Taylor Swift and the End of My Musical Elitism

I recently wrote about courage, and how the word is often overused. If one man’s courage is another man’s cowardice, then it should never really be called courage. Now, maybe I’m being a little melodramatic, but what I’m about to write is outrageously courageous.

(Those two words do not go well together. But they actually go so poorly together that I’m going to leave them like that just to enjoy the ugliness.)

Anyway, my courageous act is to admit that over the past few months I’ve become a Taylor Swift fan.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “That guy’s got balls of steel to admit such a thing. What courage!” Of course the irony is that a thirty-seven-year-old male Taylor Swift fan is probably the least balls-of-steelish thing that any dude can do.

(While we’re on the subject, can I just go on record to say that any time a man references how big, tough, or steelish his balls are, that he’s overcompensating for something? No self-confident, self-assured, well-adjusted fellow has ever felt the need to brag about his balls. I get the heebie jeebies even writing the word in jest. I can’t imagine seriously using it.)

Anyway, back to Tay-Tay. (That’s a joke. I said I’ve become a fan; not a thirteen-year-old girl.)

I recently wrote a review of her newest album, 1989. I wrote the review from a dad’s perspective, because, well, I’m a dad. And as a dad I am most certainly not in Swift’s target demographic. Sure she gets plenty of money from dads, but it’s always on behalf of daughters, not themselves.

And I didn’t expect to become a Taylor Swift fan. My daughter has listened to her for years and I’ve always tolerated the music with the upturned elitist nose of an “I’m Too Cool for That,” Rock N’ Roll Fan. But, as the fabulous band Dawes (no embarrassment in liking them!) sings, “Things happen/ that’s all they ever do.”

So it’s with just a small bit of embarrassment that I admit that when I’m flipping through the radio station presets and I hear a Taylor Swift song I stop to listen.

I listen. What’s wrong with that?

Nothing. That’s what.

And I have to say, not only have I come to enjoy listening to her music—Style, Blank Space and Bad Blood are my favorites off the most recent record—but even more than that I’ve enjoyed losing my musical elitism. I no longer automatically discount a song just because it’s a pop song. I no longer change the channel just because the performer might not be a true musician.

5199355084_f9b2c60749_o2Instead I’ve come to accept that there are infinite varieties of music, and all of them serve a purpose. For every hard rocking song with meaningful lyrics, there’s a vapid, by-the-books, formulaic pop tune. And that’s fine. I don’t have to hate the pop tune just because it’s not going to change the world.

Sometimes a song is just a song. There’s no special meaning to it. There’s no fantastic story behind it. Sometimes it’s just a catchy tune with some cool lyrics, and you like it for some reason you can’t even describe.

Losing my “That’s not cool enough,” attitude about music has opened my mind and ears to stuff I never thought I’d listen to, not just T-Swizzle. Rihanna? Bruno Mars? Maroon 5? Who are these “crappy” performers and why do I find myself listening to their music? And why do I like it?

I like it because it satisfies some unknown musical thirst that I didn’t even know I had. And why should I ignore it just because it’s “manufactured” or “inauthentic” or “too poppy?” If it sounds good at the moment, I’ll listen to it.

Perhaps the biggest example of my shift in musical taste outside of Taylor Swift is the song Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon. I instantly identified with the song, and after I heard it the first time it seemed to show up everywhere. When I heard it in a brewery in Gatlinburg, Tennessee it instantly etched a permanent place in my brain.

Before my musical awakening, I would have turned the channel as soon as I heard the beginning of the song. But then I would have missed out on what will no doubt become one of the great, recurring tunes of my life, and that would have sucked.

So here’s to music that sounds good to you at the moment. Whatever that music might be.

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