Haters gonna hate, but this dad really loves Taylor Swift. And who can blame him?
“Sing it, dad! The people say!”
My three-year-old son shouted his request from behind me — he sat in his car seat and wiggled his head.
I did my best to ask for more clarification. I even tried to make up a song that repeated, “The people say, the people say, the people say,” to amuse and, maybe, satisfy him and, hopefully, move on. It didn’t work. He called my bluff. He requested it multiple more times until I pulled the car over and called my wife. She didn’t answer her phone.
I knew it was a pop song, one that I wouldn’t be able to recognize because I loathe pop music, having not purchased or downloaded or streamed contemporary pop music since the late 1980s.
I’ve tried to get my son to sing along to Paul Westerberg or Neil Young or Neko Case, and I’ve even thrown in some Band of Horses and Kings of Leon, thinking their rhythmic tunes might convert him to the left of side of the dial, but none of them took.
He requested, “It’s All About That Bass,” and we sang that together for two to three months while on the way to grandma’s house or preschool. But he’d moved passed it, and he was now requesting, “The people say.”
That morning, on the passenger seat of the car, lay a Taylor Swift CD case. My wife must have bought it. I scanned the title list on the back but couldn’t see “The People Say.” My son pointed to the album and said, “That one, dad. Sing the people say.”
As Louis C.K. would agree, trying to reason with a three-year-old makes you an idiot, but I tried, “I don’t see the people say on here. Are you sure, buddy?”
“That one, dad,” he said. His finger pointed to the case. He stared with an absoluteness at the disc in my hand.
“But I don’t see the people say, buddy,” I said.
Then he got upset. If I only knew the song, I could find it on YouTube and plug it into the car and we could sing together.
Luckily, my wife called me back.
“Did you call? Are you guys okay?” she asked. Her voice was worried.
“Yes, what’s the people say?” I asked. “I have no idea what song that is.”
“Shake it off, Taylor Swift,” she said. “Is that why you called?” She laughed and hung up the phone.
Taylor Swift. Yes, the album was in my hand, but I sat at a crossroads. Did I really want to introduce Taylor Swift into my life? Would she be a gateway artist to pop life? Would I be part of the masses?
Before becoming a father, I’d avoided boy bands, pop sensations, teen-angsty musicians, American Idol, all the stuff that had been over-produced artistically, and I knew that I had never listened to a Taylor Swift song in its entirety in my lifetime — and, if prodded, couldn’t pick one of her songs out of musical lineup.