As an ignoramus of pop culture, particularly music (ask anyone who has karaoke’d with me – I’m horribly dull because I don’t know any songs), I’m fairly new to the Taylor Swift phenomenon. Aside from the now infamous Kanye VMA episode, I didn’t know much about TS until recently, and in fact had never listened to any of her songs.
The first time I actually heard one of her songs was in the Philippines – at a Mcdonalds nearby the Olive Grove Ministries office in Cebu. Our team was having lunch there with almost 20 kids from Rick’s G1:27 Tutoring Program, and we were all surprisingly giddy to be enjoying big mac and fries with kids who weren’t used to the western taste of fast food.
Maybe it was the general ambiance, or perhaps the exquisite taste of the fries, but all I know is that when a particularly song hit the speakers in the dining room, the lunch turned into a sing-along bonanza, complete with squeals, head bobs, and Mike Favilla disoriented with what was happening. The energy in the room increased at least 25% as every single kid (and female adult), started singing and squealing to Swift’s song You Belong With Me. Rosy and Hannah led the singspiration from our end, and somehow the mcdonalds soon became a chorus of unified angst and hopefulness pre-packaged by Miss Swift.
Did I mention we were in the Philippines?
Since then, my wife has been playing the song non-stop. She mimics Rosy’s dance moves. She mouths the words like Lirio, Rejen, Lutche, and company. She’s watched the video, and researched other songs by TS (she’s found one other song she likes – Love Story). Someone, please give me back my wife.
Anyhow, we were having a discussion about the song You Belong with Me last night as we were listening to it for the 1,000,000th time.
I say to Tina, “What is it about this song that people are nuts over it?”
Tina responds, “You have to listen to the words, Drew. Anyone who thought they were unpopular in high school can relate to the song.”
“Anyone, or just girls?”
“Anyone,” she says.
I can’t even describe how thrilled she was when she watched the music video at home and saw that the protagonist in the song was in the marching band – /She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers/. Wow again. TS struck a cord in my wife. Sidenote: If you’re unfamiliar with American teenage culture, the marching band is not seen as a popular or cool affiliation. Well, in most instances (i.e. when your school is not known for its marching band. e.g. a school can be really really great at marching band, winning numerous competitions and such, whereby designating it a cool thing to do in high school). What’s ironic about this as that when most teenagers grow older, they usual wished they had spent time to learn an instrument by participating in lesser esteemed activities such as marching band or orchestra. End of Sidenote.
I remember talking to a childhood friend of mine, a sweet and brilliant woman who’s accomplished in many respects. She’s a previous Rhodes Scholar, one of the most prestigious honors given to college-graduates around the world.
Anyhow, she said something a few years ago that always stuck with me. Keep in mind she’s met a couple of presidents, dignitaries, and some of the most distinguished people in the world.
She said, “Almost every interesting person I met was a loser in junior high school.”
For most of you reading this blog, I’m guessing there’s a sigh of relief.
“I was a loser, too!” you’re probably thinking.
I’m willing to bet that we all felt like losers growing up, at one point or another.
I’ve found that even the most talented, beautiful, athletic, and brilliant people know this feeling.
Angst is what binds us human beings, and no one feels it more than teenagers. The feeling of being disconnected, misunderstood, or alienated. These are some of the deepest longings of the human heart, and when someone like TS can express those feelings of being unloved and undervalued in such a catchy way, people are drawn to it.
I was not surprised that TS underwent her own sense of angst and abandonment that most teenagers feel.
And the numbers don’t lie. The masses have spoken, and they love the song.
This is what music does (and other art forms for that matter) – it touches us to our core, expressing the netherworlds of our emotional worlds in ways that simple prose cannot.
And even if you say, “I can’t stand her!” or “I don’t like her musical style!”, I think when you’ve gone through the pits of unrequited love, you might just start to sing /If you could see that I’m the one who understands you/ Been here all along, so why can’t you see? / You belong with me.. /
Yes, I just wrote a post defending Taylor Swift.
Unrequited love. Angst. Someone who loves me despite my uncoolness. Someone who will never leave me, who will love away my insecurities, my questions, my doubts. Sounds familiar. This Story has mass market appeal.