The music video for “You Belong With Me,” from teen idol/perfect human being Taylor Swift, is as fair as the free market. We’re supposed to believe that Swift, the blonde giantess with perfect teeth, is not only a misunderstood art girl, but that she would devote all of her romantic energies toward the high school quarterback? That she paints and writes songs about him, and not the misunderstood art boys in class? Conventional romantic sensibilities have laughed in the face of alternative culture since Andie picked Blane over Ducky – Swift’s spin on She’s All That makes total sense. So while Taylor dances and yearns for a guy she’d have no problem dating in real life, you can watch it and feel like scum.
For people who don’t find parallels between a music video made in 2009 and a mediocre teen rom-com made a decade before, you have the song itself, which is four minutes of bubblegum pop-country bliss, driven by a solid power strum and filled with great lines. Take it from Kanye West, who included in his original apology over the Video Music Awards flap, “I LIKE THE LYRICS ABOUT BEING A CHEERLEADER AND SHE’S IN THE BLEACHERS!” Swift isn’t Bob Dylan, but her lyrics are direct and articulate enough to capture her feelings of being a teenager without sounding stupid about it, as a lot of teenagers do. Her feelings might be a little typical, but with those high vocal notes and those mega choruses doing most of the work, are you going to point that out?
Some of my friends don’t get it. Two of them ran into each other this summer at their internship and actually talked about whether or not I was being serious or not with my newfound Swift fandom – it seemed that weird. Never mind the validation from The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones or critic legend Robert Christgau; she couldn’t possibly be good because she’s mainstream or pop or whatever generalization you can make. But what draws me to Swift’s music is her lack of irony and completely artistic genuineness. More than her Disney peers, her constructed persona seems borne out of a specific personal view and her honest interpretation of the world around her, from the boy at school to getting dumped by Joe Jonas in 27 seconds, from small-time to big-time all wrapped up in that big pop sound. Your music belongs with me and all of us, Taylor.