Taylor Swift’s New York actually is New York

A pop song sums up a changed city

Taylor Swift’s new single is “Welcome to New York,” and among snobby music critics and the finger-wagging, that’s problematic crowd, it has been met with nearly universal dismay.

Because how could Swift—a Nashville transplant, all of 24-years-old—who moved into a $19.9 million Tribeca penthouse earlier this year, know anything about what New York is really like?

Truth is, she can’t. But neither can most of the people who have shitted on the song.

For what it is, “Welcome to New York” is initially pretty laughable. Even I had to laugh at it. Like, I literally laughed at it. It’s bad. So fucking bad.

“Welcome to New York” is so cheesy that if cheese could have a little cheesier baby—and I’m not talking one of those craft cheeses you get at a fancy ‘farm-to-table’ restaurant—it would be this song.

Then I really listened to it—like, ten times—and I thought, wow, this song is kind of amazing, actually. For one, it’s a very happy sounding song. It’s so happy that it makes Pharrell seem sad. So, it’s cheesy, but that’s why it’s good.

Every song about New York is cheesy. You can’t write a New York city anthem without it being cheesy.

Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” is cheesy.

Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” is cheesy.

Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” is cheesy.

New York is a cheesy city these days. Maybe it’s always been, but look at the place now. Citibikes. Cronuts. Times Square. Brunch. The Barclays Center. Brooklyn. Mustaches. Million dollar condos.

That’s not all of New York, but that’s the New York many people these days come to know. So think about—isn’t “Welcome to New York” a fairly accurate representation of New York in 2014? I would suggest it is.

I would cite the lyrics here, but the lyrics are terrible and sort of benign to the whole experience. The song, sung by anyone else, would not matter.

“Welcome to New York,” by Taylor Swift, represents an idea. And the idea is that New York—she means Manhattan, really—is an aspirational place reserved for the rich, pampered elite who can afford it. People like Taylor Swift.

And guess what—that’s exactly what it is!

But people are all like, no, that’s not the real New York!

Uh, yes it is.

Ms. Swift on the streets of Tribeca, NYC

If it wasn’t, everybody who is not rich, everybody who is actually a native New Yorker—and don’t you dare tell anyone you are a native New Yorker, god forbid someone peg you as one of those crazy bridge-and-tunnel types—would not be moving elsewhere, just so that they can leave their houses without having to spend $150 a day.

More importantly, I think the song’s message, which is all—“I am very happy to be here!” a la Eddie Murphy in Coming to America—is one that everybody can put to use. Because having a good attitude about the crappy city you live in is essential to making sure you don’t kill yourself the next time you’re sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the very not-cheesy, pot hole-filled BQE.

So in a lot of ways I think Taylor Swift knows more about what New York is than most people. People who don’t even appreciate the damn place.

At least she’s happy to be here.

Follow Paul Cantor on Twitter @PaulCantor.
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