I’ve got another confession to make! I love Taylor Swift. (See what I did there? I used the opening line of a Foo Fighters song to try to make the second sentence sound cooler.)
But, it’s true. I love Taylor Swift. I’ve actually seen her in concert. Before kids, Amy and I enjoyed going to Vegas for a weekend here and there to see fun concerts that we would never go to if we had to sit in Bay Area traffic to get there. Who could pass up Taylor Swift at the Mandalay Bay? Not me. She was way better than Styx or Def Leppard (sorry, but lead singer can’t hit any notes anymore). Anyway, Taylor actually puts on a pretty good concert. My one complaint was the when Amy left me alone at our seats to go get food — there I was, a “single” older guy all alone in the middle of a Taylor Swift concert surrounded by 13 year old girls singing their little hearts out about when they were “15” or about tears on a guitar or something like that. That felt a little creepy. I wanted to hold up a sign that read “MY WIFE WILL BE RIGHT BACK, I SWEAR I’M MARRIED.”
Some of you might respect me for admitting to a guilty pleasure (I like Katy Perry too, by the way). Some of you might hate Taylor Swift for whatever reason. Maybe it’s all of her celebrity friends (seriously, who can track all of that), or that she tries way too hard to be cool or maybe you find it fun to hate. I don’t get that. Not liking Taylor Swift is like not liking lollipops.
So let me tell you my real reason for loving Taylor Swift.
It’s because Alex, our almost five year old, loves her. It didn’t start out that way, however. For Amy’s birthday, I made a video compilation of photos for her. As a (sort of) joke, I included Taylor’s song “I Knew You Were Trouble (when you walked in)” as the soundtrack for photos of when Amy and I first met (how’s that for witty and clever). I edited the video during the day while Alex was around so he had to listen to the song a lot. When I finally showed the video to Amy, Alex yelled “turn that off, it’s so annoying.” It seems that Alex had learned the first rule of pop songs — they can be great for the first 50 times you hear it, but then it invades your brain like that huge worm thing in Star Trek II “Wrath of Khan” and you can’t get it out. Fast forward a few days, we’re all sitting in our family room and Ryan, the 18-month old, is showing off some new dance moves. I quickly grab my phone to put on a song and just kind of randomly put on “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Ok, check that, I put on the song because I really just wanted to annoy Alex and this seemed like a perfectly good way to see how mad I could make him. Hey, don’t judge. I put up with all his crap all day long, it’s ok every now and then for a parent to poke his kid. Of course my plan backfired. While Ryan twerked away, something else happened. Alex decided he loved the song, and started trying to sing it, mostly just getting the chorus “Trouble, trouble, trouble.”
At this point you might be wondering why this is such a big deal and why I am writing about this. Your kid was probably running around the house a year ago screaming “Let it Go” or “For the first time in forever…” I get that. But, this is Alex’s first pop song. I remember so little about when I was his age, but for whatever reason, I can visualize myself sitting in the car on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn or driving to King’s Plaza Mall singing “Baby come back, you can blame it all on me, I was wrong, and I just can’t live without you.” (I was a 70s child.) And a first pop song is special for a kid who has had major speech issues (that’s a blog for another day) – a kid we weren’t sure would ever talk, let alone sing. Not too long ago, when Alex was almost three, Amy and I laid in bed and asked each other if he would ever say more than one word at a time… if he would ever say “mommy” clearly.
Pop songs are hard to sing for anyone who struggles with language. They go fast and sometimes the words are hard to decipher. But the repetition helps. At first, besides the relatively easy chorus, Alex started mangling the main line — “I knew you were trouble when you walked in” was “I knew you were trouble when you came to the door.” (See, he got it conceptually.) After he figured that out, every time he heard the song, he added another line. “So shame on me now.” And now, a month into his Taylor Swift obsession he gets just about the entire song, and I have to say there is something too cute about a 5-year old boy singing “And the saddest fear comes creeping in, that you never loved me, or her, or anyone, or anything, YEAH!!!!!.
Now, every night at 6:30pm, Alex yells out “it’s time for Taylor Swift dance party” and we all go upstairs and get to dance/jump on the bed to “I Knew You Were Trouble.” It never gets old — well the song gets old (sorry Taylor) but watching Alex “dance” and Ryan jump uncontrollably on the bed is worth its weight in platinum albums. Every night, I try a different song which I accidentally downloaded onto my phone — White Horse (no go), Shake it Off (nope), Style (not a chance)….every time, screams for “I Knew You Were Trouble” drown out the attempt at a new song. So it goes on and on. He knows the song by heart at this point — we all do.
The funny thing about Taylor is that she stays with you. I worry about Abigail who gave everything she had to that boy in high school when she was fifteen. Where is she now? Is she over that guy? I find myself listening to Taylor when driving in my car — my phone keeps accidentally downloading more and more of her catalogue. She’s coming to town in August and I might accidentally get tickets. It makes Alex so happy to hear her voice, how can I not be a fan.
Just the other day, we had a major breakthrough. We went upstairs for our nightly dance party and Alex said these magical words: “Daddy, put on You Belong With Me.” Absolutely kid, with pleasure (and thank god).
We smiled, we sang, we danced around the room as we taught him the words to his new favorite song. And he sings “been here all along; so, why can’t you see, you belong with me” followed closely by a “Mommy, Daddy, I’m getting it!!”
Thank you, Taylor. Thank you for teaching our boys to dance. Thank you for giving Alex the confidence to sing. I got a blank space, and I wrote your name.