With her PR machine churning at the highest degree, her name populating headlines across the internet and her songs blasting from every major commercial radio station internationally, the Taylor Swift epidemic – indiscriminate and decisive – has pervaded the most cynical of minds.
Taylor Swift’s name, face and music saturate our media landscape. And in a year when she has taken a sabbatical of sorts from social media and public life, that’s certainly no happy accident.
Reputation, both the noun and her new album, have been central to the Swift 2.0 narrative. A different kind of Taylor emerged from the ashes of her ‘ruined’ reputation – allegations of faux feminism, the ‘mean girl’ label and rumours about the insincerity of her good girl image making up the core of the ash.
Instead, Taylor projected an image of a fierce kind of female. One who had just won a landmark sexual assault case, walking away with a widely applauded and deeply symbolic single dollar.
She came back. She made sure we knew about it. And for all we critique her music and her intentions, we fell for it. Hook. Line. Sinker. We fixated on the new Taylor, the sarcastic Taylor. The one that packs more of a punch. The one who seems just a little bit angry.
Taylor Swift sucked up every inch of the media, swallowing every second of our airtime. And in doing so, our blinkers missed a far more important comeback of 2017.
Because somewhere in the far corners of our news cycle, but on every inch of radio play, sits the story of Kesha and her struggle to break-free from power and abuse, trauma and harassment.
A messy story that’s uncomfortable and unhappy and with no end in sight.
Look What Taylor Swift Made Us Do. Post continues after audio.
The comebacks of Taylor Swift and Kesha mirror the other, in so far as they both had uniquely female struggles against powerful, allegedly abusive men.
One story has a clean, happy ending, tied up with closure and power and victory. The other is in the thick and throes of her battle, far from finding closure in a lawsuit that has stretched on for more than three years.
Kesha, in her highly-publicised dispute with her boss Dr Luke – real name Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald – has accused the music producer of everything from emotional abuse to rape, resulting in a court case where the singer has demanded to be released from her contract with Sony.
She wasn’t. She still hasn’t. In fact, Kesha’s new single Praying – released in July – has been written, it would seem, about the trauma of the trauma. She sings:
‘Cause you brought the flames and you put me through hell
I had to learn how to fight for myself
And we both know all the truth I could tell
I’ll just say this is “I wish you farewell”
Kesha’s story isn’t as easy to discuss and celebrate. Namely, because she hasn’t won freedom yet. But there is something distinctly powerful about how brutal and raw the ballad is, with Kesha clawing her way back into the charts, back into what she does best and away from the coverage that’s painted her as a victim at best, a liar at worst.