Taylor Swift's essay for the Wall Street Journal's 125th anniversary issue has just gone up online, and never has the haunting chorus of Swift's runaway 2009 hit "You Belong With Me"—
She wears short skirts.
I wear T-shirts.
She's Cheer Captain and
I'm providing a logically sound if overly simplistic and only intermittently lucid analysis of the value of "albums in today's music marketplace.
—rung so true.
The essay is titled "For Taylor Swift, the Future of Music Is a Love Story."
There's a lot to love about "For Taylor Swift, the Future of Music Is a Love Story": the woodcut portrait of Swift that accompanies it; the multi-paragraph comparison of fans' relationships to romantic relationships that appears under the italicized subhed "Arrows Through the Heart."
There is, however, also a great deal that will have to be discussed during office hours.
The basic gist of Swift's modest proposal is that Swift, a self-described "enthusiastic optimist," who, according to Forbes estimates, made $64 million last year thanks to the music industry, believes that the music industry is not dying. She also thinks that music should not be free. But these observations, as Swift states again and again (three times total), are just her opinions. ("It's my opinion that music should not be free," explains Swift, on the subject of should music be free.)
At least one person in the music industry made $64 million last year. It's important to be an optimist and have a good attitude.
Stylistically, Swift makes frequent ellipses in her writing, apparently as pauses for effect, rather than to indicate the intentional omission of words.
Before I tell you my thoughts on the matter, you should know that you're reading the opinion of an enthusiastic optimist: one of the few living souls in the music industry who still believes that the music industry is not dying…it's just coming alive.
Several of her sentences end with prepositions ("Some music is just for fun, a passing fling (the ones [consumers] dance to at clubs and parties for a month while the song is a huge radio hit, that they will soon forget they ever danced to)"); fewer with coherent thoughts ("My hope for the future, not just in the music industry, but in every young girl I meet…is that they all realize their worth and ask for it.").
The second sentence of one paragraph is devoted entirely to clearing up an imagined confusion regarding the words used in the sentence preceding it.
I think forming a bond with fans in the future will come in the form of constantly providing them with the element of surprise. No, I did not say "shock"; I said "surprise."
Did Taylor Swift say "shock"? No. She swears to God she did not. If you truly believe she said "shock," go back to the beginning of the paragraph and read it again. It is Taylor Swift's opinion that, upon doing so, you will quickly discover that she did not say "shock" until the sentence denying her initial use of that word. Of course, by now she has used "shock" multiple times. But that is a topic for another essay.
At times, Taylor Swift's logic is so sound it becomes redundant, doubling back on itself to form a perfectly circular circle, as when she states that (in her opinion) the financial value of an album is based in part on its financial value.
In my opinion, the value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace.
Elsewhere, as on the topic of the scarcity of art, her logic seems stretched.
Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.
And occasionally mathematically sweaty.
There will always be an increasing fixation on the private lives of musicians, especially the younger ones.
Perhaps inevitably for a millionaire so famously humble, Swift's essay is peppered with humble brags.
It isn't as easy today as it was 20 years ago to have a multiplatinum-selling album, and as artists, that should challenge and motivate us.
In the YouTube generation we live in, I walked out onstage every night of my stadium tour last year knowing almost every fan had already seen the show online.
A friend of mine, who is an actress...
I haven't been asked for an autograph since the invention of the iPhone with a front-facing camera.
One thing Taylor Swift did not brag about: the shit-ass gardens junking up the premises of each of her multimillion dollar homes:
And as for me? I'll just be sitting back and growing old, watching all of this happen or not happen, all the while trying to maintain a life rooted in this same optimism.
And I'd also like a nice garden.
Of course, it is Gawker's opinion that the entire essay is worth reading, particularly for fans of opinions.
What can you do? She's better in rhyme.
[Image via Getty]