Millennial Hustle

Millennial Hustle: Akpanoluo Etteh

When I sat down to write this introduction, it took me an embarrassingly long time to remember the when, where, and how I met my friend Akpanoluo U Etteh II, or Ak for short. I’ve spent time with the 31-year-old data engineer and music salon founder in a myriad of different situations: a fashion week soirée in Soho, lunch at an upscale bistro on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, even a get-together at my sorority house in rural Tennessee, just to name a few. Because of this, I sometimes forget the humble, and somewhat ordinary, origins of our friendship—a casual meeting at a house party hosted by his then-roommate and my college friend at their Brooklyn apartment one sweltering summer evening back in 2012.

Ak still lives in the Williamsburg neighborhood, only a few blocks away from where we first met. We’ve kept in touch as I’ve moved further and further away from the L train—first to areas south of the Gowanus Canal, then a few thousand miles west to Los Angeles, where I currently reside. Ak continues to be one of the most brilliant and fascinating people I know, equally versed in data logistics as he is in choral a capella arrangements, gastronomic delights, or nuanced perspectives on hot-button political topics. Read on for more about how this millennial cleverly navigates two seemingly disparate career paths—and gets to do a shit ton of really cool things along the way:

Could you describe your job? I’m the Director of Data Products at Accordant Media.

Did you go to college, and if so, what is your degree in? I have a bachelor of science in psychology on the behavioral neuroscience track from Yale.

What is your favorite part of your job? The company I work with [Accordant Media] focuses on programmatic advertising. Programmatic advertising is the automated placement of ads online. When the field of internet advertising began, ads were sold in bulk for specific sites (i.e. 1,000 ads to the New York Times in August for $5), but sophisticated exchanges from Google, Facebook, AppNexus, and others allow ads to be targeted more specifically (i.e. no more than three ads in a single week to a user X, who has visited www.ford.com, at $0.005 a pop when they visit a list of sites we’ve approved to place ads on).

The insane quantity of data at my disposal to analyze is my favorite part of the job. We have data on every ad we place: to which domains, to whom we served those ads (via a de-identified cookie ID), and how much we paid for each individual ad; every page users visit on our brands’ websites; and a sample of the entire programmatic marketplace—a view of which sites are offering up spots on their pages for ads to be placed.

These three major data sources combined create a powerful tool that we use to target ads with more precision, avoid giving users too many ads for the same brand—which is annoying!—and inform clients on how well their ads are performing. I help to build and improve products that allow us to do this, which always presents new, intricate challenges.

What is the weirdest task you’ve ever had to do for your job? Because there are so many interlocking systems to make everything run, and because we provide clients with such precise detail on their ads, discrepancies can sometimes be a bitch to figure out. I recently worked on tweaking one of our analytical models to include custom data for a client, which messed up the entire model. I spent three months going into a rabbit hole of data to resolve multiple issues and come up with a single, elegant solution.

Do you have a side gig? I founded and run a music salon and community called The Soundshop. I first hosted the salon in January 2017 when I invited ten musicians to my apartment to share and discuss their work with each other. I came up with the idea after facilitating introductions between my friends in the music industry and my brother Eno while in Los Angeles. It unites my passions for music, networking, and conversation into an event that has helped musicians forge connections and support one another in their creative endeavors.

The salon has grown into a monthly event boasting between 40 and 60 attendees. Each salon has a new theme: music and poetry, music and theater, music and romance, a celebration of black musicians, music and healing, to name a few. The salons, which kicked off in apartments, now take place at interesting locations around Brooklyn and Manhattan such as Poets House, Dungeon Beach sound studio, The City Reliquary Museum, The Williamsburg Hotel, and Crossing Collective art gallery in Chelsea. I curate between 4 and 6 artists for each event, who have 10 minutes to share a song and talk about it as it relates to the theme, and then 5 minutes for questions and conversation with the audience.

What was your first real job? Working as a brand strategist for The Yale Marketing and Licensing Department. I conceptualized, wrote, and designed Yale’s first brand identity guide for their licensed merchandise—a tool to help promote the use of The Yale Brand in licensed products (shirts, ties, mugs, Moleskines, etc.) and to quickly give licensees a sense of Yale’s history, its brand, its mission, and how the brand ought to be used, so that they can adequately incorporate it into their products. My boss, Stephanie Schwartz, was a former executive in the NBA, has a great depth of connections and insight, and has served as my mentor to the present day.

