Culture Feature

Why Is an AP Exam Asking Questions About Taylor Swift?

Is education meant to challenge students and expand their awareness, or should it just tap into their existing interests?

Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Taylor Swift.

One of these things is not like the others. In this case, we're not talking about the fact that one of these people enslaved hundreds — including several of his own children — or the fact that one of those women was a descendant of enslaved Black Americans. We're talking about the pop star.

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Last night at the Billboard Music Awards, Taylor Swift and Brendon Urie debuted the live performance of their newest single "ME!"

The performance, which featured a pastel-clad legion of dancers twirling from suspended umbrellas, opened with a drumline that many saw as a rip off of Beyoncé's seminal Coachella performance.

Of course, Beyoncé did not invent the marching band. But the 2018 Beychella performance has been at the forefront of everyone's cultural purview since the documentary, Homecoming, dropped just a few weeks ago. Beyoncé's performance, as explained in the documentary, was a tribute to the homecoming events of historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). Even if Taylor had planned her strikingly similar performance months in advance, she had to have realized that starting with the pink marching band opening would ignite at least some backlash. But then again, for T Swift, there seems to be no such thing as bad press.

As if the poorly-executed pink drumline wasn't enough, T Swift also announced that she will be releasing a live 2019 BBMA Rehearsal Audio––much like Beyoncé's latest live album, Homecoming. It would have been one thing if it was just the performance that was suspiciously similar to Beyonce's, but this just seems calculated.

After years in the public eye and countless scandals, Swift has mastered the art of harnessing media attention and using it in her favor. Capitalizing on outrage seems to be her forté––like when she tried to reclaim the image of a snake (a word used to describe her by many after a slew of controversy a couple of years ago) and become a "bad bitch." Unfortunately for her, this rebranding ended up falling flat, with her Reputation tour and album receiving a luke-warm reception.

Supporting the claims that Swift will do anything for personal gain, the singer told her fans that the music video for "ME!" contained hidden clues for the new album, which inevitably led to fans rewatching it over and over again, sneakily bolstering the number of views until it managed to break the record for most views in 24-hours. . It's kind of twisted, but kind of genius.

Also, let's not forget that this isn't the first time Swift has been accused of copying Beyonce. She was under fire for her "Look What You Made Me Do" video, where her choreography looked awfully similar to Bey's in her "Formation" video. Given the number of instances that Swift has appeared to borrow ideas from Queen B, it's difficult to believe that this is anything other than a deliberate pattern of mimicry.

The swifties may be a devoted fanbase, but they should never under-estimate the Beyhive, who have gotten the hashtag #Mayochella trending. The internet is doing what it does best and ruthlessly making fun of the allegedly ripped-off performance in what is now being referred to as "#Mayochella," or as one Bossip headline referred to it, "MAGAchella"

But the drags don't stop at the condiments. The Beyhive reigns supreme when it comes to coming up with the most creative and hilarious disses: "Homegoing" "The Unseasoning Stone" "Diet Lemonade" "Marching Bland" and "The Alabaster Abyss" are among some of the funniest disses in the Mayochella hashtag.

But when it comes to Taylor Swift, it's hard to know whether she's actually tone-deaf, or whether it's all part of a savvy rebranding scheme to garner attention for her music videos. Is she always three steps ahead or does she just have a strategic PR team who are really good at covering up her missteps? I guess we'll just have to see how the new album rollout goes. The new title has yet to be revealed, but perhaps it'll be called Limeade.

Sara is a music and culture writer.

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How Taylor Swift gained fame and why she is still a powerhouse!

Some people are completely over her, but Taylor is here to stay

Getty Images

On November 10, Taylor Swift's latest album Reputation released after months of promotion. Thousands of reviews and analyzes popped up everywhere online within minutes from official publications and diehard fans alike. Her star power has not dwindled over the past 10 years. If anything, her fame and acclaim has only grown and flourished. But why is this? How did her brand survive a genre switch and continue to grow beyond it? What about Taylor Swift gives her staying power in a highly competitive industry?

Taylor Swift first came onto the country music scene back in 2006. She was 16 at the time. You probably remember how her second album single “Teardrops on My Guitar" was pretty much inescapable. By its nature, country music is niche and has a smaller audience compared to pop or hip-hop. Swift gained mass appeal because she was never just a country artist. While her songs had the hallmarks of country with violins and a drawl to her voice, the structure and lyrics were just as appealing to pop fans. Especially other teenagers like her. Her second album Fearless hit the top of both country and pop music charts. And she became the highest-selling country artist of 2008.

