Taylor Swift: “Mean” Video

Did you know that Taylor Swift plays the banjo? She rocks it, too. Check out this video of “Mean,” an awesome confluence of mandolin and banjo tied up in positive lyrics.

When I listened to this song on the album, I had no idea she was playing the banjo line. (Maybe she’s just playing it in the video to show off her skillz.) As if I needed another reason to be completely floored by this young woman’s talent.

In the video, I love that there’s a little girl watching from the audience. Taylor is acutely aware of her position as role model. This song sends the message that, when someone’s mean to you, they’ve got the problem, not you. It champions the idea that you can overcome adversity and achieve your dreams regardless of the obstacles:

Some day I’ll be living in a big ol’ city

and all you’re ever gonna be is mean.

Why you gotta be so mean?

Some day I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me,

and all you’re ever gonna be is mean.

Why you gotta be so mean?

At the end, the little girl smiles and claps at Taylor and looks upon her with awe. She is the face of every girl who bought Speak Now the second it was released, who begged her parents to buy her exorbitantly priced tickets to a sold out show, who dreamily stares into Taylor’s eyes on a poster on her wall. She is me.

Revised Top 9 of 2009

It has been brought to my attention that “Taylor Swift” was listed (explicitly) in at least three of my top 9 of 2009 yesterday posted on this blog. To some, this may seem unfair. Why am I not on the list when Taylor gets three spots? they’ll rhetorically state, yet earnestly ask.

Here’s a revision.

9. Yeah, my mom on New Year’s Day. Yada yada.

8. Getting my MFA. You know, I still haven’t picked up the diploma…

7. Bird’s ticket buying skillz. Best in the world! Thank you!

6. Zipcar. Oh thank you, Zipcar. Though it is expensive, it helped me many times.

5. Learning the ukulele. It’s nice to have hobbies, and to sing songs by Alex Battles.

4. Taylor Swift. See, she gets number 4: mid-way on the spectrum of obsession. Shows, hair, Fearless. All in just one entry.

3. KH still gets an upper slot.

2. Falling in love. No need to reassess this ranking.

1. Everyone who has offered me support in the past year and years. Thank you. You’ve given me life … even if you aren’t Taylor Swift, who may or may not be implied in this #1 highlight of 2009.

I look forward to 2010 which is certain to be like and unlike this year that’s passing over us like a tidal wave.

Top 9 of 2009: many and few

This has been a memorable year for many reasons. Many of which are bad reasons. But some are good! Very good, I assure you, so I’m sharing a few of them here. And yes, many of them pertain to Taylor Swift.

9. Seeing Revolutionary Road with my mom on New Year’s Day. I was very sick and very depressed. She took care of me. We thought the movie was okay and later each read the book, marking the beginning of my fascination (and identification) with Richard Yates.

8. Friends. Limitless understanding and compassion from so many of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

7. Seeing Taylor Swift in College Park, Pennsylvania. Ten rows from the stage. Yeah. Thank you, Bird.

6. Finishing my MFA. I never thought I wouldn’t. Then again, I never thought I’d get an MFA.

5. Touching Taylor Swift’s hair in West Virginia. She walked by me at a concert, you perv.

4. Kathryn Harrison. Professor, mentor, friend. Where would I be?

3. Friends who did so much for me. Even when they thought they weren’t doing anything at all.

2. Falling in love. Seemingly self-explanatory, yet not.

1. Taylor Swift, whose music offered/offers strength and helped me believe in love when I couldn’t believe in anything. Thank you.

What do I have to look forward to in 2010?

Friends, love, happiness, support, new and improved ukulele videos, Taylor Swift concert on May 15, Taylor Swift reading this blog. You get the picture.

Few reasons to complain. Many reasons to live, love, laugh.

I am grateful.

Fearless Platinum Edition: Audio

Why Fearless Again? Why Not.

You probably pre-ordered your copy of Fearless Platinum Edition from Amazon.com like I did.

Amazon probably e-mailed you a coupon for this album because the industrious goods-search-engine instinctively knows how much you love Taylor Swift.

So, when you received the new Fearless album with six previously unreleased recordings at work last week, you probably threw up your hands and yelled Hallelujah at a volume for your entire office suite to hear. Alarmed by your exclamation, they asked, “What’s the good news? Are you getting married or are you pregnant or did you get a new job or all of the above?” You waved the silver, black, and blonde CD in their direction and slowly retreated to the corner of your cubicle, your headphones tangled in white knots.

Am I right?

… It doesn’t matter if I’m right. Keep reading.