Got any hot tips for folks wanting to do what you do? To get into a job doing data, it’s about learning how to use SQL. It’s not an incredibly hard language to learn, but it improves your value in the marketplace tremendously. And once you get a job that allows you to work in SQL every day, you can start picking up a scripting language to make your work more efficient.

To host a salon of any variety: be willing to start small, and host regular events. This way, you build an expectation that each month people know to look out for your event. Additionally, this allows you to experiment and iterate very quickly on the format and hone in on what works.

And, to get into the music industry, as I have slowly been getting deeper into—or any industry you don’t have experience in—just be willing to put yourself out there. Your goal should be front and center when people ask you what you do, even if you’re just getting started. I mention my music salon within the first few sentences of meeting someone, even on a chance encounter, and it has really opened doors.

Standard
Music

Two Brothers’ Epic Journey Through Their Dad’s 1,000+ CDs

image

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I listened to a CD. And I don’t mean pressing play on Drake’s latest release on Spotify—I’m talking about sliding in a scratch-free holographic disc into your mid-2000s MacBook, or perhaps popping one into your Sony boombox’s top-loading tray, if you’re feeling fancy.

But if you were to ask brothers Shawn and Cameron Jefts about their current familiarity with these relics of the recent past, they could probably tell you dozens of hours worth of stories. In fact, they’ve done just that, in a podcast called Pop/Rock, which older brother Shawn describes as “two brothers who haven’t spoken to one another in ten years listen to one of the 1,000 some-odd CDs in their father’s collection one week at a time in alphabetical order while their parents continue to deny that they gave away their oldest son’s dog when he was 15.”

Read on for a chat with the bi-coastal duo about cataloging their father’s CD collection, growing up in Alaska, and the podcast’s origins in a Facebook post about colored hair gels.

How did you come up with the idea for this podcast?

Shawn Jefts: Cameron and I reconnected a year ago or so when I got married. I thought the podcast might be a good way to keep that connection alive and simultaneously pay tribute to our dad [Bobby Jefts] while making good-natured fun of him. I floated the idea to him in a Facebook message, cryptically asked our mom to send me a picture of our dad’s CD collection (which is on three big shelves in the living room), and we were off.

Cameron Jefts: This is absolutely Shawn’s fault. A few months ago, as part of the lead-up for an intimacy-themed variety show, I was asked the question, “What is the sexiest (or least sexy) thing you’ve ever done?” So I posted a goofy little story on Facebook about my sixth-grade experiences with brightly-colored hair gels:

 

image

Shawn responded with a thoughtful reflection on reflection, I lobbed a C- joke about our shared love of Daft Punk’s Discovery album, and then—out of nowhere—Shawn throws the idea down on the table:

 

image

Could you give a little history about your dad, his CD collection, and his relationship with music?

Cameron: I DJ’d for my college radio station, and one day, I was just kicking back playing The Shins or whatever, and I looked up at the station’s founding charter hanging in a big frame on the wall to see our dad’s name on it. I mean, come on. Bobby’s influence.

Shawn: Our dad is the biggest music fan I’ve ever known. I remember our mom complaining quite often about the amount of CDs he purchased. When we were kids, he would often try to share his music with us, but what 8-year-old kid wants to listen to his dad’s music? Anyway, the older I get, the more I’ve appreciated to love our dad’s quirks, like his lifelong commitment to things he personally experiences. We grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and bands don’t come here very often. The Presidents of the United States of America (remember “Peaches?”) came up here in 1994, and we went as a family. That was my first concert. Our dad will now buy every CD they release, on the day it is released. We listened to those CDs so many times that I know every lyric on them. All because they came up to Alaska once. Our parents came to visit me a few years ago in Los Angeles, and we went to a USC football game. Within five minutes of getting to the campus, I knew he’d be watching every USC game, every Saturday, thereafter.

What was the most surprising album that you found in your dad’s collection?