This fame and success didn't come out of talent. While no one can deny that Swift can write a decent song, her singing has often left much to be desired. She often had trouble staying on key and in tune while performing live. And she doesn't have massive vocal power like Cheryl Crow or Demi Lovato. But Swift has never claimed to be a talented singer. On several occasions, she has stressed that she is first and foremost a song writer. “Songwriting has always been the number one thing," Swift said in an interview with CBS This Morning in 2014. “If I didn't write, I wouldn't sing."

The key component of Taylor Swift's marketing and success is social media. All of her accounts are specifically tailored to present the cohesive image of a down-to-earth but classy young woman. She calls out haters on Twitter and interacts with fans on her Tumblr. She even creeps on her fans' Instagram stories and live streams. Recently, she took it a step further and released her own social media app.

Swift lets her fans into her life, which makes her relatable to her audience. But all of this is a crafted persona. Most of it may be true to herself, but a lot of it is caught up in promotion of her work. Still, she doesn't share absolutely everything online. Namely, her relationships. This secrecy is what leads to rampant speculation about what her new songs mean, given who she was dating at the time they were written.

Swift has also maintained a squeaky clean image over her career. Unlike other teenage stars, she hasn't had any public run ins with drugs or alcohol. The only controversies she has dealt with are dating rumors and break ups. And, oh yeah, that feud with Kanye West — which really only reinforces her public image. Swift often makes the conflict out as being attacked for her success because she is a woman. And her fans vehemently defend her every time something new comes up.

It's the unbreakable loyalty from her fan base that allowed Swift to completely change her sound. She had four full albums released as a country singer. In 2014, her album 1989 released under the pop category instead. To many, this change wasn't that surprising. Her country songs shared many of the same hallmarks as pop hits. Ultimately, the themes in her music have remained the same as when she first started out. Relationships, break ups, and all the happiness and heartaches that come with them.

Swift's loyal fanbase goes beyond listening to her new albums the second they release. For both 1989 and Reputation, her latest album was not accessible on any kind of music streaming service. Over 100 million people have a subscription to a service — the most popular being Spotify. These services infamously pay the artists minuscule amounts per each listen. Swift has taken a stand against this treatment by keeping her new music away. Despite this, Reputation has become 2017's highest selling album. All those Swifties pre-ordered copies or picked them up soon after the album's release.

Several pieces have claimed this success is due to a killer marketing strategy, but that strategy also played upon the loyalty and love Swift receives from her fan base. Fans freaked out when she went dark on her social media channels just prior to the first announcement of her new album. After seeing her so connected to her fans online, the silence was deafening. But no one thought she had abandoned them. If anything, the silence made her fans extremely excited for a potential announcement. And it got many, many websites talking about her strategy — giving free press for her upcoming album.

So what has made Swift a success? Cultivating and maintaining an image that appeals to a broad fan base and inspires loyalty and love from them with every turn.

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Taylor Swift's Rhode Island mansion is to die for

We wonder if Taylor Swift belted out You Belong with Me when she first laid eyes on her new pad?

Whether she did or not, Tay-Tay, was certainly quick to make the 11,000-square-foot, $17 million Rhode Island mansion her very own.

According to Us Magazine, the songstress negotiated the asking price of $20 million down to a more affordable $17.75.

You know, young 20-somethings and their money troubles.

Here's why Taylor Swift's Rhode Island mansion is the perfect pad:

Taylor Swift's Rhode Island mansion has LOTS of bathrooms

Luckily for Swift’s Girl Squad the palatial place boasts eight bedrooms and 10.5 bathrooms.

Makes your years in a one bedroom with 3 roommates seem a tad embarrassing, no?

The fabulous mansion sits atop five acres of lush land, which Zillow reports as being “the highest point in Watch Hill.”

Taylor Swift's Rhode Island mansion is close to the sea

It’s an easy 65 feet from the ocean—perfect for a frolick in a two-piece, swim in the water, and then a quick Shake it Off to dry.

The neighborhood is quaint and quiet, not a Hollywood-centric sort of area—but, it’s an affluent town that’s relatively private.

Or it least it was.

The front of the white home with black detail is elegant with a pillared front door, a spacious circular driveway, and enormous windows with ocean views.