Fearless Platinum features five new tracks and one re-vision of an original Fearless song, “Forever and Always.” This is a big deal. Can you think of any artist who’s so graciously re-packaged his/her/their album with new music only one year after the original release? And a DVD with all kinds of visual goodies on it? I can’t.

On the inside cover of the CD booklet, there’s a handwritten note from Taylor. It begins:

First and foremost, thank you for buying the Fearless Platinum Edition. When I put out Fearless, I had high hopes and no expectations. A short time later, I sit here, trying to think of words that might fully express to you how thankful I am.

Is she nuts? Fearless is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard in my life. Believe it or not – other people agree with me. The note continues to describe the songs she’s included in the platinum edition, but I’ll tell you about that.

The Quintessential Taylor Swift

Two songs strike me as through-and-through Taylor Swift-ies: “Jump Then Fall” and “The Other Side of the Door.”

The album opens with “Jump Then Fall,” solely written by Taylor, (which, were I to re-organize this album, would not come first). It has the positive energy that seeps through jaunty guitar playing and Taylor’s pretty voice singing

I like the way you sound in the morning

We’re on the phone and without a warning

I realize your laugh is the best sound I have ever heard

Love it. Live it. This is Taylor Swift. Don’t mistake her gushing as some romantic teenager’s vision of love. She sees what’s beautiful in the world and infuses her music with her view.

I might argue that “The Other Side of the Door,” the other totally-Taylor (and totally written by her) newbie to Fearless, is actually the best song on the CD. It reminds me of everything that’s great about Taylor’s music: a laidback banjo-beat, earnest delivery of lyrics, brazenly honest self-portrait as someone who’s difficult in love:

I said leave, but all I really want is you

To stand outside my window throwing pebbles

Screaming I’m in love with you

What do I love best about this song? It has so much Taylor imagery: “throwing pebbles” (from “Love Story”), “that little black dress” (from “Tim McGraw), ” slamming door” (from “Our Song”), “pouring rain” and even “faded picture of a beautiful night” (from “Fearless”), “beautiful eyes” (from “Teardrops on My Guitar”) and possibly more.

Tried a Little Tenderness

At the center of her additions to Fearless is a mass of tenderness so stark your heart all but melts as you listen to her sweet voice move across bars supported by banjo and guitar strumming.

Take “Forever and Always,” for instance. A song that once felt angst-driven is now stripped down to delicate vocals and piano, with harmonizing voices weaving through the chorus.

It isn’t a song about a girl on the brink of revenge. It’s raw, in the midst of heartbreak and betrayal. We’re with her at the center of an emotional mess much deeper than the quicker, louder parent version of the song might betray.

Second on the CD, the less memorable “Untouchable,” co-written with a handful of others, similarly penetrates this mushy tender place behind the strong exterior often associated with Taylor’s persona. Slower and accented with steel guitar shimmers, this song lacks the tightly wound narrative and line-by-line perfection characteristic of the bulk of Fearless. Yet there’s a lulling, dream-like quality to it that has definitely made the wait between tracks one and three manageable.

A Lot More Country (Than I Expected)

Although her roots are in Nashville’s scene, Taylor is perceived as not-quite-country by many.

She doesn’t write songs about NASCAR. Give her a break.

“Come in With the Rain” and “Superstar” have distinctively country vibes. Steel guitar, strings, banjo, and the staccato rhythms of the verses followed by a long sway of choruses create the right kind of tension to at least give the impression she isn’t the pop star US Weekly wants her to be.

In “Come in With the Rain,” co-written by Liz Rose of “White Horse” fame, she sings:

Talk to the wind, talk to the sky

Talk to the man with the reasons why

And let me know what you find

Read these lines in your head or aloud. Take in their simple poetry that reminds you of so many “real” country songs you’ve heard.

“Superstar,” which is also co-written by Liz Rose, totally blows my mind. It’s a beautiful song, yes, but the lyrics truly define what sets Taylor Swift apart from her contemporaries. She’s singing about a superstar–not herself:

So dim that spotlight, tell me things like I can’t take my eyes off of you

I’m no one special, just another wide eyed girl who’s desperately in love with you

Give me a photograph to hang on my wall


Who does this? Taylor Swift is the definition of Superstar, yet she’s willing to show us that she’s like us–I mean, like me–the unflappable fan who can only admire the larger-than-life performer from afar; the person who sees herself as so much smaller and as “no one special” in comparison to the singer on stage.

On every album, in every song, Taylor Swift is showing her listener that she’s the same as anyone at the other end of the headphones. She’d never see it any differently.

