February 17, 2016
Seriously, this is getting old.
And we’re not talking about T Swizzle’s questionable middle-aged bob she sported at the Grammys 2016 yesterday night. It was a lucky night for the blonde pop star, who bagged Best Music Video (Bad Blood), Best Pop Vocal Album (1989), and Album of the Year (1989). You’d think this glorious win would be enough to keep her satisfied and away from all antagonism, but Taylor, who seems to be permanently caught in tabloid controversy, took the opportunity to get her own back at Kanye West.
Leaving off from Kanye’s epic 2009 VMA stage invasion, he dealt Taylor yet another low blow with his single “Famous”, which featured him explicitly rapping: “For all my Southside niggas that know me best / I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous / God damn / I made that bitch famous.” Subtle. And thus, during her emotionally-charged acceptance speech for Album of the Year, she fired back:
“As the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammys twice, I wanna say to all the young women out there: there are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success, or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame, but if you just focus on the work and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you’re going, you’ll look around and you’ll know that it was you and the people who love you that put you there, and that will be the greatest feeling in the world.”
And of course, Taylor has every right to take offence at such derogatory lyrics. But the one thing we have an issue with here stems from something far more deep-seated than this 7-year feud. Regrettably, it’s her unabashed acknowledgement that she’s a role model to “all the young women out there” for being an underdog who struggled to the top – when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Surprise surprise – it’s a lesser known fact to many that Taylor Swift was in fact not a rags-to-riches story. Yes she grew up on a farm – but a Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania, with parents working comfortably in finance. The economic privilege aside, the story goes that Taylor’s parents often drove her around Nashville to try and submit karaoke demo tapes. When she failed to score a record deal, they simply relocated to banking company’s Merrill Lynch’s Nashville office, for a closer shot at breaking into the country music scene. Soon after, Taylor successfully signed with Big Machine Records – though only after her father bought shares with the company.
To deny that Taylor has come so far without hard work of her own, talent in her songwriting, and an impressive knack for securing mass appeal, would be immature. And at *27, it’s more than admirable. But perhaps it’s this almost too-easy rise to fame that has clouded her roots, and forced her into failing to acknowledge that she started with a generous leg-up on the privilege stepladder. And that’s what’s problematic. Celebrity or not, it’s uncomfortable to hear such strongly worded advice about success and reaching your goals, from someone who wholeheartedly believes she is an ideal role model qualified to give it. And no, the subtle #humblebrag about being the first woman to win Album of the Year twice doesn’t give you that qualification.
We won’t go into how typical Taylor it is to make every little jibe about herself (throwback to her white feminist tweet-off with Nicki Minaj); nor the irony of someone who owes so much of her fame to taking direct hits at exes in her lyrics, taking such personal offence at one misogynistic hit back. (Apparently, in the name of feminism, and because it wasn’t framed in a bubblegum pop-y tune, it’s not.) We will, however, stand our ground in saying that 2015’s pop princess can hardly be lauded for handling the dispute with elegance and grace – not when she dishes out spiteful “feminist” advice coming from a place of privilege. Kanye certainly didn’t make her famous, but he did help illuminate that there’s always a more gracious (or humorous) way to deal with celeb drama. Sorry Taylor, Imma let you finish, but… nah, maybe not.
Featured image from instagram.com/taylorswift