Respect Yourself: A Day in the Life of the Search Keyword “Taylor Swift”

Every other Monday, Duncan Cooper produces a video tribute to pop culture, his last ditch attempt to understand and bring dignity to the thousand hours he spends online. This week he celebrates a day in the life of the search keyword “Taylor Swift.”

Last Friday, the actual, physical Taylor Swift was on a boat, and as much as I wish this column was about that, you had to win tickets to board the Allure of Taylor Swift Royal Caribbean Cruise, and I didn’t. But I was on the internet.

On January 21st, there were 1,560 videos uploaded to YouTube tagged in her name, 35 of which are featured in the video above. Her video for “Back to December” was the most watched clip on YouTube this week, amassing 5.5 million views. The song is another elegy in her career-spanning breakup canon, allegedly referring to her four-month relationship with Twilight wolfboy Taylor Lautner, which ended in December 2009. In the video, Taylor Swift wanders her house in loose-fitting nude-colored knits, an oversized sweater that precludes pants. It’s dark, but warmly lit and snowing inside. She’s in there, crying in the bathtub and flopping on the bed, while outside a big-haired guy in fingerless gloves blows winter-steam on the bleachers and sits alone in his truck. Everybody looks distraught/hot. AOL’s The Boot blog “dissected” the video by reblogging this week-old gem from AOL’s Popeater blog: “When Swift goes downstairs in the video, there’s a bicycle leaning against her wall. In the Twilight series, Jacob Black’s preferred mode of transportation is a motorbike.” It’s a ten-point list that links “December”’s leather jackets, home team paint jobs, and a textbook prop (Mastering Spanish references Swift’s line in the movie Valentine’s Day, where she says Lautner’s character “used to shoot spit wads at me in Spanish class”) to Lautner.

Meanwhile, in Google News, there were 2,680 new “Taylor Swift” headlines. The most reported items were speculative Swillenhaal relationship stories: a dinner in Nashville prompted hundreds of “Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal back together?” posts. They sort-of dated for two months last year, cuddle-sneaking right under my nose to Union Market and Gorilla Coffee in Park Slope, and Friday seems like the first time they’ve seen each other in a month. People Magazine broke the news (“They were cordial to one another, but not affectionate”), which bounced around CNN, USA Today, Times of India, The Daily Mail, and Stuff New Zealand. But the crucial link was posted on CMT, whose “OFFSTAGE: Taylor Swift Will Have to Write a Long Song About Jake Gyllenhaal” post, like AOL’s Boot-Popeater, bridges her personal life to her professional.

It’s a blurring essential to her identity, bolstered by her favorite admission that, like god-knows-how-many songwriters, her music reflects her real experiences. In the person of Taylor Swift, fans can find a functional female pop star, unfettered by image contradictions like head-shaving and possible hermaphroditism. The Anthropologie clothes she wears and the monogamous, high-cheekboned relationships she enjoys perfectly signify the conventions of upper-middle class aspiration. It’s quaint, almost: we know who she’s dating because she actually goes on dates. But as much as her lifestyle projects “charmingly attainable,” what resonates strongest is the reoccurring intersection between Taylor Swift and other idols of mass media. By appropriating her relationships with similarly well-defined teen-poster personas like Joe Jonas, Taylor Lautner and Jake Gyllenhaal in song, she has commercialized her life to an impossibly accessible degree. The most intimate connection a fan can make to Taylor Swift is to supplement her music by consuming the professional and extra-professional output of her love interests, their excitement magnified by the vast pre-Taylor popularity of her suitors. When prop iconography in “Back to December” points to Lautner through his Twilight idol, it doubles the blurring of her personal life and her professional life with the blurring of his personal life and his professional life. They’re perfect icons. The Twilight bookcover apple appears on Swift’s dining room table in “Back to December,” visually uniting music, film and text, a single image fusing art, commerce, and personal relationships. “Taylor Swift” lives in that intersection. It’s where those videos come from, those 2,680 stories, those 1,560 Friday contributions to her YouTube name: an endless feedback loop of facts about Taylor Swift.

POSTED January 24, 2011 5:11PM IN RESPECT YOURSELF Comments (7) TAGS: ,

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COMMENTS

  1. Amilyn says:

    She commercializes her life not that she can communicate with her fans but so that she can pick up any fan that she can. She never really wanted to be taken as a critical success, she revels in her celebrity. Her tactics have also made her a laughingstock among adults by pretending she’s growing up but further unable to come out of her teenage years and infantalizing herself with immature personal attacks.

    This “commercializing of self” shows that she is unbelievably shallow and self centered as she’s not paying any respect to actual people anymore. Her album is a “tabloid album”, and should be labeled as such.

    To Quote: “With a new extremely irritating pop album put out as country, she has shown no growth in musical talent, no depth in the understanding of the genre of country, no improvement in her vocals, and more importantly, no improvement in her songwriting.”

    Oh, and by the way, what does it say about a person who’s unable to keep a steady relationship going for more than a year at the age of 20/21? Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

  2. Amilyn says:

    Oh and the red lipstick? It’s not your shade honey.

    Everyone completely saw through the “change of image” into adulthood by switching from lip gloss to lipstick. I’m 22 years old in college (in Nashville!) and nobody my age tries to look or act like we’re some 26 year old that we’re not.

    It’s subtle and almost unable to pick out as the industry hasn’t had a person with such a public wholesome image since I can remember, but it’s evident that she’s a fame whore who will never want to give up being a celebrity. Which is also why she will never be taken seriously as a true artist ever again.

  3. Sarah says:

    It sounds like Amilyn has some strange pent up anger towards this girl. I think the biggest gripe people have about this girl comes down to the fact that she is literally, in every aspect, nothing special on the outside. Her vocals lack, her songs are about basic every day life. She has somehow taken normalcy and marketed it, and her relatability is what attracts her fans. She can write a catchy song, and having seen her perform live, she definitely knows how to captivate an audience. She is a great entertainer, without any sort of unattainable, unapproachable Hollywood stigma to her. She’s the type of kid that you feel like you can walk up to and say hello because she markets herself as just that – everyone’s friend or big sister. I do think that the commenter and author have looked past different things that come up in Google alerts and such – random trips to a University to surprise dedicated fans, a detour to another state to visit an ailing child, and other acts of kindness that pops up through other voices that aren’t spoken about or marketed by Taylor’s camp. Could it be that this kid is just genuinely nice? American pop culture can’t stand it when they can’t dig up dirt on a person. So far, the biggest scandal she’s got going is outting John Mayer’s trashy attitude in a song.

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  6. ANDRIE says:

    YES, PEOPLE CAN’T HANDLE THE GIRL, THAT’S SHE’S TRULY GENUINELY NICE AND CLASSY.

    THERE’S SO MANY SHE HAD DONE FOR HER FANS AND CHARITY THAT THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE DON’T KNOW BEC. THE GIRL DOESN’T WANT THE PEOPLE SHE HELPED BOMBARDED WITH PAPARAZZI.

    IT’S NOT HER FAULT THAT SHE MADE A BRILLIANT RECORD, BROKE RECORDS, WIN AWARDS, HAVE LOYAL FANS….THAT’S THE NEWS YOU CAN FIND ABOUT HER…..AND IF THAT’S THE WORST, I’LL BE FINE WITH IT……RATHER THAN THE OTHER CELEBRITIES WHO GETS FAMOUS BEC. THEY WHORE OUT EVERY SINGLE DAY.

  7. Maudel says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-mXwC6YiB4 Hi guys!!pls see my video and comment =) tnx byeeee