If you haven’t used your Amazon coupon to buy Fearless Platinum, I suggest you use it today, at this very moment.



She is and it is.

After the villain stole her crown, the fairy godmother returned it to her, unfettered and pristine. The fairy godmother stepped back to watch the princess take her bow. No better ending than that, right?

Kanye West and his alcohol swagger stepped onstage to burst the bubble of my favorite Queen of Universal Appeal. But Taylor Swift’s got class. Though crestfallen she was, as Goody Bathtub said, and tears did fall on her guitar backstage, she changed her dress and got down what she does best: enthralling her fans.

And I’ll admit. Kanye was right. Beyonce had a better video (but she won the big prize, didn’t she?). “Single Ladies” bears iconic status. It features the dance everyone wants to learn, here (Joe Jonas), here (vomitous), and here (adorable).

Have you watched “You Belong With Me” (below)? Taylor plays both the wallflower/blonde and the cheer captain/brunette. What’s she telling us? You can be anyone. You have choices and potential greater than high school (and beyond) categories. To the ‘tween, no matter who you are, you can feel confident in belting out “you belong with me” and declare it through sharpie-drawn copy paper.  Full disclosure: I believe Taylor Swift is behind the brains of all of her brilliance–the shows, the incredible songs, the music videos, everything.

This video transcends brilliant. Kanye should watch it some time. Even if he doesn’t, he should realize that for Taylor, the VMAs doesn’t have to be a big deal. She’s nominated for Entertainer of the Year at the Country Music Awards. That is a big deal. Much bigger than my moon man and MTV. And yet, it’s clear, this acknowledgment is dear to her.

Yet, the fact that Taylor, whose roots are still deep in Nashville, won this category speaks to her universal appeal. I was impressed with MTV. More, I am impressed with the artists seated at the VMAs last night who booed Kanye; with Pink who talked shit about him on Twitter; with the ladies of The View who will have Taylor as a guest Tuesday morning; with the newscasters who said, “Isn’t this a shame? How could he do this to that young, talented Taylor Swift?” when there are 100 other worldly topics they might discuss; and, of course, it is the response from average people (you, reader) who have risen up in comment spots to claim that no one should steal Taylor’s, anyone’s thunder–this impresses and delights me.

I am overwhelmed by the class displayed by Taylor and Beyonce. The one and only Beyonce’s staggering professionalism totally caught me off guard. Her invitation to Taylor was unprecedented (maybe it wasn’t, sure argue with me). She accepted her award then allowed a newer, younger artist to have the moment she deserves, a moment that Beyonce, perhaps, recalled. Bravo!

And Taylor. Bigger than moon man and New York City and MTV. Yet she is utterly gracious. So eager to be accepted by all of us–a theme of her music–no matter what the award or venue; backwoods West Virginia crowd or Madison Square Garden’s; innocent, admiring blogger or magazine reporter who tirelessly bangs upon the brick wall subject of her personal life. It doesn’t matter who we are. She wants us with her–singing her songs, screaming her name, squealing and screeching until certain deafness.

That’s what separates her from the other people on the stage last night. She isn’t expecting it or us at all. She is surprised every time. And even those of us who aren’t familiar with her music or don’t care for it, we instinctively sense this about her.

Watch this video of her performance at the VMAs. At the end, she stands on a taxi cab for the final chorus of the song. Anyone can tell she’s having the time of her life and so are the fans around her. But any time she sings, the fans will always behave this way. The thing is, so will Taylor. That’s what makes her special. She’s real, y’all.

Greater Adoration


Contrary to your belief, there are people out there who adore Taylor Swift more than I do.

And they’re talented musicians.

Take this one–Mary–singing “You Belong With Me”

My favorite part of Mary’s performance–filled with props that Taylor, no doubt, appropriates in her real life–happens around the 35 second mark.

During the lyrics “She’ll never know your story like I do,” Mary pulls out a Bible, bearing some kind of label (is it from the library?), and holds it in front of her distressed face. Maybe if she selected Swann’s Way, I’d understand the meaningfulness of her literary selection … and facial expression.

But Mary knows the Bible. The cheerleader “she” in the song, who wears short skirts and high heels, clearly does not. Mary sings “You Belong With Me” at Sunday church services, exalting at the alter.

Good for Mary–and Jesus, her subject.

And then there’s BatRomeo, who took it upon himself to rewrite “Love Story” from Romeo’s perspective.

Clad in a vintage Batman T-shirt with 99cent store RayBans, BatRomeo wants to tell his Love Story on his own terms.

