New York is the most mercurial of all the world's major cities. Ask any bona-fide New Yorker which artist or national figure exemplifies New York and you will get a sundry of varied answers ranging from hip-hop originator Grandmaster Flash to real estate tycoon, Donald Trump. However,one would be hard pressed to find even the greenest of NYC transplants and name, well, this person:
Look, I have nothing against Taylor Swift. To my knowledge, I have never heard her music and while I hesitate to advance any sort of prejudicial judgements about something I have never experienced, I feel comfortable stating that her music is not for me. Nor should her music be for me; I am a married man skirting along the edges of middle age and Swift's career seems to be the result of a thirteen year old girl's wish made on a magic lamp.
When it was announced this week that Taylor Swift is the Welcome Ambassador of New York City, though, I became (as I am wont to do) irrationally incensed. I immediately thought of Lou Reed; founding member of the legendary rock group The Velvet Underground as well as successful (as far as critical acclaim goes) songwriter and staple of the New York City arts scene for decades. Reed passed away last October it was perhaps the first celebrity death I ever felt an emotional connection to. To me, Reed personified everything I wanted New York City to be before I moved here in 2007; tough, intellectual, artsy, gritty, and, above all, empathetic and humane. This is your god-damned Welcome Ambassador, NYC:
Swift's role as a "Welcome Ambassador" should not make me angry-it is due more to the savvy of a buttons-pushing advertising agency than a definitive statement on the state of New York and for all I know Swift is just as kind and sweet as her meticulously arranged public personae would have us believe. Certainly my cynicism regarding the mass marketed hoopla surrounding the release of Swift's newest album offers much needed soothing perspective to the meaningless position of "Welcome Ambassador of New York City." But when I read of Swift's collection of mansions and penthouses (Tribeca, Nashville, Rhode Island, and L.A.) in relief of the ever diminishing share of affordable housing in New York City, I find myself breaking into a cold sweat as this question hovers menacingly in the back of my mind; "What if Taylor Swift is the perfect representative of the new New York City?"