Global superstar Taylor Swift has deftly been showing haters the door since around 2010 when she released Mean, an iconic banjo-powered critique of her detractors. In her latest song, You Need to Calm Down (the video went up Monday morning), she's turned her attention to highlighting the hate being thrown around the internet between fans of female pop artists.
It's nothing new to see brilliant women being compared as though they're inadvertent players in some kind of anti-feminist Top Trumps game. But frequenters of Stan Twitter, where the most ardent music fans hang out, can sometimes take things to a whole new level.
"Enjoy your problematic fave," is a popular refrain. "Sis can't even sing," an average retort. Then there are the "retweet for Ariana Grande, like for Beyoncé," popularity contests and their many variants. And just like that, appreciation for female musicians and their vast bodies of work is reduced to an arbitrary, inexact and petty form of one-upmanship.
These examples are on the vanilla end of the spectrum, but hint at the specific brand of aggression between fans that perpetuates the myth that there's only so much room at the top for women and a fight to the death is required to decide the winner. But as Swift, one of pop's true superstars, points out in You Need To Calm Down, this kind of thinking is just a myth.
Most people's biggest takeaway from Swift's song (released Friday) is the overt stand she takes against homophobia. But she's also inserted another important lesson into the lyrics that shouldn't be overlooked, and that's to stop pitting successful female artists against one another online.
"And we see you over there on the internet/Comparing all the girls who are killing it/But we figured you out/We all know now we all got crowns/You need to calm down," she chants in the bridge. There are no losers when women succeed, Swift seems to suggest. Except perhaps those who are getting caught up in dragging each other's faves online.
In the music video, Swift takes this message one step further. On a stage decorated with a "Pop Queen Pageant" banner stands a lineup of the world's biggest female pop artists (represented by drag artists): Nicki Minaj, Adele, Cardi B, Katy Perry, Beyoncé, Adele, Lady Gaga and of course Taylor Swift herself. RuPaul in his role as judge proceeds onto the stage with a crown on a velvet cushion, but rather than presenting to one star or another, he instead flings it into the air with glee.
The video ends with former adversaries Perry and Swift (the actual pop stars, not their doppelgangers) -- dressed as a burger and fries respectively -- hugging it out with peace-at-last energy. This is more than a public reconciliation -- it's two role models setting an example for the rest of us. It also reiterates that while fans might be out there trying to pit females stars against one another, most of them are actually pretty good friends, rendering stan wars pointless and unnecessary.
This isn't a plea from Swift to her fans specifically (), but to all fans of female artists generally to celebrate and support women succeeding in the genre, rather than relentlessly dragging one another and creating drama where there is none.
You Need To Calm Down is here to serve as your official reminder that pop queendom, like so many other things in life, is not a zero-sum game. By all means worship and support your fave, but don't forget: They ALL got crowns, don't step on their gowns.