Traditionally, the music people like “says a lot about who they are and their values, where they fit in,” Covach said in an interview with The Washington Post. “You knew everything you needed to know about a person from their records. … That’s a really big deal” in the research about popular music.
But creeps aside, there’s plenty of evidence that men of a certain age like Swift’s music for legitimate reasons. These fellows, however, bear the burden of society’s ill will. An older gent discovered to be a Swiftie risks being ridiculed by his friends, his wife, his kids or his employees. If one of these happens to be a writer, the fellow may be publicly shamed, as was the husband of writer Erin Jean.
“This weekend,” she wrote — in a piece headlined “Men Love T. Swift, What’s Up With That?” — “my heavily tattooed, motorcycle riding, Budweiser drinking husband mentioned that he now has a thing for Taylor Swift. Say what?”
It’s still odd enough for a man, even a 20- or 30-something, to admit to liking Swift that buying tickets for her concerts requires excuses. He’s taking his daughter, for example. Or someone else wants to go, certainly not him. Or his girlfriend wants to go.
“So the 1989 tour is coming up,” wrote a purported guy on Reddit, “and I’m lucky enough to be going out with a girl that loves Swift, so I’ll be able to go and see her live and it not be weird.”
Men who like Swift are still mostly in the closet — in need of “Swiftamine,” as a “Saturday Night Live” sketch put it, to cure them of the shock they feel at discovering their predilection. When they come out, they’re in need of a good rationale for critics.
Here are five media-tested ideas, besides the obvious “I like her music,” for what men can say when asked why they are Taylor Swift fans.
1. She’s a role model for daughters — unlike, say, Miley Cyrus. “One day I was sitting with my daughter, Kim, who is nearly eight, watching a kids’ pop music show on TV,” a professional musician, Mark Hayes, wrote in the Irish Independent. “Amid the usual trendy dreck, something leaped out at me … something you’ve probably heard, something called Shake It Off. The video was fun, the song was a catchy mix of brass and vocal melodies, and I liked the message, which could be paraphrased as ‘Be yourself and don’t let the bastards grind you down.’ A fine lesson for a little girl making her way in the world, I thought.”
2. She’s sexy, but not selling sex — unlike, say, Miley Cyrus. A grown man can watch Swift without blushing in the presence of his children, spouse or partner. After quizzing her tattooed husband, Jean concluded Swift’s ability to “remain girl next door-ish and maintain an innocence or realness about her … makes her desirable to men, even scruffy, Vans wearing, punk rock listening men.” In other words, the singer “has managed to nail edginess without crossing over into slutty, drug-addicted, prostitute land. Miley, take notes.”
“Whether you’re looking at it from a political or a primal point of view,” Sam Parker wrote in Esquire UK, “Taylor’s unconventional insistence on keeping her kit on is rather refreshing. While her contemporaries fellate hammers, get down to some faux-lesbian writhing or just release entire songs about their backsides, the pornification of music videos extends no further than flashing a bit of leg in some cute dresses [Blank Space] or wearing totally narrative-appropriate leotards [Shake It Off] in Taylor’s world.
“And yet, of course, she is still sexy – just in way that makes you wish you could date her, rather than in way that makes you feel the need to take a cold shower and fret about the world we’ve created for our children.”
3. Her lyrics speak to me. Swift makes grown men think about their relationships, past and present. While her earlier albums were about teenagers living at home, by the time of “Stay, Stay, Stay,” she was writing about grownups living together in apartments.
“I’ve taken any song that relates to my life and played it over and over again,” wrote a man identified in New York magazine only as Stephen, 27. “All these songs are related to my life, to my little relationships and romances. There is this song called ‘Holy Ground,’ and it talks about everywhere [Taylor] went with this guy, where they first met and first kissed. Every girl I’ve ever been in love with, everywhere I met them or had a moment with them, is a special place to me. Taylor Swift and I, our issues aren’t exactly the same, but it crosses over gender stuff.”
“I like her because I think of past relationships,” wrote Ketin, a 24-year-old consultant, in New York. “Her perspective is told from the female side, but the dilemmas always are on both sides. I can listen to one of her songs and be like, Oh yeah, that’s like that high-school girlfriend.”
That’s perfectly legit, said Covach, the scholar of pop music. “There could be a kind of general appeal that has nothing to do with anything weird,” Covach said. “Not so much wishing to be with Taylor Swift but thinking about what it’s like to be that young, at that stage. If you look at young love or young sexuality, it’s possible to look at that and remember the good old days … without it being in any way negative or destructive.”
4. We need to spend time with our children. “If not for my seventeen year old daughter,” wrote Brett Baker in Chicagonow, “I’d probably never listen to Taylor Swift and probably never miss her either. But my daughter likes her. And last night we got 1989 and went to the basement and listened to it together. … I told my daughter I wanted to listen to the album so I could write a blog post about it. But really I just thought it’d be fun to spend some time with her, just the two of us, enjoying something she was excited about. I was right.”
Disclosure: The author was recently ridiculed by his son for listening to Taylor Swift on his iPhone and used a sixth excuse: “It’s great exercise music.”