Welcome to New York?

We’ve written before about our love for “1989,” Taylor Swift’s poptastic fifth album and one of our top picks of 2014. I am an unabashed lover of this record. I’ve danced around my kitchen to “Shake It Off,” struggled not to sing along to “Style” (and its mash-ups) on the subway; I’ve even taken Buzzfeed’s “What Part of Taylor Swift’s ‘Blank Space’ Video Are You?” quiz (Romantic Dinner, if anyone was wondering). But there is one song on the album that I just can’t get on board with. When it pops up on my shuffle, it always elicits a skip and, a rant. This song is so full of inaccuracies, so blatantly tone deaf and out of touch with reality, that I can’t even let the catchy beat lull me into ignorance of the lyrics.

Ms. Swift is the same age as I am, and most of the time I find her surprisingly relatable for a giant pop star (I mean, the girl trolls Tumblr with the best of them and even buys Christmas presents for her fans. What’s not to like?). But as a 25-year old female leading a far more typical young urban lifestyle than Ms. Swift, a fellow transplant to this fair city, when this song comes on I find myself not singing along but yelling into my iPhone that she JUST DOESN’T GET IT! So in an attempt to rid myself of these negative feelings and start the year free of Musically Induced Indignant Trauma, I present to you: “‘Welcome to New York’ is Full of Lies: An In Depth Textual Analysis.”

Let us begin.

taylor-swift, welcome-to-new-york, david-letterman
Bring. It. On. (Via CBS)

Walking through a crowd

The Village is aglow

Right off the bat, we got trouble (right here in New York City). I know of exactly zero 20-somethings who can afford a closet in Greenwich Village, much less a swanky double penthouse a la T. Sweezie. The Village, much like the Upper Sides (West and East), is a foreign land to which I venture once every six months at most, and then only for Julius happy hour and the magical $3 gin and tonics it promises.

Kaleidoscope of loud heartbeats

Under coats

Ok, Tay, so far I’m with you. New York is largely a city of transplants, where the huddled masses flock in search of excitement, glamor, fame, fortune, romance, and all the other bright shiny things the movies have promised us. We come from all over and get absorbed into the great throbbing cacophony of millions. Each hoping that we will be the one to rise above the scrum and emerge glittering and triumphant. Also, I enjoy the phrase “kaleidoscope of loud heartbeats.” +1.

Everybody here wanted something more

Searching for a sound we hadn’t heard before

Here we have more problems. For the most part, I don’t think people come here searching for something they haven’t heard. They come searching for a sound they know, one they’ve been raised on — in movies, in TV shows, in musicals, in songs like this. They come seeking a New York they think they know because they read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or watched all six seasons of “Sex and the City.” And it’s when they arrive and discover that the siren song bears little to no resemblance to gritty reality that the problems start.

taylor-swift, welcome-to-new-york
Sepia: Official sponsor of fantasy lives everywhere (Via USA Today)

And it said

Welcome to New York

It’s been waiting for you

Welcome to New York

Welcome to New York


This is where we get into real trouble, and the crux of my issue with this song. My dear Taylor, unless you are a multi-million pop sensation with model looks and four number one albums, New York has most definitely not been waiting for you. More to the point, it doesn’t give a shit.

New York was getting along just fine before you got here. Your arrival barely registered, the teeniest little ting of the triangle in an orchestra of 8.4 million. New York is not warm, and it’s definitely not fuzzy. It is cold and impersonal and impatient. No matter what pond you came from, this one is bigger, and you have to fight tooth and nail to make the tiniest scratch of an impression. For a lot of people, this is what makes the city so invigorating — the sense of accomplishment. If you are able to achieve survival here, not to mention some degree of success, you’re branded for life as tough, resilient, a New Yorker. For me, I think it’s why I had such a hard time adjusting; sure I had lived in impersonal cities before, but it’s much easier to write off rudeness and indifference when you can chalk it up to a cultural or language barrier.

