Friday, November 27, 2009
#34. 'You say you're fine, I know you better than that'
Taylor Swift "You Belong With Me"
Sometimes when I look at the pop charts I begin to feel really fucking old. It doesn't feel like it was that long ago that I was the target market, at least demographically speaking, for a lot of the stuff that wound up getting ridiculously popular, but now It seems aimed at kids at least 10 years younger than me. The proliferation of Disney-sponsored acts, the gradual dumbing down of every other facet of music, the rise of artists not even out of high school yet, the way all three of those blatantly pander to the apparently highly lucrative - and highly gullible - 12-14 year old girl demographic...it all makes me feel far above my 24 years. I don't want this to turn into a stereotypical 'back in my day music was blah blah blah and you kids GET OFF MY LAWN' rant, but in spite of how much I've grown to tolerate and in some instances love pop music of a recent vintage, it still seems like a lot of it is aimed so specifically at a group of people that I will never have anything in common with that I question why I even bother with the whole chart-watching and critiquing thing in the first place.
And then "You Belong With Me" comes along and breaks down every single one of my defenses, batters me over the head with adorableness and leaves me with a smile on my face. Taylor Swift should by all rights be one of the artists I'm ranting against above, and yet I can't do anything but smile any time "You Belong With Me" gets played anywhere within earshot. It's possibly the best pure pop song to be released in the last 3 years; there's nothing new or innovative on display here, but it's done so well that that's even more of a moot point than it already was in my book.
Swift's strengths are on full display here; her lyrics are based in cliches - this time the modified-Duckie or the 'why won't you realize how fucking awesome I am compared to your current gf?' - but tackled with utmost sincerity tothe point that the clichedness seems to give way to genuine emotion. There's all sorts of those little moments that seem just sort of tossed off as afterthoughts but that add a lot of depth to the story being told, really that whole second verse demonstrates just how deep the connection between Swift and her would-be beau within the song goes without beating you over the head with it, and the more overt stuff is still emotionally resonant if only because of Swift's inability to be anything other than transparent. In a way it's the rare example of a performer's youth working in their favor; if she'd tried to sound like anything other than a teenager in the throes of an unrequited crush the song wouldn't work, but since she's so close to the subject matter, not viewing it from any sort of appreciable distance she sounds absolutely genuine at all times and the song benefits greatly from it.
For once I won't dwell too much on the sound of the song itself, other than to say that the light coutry touches are a nice underlayer to what is pretty much a strict power-pop nugget, since it just serves as a canvas for Swift to work over. It's antithetical to most of the other singles on the list in that respect, but in spite of its lack of interesting production or focus on anything outside of the lyrics, "You Belong With Me" is quite simply a marvelous little song. It doesn't need anything more than it's got, it knows that and runs with it for the most enjoyable 4 minutes of constantly repeated radio play this year's had to offer. Taylor Swift continues her path towards domination of pop culture unabated, even earning herself place in a meme along with an MTV award. I couldn't be happier about that, honestly.