20 Comments

Good post. On a related note, I’ve increasingly soured on fandom in general. By fandom, I mean the obsessive and meticulous exploration of lore and fictional worlds connected to major properties. I used to delight in discoursing about LOTR or Star Wars, but I wonder if this sort of engagement impedes the pure pleasure of enjoying a work of art as a work of art. Now art connected to a franchise must satisfy an army of experts. The MCU fandom is major offender here.

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I also think people get too obsessed with lore in a way that limits creativity. Fans are so obsessed with continuity errors or inconsistencies in a way that prevents new writers from making weird and exciting decisions in their stories. It makes me wonder if Ancient Greeks would flip out when different playwrights had completely different portrayals of their mythology.,

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As the time you spend in a record store increases, the odds you find a copy of Whipped Cream and Other Delights approaches 1

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weirdly I don't have it yet, as my vinyl collection booms, but I'm also the sicko with 30+ Beach Boys records

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Apr 17Liked by Ross Barkan

The comparison between Swift and comic book heroes is interesting. I don't know enough about Swift's music beyond pleasantly bobbing along the zeitgeist to confirm this, but it certainly seems that she changes "eras" in lieu of aging, musically. Is there anything about "Anti-Hero" that would make you think she's ten years older than the woman who wrote "Blank Space" ? I don't know that there is. Swift, far as I can tell, exists in "comic book time."

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Apr 18Liked by Ross Barkan

"Anodyne" would be a great name for her next album. I've tried listening to her and it goes in one ear and...nothing happens. Maybe millions of people find respite from all the strife in milquetoast music. On a planet of Swifties and Incels maybe moving to Mars isn't that bad an idea after all. Nah. I feel sorry for those groups, Musk I just hate. Time for some Sex Pistols...

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Apr 18Liked by Ross Barkan

This isn't hard to figure.

Palestine and Gaza can't possibly compete with the "inside" cultural influence blacks and Jews exert in entertainment. What IS American Music without blacks? The Lawrence Welk Show. Jazz. Soul. Blues. Funk. Rap. Black. Black. Black. Black. Jews built Hollywood, Broadway and are still major players in music. Both blacks and Jews dominate support industries like promotion, publicity, production, touring, etc.

Their synchronicity is imperfect and occasionally fraught but nobody is rocking a boat that has served both for a century. Any entertainer who opposes BLM or Israel (opposes/not criticizes) is in for a rude awakening. Taylor Swift included. If she thinks she's bigger than either let her condemn one or the other and find out. Taylor Swift stays out of politics because passive support of BLM and support for Israel is all either group requires of her. So her "art" skews Gen Z not genocide.

This is good old fashioned powerball. Jews and blacks have an alliance that has worked well for generations. It has highs and lows but no-one is stupid enough to tear it down, however sympathetic some may feel for Gazans. Certainly not for an outsider with no direct connection. Palestinian supporters in America have a familiar problem--they have no power base. Until they do, they are voiceless.

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". Swift, herself, has not called for a ceasefire" - yeah right. Like Netanyahu is going to go "oh shit, Swift's calling for a ceasefire" and back off? Get real.

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I think it's interesting that both superfans and detractors of the Brand Called Swift tend to directly ascribe these phenomena to Ms. Swift personally.

Ms. Swift is a fine singer and good writer who would do just fine on the NPR tote-bag circuit with Lucinda Williams or suchlike; were it not for the absolute God-tier marketing machine being operated on her behalf. I just find it weird that both fans and haters choose to pretend that machine isn't there.

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I agree with most of this but I think saying TS heralded this stan culture via music/persona is overly simplistic. She's played the game extremely well, from being on Tumblr and doling out likes and choosing fans for meet & greets that can't be bought--leaving them posturing and clamoring for her approval, for example--but it's something that was in action before her. The K-Pop sphere perfected this long before her, and while it may not have been relevant to Westerners before the BTS wave, they have impacted fan management to a massive degree.

The term "customer evangelist" which refers to the true believer fans has been in use since the mid-00s, and they existed before then, they just weren't being tended to by the profit-makers.

Then again, I'm super snowed in on fandom history. And since you mentioned losing friends over Swift--I was fully bullied out of a fandom (not hers) myself for not having the right opinions, and it's only after that that I started realizing how faith based fandom had become.

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Fair to point out K-Pop - that is fan culture as well. I am thinking more US-centric and some of the parallels between the fury of the MCU fans and Swifties

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Have you seen Swarm? It's based on real effects. It's about a Black girl obsessed with a Beyonce inspired character. But it's this entire post dialed up! It's on Prime and it's very good.

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I have not!

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There's a whole generation that's aged right along Taylor Swift. A girl I was in love with way back in the late 2000s was a big Swift fan, so I've always had warm feelings for Swift's earlier country days. I'm not going to start fights with people who badmouth that era, but I can sort of understand the insanity of those who identify way too much with her.

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I do think a lot of people feel they've grown up with her, and she's been masterful in terms of enticing new generations of fans. It is all very fascinating.

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As someone in my early 30s the whole concept of musicians as figures who "transform how we think about music and the world" seems dated. Idk if culture as a whole is stagnating, but it does seem like we've reached the plateau in the S-curve of modern pop music that began with the rise of rock and roll.

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Beatlemania wore the mantle of youth rebellion and non conformity. Swift fandom is always in danger of being exposed as rank conformism, all the more when it demands that everyone join in adoration. Swift revives the spirit of the 1950s. As for advocacy for Palestine, it’s naive to underestimate how toxic the issue is and can be. A mega star is surrounded by savvy agents.

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Beatlemania definitely was more nonconformist than Swift fandom in part because adults of the 1960s (as you know) were deeply hostile, for a period, to rock and roll. The establishment press also disliked rock. The Times didn't review a Beatles album until 1967.

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