We Should Be Less Cynical About Albums That (Want to) Change The World
One of the most talked about songs on Taylor Swift's Speak Now was a ditty called "Mean," which my BFF Theon Weber focused on in-depth in his review for this paper.
"It's chipper and funny, because the narrator is predicting escape from someone she dislikes: 'Some day, I'll be living in a big ol' city/ And all you're ever gonna be is mean.' And then, slipped in casually, a glimpse of the submerged shadow: 'Someday, I'll be big enough so you can't hit me.'"
This was early enough that it hadn't caught wind yet that Swift had been quoted as saying the song was actually about the unthinkable: infamous music industry blogger Bob Lefsetz.
See also: We Should Be More Cynical About Albums Claiming to Change the World
The story that Swift had written a song "lashing out at her critics" was what got picked up by most subsequent outlets and became a point of distaste in subsequent reviews; it was arguably the turning point where her detractors came out of the woodwork and pegged her as more of a polarizing figure than surprise critical darling. And yet the evidence of the song itself was right there in the lyrics suggesting this was a privileged star's most empathetic tune yet, embodying a child's definition of "big" as her only hope to avoid what's explicitly termed being "hit." After the Lefsetz story went around, very few reviews used the word "abuse" or even "bullying." The way her detractors talked about the song you'd think they were describing Amanda Palmer being shocked that people found her poem about the Boston bomber suspect in poor taste.
And yet if you listened to the tune and knew nothing about Swift's foibles in the gossip columns, you're more likely to come away without an argument that song describes a victim of something more physical than bad reviews. That is an example of PR hurting the discourse about a record, where most reviewers got down to cases with how the artist wanted to perceive her and actually ignored the evidence in her work itself.
So it's easy to understand where Luke Winkie is coming from when he writes that the new Knife album is being glorified by a press and public "incredibly eager to unpack all the philosophy and radical social themes allegedly imbued in Shaking the Habitual" because that's what they said the record was about in Pitchfork.
As evinced by how quickly the critical consensus turned on Lana Del Rey after it was discovered she was some kind of calculating, rich-daddied, Interscope-signed fakearoni and not merely a shy trailer park discovery uploading home movies to YouTube that she Instagram-filtered all by herself (aww), many critics have a fear of being hoodwinked by artists whose sole musical purpose is engineering themselves into the perfect position to score an 8.7. Feminism is currently en vogue again, thank fuck, and scumballs like Rick Ross--who rose to prominence in the wake of once-beloved artists like Liz Phair and Courtney Love being sacrificed on the altar of the 2000s like embarrassing parents--are finally being dealt with harshly for being the ignorami they are.
See also: Other Heinous Rick Ross Lyrics