Welcome to New York? Have you heard it? Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bzr5VtFvSyw
Now, if you’re not from NY< you may find this an inoffensive pop song from T Swift. If you are from NY, especially NYC, the internet believes that you should be frothing at the mouth while raising your torches and pitchforks against Swift in her new Manhattan digs. Oh, and she’s also been named the ambassador of New York. (Whatever that means). So should we hate the song? Hate T-Swift? Does she deserve to be ambassador? Since I was born and raised in Queens NY, I believe I’m qualified to provide the answers to these burning questions.
The song itself, in my opinion…is remarkably ordinary. If you heard it on the radio, you’d probably zone it out until “Take Me to Church” played for the 19th time today. But many online commentors allege that the song is more than ordinary: it glorifies gentrification. This is a huge sticking point. If you’re unfamiliar with gentrification, it is basically the process where neighborhoods, often low-income neighborhoods, are torn down or renovated to create newer, more expensive housing. As a result, low income residents of that neighborhood are forced to move out, unable to afford rising living costs. Over time this practice can lead to a higher population density of low-income individuals in certain neighborhoods. In turn, this increases potential for crime, deep poverty and even death. So does this song glorify this terrible practice?
No. No it does not.
Yes, T Swift makes sweeping generalizations in her lyrics. The song is told from the perspective of a more affluent New Yorker. She talks about the “bright lights” and that “New York is waiting for you”. I’ve been down a lot of dimly lit streets in Jamaica and I can tell you that don’t exactly like what might be waiting for you there. So I’m going to have to call Taylor out on those lyrics. When she says lines like the above, she ignores all of the social groups and natives of the city. The most egregious line, in my opinion, “everybody here was someone else before.” We native New Yorkers take the most pride in how the city has shaped our individual growth. This is who we’ve always been. Don’t forget about that, T-Swift.
So, despite a couple of missteps, the song doesn’t glorify gentrification any more than the Walking Dead promotes zombie apocalypses. In both instances, the artist took one aspect of something bigger and blows it out of proportion. As a result, they get fans and haters. This song was not made for the true New Yorker. Not for the one who’s been here 10 years+ or their entire life. No, this song is for the doughy-eyed, touristy individual whose blown away by the city’s size and power. You can’t fault T-Swift (completely) for being swept away into that. After all, haven’t you ever vacationed to an amazing place? Me, for example, love Orlando! Palm trees, nice waiters and Harry Potter World? An oasis! Of course, i didn’t see every portion of Orlando, but I liked the surface. Granted, I haven’t written a song about it after becoming a mulitmillion dollar singer, but I understand the feeling. T Swift’s song is only guilty of not capturing more than the shiny metallic surface of NYC. So if you don’t like the song, that’s fine. I’m not a fan of it either. But remember that NYC is so much more than that song.
Since I spent so much time on that song, I’ll answer the other two questions I posed quickly.
Should you hate T-Swift?-Only if you hated her before. A singular song is a shallow reason to hate someone. Unless it’s Owl City’s Fireflies.
Does she deserve to be ambassador?-Absolutely not. Here’s a short list of better options: Jon Stewart, Seinfeld, Louie C.K. These suggestions are not because I dislike Swift. It’s because they’ve actually been here a while. They earned it. (and they’re funny).
In conclusion, Taylor Swift released a song. Some people are going to hate it, some will love it, some will forget about it. But all people need to recognize this: it’s just a song. T-Swift, if you’re reading this, (and i know you frequent my blog), know that New Yorkers are hard to win over. You’ll need more than a song, even if it’s a really good one, before you earn ambassador.
And can you make a 23 song? I just had a birthday, and well, I can’t sing 22 anymore.
Oh, and welcome to New York.