By Kevin Lair
Senior Elm Writer
“I go on too many dates, but I can’t make ‘em stay. At least that’s what people say, mmm-mmm, that’s what people say, mmm-mmm” belts Taylor Swift. In her latest smash hit, “Shake It Off,” Swift calls out the players, the haters, the heart-breakers, and the fakers. Although this song has become a rallying cry of sorts for people who are marginalized and ruthlessly chastised, Swift’s critics, as they tend to do, just keep on hating.
It seems that no matter what an artist does, the media will criticize his or her every move rather than focus on the artist’s musical talent. In other words, people complain more about an artist’s image (perceived or actual) than the content of their music or lyrics. This emphasis on material images and superficial qualities provokes artists to increase their fan base and sales, not by improving their musical abilities but through acts of notoriety or desperation, i.e. Miley Cyrus’s twerking or Britney Spears’s shaving her head.
More broadly, audiences are more superficial than the singers they mock. The modern era of music has become so fixated with image and looks rather than the content of the artist’s music. This establishes an unhealthy environment for young audiences who see that the success or failure of artists largely rest on their behavior. Artists will act out of desperation or as a call for help, and then young audiences feel that such lashing out is appropriate.
Similarly, audiences unrelentingly criticize Taylor Swift for “always” singing and writing songs about love or relationships, but when she tries to ever so slightly break out of the teenaged-bubble with each succeeding album, she faces even greater criticism. Hence, “Shake” responds to these critics by letting them know that she does not take their unfound criticisms to heart.
Listeners overwhelmingly support Swift’s latest single (and accompanying message), buying more than one million copies in less than three weeks. Debuting at number one on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart, “Shake” became only the 22nd song in history to debut at the peak, and it remained there for a second week. The Billboard Hot 100 chart is published each week and incorporates several factors including digital downloads, radio plays, and streaming to rank the top 100 songs in the United States.
Swift’s music video for “Shake” further emphasizes the message of doing what one enjoys regardless of critics. Featuring singers, dancers, cheerleaders, a Lady Gaga look-alike, and Swift’s notable “awkwardness”, the video exemplifies the feel-good, anti-hater mentality of the song’s lyrics. The video’s irresistible quirkiness and humor no doubt contributed to its more than 93 million views since it was uploaded a mere three weeks ago.
Audiences often joke about how Swift makes millions of dollars off break-ups via her well-written songs about them; but once again, Swift enjoys the last laugh by raking in the cash and calling out her critics. Rather than lash out or self-destruct from the media’s perpetual bashing, Swift uses songs and lyrics to stand up for herself and others in her position, cementing her role model status for countless fans of all ages and backgrounds. Turning unrelenting criticisms into motivators, she crafts hit songs that speak to individuals in similar situations of heartbreak, marginalization, or the dreaded teen years.
Whether she chooses to express these feelings through country music or pop, as long as she stays true to herself and her fans, more fans will catch on and critics will continue to have uncreative, tedious rhetoric.
So at the end of the day, haters will continue to criticize others for whatever reason, and in today’s society of superficial looks and priorities, it seems that one can never be truly happy or content with themselves. As a result, it is up to you to simply “shake, shake, shake it off.”