You’ll be the princess. I’ll be the prince.
Oh. It’s a love story just say yes.

BatRomeo’s voice is sweet, though. I’ll give him that.

Who knows? BatRomeo could be Taylor’s next muse. He’s almost 1/100th as attractive as Taylor Lautner.

These two, Mary Kate and Ashley, definitely adore Taylor more than I do, and win the covers competition on Taylor’s Ham.

Singing “Our Song,” Mary Kate and Ashley in similarly tweeny outfits (purple and pink, of course) manage to pull off a pretty good harmony. Mary Kate strums the guitar while Ashley keeps the rhythm with her bouncing dance moves.

They are the next Taylor Swifts.

FYI: If I’m ever on YouTube singing a Taylor Swift song, you know you won’t find it here.

Taylor’s “Fearless” Ukulele


Fine. Go ahead. Joke about how this 25 year-old “adult” adores a tweeny country-pop singer. Ha ha.

Sure, like I said, I was a foot taller than all the other Taylor Swift fans in West Virginia. I’m hoping the demographic is slightly more vertically developed this time around. But even if they’re troll-sized again, I’ll stand proud among them. Taylor Swift’s talent has captured my heart.

This week, I’ll write about Taylor as songwriter and consider her/her work in relation to her contemporary peers and our old time faves, like Loretta Lynn.

Today, Taylor’s talented because she plays the ukulele. (And because she’s sweet.)

Check out title track “Fearless” on ukulele below.

Don’t you love her little accent? Her storytelling? Her ability to circumvent legal contracts by playing a uke instead of a guitar*?

Me too. Bring on the trolls.

*Aren’t the other folks up there playing guitar? On the same song? Wily one, that Taylor Swift.

Countdown to Taylor at Penn State


On August 29, Small Hands and I are going to see Taylor Swift at the Bryce Johnson Theater at Penn State University.

“Isn’t that far from New York, Nicole?” you might ask. “Why not see her locally?”

If you knew anything at all, you’d realize that her Madison Square Garden Show sold out in one minute. Plus, I like states that aren’t New York or New Jersey.

Last month, Small Hands and I saw Taylor at the Civic Center at Charleston, West Virginia. And the show was the best I’ve ever seen.

It’s a Love StoryIMG00173

First of all, the opening acts–Gloriana (a bestseller on iTunes somehow) and Kellie Pickler (of … Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader fame)–exceeded my wildest imaginations. Gloriana’s harmonic styles reminded me of Fleetwood Mac’s flawless tightness. Kellie Pickler, who played for about 40 minutes–man, she has one hell of a voice. If you ever get the chance to see her live, do. If she can’t add or read a map, she can definitely sing.

(Kellie and Taylor are BFFs. In the linked video above, Kellie sings “Best Days of Your Life,” a song Taylor co-wrote with Kellie. Taylor’s in the video, too. Also, Kellie is totes adorable. Watch it!)

Now for Taylor.IMG00181 Two hour set. Everything off Fearless, her latest album, except for “The Best Day,” a song dedicated to her mom. She played the favorites from her debut self-titled smash hit album and saved “Should’ve Said No” for last–an extended performance ending with a rainstorm on stage, leaving Taylor’s long, blond, wavy hair matted to her narrow frame.

I couldn’t count all the costume changes.

Because Small Hands is so generous and wonderful, she bought us tickets on the floor of the venue, granting us easy access to Taylor as she played several songs, “Fifteen” among them, from a rotating elevated platform at the rear of the floor seating area. (Linked video features Miley Cyrus.)  She came down into the audience and hugged the twitching, tweeting (I’m sure) tweens who gathered in the aisle as she made her rounds. I even touched her hair. An electrifying moment.IMG00187

She totally bashed Joe Jonas without saying his name. We knew she meant to say, “He’s incredibly fug and I’m totally not.” She didn’t have to. We were all on the same page.

I can’t tell you what the best part of the show was because every moment was incredible. On second thought, it may have been that blinding glisten from her sparkling guitar.

Another Overpriced Tour T-Shirt to Burn

With Taylor, there were no problems. Only the fans. And it mostly had to do with my inferiority complex about standing at least one foot taller than 90% of the audience (including Small Hands; sorry, dear).

Tied Together With (or Without) a Smile

Way, way smile.

Can’t wait to share with you the next show.

*Note: I don’t really know how to “count” days for countdowns. Does the day of the event count as 0 or 1? Neither seems completely logical to me. I need an informative Mary Roach footnote–or subject matter–instead of my rambling lack of counting accountability.