New Releases

All the Easter Eggs in Taylor Swift's "The Man" Music Video

Swift transforms into the most manly of men for her new self-directed video.

Throughout her many years spent in the public eye, Taylor Swift has faced unimaginable scrutiny over both her professional and personal lives.

But the 30-year-old pop star is still chugging along, having released her seventh studio album, Lover, last year to generally favorable reviews. On one of the record's highlights, "The Man," Swift ponders how she might be perceived and spoken about if she were a man. To help bring that vision to life, she was made over into Tyler Swift—yes, that's really her in prosthetics—to play a macho, manspreading dude in the new music video for "The Man," which she directed herself.

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Swift is a known fan of subtle references in her material, and "The Man" comes full with a basket of Easter eggs. Here are just a few that we caught—knowing her, there are likely many more hidden in there.

Taylor of Wall Street

In the second verse, Swift sings: "I'd be just like Leo in St. Tropez." From commanding an office to being surrounded by scantily clad women on a boat, the music video draws a few visual parallels to The Wolf of Wall Street, in which Leonardo DiCaprio starred as infamous stockbroker Jordan Belfort.

MUSIC

Blood Cultures Release Magnetic Video "Broadcasting"

The mysterious New Jersey indie-electronica outfit pairs a vibrant and arresting music video with a cut from their latest album, Oh Uncertainty! A Universe Despairs.

Pouty Cowboy

In the wake of their 2019 LP Oh Uncertainty! A Universe Despairs, the New Jersey psych-pop group Blood Cultures has released their new video for "Broadcasting."

"Broadcasting" sounds massive in its electronic scope, melding distorted industrial indie-pop with the band's anxious lyrics. "When this ends the way you know it will / with a bang, will you be laughing still?" Blood Cultures asks in a far away falsetto, crafting a vibrant yet troubled sonic narrative to challenge the listener. The video, directed by Saleem Barbados, embraces that same kind of high-strung juxtaposition, featuring Bharatanatyam dancer Anjali Mehta as her evocative choreography plays out against the harsh squat buildings and corrugated metal of Brooklyn.

"I was raised in New Jersey, after my parents immigrated from Pakistan," Blood Cultures says of the track. "Growing up with one culture inside your home, and another one at school, in your community, and in media is a hard thing to navigate in terms of understanding who you are and where you belong, if anywhere. The struggle for identity is almost a guarantee for any first-generation-American, but when we present those struggles with pride, it becomes a lot easier to see that we're not alone in facing them; that these feelings are universal." Mehta's embodiment of the explorations in "Broadcasting" feels beautifully vital, deepening the song's questions of belonging and isolation in a magnetic visual dialogue.

Follow Blood Cultures online at Twitter | Facebook | Spotify

CULTURE

From Fake Allies to Gay Ambassadors: How Celebrities Celebrate Pride Month

Let's not get confused about what it means to be an ally.

Every Pride Month is a long overdue celebration that recognizes and embraces marginalized identities, combats histories steeped in oppression and violent hate crimes, and gives soulless, opportunistic capitalists a ready-made marketing campaign for all of June.

The corporatization of Pride Month is nothing new; throughout Pride's 50-year history, companies have capitalized on support from the LGBTQ+ community in attempts to increase profits. But in an age when celebrities are no more than brands, they cash in on Pride for publicity and monetary gain just as much as companies do. Thankfully, there are also true celebrity activists who are active members and allies of the queer community. With rates of hate crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals approaching all-time highs, let's not get confused about what it means to be an ally.

While we get to enjoy a full month of queer positivity, learn to identify which messages are about outreach and activism and which ones are just trying to sell Pride as a product. From the regal Neil Patrick Harris becoming a gay ambassador in Tel Aviv to the cave-dwelling Donald Trump diving below our expectations to sell his own Pride t-shirts, we've categorized celebrity celebrations of Pride Month by their true intentions.

CAPITALISM:

In honor of Pride, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband, Justin Mikita, opened a pop-up shop of their bow tie Company, The Tie Bar, in New York City. He announced its grand opening on Instagram, posting, "The @tietheknotorg pride pop up is officially open! Come check it out and pick up all your pride merch henney!!! Shout out to @geronimo who created the fab balloon installation! ❤️ 🌈."

It's lovely that he and his husband share a love of bow ties; but, in the press, Ferguson encouraged customers to shop for their "Pride needs," as if supporting the LGBTQ+ community requires rainbow-themed accessories. "We have been wanting to do something big for Pride for years," he said, "so I am so excited for this collaboration with The Tie Bar building the go-to collection and location for all your Pride needs."

As a concept, Pride merchandise is a frankly gross commodification of LGBTQ+ support, especially considering that most of the profits from selling rainbow merchandise don't fund support for the community. However, while Ferguson and Mikita get free publicity from their pop-up shop, they do donate a portion of the profits to Tie the Knot, a non-profit organization that fights for global marriage equality.

