March 10, 2011
I’ve never been a big fan of Taylor Swift because of two reasons. One, I don’t find any personal relevance in the adolescent perspective that she usually writes from. And two, I don’t care for her vocal style.
Go figure that she writes what’s probably her most adolescent song since “Picture to Burn” and directly answers criticisms that she can’t sing in the third verse, and the end result is my favorite thing she’s done to date.
Seriously. I want to go buy the album now. I realize that the song was inspired by those who’ve criticized her talent more than her work. But just like “Not Ready to Make Nice” was a direct response to death threats over a political statement but tapped into something more universal, “Mean” serves a larger purpose as well. It puts into song that feeling of being disrespected and insulted by someone with more power or a larger platform than you, for no other reason than they don’t like you.
The image I always use in my head is one of inner light. When that light shines bright, it offends those who’ve had their light go out. Nothing frustrates people like that more than someone whose light is completely resistant to every attempt made to extinguish it. It brings out their inner meanness.
Swift’s message to those on the receiving end is that those who will put you down may have power over you now, but it’s limited by time, place, and your own self-awareness.
I’m glad that this song exists. There isn’t nearly enough civility and kindness in the world, and some people really are just mean. I can’t think of another song that articulates the distinction between honesty and cruelty so well. It does it in a very adolescent way, with a healthy dose of snark-ridden contempt, but since mean people usually haven’t evolved beyond adolescence in the first place, such an approach seems wickedly appropriate.
Written by Taylor Swift