We believe this is Taylor's version of "urban gritty," Oh you sweet summer child.
We believe this is Taylor’s version of “urban gritty,” Oh you sweet summer child.

It’s a new soundtrack I could dance to this beat


The lights are so bright

But they never blind me

It’s at this point in the song that I want to give Taylor the benefit of the doubt. Contrary to her reputation as our nation’s premiere singing diarist, her songs, even the confessional ones, represent a degree of fiction. They are tailored and packaged (especially on this album, her most pop-heavy to date). This is the Instagram version of her life — carefully cropped, filtered, edited, and captioned with an “oh I just dashed this off” witticism, which you actually spent fifteen minutes agonizing over, trying to pick the right emoji. Maybe somewhere there is a Snapchat version of “The Life of Taylor,” where it’s cold and wet and she doesn’t emerge from the gym looking like a glamazon. But if that is the case, wouldn’t it actually be more of a service to convey that honesty to her listeners, rather than setting up unrealistic expectations that just make us mere mortals feel inadequate?

When we first dropped our bags

On apartment floors

Took our broken hearts

Put them in a drawer

Everybody here was someone else before

Here is where Taylor begins to win me back. There’s a lot that’s daunting about moving to a new city, but there’s also something incredibly exciting about detaching from your old life, starting over, and writing yourself a new narrative. A location change is an opportunity to symbolically put your old self away and start with a fresh canvas. But in my experience, those past selves have a way of jiggling their drawers open and demanding to be reckoned with.

Don't mess with a stoop kid.
Don’t mess with a stoop kid.

And you can want who you want

Boys and boys and girls and girls

I will give New York this: When seeing a break dancer dressed as Batman on the subway or a man walking down the street with a cat perched on his head doesn’t rate a glance up from your book, the acceptance level for individuality is pretty high.

Welcome to New York

It’s been waiting for you

Welcome to New York

Welcome to New York


If I may propose a more accurate chorus: “Well, you’re in New York. It barely notices you. New York before you was New York, and will stay New York. Yes, you’re in New York. But that’s nothing new. Lots of people are in New York, and when they leave it’s still New York.”

On the platform the people come and go/talking of rents they wish were low.
On the platform the people come and go/talking of rents they wish were low.

Like any great love

It keeps you guessing

Like any real love

It’s ever changing

Once again, back on board with Ole Swifty. As Kathleen Kelly taught us, this city is always changing — a constant ebb and flow of landmarks and figures, store fronts and their patrons. And no matter how long you live here or how diligently you explore, there will always be something new and unmapped around the corner. You can never know all of New York, because by the time you knock at that last doorstep, at least 70% of them will have changed.

Like any true love

It drives you crazy

Either way, you dance it out. (Via Refinery 29)

Again, 100% on board. If there’s one thing New York does, it’s drive you crazy, in both a good and a bad way.

But you know you wouldn’t change Anything, anything, anything…

False, false, false… This is where we go off the rails, careening over the side of the bridge and into a fiery abyss. If I’ve managed to stick it out this long, right here is the moment when my finger makes a swift (pun…ok, yes, totally intended) about face to the “next” button. First of all, there are SO MANY THINGS that I, and every other human I have encountered, would change about New York. But second, and more importantly, love does not mean denying the existence of any and all flaws. It doesn’t mean falling into complacency and accepting the status quo, ad nauseum, emphasis on the nause(a).

Love, true love, means acknowledging the dirt and the smells and the darkness as well as the bright lights. It means seeing the whole picture, not some fictionalized fantasy simulacrum. And it means making an effort to make those things better.

So welcome to New York. It’s exciting, and it’s hard, and it’s great, and it’s awful. It will crush your soul and fill it with joy, sometimes within the same hour. It has not been waiting for you. It is so much bigger than that. But maybe you’ve been waiting for it.

Mic drop. We out.
Mic drop. We out.

One comment

Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s