Lance Bass and LeeAnne Locken say to celebrate the Stonewall Uprising with vodka. The 40-year-old NSYNC singer and Real Housewives of Dallas star participated in the 2019 Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic in Key West. On Instagram, he posted an ad for Stoli's limited edition "Spirit of Stonewall" bottle, decorated with Lisa Marie Thalhammer's mural of the same name, located in Key West. Bass wrote, "Checking out the 'Spirit of Stonewall' mural in #KeyWest painted by @lisamariestudio this week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising! #ad You can check out the art on @Stoli's new limited-edition Spirit of Stonewall bottle too – available on ReserveBar now! #stolipride #LoudandClear #keywestcocktailclassic."

Following up last year's Harvey Milk-themed bottles, Stoli will donate a portion of its "Spirit of Stonewall" sales to the Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, which combats bigotry and intolerance through awareness campaigns, educational programming, fundraising and candid public dialogue. That's great and all, but with companies using "cause marketing" to boost sales since 1983, most companies put low caps and strict stipulations on how much they end up donating; and they always end up profiting more than they give from their good-will marketing.

LOVE:

Neil Patrick Harris says he's not a gay icon. But he and husband David Burtka recently traveled to Israel to celebrate Tel Aviv Pride with 250,000 other attendees. The June march is the largest pride parade in the Middle Eastern region, and Harris was named this year's International Ambassador. He took to Instagram to express his gratitude: "Pride. Love. Life. Thank you for having us as International Ambassadors #telavivpride, the outpouring of positivity was truly overwhelming. #grateful @dbelicious"

Afterwards, Harris told The Associated Press that he has "no interest in being a representative or an ambassador for anything except my kids." He added, "I'm just a guy who is married to another guy and we have kids and we live our lives I would say as 'normally' as one would. But I think normal is a very subjective term, especially in the gay community." He added, "It's nice to appreciate where we've come from," he said. "I'm very grateful that I live in a time and in a world where the needle has moved a lot because of others and I'm happy to promote the positivity of it all."

Like Lance Bass, Jonathan Van Ness is also celebrating Pride with vodka—but the difference is that Van Ness' partnership with Smirnoff reflects the company's long-standing and transparent commitment to advocating for LGBTQ+ issues. This year, Smirnoff's "Welcome Home" campaign includes a digital video series, an immersive pop-up store, and limited edition bottles featuring the word "Welcome" in six different languages and a "Love wins" design that features photographs of real same-sex couples who submitted their photos for inclusion. $1 from each bottle is donated to the Human Rights campaign.

The beloved non-binary member of the Queer Eye foursome joins Alyssa Edwards and Laverne Cox in partnering with Smirnoff. Van Ness says, "When we first started [working together] Smirnoff had pledged to contribute $1.5 million to the HRC by 2021, which I'm was so excited about, and [Smirnoff is] staying true to that and I just think that is amazing." On Instagram, he's posted his own message of Pride ahead of hosting Smirnoff's "House of Pride' experience in New York City from June 26 to June 28. He writes, "Happy Pride loves 💕💙 Time to celebrate with your LGBTQ fam & allies alike to celebrate the diversity that makes everyone stronger! 🌈🌈💕"

HELL:

Now that Taylor Swift's finally gotten political after years of silence, she's trying to "cash in on her LGBTQ+ fanbase." Her latest single, "You Need to Calm Down," so blatantly panders to the queer community that it tokenizes support of the LGBTQ+ community as a trendy fad. With cringey, careless rhymes like, "Why are you mad when you could be GLAAD," Swift's lazy wannabe gay anthem is insultingly blasé about the dire encroachment on queer people's rights. Additionally, Swift has effectively minimized Pride as a fashion statement and queerbaited her fans with clear allusions to bisexuality in the video's imagery and her costumes.

To her credit, Swift has taken legitimate steps towards LGBTQ+ activism, such as posting an open letter to Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander urging him to support the Equality Act, a landmark bill that would legally protect American LGBTQ+ people from discrimination.

But, still, "You Need to Calm Down" is such a horrendous song.


At no one's request, Joe Biden visited Stonewall this week. He appeared at the iconic bar and bought a round of drinks. Again, members of the queer community disapproved of being treated like a bargaining chip for publicity and personal gain. As Left Voice wrote, "This is the type of allyship that Democrats have always given and will always give: support for marginalized groups when it is politically popular and complicity in their oppression when support is no longer politically popular."

As one Twitter user wrote, "Get the fuck out of Stonewall you aren't an ally Biden. You voted for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that hurt the LGBTQ community. Full fucking Stop. #JoeBiden #NeverJoe"


Trump sells Pride T-Shirts now. The back reads, "Make America Great Again," and the website's description says, "Show your pride and your support for Trump with this exclusive equality tee."

Well, when he wasn't detaining migrants in over 200 concentration camps at the U.S.-Mexico border (where 24 people have died in ICE custody due to the inhumane conditions), maybe Trump fingerpainted this shitty logo himself and he's really proud of it.