Cameron: We’re still cataloging everything, but the biggest surprise so far is how many compilation albums are in there. I only have specific memories of one of these (titled Happy Days Jukebox, a tie-in with the sitcom), but there’s all kinds of stuff in there: genre compilations, by-the-decade compilations, compilations from particular record labels, greatest hits albums. Some of my favorite titles are ’60s Frat Rock; Midnight Groove: The Art of Smooth Jazz; The Best of Country Sing The Best of Disney; Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us; and Front Porch Pickin’. I am unironically stoked to listen to each and every one of these. But in terms of being surprised by particular albums, I think the weird part is that everything totally fits. There are definitely a few that seem random—the Cheech Marin children’s album Me Llamo Cheech: El Chofer Del Autobus De La Escuela, for example, or the album Blooming Dynasty by the Chinese band The Flowers—but there’s a concrete explanation for everything. Our dad used to be a Spanish teacher, hence the Cheech, and I remember him telling me about how he purchased Blooming Dynasty during a trip to China after asking a taxi driver for some recommendations of local music.

Shawn: Cameron made me aware that some of the CDs on the shelf are not necessarily dad’s. Some are our mom’s, Cameron’s, or mine. Which, I would think, explains the presence of the Baja Men’s Who Let The Dogs Out on the shelf. Dad’s discovered that he really likes Beck recently, and that surprised me. The amount of random compilation CDs on the shelf is staggering. The Bee Gees’ One Night Only is out of place. There’s a Foreigner album I’m hoping isn’t his also.

Cameron: Yeah, Who Let the Dogs Out is definitely mine, as is Aaron Carter’s Oh Aaron and Samatha Mumba’s Gotta Tell You. Most of our CDs are in these big plastic storage bins in the garage with other childhood stuff, but it looks like a few made their way into the general collection over the years. There are also a few mysteries—are those two Josh Groban albums mom’s or dad’s? There’s a bit of a sleuthing component, is what I’m saying.

What are you up to when you’re not hanging out and listening to CDs?

Cameron: I live in New York, where I’m a dramaturg and a comedian, which is an absurd combination of things to be. I co-host and co-produce Paper Kraine, a monthly variety show of new comedic performance. We define comedy broadly, as “anything in the spirit of fun.” That’s also where I do live recordings of my other podcasting project, Imaginary Friends, which I’m also launching this summer. I’m also the dramaturg-in-residence for Forklift, the new works development series at The Loading Dock Theatre, and I work as a curator and creative consultant around the city. I also, like, do yoga and stuff sometimes?

Shawn: My wife just cranked out a baby seven weeks ago, so I mostly just change diapers now. I work as an attorney for a health care corporation in San Francisco. I play on an inclusive rugby team called the San Francisco Fog. I play hockey when I can. I have another weekly podcast about Cornhole culture and strategy called Man Seeking Cornhole. Don’t look for that podcast, that’s a joke.

The first six episodes of Pop/Rock are available to stream on SoundCloud and iTunes starting today.

Standard
Ladies We Love

Ladies We Love: Catching Up with Emily Lee

Representation matters. We’ve certainly discussed it before on the site, and I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon. And if you don’t believe me, or even the experts, take it from Dinner Party’s Ladies We Love alumna Emily Lee. Even after touring the world as a musician, as well as working on the music for an Oscar-nominated documentary, she still finds herself moved, and perhaps a bit spellbound, by fellow rocker Mitski’s success—so much so that she requested if I could maybe not print the exact number of how many times she’s seen—and cried at—Mitski’s shows.

Along with my friend and fellow Asian American feminist Willa Zhang, I caught up with Emily in Los Angeles on one of her first stops on tour with new band Loma. Read on for more about New York vs. Los Angeles, post-election politics, and three Asians unapologetically geeking out over getting a taste of representation.

Last time we talked, you were on tour with Shearwater, and right now you’re on tour with Loma. What else have you been up to lately? Well last year, I took the whole year off from touring with Shearwater since Jonathan [Meiburg] is working on his book. And last time we talked, I was still on leave from my old job at PBS. Since then, I quit that job to be a musician full-time, but I also do freelance music supervision work, which is what I was doing at my old job. So last year, I music supervised two documentaries, and one of them was nominated for an Academy Award.

That was Knife Skills, right? Yep. It was the first one I did last year. It’s like, how did this happen?

Everything you touch turns to gold! Haha, yeah it’s very weird. But I’m still going—it’s just the beginning.

You’re gearing up for a very long tour with Loma. What is touring life like? Well luckily with this group, we’d all kind of toured together with the Shearwater tour, and Loma is made up of members of Shearwater and members of Cross Record. It’s been great—well, I mean we kind of just started—but I feel like we’re all friends already, and we all know each other. These members, there’s no weirdness. Everyone’s really open, no tension. And there’s seemingly a lot of room in the van right now, which is really nice.

