The best thing about a new, super-high-profile album is the wave of highbrow analysis that inevitably accompanies it, as the brightest writers in the business stroke their chins for awhile and wonder what that new Britney or Ke$ha LP really Means, with a capital M. In the case of Taylor Swift‘s latest album, Red, there were so many think pieces that GQ‘s Drew Magary ranted in his weekly Insufferability Report, “Oh my fucking Christ, it’s just a generic pop album. There is nothing worse than a bunch of pop-culture websites gathering together to analyze a Taylor Swift record like it’s a lost archive of David Foster Wallace stories.”
But hey — confession — we kinda liked all the Taylor Swift think pieces! So much so that we rounded up the long, thoughtful quotes from our favorites to include here. Get intimidated after the jump.
At the Atlantic Wire, Richard Lawson explored the precocious remove of Taylor’s documentation of her experience:
The reason that Taylor Swift has become a sensation is not just because she is a good, canny pop song writer, which she is, but because she is somehow beyond-her-years wise about how she’ll want to think of a particular age before she’s even done living it. She sings from an eerie remove, as if she’s somehow had contact with her future self and that Taylor, the older wiser Taylor, has told her to revel in the here-and-now while also never taking her eyes off the way the bigger picture is turning out. How else could she know, at 22, that she’ll one day want to look at what she’s doing as “miserable and magical”? Miserable, sure. But magical? No, it normally takes a few years to arrive at magical. It’s interesting to watch Swift grow up through her music, but it’s also a little unsettling. She seems awfully good at growing up, doesn’t she? Sure her millions of dollars and international fame probably helped her confidence and sped up the aging process a bit, but despite all the isolation of fortune and success, she still manages to drill through it all and hit bone. Our bones. Kids’ bones. Everyone’s bones! Are we feeding off of her, or she off of us?
The fact that Swift is not a cool kid is one thing I like about her — she is, after all, a gawky dork who grew up on a Christmas tree farm. I hope she realizes, though, that just because she isn’t “alternative,” that doesn’t mean that she has to be a Disney princess. She should take a lesson from her former nemesis Kanye West, whose persona seamlessly encompasses varying types including “sensitive genius” and “annoying egomaniac.”
The Swift-versus-Kanye West meme is a chance binary that is incidentally instructive — they have a lot in common as rigorous artists with volatile personalities. West is able to perform a public self that is stylish, nerdy, vulnerable, powerful, smart, sympathetic, and irritating. I wish Swift could do the same and be viewed as complex, not schizophrenic. For anyone who was wondering, that’s what feminism is.
At Grantland, Steven Hyden wrote about Taylor Swift’s protean public persona in an age of hypersaturation:
An overachieving millennial to the end, Swift understands the Facebook era of pop music as well as anyone. You offer up just enough of yourself to look attractive, and allow your followers to fill in the rest. Utilize a flash of mall-punk guitar, and somebody will liken you to the riot grrrl movement. Sing a little about your love life over an acoustic strum, and you’ll be compared to Joni Mitchell. If you still need Taylor Swift to drop into an earnest twang and deliver a hard-luck country ballad like the knockout “All Too Well,” she can do that, too. For the first time, Swift’s appeal is no longer predicated on a myth that denies the unwavering acumen of the great self-made pop prodigy of our time. If Red is a triumph, it’s not the triumph of an ostensibly humble songstress who is victimized by John Mayer and waits on Kanye before she can finish speaking. It is the victorious declaration of a very clever girl who decided to take over the world in the fifth grade, and succeeded.