Taylor Swift Is Chevrolet: TTPD And Brand Evolution

Taylor Swift Is Chevrolet: TTPD And Brand Evolution

By Anne T. Donahue

Like all of you, I listened to Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department all weekend and, after realizing that not even a billionaire is immune to the actions of Men Like Matty Healy, I also realized I liked it. (The album. Not the actions of Men Like Matty Healy.)

Did I love it? Of course not! I love the potato salad from Vincenzo’s, a grocery store in Waterloo that I’m obsessed with and would like to move into. I love this pair of pants I’m wearing right now that go with anything and have an elastic waist, so that when I inevitably eat too much potato salad, my clothing will not betray me. I love my cats. I love the film, Twister. “Love” is reserved for things that do not require justification. TTPD is fine! It’s good! It’s Taylor Swift’s latest collection. Because if you’re not thinking of TS as a bona fide corporation at this point, what are any of us even doing?

Taylor Swift Is Chevrolet: TTPD And Brand Evolution

A billionaire pop star can still be an artist, but “artist” has become part of a much larger package; an ideal now woven into a brand. Taylor Swift is a brand. She has more money than most malls make in a year. She takes private jets. She sells out stadiums that contain so many people at one time that when I think about the logistics of finding parking for her concerts, I start to feel sick. Her albums are not “released,” they are a cultural moment in and of themselves. She sends her fans on Easter egg hunts and offers multiple versions of the same album as part of a larger collection – that also contains Easter eggs, used to propel more music, more releases, more cultural moments. She is a singer, songwriter, and performer, yes, but she has also upheld various local economies simply because she has chosen to sing her songs there. We can’t review her music in the same way we might review a smaller act because they’re not the same things. She is the Gap. She is Chevrolet. She is the Star Wars. The majority of her contemporaries are A24 releases. The approach and result and audiences vary greatly.

I say this because when I thought about reviewing Taylor’s album in a tangible way, I couldn’t. Why? Because what I have to say about it really doesn’t matter. If a critic doesn’t care for a Star War or a Marvel film, they’re obviously welcome to share their thoughts, but it ultimately won’t affect the box office, whether more of those movies are made, or how much the fans of those movies really love them. Criticism is an art form in its own right, but cultural juggernauts don’t tend to slow down to zoom in on critical discourse. Which is fine because industries exist because of the fans who ensure their success, and also because of billionaires who do what they want. Me reviewing new Taylor would be like reviewing the S/S collection of Old Navy. Whether or not I like it and dissect it or champion it or break it down to see where it stacks up against Zara or Uniqlo will not factor into whether or not it sells, whether or not it exists, or whether or not Old Navy will change their plans for F/W. If I don’t see anything I want this season, a new season will swoop in soon, and maybe I’ll find something I connect with then. Enter: TTPD.

Taylor Swift Is Chevrolet: TTPD And Brand Evolution

At 31 songs, the album – which, again, I like! – is the essential pocket tee of popular music. Inevitably, you will find one (a song) that goes with your vibe, and as much as you may not like fast fashion (the pop industrial complex), you will still wear it with your favourite pants. (Maybe the kind I have on now.) TTPD is the line Taylor has designed and released, and one can glean from the sheer volume of tracks she’s been putting out lately, we will be at no loss for something new and perhaps better-suited to our individual needs when she debuts the next collection. This season, she is allegedly dragging Matty Healy to hell and championing America’s golden retriever, Travis Kelce. Perhaps next, she will write about why she likes wearing tiny braids in her hair. Who’s to say.

Of course, this isn’t to devalue her music or to write off her creativity or to challenge the feelings she tapped into to fuel songs like “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived.” (A genuine banger.) But it is a reminder that when somebody becomes so powerful that their mere presence nearly eclipses the Super Bowl in its entire, their approach to art (and the responses to it) will shift in a way that the discourse won’t matter as much. GM will still sell trucks even if some people don’t like it. Banana Republic will always offer dress pants, regardless of how popular big jeans are. Taylor Swift will continue to write, record, and release music about her own life that could not be further from the reality most of us live in. She is a brand, and that’s okay. Though it’s comforting to know that even brands can succumb to the actions of Men Like Matty Healy.

Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!

Tags: Anne T. Donahue, top story, topstory

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