Where are you the most excited to go on this tour? Oh man, I’m actually really excited to be here. The place that we’re staying in Santa Monica is just, you know, being a New Yorker, I’m just like, “I could never imagine moving to L.A.” And I’m always like, “I hate L.A.” But this place in Santa Monica—it has a pool, and the only thing I want to do is wake up in the morning, go outside, lie by the pool in the sun, and read The New York Times. It’s the thing I want to do. And today, we went to the beach, and the people we’re staying with are like, “You seem so natural as a Californian.” And I’m like, “I don’t drive though.”

That’s fair. It’s sometimes the deal breaker if you want to move to California. Exactly. I don’t like driving. And then there’s all that traffic…

I feel that. It’s a real roadblock. It’s not something to take lightly. Yeah, that’s the thing. It’s like, oh in New York, I just have to hop on the subway and can be somewhere in like 40 minutes. But I literally drive one to five times a year. It’s to drive my mom around during the holidays.

Since we last spoke, I feel like there have been more breakthroughs with female musicians of color, especially Asian Americans. I don’t know if it seems that way because I’m more in tune with it, or if you can just come across this music more easily nowadays. But, I guess, do you have any current favorite female musicians of color? On that last Shearwater tour, I got insanely, intensely devoted to Mitski. Like intense. I’ve seen her in concert at least five times.

Whoa, that’s a lot. That’s devotion. I know. I know. Can you make that number a little smaller? I don’t want her thinking I’m crazy! But yeah, her music really spoke to me. And, “[Your Best] American Girl,” I think every time I hear that song or go to a show, it’s just, tears. I don’t know what touches me so hard with her music, but I’m like, “She understands me.” It’s amazing. I don’t understand…

I’m like, “This is what it’s like to be represented.” You know, I feel that in the past, I never really sought out representation. I just thought, oh, you know, we were just not in that world so much, and that’s fine. My favorite artists aren’t Asian American women. But once one hits, you’re like, “Oh my God.”

It’s when you get a taste of it. Yeah, it’s like Fresh Off The Boat. Where has this sitcom been all my life? It tells my entire family’s story.

I feel with a lot of Asian Americans, we all had this collective awakening of like, “Oh we could, we could be on TV.” I didn’t even know that I should dream about that. I think that was a huge thing to unlock first—you should want that first, and then you can go get it. But if you don’t even know you should want it, you can’t go get it. Right. In those, you know, Caucasian sitcoms, that was the norm. And growing up in a very white suburb in New Jersey, it just felt like that is the representation, that I identify with this white culture, but now seeing this actual story of people that are very similar to my—well our, probably—backgrounds, it’s like, “Oh wait, no, they weren’t telling my story. This is my story.” Oh another artist—Awkwafina.

Yes! I think I saw her in a Gap commercial recently? I know! She’s getting huge. She’s in that new Ocean’s movie? The remake.

I love her rap videos on YouTube. I’ve watched them so many times. And she has that podcast, er, it’s more of a video thing. Yes! “Tawk” is so good!

Last thing—I know Shearwater’s never been shy about political leanings, but I feel like lately, especially after the presidential election, it’s pretty explicit on social media how the band feels about things. Do you feel that as a musician, you have more responsibility now, more than ever, after the election, to speak up? I never thought about that, but yeah. Yeah, totally. Because as public figures, I mean, I am in control of the Shearwater Twitter and Instagram accounts. I let Jonathan do most of the political things because I don’t want to speak for him even though he says I totally can, but I do feel like when we speak, when we say something, there’s so much response. It feels like people really appreciate having people who have a platform speaking out.

And I feel like it’s so hard. I mean, you know, we all—many people are feeling the same way, and to have an artist say it and then be able to collectively comment on that artist’s post, it forms this other type of community around the thing you’ve already said is your community. So if you’re a fan of this band, and this band says something that you agree with, and then those fans, your fans are like, “Oh yeah, we totally agree on this other thing.” And I think that’s, it’s like, I do think it’s important to build this…

You’re connecting in more ways. Yeah, exactly!

Emily is currently trekking through Europe with Loma. To see the band perform live, check out their tour dates here.

Standard
Think Piece Roundup

Think Piece Roundup: This Is America

CW: Video contains graphic violence.

