Taylor Swift’s latest track, You Need To Calm Down, and its accompanying video has taken the world by storm, trending at #1 on YouTube., with over 20 million views. This might not seem abnormal for the Queen of Pop and the first artist to have four albums sell over one million copies within the first week of release on the Billboard 200. But this track is different. Unlike her usual catchy anthems of self love or anger about various feuds such as Look What You Made Me Do she has come out with an all-singing, all-dancing Pride anthem, conveniently released in the middle of Pride Month.
It is hard to deny how catchy the song is, and the music video is hugely aesthetically pleasing and fun to watch. Directed by Swift herself, the video features 29 celebrity cameos such as Ru Paul, Laverne Cox, the Queer Eye guys, Ellen DeGeneres, Billy Porter and Todrick Hall. Rainbow flags, rainbow outfits and glitter are in abundance, and the overly-saturated bright colours further promote the celebratory atmosphere. Gay marriage, the Queer Eye boys sipping tea, men in drag and Ru Paul handing out a crown are sprinkled throughout the video, highlighting various aspects and members of the LGBTQ community. These references are not just included in the video but in the lyrics too, as Swift references GLAAD, the charity aimed at promoting LGBTQ equality through changing the perceived narrative, whilst also ‘throwing shade’ at anti-equality protesters. She sings ‘Sunshine on the street at the parade/but you would rather be in the dark age’ – it is the protesters who she repeatedly tells ‘you need to calm down’. The final frame of the video features yellow text on a pink background, reading ‘‘let’s show our pride by demanding that, on a national level, our laws truly treat all of our citizens equally. Please sign my petition for Senate support of the Equality Act on Change.org’.
The equality agenda of the track and video is clear, and it has already had a positive effect. GLAAD has already seen an increase of donations, and its popularity on social media continues to spread awareness about the LGBTQ community and the discimination it faces.
However, some have argued that Swift – who up until now has been notoriously apolitical – is capitalising on the pink pound and the popularity of the queer movement amongst millennials to gain fans and improve her image. She has been wrapped up in various feuds in the last few years, between Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry to name just a few and this is being seen as an attempt to clean up her image. Indeed, the video is used as a platform to end her feud with Perry as they are seen hugging during the food fight at the end, which has not gone down well with some fans who are angry about her equating her own career struggles with those of the LGBTQ community.
Moreover, she has been accused of promoting stereotypes, particularly with regards to the anti-equality protesters who feature throughout being of an obvious class. Fans have been quick to point out that homophobes are not just bible belt American Christians but appear in all aspects of society, and using this stereotype is extremely unhelpful and reductive.
Fans have mixed reviews about the song and video, with many tweeting outpourings of love and pride over the video and others tweeting anger at the way it has been done. However, it cannot be denied that whatever her deeper intention, she is attempting to use her platform to promote equality, and her level of fame may will likely mean the petition gains signatures and is addressed in congress.
Click here to see her change.org petition.