It's Okay Taylor Swift Is Skipping Houston

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Never mind a pop star, there is probably not a single more overexposed human being on the planet right now than Taylor Swift. So why do so many people have a problem with her skipping Houston -- at least at first -- on next year's "1989" tour?

Easy. Swift is one of the most approachable celebrities in the history of fame, the perpetual girl next door who has just been elected prom queen for life with the release of her latest album, 1989. Sunday the Hollywood Reporter predicted the album could sell approximately 1.3 million copies in its first week, the most since Eminem's The Eminem Show 12 years ago. Put another way, it will immediately become the biggest-selling album of 2014 after only one week at retail, trailing only 2013's Frozen soundtrack. (And not for long.)

So when her hordes of local fans feel snubbed, it stings pretty badly indeed. Have a look at just a few of their Twitter reactions Monday; even allowing for the usual social-media hyperbole, it's an eye-opener.

There are dozens more; it's almost a blessing that our publishing software balks at embedding emojis. It's almost enough to make you to forget Swift, aka the J.J. Watt of pop music, was just here last May.

But even back then Swift was just a bright red thread in the complex skein of pop culture, interwoven with Iron Man 3, Barbara Walters' retirement, Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy, the series finale of The Office and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky." Since the release of 1989, Taylor Swift is pop culture, part of The Machine. She is omnipresent and omnipotent, and her dominance of both mainstream and social media is both admirable and unnerving.

Is there a talk show she hasn't been on in the last week, or a major publication that hasn't given her significant real estate? Within the media an opinion on 1989 has rapidly become mandatory, a club whose membership gets less exclusive every day. Outlets expected to weigh in on the album have now trickled down from The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today and NPR to, well, we in the alt-weekly world. The Guardian published a handy article on Halloween entitled, "We read every Taylor Swift thinkpiece so you don't have to," allowing the august UK/online portal to act as both aggregator and sly commentator. (Trick and treat!)

So perhaps the most frustrating part of this whole pop-news cycle is that aesthectically, 1989 is excellent. It's clever and poised, the work of a talented young woman who is in her creative prime and knows it, but is also smart enough to not be too smug about it. The songs believe in the notion of old-fashioned, hand-holding (if ultimately short-lived) romance, even as they subtly but steadily snap back at Swift's critics. It's classy where so much contemporary pop music is, for lack of a better word, trashy.

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Plus, for those of us who grew up on the '80s synth-pop of a-ha, Tears For Fears and "Forever Young," well...there's a lot to like. Even though you can totally feel Swift and her collaborators pushing your buttons over and over again, and practically see them wielding their puppet strings over your shoulder, they're so good at it that it doesn't matter. You're entertained whether you really want to be or not.

Then, almost on cue, Monday Swift also announced she is pulling all her music from Spotify. Now that she has wiped out all those sales records, she has the audacity to decide she's not going to let people listen to her music practically for free anymore. On the surface it seems like a sour note in Swift's campaign to become as beloved as Beyonce, but only from the point of view that she owes us anything, when it's actually the other way around.

People enjoy feeling like they belong to something, or someone -- which sounds a little like one of Swift's songs, come to think of it. And the one thing you can't get on YouTube or Spotify is the experience of watching Swift perform in person, and of communing with thousands of fellow fans. Even sitting in the back row of the upper deck at Arlington's AT&T Stadium still counts as seeing her "live."

So maybe that's why Monday's news rankles so much. Pop's reigning belle of the ball has decided she'd rather dance with the rest of the country (and most of Europe) than with Houston. On top of losing so many other choice concerts to Austin and Dallas over the years, and so many great musicians to Austin and points beyond, of course it hurts.

It could even be seen as another symptom of Houston's ongoing Rodney Dangerfield syndrome, the feeling that no matter how many people move here or jobs are created or Top 10 lists we make will ever be enough to make the People Who Matter in New York and Austin and L.A. respect us.

But let's not get too carried away here. Relax. Once that machine of Swift's gets cranked up, it'll be running or quite a while. She'll be here eventually. (Don't rule out RodeoHouston 2015, for one.) If there's anything Swift has shown she hates more than all those disappointing ex-boyfriends in her songs, or the haters she skewers so expertly on 1989, it's disappointing her fans in real life. Even the ones here in Houston.


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