ICYMI—Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover) dropped a new track last week, and its accompanying music video has driven the internet’s think piece generator into overdrive. With the video’s overt political themes, surrealist—if extremely violent—imagery, and over 107 million YouTube views and counting, it comes as no surprise that a lot of people have a lot of thoughts about Gambino’s latest offering. Read on for some deep cuts about the video, from its use of “kinesthetic empathy” to criticisms regarding the video’s intended audience.

Jason Parham on Wired calls the video “a piece of trickster art that soundly rebukes the natural DNA of the protest song and constructs it into a freakish chronicle of imprisoned torment,” comparing the work to Kara Walker’s equally challenging cut-paper silhouettes.

Over on Daze, Natty Kasambala unpacks a number of visual references.

Along the same lines, Guthrie Ramsey, a professor of music history at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses symbolism in four key moments in “This Is America” for Time.

Aida Amoako on The Atlantic explores how the video “weaponizes” the viewer’s instinctive kinesthetic empathy to create a particularly jarring viewing experience for its audience.

K. Austin Collins of Vanity Fair questions Glover’s intent in offering such a provocative political statement, saying, “I’ve often struggled to make sense of where Glover really stands on things—of whether the political statements in his art are expressions of genuine fury or Glover just playing around with political rage like it’s a costume he can slip on and off when convenient.”

Doreen St. Félix reflects on the video’s “carnage and chaos” in an article for The New Yorker.

Similarly, Jazmine Joyner, a black disabled femme writer, offers a critical take on Glover’s rehashing of black trauma as spectacle for mass consumption.

And lastly, Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic considers the viewer’s use and misuse of black art in relation to Glover’s work.

Standard
Ladies We Love

Ladies We Love: Bea Troxel

Full disclosure: I’ve known folk songstress Bea Troxel since she was a high school junior, when we met at a Laura Marling show in Nashville under awkward and somewhat uncomfortable circumstances. As these things tend to go, we became friends shortly after, which likely makes my assessment of her music somewhat biased. However, as a veteran of countless live shows—seriously, I lost count after 200—I’d like to think I’ve got a pretty decent ear at this point for what’s good. And Bea Troxel, in my opinion, continues to be one of the best. I chatted with Bea while she was on tour promoting her debut full length album, The Way That It Feels, about the record, musical influences, and life on the road.

Tell us about the new album. It’s hard for me to think about this album without thinking about the impetus to record the album. I had been working an emotionally exhausting job [in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania] and after a lot of mental battling, I decided to quit. The day after I quit, it felt like my mind crystallized. I didn’t know how, but I knew I needed to move back home to Nashville and record a full album.

I began to look around for people to record with, and my friend John Cochran told me that I should record with him. We spent all of April in the side porch of his house recording, and it was fantastic. We would map out each song, I’d record the core of the song, and then he would layer on other instruments.

I was grappling a lot with place when I wrote these songs and trying to figure out where I wanted to live and how I wanted to live. I uncovered a lot of new pieces of myself pertaining to relationships and what I really want to focus on in life during my time in Pennsylvania, and I think I am trying to understand that in these songs.

Who do you consider to be your most unusual musical influence? Weird Year. They heavily influenced my songwriting when I met them in Harrisburg, and I even sang in the band for a little while. Tara’s songwriting is so fantastically unique and lyrically engaging.

What is your favorite venue to play? I think house shows are my favorite venues to play. It doesn’t really matter which one. I just love being in an intimate space with a lot of great people and good lights. It’s a nice space to settle into.

Any must-sees on the tour? We are almost halfway through the tour, and I think I’m now most excited to play at Troost in Brooklyn. I think it will be full with a lot of wonderful folks. If you had asked me a week ago, I would have told you Colony Club in D.C., which is where we played last night. And that was truly delightful. The crowd, the drinks, and the atmosphere were lovely.

What’s on the horizon for you? Right now, I want to see how I can get this album out into the world, play more shows, and write more songs. I feel like I’m very ready to spend a lot of time writing more songs. My dream right now is to plan a West Coast tour in the spring or summer!

Standard
Music

St. Vincent’s Trippy Take on “New York”

image

Surrealism meets 2017 high fashion in the new music video for “New York,” the latest single from St. Vincent (a.k.a. Annie Clark). The song, a melancholy piano ballad released back in June, marked a sharp turn for the guitar goddess, whose eponymous 2014 album featured distorted, angular guitar riffs that put her on the map—not to mention the electrifying guitar solos from her live performances during this period. Similarly, the video for “New York” showcases a whole new side of Clark. Trading in her shock of powder purple curls from the St. Vincent-era for a sleek black bob, Clark stands in stark contrast to bright, color-blocked backdrops of a reimagined, cartoonish New York City.

