On Taylor Swift and the Myth of “Limited Space”

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift album cycles are starting to feel like Fall Out Boy lyrics circa 2005: Which came first, the music Taylor Swift record or the misery discourse? And I’m like, I just, I mean… this is exhausting, you know? 

This time around, Taylor did something very new (for her). In a move that honestly only really works for the highest rollers in entertainment, she surprise-unleashed a 16 track full length, titled folklore, on the unsuspecting internet at large. Response was massive, immediate, and polarizing. For a huge number of listeners, both in the private and critical spheres, this release has been lauded as one of her best yet. It credits indie heavyweights Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon on the track “exile,” and the record’s production has The National’s Aaron Dessner all over it. To the more casual Swift listener–or to be exact, the “I’ve heard her singles, and that’s it” listener–this venture into the world of “indie” is out of character and out of left field, and as a result… feathers have been ruffled. And as tends to be the case with these things, the resulting discourse has, yet again, overwhelmingly failed to validate its own complaints. As usual with Taylor, it does this by focusing on snippy critiques mired more in misogyny than in the actual issues at play here.

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Review: A Day to Remember – Homesick

For as long as I can recall, A Day to Remember have been that strange mixture of incredibly divisive and inarguably popular within the scene. Being a (female) ADTR fan in 2009 looked like this: If people (let’s be real; mostly men) weren’t calling you “soft” for liking the band to begin with, they were heavily implying that you only liked the ~pretty~ tracks, like “If It Means a Lot to You” or “Have Faith In Me” (which are both bangers, by the way). The band apparently were too hardcore for the pop punk bros, and too pop punk for the hardcore kids. To put a finer and entirely subjective point on that observation: then as now, both the pop-punk and hardcore purists were enraged by a band that refuses to call themselves either, yet excels at both. When Homesick dropped ten years ago, I was a senior in high school. While they weren’t my absolute favorite band, they were up there. I wasn’t writing about music yet at the time, but I loved the record. Upon listening as a fully formed adult ten years later, my opinion remains largely unchanged.

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A Year After Reputation

Taylor Swift

One year ago, Taylor Swift’s somewhat infamous LP Reputation hit the shelves and digital libraries of 700,000 listeners. It would go on to sell 1.26 million copies in that first week, making it a member of an elite club of albums to have broken a million copies (at all, let alone that first week) in the last decade… a club that is mostly comprised of Swift’s other records. It was an auspicious achievement in the pop star’s increasingly controversial career – every album she’s released since 2008’s Fearless has broken a million records sold in its first week.

Swift has become a polarizing figure in the pop culture sphere. Between the ongoing Kimye saga, 100% valid conversation and critiques about the downfalls of white feminism, her own personal #MeToo moment and the usual, misogyny-fueled obsession with her love life that’s been prominent since that first record broke a million all those years ago. (She has arguably used that obsession to her advantage in the years since, but… wouldn’t you?) The stage was certainly set for Reputation to be as polarizing as the woman herself – it was the first Swift record that broke her every-other-year-pattern ever, and followed a nearly year-long (and highly advisable) social media hiatus/blackout on Swift’s part. It’s safe to say, nobody knew what to expect; uncommonly for an artist whose unflinchingly loyal following was built on the closeness she shares with her fanbase, “nobody” included the vast majority of her fans.

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Niall in the Time of Styles

Niall Horan

When “Sign of the Times” dropped last spring, the internet seemed to lose its collective mind. Was it because the highly anticipated previous solo offering from former One Directioner Zayn met with such a lukewarm critical reception last year? Was it because we were, in fact, living in the first days of our descent into an outdated political hellscape, not unlike the dystopian fiction that’s dominated the pop culture cycles for the past several years? Was it simply because Harry Styles is an undeniable force? Was it because it was just a great song? That answer to the “why” depends on whom one asks, but one thing is undeniable: the album that followed has peppered EOTY lists in a way other former Directioner offerings have not. Despite this, fellow former-Directioner Niall Horan quietly released an album in 2017, a largely acoustic, unexpected effort titled Flicker. And so followed the inevitable question – which was the better album?

It would be very easy to say the Styles record was superior and call it a day – after all, it’s flashy. It’s interesting. It was well written, well performed, and well produced – and it is inescapable. That makes it the easy answer. But as with so many things in life, I’m not convinced that the easy answer is necessarily the right one.

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Defend Girls, Not Pop Punk

Defend Girls

Over the past 12 months, as one of its primary proponents, I have spent a lot of time thinking about call-out culture. Or, as some industry heavyweights have phrased it, the trend of “witch hunts” that has been plaguing our scene as of late. I have spent a lot of time frustrated by the perpetuation of the idea that says the call-outs are the problem, instead of the abuses that said call-outs address. I’ve been upset because we know that statistically when an accusation is finally made, they are are overwhelmingly true; however, the opposite manages to live on in the minds of so many. It’s a problem, because as long as the focus is on whether or not call-out culture ought to exist, the real problems and abuses plaguing our scene fail to get properly addressed. As such, it’s a problem I want to solve.

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The Myth of Objectivity: Music Journalism in 2015

(ICYMI: This is a follow up to ‘Witch Hunts & Straw Men: Internet Discourse in 2015)

I want to start by saying that this is not about any particular incident, but instead is addressing a larger issue that is prevalent in our scene – misogyny and the underlying theme that overall treatment of women is a footnote of little to no consequence. We are starting to know who the culprits are, but each time there is an accusation, the same general outcry goes up regardless of evidence provided, or even our own common sense in regards to how society works. In reality, we all know bad behavior is treated as though it were acceptable from young men. We wouldn’t cling so tightly to the law to provide our moral compass if that wasn’t the case. The issue isn’t that we don’t think these dudes might be treating women badly. The issue is that we have decided, somewhere along the way, that unless their treatment of women is illegal, it isn’t an issue. 

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Witch Hunts and Straw Men: Internet Discourse in 2015

Lately, there has been a lot of discourse on the Internet regarding how we talk about sexual abuse allegations. In those conversations, the real issue – which is the epidemic of abuse going on in our communities – often gets lost in the shuffle as skeptics and proponents of the status quo throw distraction after distraction into the ring. 

Let me be clear: I am not talking about the rare occasion where an allegation is unfounded and/or proven to be merely attention seeking (which is reprehensible and inexcusable). I am talking about the vast majority of incidents where that is not the case – and I am also speaking on behalf of victims whose abuse is not acknowledged by the law at all (see: most psychological abuse or continual domestic mistreatment). 

So without further ado – I’m going to address some of the more common responses to allegations and start to explore why they are a problem: 

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