Taylor Swift's Rhode Island mansion is classic New England

The décor is classic New England style.

If there’s any Blank Space, Swift is sure to fill it with plenty of fancy furniture and high-end tchotchkes.

Good for you Taylor. The mansion is sublime.

Although Kanye may want us to admire his home first.

Take a house tour of Taylor Swift’s Rhode Island mansion below—and check out other stars’ fabulous home here

Photos courtesy of Zillow and Trending Report.

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Taylor Swift's Rhode Island mansion

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Taylor Swift's Rhode Island mansion

taylor swift slut shaming hypocrisy rages on....and on...and...

Do as Taylor Swift says..... and not as Taylor Swift does.

Vogue recently invaded Tay-Tay's home for a probing round of 73 questions.

And, the Taylor Swift slut shaming hypocrisy was in full effect.

What do you wish you knew at 19

One of the 73 questions was, "What's the one thing you wish you knew at 19?"

26-year-old Swift, she of the perpetually sunny cover girl grin, suddenly turned dark.


You're gonna date just like a normal 20-something should be allowed to.

But you're going to be a national lightning rod for slut shaming.

From Swift’s perspective, the media has depicted her as a promiscuous heart breaker, jumping from boy-bander to socialite, to DJ, to whatever,

And she’s mighty pissed about all the trash talking.

But wait….Taylor Swift feels slut shamed? Isn’t she usually the one doing the slut shaming?

Don’t her songs, in fact, sing a different tune?

Taylor Swift slut shaming hypocrisy

Most of them cast her as a wholesome, virginal, innocent who is victimized by trampy home wreckers.

Her songs have thusly become fodder for endless gender role speculation.

This Her Campus article nails it:

Part of Taylor Swift’s shtick is to slut-shame in her lyrics.

In Better Than Revenge, she takes a swipe at a girl who apparently stole her boyfriend, “She’s an actress/But she’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress.”

The Queen of Wholesome often employs guilt-mongering tactics to put down the mean girl/cheerleader types who, she assures us, are more sexual than her.

Definitely NOT a virgin

Tumblr users have also noted Swift’s lyrical tendency to bash other women’s the sexuality, as in this post by Sherlocks:

As shown through her songs that feature comments about ‘the other woman’ this other woman is always sexually available, dresses provocatively, and is DEFINITELY NOT A VIRGIN.

Because obviously, a woman’s worth is based purely on the amount of sex she has had.

You've got two choices girls

Sady Doyle, of the feminist magazine Bitch, says Swift divides women into two camps:

Teen Girls of America, here are your choices: have sex and wind up broken and sad and feeling as if you’ve lost ‘everything you had,’ or wait until your untouched vagina accumulates enough charge to make you rich and famous.

Because your sexuality should never be an end in and of itself; it should be something you strategically employ to get what you want.

Yep, that about sums it up.

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taylor swift slut shaming hypocrisy rages on

Sir Ian McKellan revealed in a new interview that Taylor Swift had him removed from an apartment in New York after she bought the property.

Sir Ian was staying in the apartment owned by his friend Peter Jackson, director of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

Ironically, Sir Ian was thought to be a member of Swift's 'squad' of famous friends, many of whom were brought on stage during Taylor's current 1989 Tour. When he recited some Swift song lyrics on a video that went viral, Swift invited him and his friend Patrick Stewart to join the squad.

Swift is known to disarm those who would mock her by offering her fake self-serving friendship. Or perhaps she took the video as a great honor, much like she is welcoming an album of her songs covered by Ryan Adams.

Speaking to Gay Star News, when asked about being part of Taylor's squad, Sir Ian replied:

I’m not. When I was living in Peter Jackson’s apartment in New York, Taylor Swift bought it while I was there and I was thrown out before I wanted to leave! That hardly puts me in Taylor Swift’s team, does it?

Oops!  He continued:

She did ask me to appear with Patrick Stewart at her show in LA, but I had something else to do that night.

Well, despite her strategic friend-making efforts, Taylor can't always get what (or who) she wants.

On Monday, Miley Cyrus dissed Taylor's crew in an interview with the New York Times, saying:

I’m not trying to be in the squad. None of my friends are famous and not because of any other reason than I just like real people who are living real lives, because I’m inspired by them.

Amen, Miley. Call Sir Ian though; I think he'll inspire you.