Why is Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” No. 1
1 December 2014
I have had a soft spot for Taylor Swift ever since Kanye West jumped up on stage at the Grammys in 2009, grabbed the mike from her, dissed her award for Best Female Video, and proved to the world, including the President of the United States, what a jackass he was and what a class act Taylor was.
But I cannot help but feel that somehow she has hit an invisible peak. Maybe it was back-to-back chart-toppers. Maybe it was the Time cover.
Or maybe it was something bigger, what Chris Molanphy calls the Imperial phase in her career where she can do no wrong, no matter how far overboard she goes. Harsh. But he goes on: Swift, he says, has hit the peak of her career and the peak of narcissism at the same time.
You might find all of this a little too perfect, as so many things involving Taylor Swift these days are. What’s more, all this perfection is in service of one of Swift’s most solipsistic songs, which is saying something: Her self-deprecation and self-satire also inevitably mean self-absorption.
What concerns me is not the image of Taylor Swift spending her days looking into a mirror. I am more troubled by what this portends: artists who rise to a peak and then find themselves as their best subject ultimately find their work derivative to the point of self-parody (Examples: Hunter S. Thompson, Janis Joplin, Elvis and, I would argue, Eminem.) Down that path lies misery, and possibly a premature exit.
But I am most troubled by all of the rest of us celebrating her self-absorption like its almost a good thing. What can you say about a society that lauds narcissism in their role models? Are we not disturbed by the sight of a talented chanteuse who at the grizzled old age of 25 finds herself bereft of any other subjects but herself?
I am, and I will end 2014 with the silent wish that 2015 offers Ms. Swift a comfortable bridge to her next chapter. Because I discern through the fog the outlines of a precipice that I would not wish on my worst enemy.