Friday, December 20, 2013

Song #451 of 9999 - You Belong With Me by Taylor Swift

Song #451 of 9999

Title: You Belong With Me
Artist: Taylor Swift
Year: 2008
Album: Fearless

I've managed to avoid most of the Disney-esque pop music that has been churned out over the last decade or so. It wasn't a conscious effort—I'm just old. But I teach teenagers and tweens and sometimes the music finds you. To my credit (and yes, I'm patting myself on the back here), I'm pretty good at keeping an open mind about the music my students suggest to me and, quite often, I'm pleasantly surprised by what I hear. 

That's certainly the case with this Taylor Swift single, the third from her Fearless LP (and I promise you I have no idea what the first two were). On a completely visceral level, I really enjoy this song. It's as slight as a Dixie cup but it's cute and catchy. And while the lyric may seem jejune to your ears and mine, it's worth reminding ourselves IT'S NOT FOR US. Some twelve-year-old really related to this and that's not insignificant. It's bubblegum and we're allowed to enjoy it every once in a while but we're not the target demographic.

So let's set the entirety of our hip quotient aside and marvel at the production of this single. We're presented with an amazing amalgamation of sounds just within the first thirty seconds: light acoustic guitar, light distorted guitar, light banjo plucking, light bass plunking, light pedal steel—yes, it's all dotted into place like a Pissarro painting of Swift's blond locks. When the song picks up and the chorus kicks in, we enter a cloudland where that wispy banjo gets to stand on even ground with a heavily distorted guitar and it still seems to make sense. Even if you hate the song, you have to admire the remarkable skill that went into this arrangement and production. There's just enough country, just enough indie rock, just enough pop to suit every kid on the playground. And there's Swift's voice, the needle that threads the entire piece, sounding like a real teenager by not oversinging or trying too hard like some of her predecessors. It's a great performance of a perfect modern pop single. I'm really glad a teenager introduced me to it.

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