The Taylor Swift Guide to Co-Opting Pride
The Gay Anthem ™ is a tricky one. The best ones are accidents (‘Dancing On My Own’, the entire discography of Carly Rae Jepsen including her new album Dedicated available on iTunes), and the intentional ones vary from clunky (‘Born This Way’), to lowkey offensive (Macklemore’s #notgay anthem). It’s a fine line to tailor to the gays without coming off as pandering, or a privileged white girl who saw season 6 of RuPauls Drag Race for the first time on a plane.
Anyway, here’s the new Taylor Swift song.
Big Pop Songs are been being released with less and less fanfare as of late; her first song from this era, Me! (obviously, what else would it be called) was blocked off the number one position by Old Town Road (the greatest song ever written), and Reputation didn’t seem as much of a game changer as we all envisioned. As the world is moving onto Billies (Ray Cyrus and Eilish), the old school pop girls of ten years ago are trying new things; be it winning Oscars, launching clothing lines or generally being Beyoncé. Taylor Swift’s new thing is the Gays.
‘You Need to Calm Down’ was released earlier this weekend and is already making a splash across the internet. The song makes overt references to shade, GLAAD and (in the full-length album cut) finding a leather daddy on Grindr. The music video is saccharine, pastel and rainbow, and has cameos from gay icons like RuPaul, Billy Porter, The Fab Five and for some reason, Ryan Reynolds. Because nothing says gay rights like Ryan Reynolds. The song itself is exactly okay verging on bad. It was co-written and produced by Joe Little, of Lorde fame, the beat is a little too Pure Heroin for a Taylor Swift song. The “oh-oh’s” have been stuck in my head all day, so I guess mission accomplished?
The song takes on heavy political issues like homophobia, sexism and people being mean to Taylor online. Everyone always talks about how annoying the “Taylor Swift Talking About Boys,” songs are, but I’d take a million of them over the much more annoying, much more indulgent “Taylor Swift Talking About How Mean People Are To Her” genre. This isn’t fresh! This is like the millionth “stop being mean to me I don’t give a fuck,” song she’s released; it’s kind of difficult to believe you when you say that you don’t care when it’s literally all you’re ever talking about. The fact that she’s throwing in references to homophobia as well comes off as a little offensive; queer people are literally being thrown out of their homes, suicide rates amongst LGBTQ youth are higher than straight youths, and violence against trans people is on the rise. Yeah, that struggle sounds exactly the same as some people being mean to a rich white international superstar on Twitter.
‘You Need to Calm Down’ was released right in the middle of Pride Month, and it’s difficult not to view this as calculated. In the past, Swift has been famously apolitical, so as to not alienate her original Country southern fanbase. Well, times are changing; Yee-Haw Queen Kasey Musgraves can be outspokenly pro-gay rights and still win Grammys and every single corporation is flying that pride flag this month. ‘You Need To Calm Down’ reads a little like rainbow companies during pride. Swift has never made any pro-gay statements in the past yet here she is, in the middle of June throwing rainbows and glitter and drag queens at our faces. On one hand, it’s great that she’s publicly donating money to charities like GLAAD, and that she’s urging her fans to make the Senate pass the Equality Act. On the other hand, the whole thing seems very pandering. The lingo comes off like someone who read gay-Twitter five years ago and didn’t quite get it. Who actually says “You need to take several seats” anymore?
“Shade Never Made Anybody Less Gay”.
What the fuck does that even mean??? Is she implying that homophobia is shade? Does she not know what shade is? To quote Boshemia staff member and eternal queer icon Robbie Masters, shade is: “When ur hatin’ on ur pal even tho she ya sista but it’s not like real life hate it’s just fuckin’ rude in the moment like.” Shade isn’t when you get fired from a job for your sexual orientation, or when you get murdered because of your gender identity.
“Why are you mad when you could be GLAAD”.
Oh god, you can taste the pandering. It’s palpable.
The song also deals with feminism I guess; she calls out people online to pit female singers against each other and publicly makes up with Katy Perry as they’re dressed as a Happy Meal. It’s pretty rich that Swift is now speaking out against girl on girl hate when she literally recorded a whole song and video about how much she hates Katy Perry, but that’s fine, they’re friends again. Perry and Swift are shot romantically; they see each other in a crowd and suddenly their eyes light up. It’s meant to be. Thankfully they don’t actually kiss, but it’s hard to take the “gay rights!!!!!” message sincerely when the climax of the video is about two pop stars deciding to be friends again. Also, I can not stress this enough: why is Ryan Reynolds there?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that a very, very rich lady is donating tons of money to GLAAD, thus inspiring others to do so, but all this during pride? This shouldn’t be what I’m writing about this month! Pride isn’t about celebrities and corporations branding rainbow flags, it’s about the history of the LGBTQ movement and honouring those who fought for our rights, which we continue to fight for. Please, urge your fans to donate money and write to the Senate, but don’t do it in such a pandering manner.
Besides, this is the only gay anthem the world needs: