This morning, as always, I sat down and opened a very credible newspaper (the internet), and discovered that Chelsea Handler has, to the surprise of approximately 0 people, weighed in on the Taylor Swift-Tina Fey-Amy Pohler "feud" that's been the toast of the blogesphere this week. In the well-researched think-piece that I read (a gossip round-up), Ms. Handler was quoted as saying: "My theory about Taylor Swift is that she's a virgin, that everyone breaks up with her because they date her for two weeks and she's like, 'I'm not gonna do it.' And they're like, 'Oh, well, forget it. Then I don't want to date you.' Every guy thinks they're going to devirginize her, and they're not. She's never going to get devirginized, ever, ever, ever, ever." And as I read those words, which are admittedly sort of funny if a little tired, something just broke inside of me.
Look - I've historically relished poking fun at ol' Swifty as much as the next snarky twitter-user. At this point, it's basically a right of social-media passage to do some variation of the "T-Swizzle needs to make a song called 'Maybe It's Me'" tweet. And after all, her personal life does sometimes appear to court parody. Just to quickly re-bludgeon the horse that's been massacred to death about 78390 times already, Taylor Swift dates men. Sometimes they are civilians, mostly they are (banging hot) celebrities-du-jour. She is 23 and rich and famous and an artist (we are volatile, needy creatures, after all) and therefore she does this often and in the public eye. There you have essentially half of the premise for the Tay Tay punchline that everyone, including me, has assigned to this girl's life over and over again for the past half-a-decade.
I have to imagine the reason we're all so wrapped up in this girl's personal travails in the first place, and more specifically in mocking them, is because the internet (and in Chelsea Handler's case, her television show) has allowed us to all act like we're a bunch of jealous high schoolers. And if pop music were high school, Taylor Swift would most definitely be that totally popular girl who pretends not to know it. She acts nice to us nerdy kids, but has a pretty tight clique with the other popular girls who date all the popular boys one after the other, and she honestly doesn't really care that much about you, nerd faces. (Just for fun, Beyonce is totally the super over-enthused theater kid, Bruno Mars is the sorta nerdy, late-blooming brooding lothario who doodles cheesy romantic poetry in his notebook, and Rihanna is obviously the bad ass who smokes Marlboro Reds by the dumpster in back of the school and pierces all her friend's ears with a filthy safety pin she wears on her stocking.) I'll be the first to admit that, just like when I was the introverted, closeted gay kid in high school, I'm more than a little bit jealous that popular girl-Swffiles has gotten to date all the guys I have secretly a crush on. Jake Gyllenhaal AND Zac Efron? You are one lucky-ass white girl, Princess Tay and I'm totally voting for you for Class President!
The other half of the premise for both Swiftian jokes, but more importantly a point of extraordinary criticism from the press, is that Tay then, *COLLECTIVE GASP*, uses her real-life romances and the emotions thereby-engendered to create her art. "Taylor Swift Writes Song About Harry Styles!" "Who Will Be Taylor Swift's Next Victim??" "Taylor Swift's Vagina Scores Another Hit Record!", the headlines read (Actually I just made all those up, but you get the picture). I read another piece recently that was titled, "Watch Out Boys! Kelly Rowland Takes The Taylor Swift-Approach On Her New Album!" I have to say, I've never quite understood the shock and awe about Taylor using her real life to inform her writing. After all, is that not what every single artist does or at least what we all should be doing?
It is a fact that we live in a popular music culture where most of our pop stars are, at best, only marginally involved in the creation of their music, so maybe we've become more comfortable with that distance between artist and art than we should be as a result. But what is music if not an expression of our emotions and some sort of truth? Are we really criticizing this girl for being totally real with us in her music? Taylor is a 23-year-old girl. Of course, romance and dating are heavy on her mind all time. What did you think about when you were 23, toasters? Of course she is going to write songs about falling in love and getting her heart broken. Are we penalizing her because the aforementioned heart-breakers happen to be, like her, famous and notable? And let's be clear: If Kelly Rowland is indeed attempting to take an honest approach to writing on her new album, she is not taking the "Taylor Swift-approach." She is taking the Bob Dylan-approach, the Mick-Jagger approach, the Michael Jackson-approach, The Nas-approach, The Joni Mitchell-approach. Kelly Rowland is merely taking the good, responsible artist approach, my friends (there's a sentence I never thought I'd write).
Now, I think that it's important to note here that Taylor Swift steps in the shit a lot and creates many of her own problems. First off, she has in the past made questionable, exploitative and unnecessary statements linking her personal life to her art, coyly hinting that she "names names" in her music. Secondly, the quote that prompted Ms. Handler's crude riff on Swift's virginity came from Tay's interview with Vanity Fair in which she, pretty stupidly, appeared to take serious issue with a fairly light-hearted joke that Fey and Pohler made about the the exact issues discussed above: Taylor Swift dates many famous men. The joke has been made in a far more biting fashion, far too many times before. "Katie Couric... told me 'there's a special place in hell for women who don't support other women," Swift told VF. Which, come on girl. I'm trying to defend you here but it's Fey and Pohler, it was no big deal and they are definitely not going to hell for THAT. (Their joke was also actually funny. Also, they too are women, so her point is a little nebulous.) Lighten up, baby. I, rather unfortunately, went to an amateur stand-up comedy show the other night and got torn apart for being gay, for my outfit choice and for looking like a crunchy hipster for a good 15 minutes. I can see the humor and don't think that gay "comedian" is going straight to hell for not "supporting" a fellow gay guy and for mocking me a little (purgatory for a while, maybe, but not hell).
But I digress. Because the last point I'd like to make, and the reason that I am vowing to lay off Swifty and her romantic liaisons for a bit, is because not only is she brave enough to use her truth to create her art, something that I greatly respect, but she is also damn good at it. Come to me after really listening to this girl's music, let me know that you haven't been able to find a song that touched you at least a little bit, and I will gladly schedule a doctor's appointment to have your heart of stone examined (Seriously, check out "Treacherous" and "I Almost Do" on her current album Red and tell me that's not on some mega-real shit). Art, at it's best, is about honesty and at the expense of sounding like a super cheese-ball, about giving something of your true self to the greater humanity. And the fact Taylor does this way more than 99 percent of her contemporaries is something to be commended at least as much as it is ridiculed by twitter-fiends like me and comediennes like Handler, Fey and Pohler. And let's just be frank: if any of us were as hot and famous and talented as Taylor, we'd be getting it in with other hot, famous, talented folks, writing about that shit as much as humanly possible, and then diving into swimming pools filled with $100 bills and Harry Styles. It's just human nature. Thankfully with Taylor, it makes for some pretty moving art to boot.