In today's Yahoo! livestream announcing her fifth album, 1989, Taylor Swift premiered the lead single, "Shake It Off," as well as its music video, which oh-so predictably features twerking, and is oh-so predictably in no way a good look for the restless country music expat. The vibe on "Shake It Off" is caught somewhere blandly between the biggest pop star of 2013—Miley Cyrus, who at least raised interesting questions with her provocation—and Pharrell, the reigning star of 2014, who didn't produce "Shake It Off" but surely set the tone for Max Martin and Shellback with his frantically paced live percussion, not to mention lay the blueprint for the "Shake It Off" video with his conceit, on "Happy," of encouraging ordinary people to dance their problems away. The idea is to shake off the "haters," a word that is actually part of the song's chorus. It is, also, sadly, a position I'm finding myself in, falling hardest for Taylor and pop music circa 2014's I need you to criticize me trap during the song's spoken midsection, when she says: "Just think, while you've been getting down and out about the liars and the dirty little cheats of the world, you could have been getting down to this…sick…beat." In 2009, Taylor appeared in "hip-hop clothes" in a parody video with T-Pain called "Thug Story," and it's such a disappointment to see her essentially do the same thing five years later, just without the laugh track.
In the Wall Street Journal op-ed that Taylor penned a few months ago, she wrote, "I want to make music that reflects all of my influences, and I think that in the coming decades the idea of genres will become less of a career-defining path and more of an organizational tool." I took this—correctly, it seems—as her way to let fans know that she's done with country. She's been influenced in interesting ways by music from outside her first genre before, whether via Rihanna or James Taylor. But watching an artist that I've been finding the bright side of on this site since 2011—an artist who was different and now is not—move forward by splitting the difference between the most obvious influences of pop's recent past, I'm left talking about Taylor's 2014 career like I'm the blonde lady in The Matrix: Not like this, Taylor, not like this.