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Is Taylor Swift's Welcome To New York a Gentrification Anthem?

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A photo posted by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

Taylor Swift's latest single, "Welcome to New York," dropped last night, and a firestorm of reaction followed. The die-hard fans, of course, totally lost it. But music critics swarmed in, too, asking, "Is it as good as 'Empire State of Mind'?" (No.) All those really serious people, the kind who choose to analyze pop music with intense, holier-than-thou gravitas, dismiss it as fluff. See Gothamist's publisher, who said, "Is that like a jingle for a new sandwich at Subway? ... God, the '80s had Madonna and we have this. Come, come nuclear bombs."

But the harshest critique thus far, from the really, really important urban-life-analysis perspective, comes from Jezebel, with a piece that takes this collection of repetitive, auto-tuned, flimsy lyrics and lashes into them: "Taylor Swift's New Song Is the Gentrification Anthem NYC Didn't Need." True, with lines like "Walking through a crowd/the Village is aglow/a kaleidoscope of loud heartbeats under coats/everybody here wanted something more/searching for a sound we hadn't heard before," this is not a song about the hard knocks of life in the big city or the major issues it faces. But should it be? Probably not.

And yes, the 24-year-old is, perhaps rightly so, being labeled a hypocrite, acting all starry-eyed and like she's just arrived when she regularly hangs out with models flaunting it-bags, and her home in New York City is a $20 million Tribeca penthouse that she bought from Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.

One main theme among those on the anti-#WelcometoNewYork bandwagon: that the gritty, mean-streets underbelly of this place, which basically defines it, just isn't acknowledged.

Rats came up a lot. Has Taylor Swift ever seen a rat?

Swift sings:

"Like any great love, it keeps you guessing
Like any real, it's ever-changing
Like any true love, it drives you crazy
But you know you wouldn't change anything anything... anything."


Follow-up: has she ridden the subway?

Some took her message more seriously, with lyrics like "and you can want what you want: boys and boys and girls and girls" leading to grand pronouncements like this:

Well, then there were the people who, inexplicably, didn't want more attention drawn to the biggest city in the world.

#WelcomeToMyFuneral... a wee bit hyperbolic for a hashtag?

Some are so peeved, they're jokingly considering fleeing.

Insert political joke here.

Swift, in true form, is perfectly earnest about her intent.

Fans see it as part of her whole trajectory from guitar-strumming country bumpkin to pop superstar. "It's a new soundtrack/I could dance to this beat forevermore/The lights are so bright, but they never blind me." On the negative side, she's acting blase, arrogant, like she's been there, done that. On the plus side, girl is, by this point, unfazed.

And you know, for those dying to make the trip here on day, rats and drugs and affordable housing and police brutality are sort of beside the point. Not for everyone, of course, but for the innocent dreamers, where New York is an ideal, and not a reality. The theme of reinvention has always been a part of the city's narrative, and it is here, too: "Everyone here was someone else before."

Maybe this gal, and those like her, will add more NYC songs to their playlists to prepare for the journey, and, once on the ground, learn a bit more about the very important lives led here that don't fall within the scope of a chart-topping pop song. We can only hope.
· All Taylor Swift coverage [Curbed]
· One Man Has Set Out to Map All the Song References to NYC [Curbed]