individual. She was crying and worried that he wasn’t being exclusive with her. He consoled her, and told her she was amazing/smart/beautiful/the only one. It was clear, though, that the conversation took a lot out of him. After that, all he wanted to do is let pretty, clean blond lyrics fill him up as he drove around Hadley. This explanation makes the most sense to me. These boys, boys (and girls) in general around our age are still young, inexperienced, wary of a world full of crazy and complicated. Lady Gaga crawling around in white spandex with claws and heels singing ”“I want your leather studded kiss in the sand, I want your love” or Katy Perry “Is this a hickey or a bruise?” is hard for them to adjust to sometimes.
They are asking for a break from their real-life complicated women and real-life, genuine music.