In closing, don't be fooled by fake allies, always take a shot when it's endorsed by Jonathan Van Ness, and don't let Joe Biden buy you one. Happy Pride.

MUSIC

Taylor Swift Only Sees the Glitter in LGBTQ+

While her intentions are well-meaning, the "You Need to Calm Down" video is a missed opportunity to highlight the narratives represented by the queer icons.

Taylor Swift telling us to calm down.

Just when Taylor Swift gives us hope, she lets us down.

Her latest music video features almost every mainstream queer celebrity you could imagine. While her intentions are well-meaning, the video is a missed opportunity to highlight the narratives represented by the queer icons. Instead of throwing a trans flag at Laverne Cox, Swift could center the video on the activist and her perspective rather than on her own.

Taylor Swift - You Need To Calm Down www.youtube.com

The Todrick Hall production capitalized solely on the culture of the LGBTQ+ community— celebrating it and taking the song a bit too literally. But uplifting these voices means more than a feature in a video or tagging them on social media.

The music video highlights the visual aesthetic that "signifies" gay culture. There are rainbows and dancing and glitter. We follow a white cis, straight woman parade around with her LGBTQ+ friends. It's a party, a celebration of being yourself, fighting against "barbaric" homophobes with love and positivity. Yet, here, the biggest takeaway from this video is that at last, pop's biggest feud between Taylor Swift and Katy Perry is over. They embrace in the video— which will be sure to cause conversation. It overshadows the video's intent. It's also marketing genius.

The video ends with an image of text advocating for the Equality Act. The Equality Act was passed by the House of Representatives but now sits idle in the Senate. The law would extend civil rights protections to people of any sexual orientation and gender identity. Swift urged supporters to sign her petition asking for Senate support. The petition already has over 200,000 signatures, converting the single's success into political support for LGBTQ+ issues.

While Taylor Swift has contributed to the LGTBQ+ community through donations and recent political support, she's misinterpreted what an ally should be. Leading up to the video's release, Swift addressed a rumor that she would share a kiss with Perry:

"That is ABSOLUTELY false. To be an ally is to understand the difference between advocating and baiting. Anyone trying to twist this positivity into something it isn't needs to calm down. It costs zero dollars to not step on our gowns."

It's difficult to forget the days when Taylor Swift refused to comment on politics, to the point she threatened to sue over white supremacy allegations. Now, she's attempting to be a part of the conversation while lacking the language to be effective. What Swift cannot seem to grasp is that advocating for and offering a platform to the LBGTQ+ community should be greater than featuring them in a music video. Uplifting their stories and normalizing their experiences goes a lot further than a straight woman's celebration of pride. Expecting an immediate embrace from LGBTQ+ members after years of silence and quiet donations is asking for more credit than she deserves. It takes time to earn the trust of queer people, and just maybe, Taylor Swift should take several seats and listen.

New Releases

Taylor Swift Finally Has Something to Say

With an awkward (albeit successful) transition from country to pop, the star struggled to grow and change with fans, but now Swift is rediscovering her voice

Wee see you, Taylor.

Image Source: Getty

After a decade of heart-wrenching, soul-shaking, and groundbreaking love songs and breakup anthems, Taylor Swift is finally singing about something bigger than herself.

Whether the criticism for being apolitical wore her down or she needed to rebrand to stay relevant by cultivating a newer, younger fan base, we're relieved. Swift's Reputation era left some fans disappointed. They expected her to tackle the media and her "reputation," but instead, Swift victimized herself and gave us nothing new or lasting. Her latest rollout is plastered with pastel rainbows, making some question if Swift is hinting at something about her sexuality, especially since her most recent single, "ME!," was a rumored coming out. With her new single, "You Need to Calm Down," Swift is finally beginning to break down her walls, calling out the negative nellies of the world and celebrating self-expression.

An anti-hate anthem isn't a new idea for Swift, but here she dedicates a whole verse to uplifting her LGBTQ+ fans. The notable verse smoothly articulates homophobia as a waste of energy: "Why are you mad when you could be GLAAD? / Sunshine on the street at the parade / But you would rather be in the dark ages / Makin' that sign must've taken all night." The sly spelling of GLAAD could go unnoticed, but her lyric "Shade never made anybody less gay" doesn't beat around the bush. She even celebrates gender expression, gutsily asking in the refrain, "Can you just not step on his gown?" "You Need to Calm down" is the adult "Mean": Swift uses the external instead of the personal to explore societal hate, effectively grounding her message in everyday examples.

For the first time in three albums, a Taylor Swift pre-album single is intriguing and insightful. While expectations were low after "ME!," "You Need to Calm Down" delivers a Swift we've never heard before: a grown woman speaking her mind. At last, she's hit her cool-girl stride, effortlessly blending vocals with spoken word components. With an awkward (albeit successful) transition from country to pop, the star struggled to grow and change with fans, but now Swift is rediscovering her voice. She's no longer the raw, thumping country-rock adolescent; she's an adult using her platform to speak out about greater issues. Hopefully, this Taylor sticks around.

popcrush.com

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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