Young sprite and recent crossover pop artist Taylor Swift has been named the Global Welcome Ambassador for New York City. Swift purchased a $20 million penthouse apartment in New York this April, making her the most appropriate foreign diplomat to represent our glitzy city to the outside world. Put on your dancing shoes!! It's a hell of a town! Bright lights! Skyscrapers! Boiled hot dogs!
As a result of her new side job, and after Swift's latest practically unlistenable single "Welcome to New York" had many wondering if this was a chicken-or-egg-or-unforgivable-nightmare public relations stunt (not that it matters), Swift has also been given the rare pleasure of performing at NYC's New Year's Rockin' Eve event. New Year's Eve in New York is a night so thoroughly New York that it's as painful as the tinnitus-induced mania one might experience if forced to listen to the saxophone solo in the SNL theme over and over for six solid hours. Times Square: a place to meet New Yorkers. (I should mention that Swift has performed at this event before.)
Her ambassadorship comes on the day of her fifth album's release, a convenient promotion within a promotion to get everyone, including me, talking about the pop singer—a person I hardly cared about until now. In a series of videos on NYC's tourism website, Swift gives a few thoughts culled from a Fodor's travel guide that explain why she's so romantically invested in this big ole town:
- "You can find humanity that inspires you."
- "I was intimidated by the fact that it was bright and bold and loud."
- "Having a good cup of coffee or a good latte is really important to me. No one does it better than New York."
- "Sometimes what I like to do is pick a neighborhood, not necessarily pick a destination in that neighborhood. I'll just say, 'Today I want to walk around the West Village' or 'Today, I think I want to walk around the Lower East Side' and you just find places, these little kind of secret treasure places that you love, and the day kind of just happens in New York."
One video features Swift defining key New York vocabulary—bodega, Houston Street, NoHo, SoHo, and stoop.
I'm not sure who comes off worse in this public relations horror: New York City or Taylor Swift. When affordable housing is near impossible to come by and as monolith branded-cool companies push out arts communities and while entitled rich children run through the streets proclaiming ownership over everything and while minority arrests continue for low-level crimes, the least (or most?) likely choice for the promotion of a city with equal problems and triumphs is a whitebread out-of-towner who says, "Hey, don't think about those scary, unjust things! Let's talk about that night we stayed out late dancing instead!"
Swift's role is to attract tourists to the ol' Big Apple, sure. But her antiseptic pandering, riddled with platitudes as boring as "like any true love, it drives you crazy," is embarrassing for New York because the image she paints for out-of-towners is as dull as one can get. Swift trades in the same reductive simplification of this enormous, culturally vibrant, changing, frustrating city as say, Humans of New York does. Her version of a 300-square-mile area, the most densely populated city in America, can be flattened into a good latte in the East Village and delivered via iconic yellow taxi cab a whole ten blocks without paying tip. If anyone represents a New York not worth actually visiting, it's the musician behind "Welcome to New York," a song as welcoming as the cluster of billboards cupping the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel from New Jersey.
But what do I know? Have Taylor Swift, 24-year-old millionaire from Nashville-by-way-of-Wyomissing-PA, tell you what a bodega is.
[Image via NYC Tourism]