Friday, December 19, 2014

Taylor Swift - "Welcome to New York"

My understanding is that some people hate "Welcome to New York," the opening track off Taylor Swift's 1989. Apparently, Swift should be caned because, as a pop singer, she had the audacity to write a song about New York as an idealized place where young people can reinvent themselves, find love and perhaps live happily ever after. Doesn't she know there is a lot of crime and economic inequality in New York??!?!? What's wrong with her??!?!? Swift, who just turned 25 and was never expected to be an expert on economics, responded to the criticism exactly right....
[W]hen you write a song, you're writing about a momentary emotion. If you can capture that and turn it into three-and-half minutes that feel like that emotion, that's all you're trying to do as a songwriter. To take a song and try to apply it to every situation everyone is going through -- economically, politically, in an entire metropolitan area -- is asking a little much of a piece of a music.  

I'm as optimistic and enthusiastic about New York as I am about the state of the music industry, and a lot of people aren't optimistic about those two things. And if they're not in that place in their life, they're not going to relate to what I have to say.
I've never lived in New York, but I can't think of a song in the last few years that's so captured that giddy rush of being young and living in a big city -- of thinking that the whole world is in front of you and oh my god, it feels amazing. "Welcome to New York" conveys that sensation perfectly. It's what being in your mid-20s sounds like.

In fact, the track reminds me of two very different artists: PJ Harvey, whose own New York album, Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea, opens with a "Welcome to New York"-like tune called "Big Exit" and is full of similarly euphoric romantic abandon; and Liz Phair, whose 2003 self-titled album opened with "Extraordinary," which like Swift's "Shake It Off" is about the woman she is versus the woman other people assume her (or want her) to be.

I haven't finished filling out my Pazz & Jop ballot yet, but "Welcome to New York" might make the cut. I can say for sure, though, that it always sounds great blasting out of my speakers on the freeway. Here she is performing it on Late Show With David Letterman -- right, in New York.