Paul Slansky
16 min readOct 20, 2022

Maybe This Thing is a Masterpiece

In the refrigerator light

Can’t you see that I’m the one / Who understands you? / Been here all along / So, why can’t you see? / You belong with me

I decided early on that I didn’t need to pay attention to Taylor Swift. What, really, could this teenage country singer have to say to someone whose musical taste was solidly in the Stones/Kinks/Dylan/Petty realm? Did I need a new LeAnn Rimes?

The first time I was really aware of her was that iconic cultural moment when Kanye barged on stage as she was receiving the Best Female Video award at the 2009 VMAs. Kanye, as one does, grabbed the mic out of her hands and bellowed his humble opinion that the award should have gone to Beyoncé.

It’s a testament to the degradation of our national discourse to recall that, at the time, Ye’s boorish behavior was properly condemned for its vulgarity — President Obama called him “a jackass” — while today, far more disgusting transgressions, by far more dangerous people, are accepted with equanimity. But I digress.

I listen to KCSN 88.5, the best station I’ve heard in my many decades in L.A. — here, see why — which apparently deemed Taylor Swift not hip enough to be played by them. In the twelve years that the station has existed in its current format, I was not once exposed to her music there. I’m sure I’d heard some of her hits playing in the background at various moments in my life, but I wasn’t really listening to them. As her career took off and she entered her twenties, I was aware of her mainly for her penchant for serial dating famous young guys, breaking up with them, and writing songs about them. I felt no need to seek out those songs.

Still, I began associating her name with good things. She sued some DJ in Denver in connection with his having grabbed her ass during a drop-in to his station. (For a dollar. Just for the principle of it. And she won.) The experience completely politicized her, and whereas she’d been avowedly apolitical — she’d told David Letterman, “It’s my right to vote, but it’s not my right to tell other people what to do” — she suddenly came out strongly against Tennessee’s lunatic Republican Senate candidate (and, horrifically, now Senator) Marsha Blackburn. In the 2020 Netflix doc Miss Americana, you can watch her coming to terms with…