Taylor Swift has released the second single from her upcoming album Lover, called ‘You Need To Calm Down’. The catchy track marks a departure from Tay-Tay’s previous image, with the top-selling singer becoming much more openly political than ever before.
The song begins with an unveiled jab at her critics on social media:
You are somebody that I don’t know
But you’re takin’ shots at me like it’s Patrón
And I’m just like, damn, it’s 7 AM
Say it in the street, that’s a knock-out
But you say it in a Tweet, that’s a cop-out
And I’m just like, “Hey, are you okay?”
It then follows on with the most politically-charged verse, in defence of her LGBT friends and the group at large:
You are somebody that we don’t know
But you’re comin’ at my friends like a missile
Why are you mad?
When you could be GLAAD? (You could be GLAAD)
Sunshine on the street at the parade
But you would rather be in the dark age
Just makin’ that sign must’ve taken all night
You just need to take several seats and then try to restore the peace
And control your urges to scream about all the people you hate
‘Cause shade never made anybody less gay
“GLAAD” is a reference to the LGBT media monitoring organisation that Taylor reportedly donated a large amount of money to recently.
If there was any doubt about the song’s political focus, it evaporated when the film clip was released a few days ago. Directed and produced by Swift, the clip features cameos from a bunch of celebrity homosexuals like Ellen DeGeneres, Todrick Hall, Adam Lambert and RuPaul. The clip is flush with rainbow flags, dancing drag queens and angry, sign-brandishing homophobic protesters. The song even ends with a message urging support for the Equality Act and a direction to sign a Change.org petition.
It’s deliberately over-the-top and full of painfully clichéd messages, but it’s fascinating to me as the latest (and loudest) example in a line of politically-charged stunts T-Swizzle has pulled recently.
In the lead-up to this song’s release and in honour of so-called ‘pride month’, Taylor wrote an open letter to Republican Tennessee senator Lamar Alexander, calling on his support for the act, which proposes to include ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ to the list of protected classes under the Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing Act. She even fired shots at Trump, criticising his administration for not sufficiently protecting LGBTs.
During the 2016 election, Swifty Instagrammed a then-rare political post, urging her fans to go to the ballots to cast their votes.
Last year, Tay-Tay Instagrammed about the March for our Lives campaign to support gun reform. Later that year she made her political affiliations even clearer by openly endorsing Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen for the senate representing Tennessee.
Apart from the disappointing, if unsurprising, revelation that Taylor Swift’s politics are in line with just about everyone else in Hollywood and the music industry, it is concerning for other reasons, too. Chiefly, that endorsing politics usually doesn’t go well for celebrities.
Until recently, T-Swift has remained famously apolitical. Personally, I thought this was because she had the wisdom to realise that ordinary people don’t like it (or don’t care) when celebrities make political statements.
Apparently I was wrong.
Most people say celebrity endorsements have no impact on them when it comes to voting. One study allegedly found George Clooney’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton three years ago made no impact on voters, while those made by the likes of Beyoncé actually backfired. And despite Taylor’s impassioned support for Phil Bredesen, he lost by a whopping margin to Republican Marsha Blackburn.
Moreover, if a celebrity constantly makes predictable political statements, their impact diminishes.
Awards shows like the Golden Globes, the VMAs and even the Oscars have experienced increasingly low ratings in recent years. Ben Shapiro made the point that politics and culture have become inextricably merged in the last few years, citing the controversial Gillette ad as an example. He says not that long ago, both sides of politics shared the sphere of culture; film and television were the subjects of water cooler conversations, but as culture has become increasingly politicised, even these kinds of chit-chats are now fraught with meaning and tension they didn’t used to have.
I personally think people are sick to death of the inability to escape from politics wherever they go, and that that is contributing to the falling ratings and the disillusionment many are experiencing with Hollywood.
There’s something inexplicably patronising about someone who sings or acts for a living telling their millions of fans how they should vote. It’s off-putting. It’s also a losing battle.
Taylor Swift used to be heavily criticised for her apolitical stance, for her refusal to engage with political correctness, for not being “feministic enough”. But now that she’s left all that behind, now that she’s jumped on the LGBT bandwagon, she’s being vilified for not going far enough on behalf of gay rights, and even for appropriating gay slogans and expressions. Good grief.
You’re never going to win this one, Tay-Tay. Just stick to singing.