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Taylor Swift’s new song about New York could be about any city, really

Taylor Swift’s new single, “Welcome to New York,” showed up a few hours earlier than expected today. For better or for worse, not everyone is impressed with Swift’s lyricism. Residents of New York are particularly taking issue.

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What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, for a song with “New York” in the title, New Yorkers are having a hard time finding the connection. As Swift pushes through the song, only one thing seems abundantly clear: Swift clearly has no idea what New York City is all about or why people find it so magnificent. If this is supposed to be an ode to the Big Apple, it’s lacking any true knowledge. In a word, the song is vague. It also begs the question: Doesn’t Swift live in this city? Is this the best she can do?

She might have been trying to capture the look of the city with lines like “Walkin’ through a crowd, the village is aglow / Kaleidoscope of loud heartbeats under coats.” However, it doesn’t seem New York enough, if you will. Is it the East Village or the West? It could just as easily be Greenwich. Or, you know, pretty much any other village, town or city in the world. Aglow isn’t exactly a real descriptor in and of itself. Are there tons of lights? Is the glowing with energy of the people and the traffic? Both are pretty basic elements of any city.

Swift ends the first verse with perhaps the most “Manhattan” part of the entire song: “Everybody here wanted somethin’ more / Searchin’ for a sound we hadn’t heard before.” There’s definitely a vibe of everyone looking for something better, different, more in New York. It’s a mentality you can’t always find, for example, in smaller towns in the Midwest, where people are mostly happy to be where they are and with their families. Still, New York is not alone in its quest for more. Los Angeles has that same ambition. So do Hong Kong and London.

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The song gets especially obtuse in the second verse, when T-Swizzle ends it by talking about everyone wanting who they want, “boys and girls and girls and girls.” OK, in the early ’80s, that line might have seemed especially connected to New York City. But we’re in a day and age where more than half the country supports same-sex marriage. New York is hardly unique in its acceptance of queerness… at least, not anymore.

The second verse also talks about that first time moving into an apartment and starting fresh in a new city. Yes, Taylor, many people in New York came to the city to start over. Once again, that’s not a New York-only phenomenon. Every day, someone packs up their bags, leaves home and heads for “somewhere, anywhere” that isn’t where they’ve already been.
All in all, we’re not sure what Swift is hoping to accomplish in this song. The second verse could have gone somewhere, could have been about the first time venturing out on your own… to anywhere. The first verse is so vague, the only reason we’re certain she’s singing about the Big Apple is that she mentions it so dang much in the chorus.

As a matter of fact, Swift mentions New York 21 times despite never actually discussing the uniqueness of the city itself. Is it “Welcome to New York” or is it “Welcome to Paris,” to Nashville, to Boston or to any other city with a two-syllable name? Let’s be honest here: Everything she said could easily apply to any of those cities, too. So… what’s the point?

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