The inevitable march towards Taylor Swift's new album 1989 continues with a new single, and it's only getting worse: "Welcome To New York" is a gentrification anthem so obtuse it makes one wonder if she is, in fact, trolling at this point. And it calls into question whether rich white-person privilege is, in fact, a form of trolling in itself. Trolling the rest of us. Killing our spirits until we are all reduced to old-school dead emojis.
"Welcome to New York, it's been waiting for you!" Taylor sings, in a cotton-candy, nary-a-care hook—a highly memorable pop hook, of course, simple and sweet. "Everybody here wanted something more! Searching for a sound we haven't heard before!" You can imagine Swift wanted to make her own anthem for her new adopted city, a sort of bubblegum (or bubblegummier) version of "Empire State Of Mind," but the contrast between the two stands up as basically a referendum on the New York everyone dreams of and moves here for, and the New New York it is becoming. Swift didn't move to one of the most expensive cities in the US to "make it"; she moved because she'd already "made it."
Compare that with Jay Z and Alicia Keys' tale—sure, they're both millionaires now, but there's a sense of struggle behind it, a sense of loving this city despite itself. A mean street you learn to love, as opposed to a playground for the happy-go-lucky and effortlessly moneyed. "The lights will inspire you," sings Alicia Keys, just after Jay Z talks about cooking and pushing crack as his hardscrabble origin story—at the very least, it's aspirational. As opposed to Swift's "The lights are so bright, but they never blind me." Of course they don't. Even her shout out to gay couples—"you can want who you want/boys and boys and girls and girls"—is pat and sort of tacitly privileged, though it will no doubt be lauded for its progressivism. (And, to be fair, 12-year-olds in conservative households need to hear that shit from her, truly—I will definitely give her that.)
She goes on: "Like any true love/it drives you crazy/but you know you wouldn't change anything, anything." Someone should tell Taylor Swift about stop-and-frisk, or poverty levels, or the effects of school budget cuts, or people of color being pushed out of the neighborhoods they have populated for decades because of condos and Ted Talks. Not trying to hardline-stance on gentrification—it's mostly bad, but there are certainly some grey areas that aren't much discussed—but the whole of this song feels so tone deaf at this particular, pivotal moment in New York's history, and it is rage-inducing.
"There's a war going on outside, no man is safe from / It don't matter if you three feet or eight-one/You'll get eight from me, nine and straight blown/Wig split, melon cracked, all that on day one" - Cam'ron, New York's unofficial poet laureate.
"Welcome to New York, it's been waiting for you!" - Taylor Swift, New York homeowner.
Image via RGK/Pacific Coast News. Cat not pictured.