It’s not the first time Clark has undergone such a dramatic transformation of appearance. When she first came on my radar via La Blogothèque’s Take Away Shows back in 2007, she looked like someone from a vintage movie, with her soft, doe eyes and wild, dark hair. Maybe it has something to do with the company she’s been keeping lately, ‘cause St. Vincent circa 2017 looks fresh out of the latest Vogue editorial—and I am definitely here for it.

The video was directed by Alex Da Corte, an up-and-coming Philadelphia-based visual artist whose most recent collaboration featured original sculptures by Da Corte alongside a collection of objects from Andy Warhol’s personal estate. Da Corte said in a statement that “Annie’s New York is the New York of my dreams—one that is blurry and fractured, dreamy and flat. It is the Toontown to my Hollywood. It is beautiful but slightly out of reach.” For New Yorkers, the video offers an added bonus of clever references to NYC landmarks, such as Clark sitting on one of the ledges of “The Gateway to Soho,” an art installation I used to walk past on my daily commute. The video is a mesmerizing piece of work—made even more notable by the fact that Clark and Da Corte manage to breathe new life into a subject that’s been covered a mind-numbing number of times in practically every medium imaginable.

Standard
Pop Culture

Is It OK to Hate Taylor Swift? A Reflection, in List Form

image

Let me start off by saying I don’t actually know Taylor Swift on a personal level. Granted, by sheer luck (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it), I have found myself within one or two degrees of separation from her by a) living in the Nashville metro area for four years, and b) inadvertently befriending several folks who do know her. Well, knew her I suppose, back when she was more #solo and less #squad. Thus, I’ve heard, maybe more than most, a somewhat absurd number of reasons why I should hate her.

“She’s stuck up.”

“She’s so fake.”

“She hardly writes any of her songs.”

“She went on a date with [insert sorority sister’s name here]’s boyfriend once, and he still tells everyone.”

“She was super mean in middle school choir. All that stuff in her first album about the mean kids at school? There was a reason no one was nice to her—she wasn’t very nice in the first place.”

Now, with Hiddleswift upon us, these occasional asides from friends and acquaintances have morphed into full-blown listicles either worshiping her every Insta-move or dealing a play-by-play blow to her new beau. Swift has taken over my newsfeed. She’s taking over my text messages. She has even found her way into my fifteen-at-work break room convos, which are usually reserved for venting about customers who can’t seem to fathom the concept of a “return policy.”

I’d like to consider myself an intellectual, which I suppose is a bit presumptuous and a lot narcissistic of me. It is an identifier I have nonetheless come to embrace, snootiness and all. But I also have an unquenchable thirst for pop culture that seems to puzzle those I meet in more academic settings, such as in study groups for a graduate-level research design class. And so, dear reader, I attempt to present to you my version of a listicle: a (somewhat) researched, (semi-) theoretical, and (not-at-all) comprehensive run-down of acceptable and unacceptable reasons to hate Taylor Swift, based on an informal survey of peers as well as my own personal reflections.

OK Reasons to Hate Taylor Swift:

1) You can’t stand her music and think of dying goats every time “I Knew You Were Trouble” comes on the radio.

I get it. I feel the same way every time I hear a twenty-one pilots song on the radio. I don’t care how many times someone tells me they are the best live touring act out there right now (barf). Science has shown links between musical preference and personality. To each her own.

2) You consider yourself “of a certain age” and don’t know who she is other than the fact that her name keeps popping up as “News” on your social media (or local newspaper).

This is also very annoying and probably one of the most understandable reasons to begin to dislike someone strongly. As someone in my mid-twenties, I feel the same way about YouTube stars and/or any famous person without a well-rounded IMDB profile.

3) You are jealous of her cats.

As a fellow cat lady, I can empathize. I too want cute little munchkin cats to act as accessories in lieu of traditional purses and such. But alas, we can’t all be so lucky.

NOT OK Reasons to Hate Taylor Swift:

1) You think she’s a “slut.”

But what is the threshold for “slut,” even? Is it rebounding too quickly like with Hiddleswift? Is it dating too many guys in general (and how many is too many)? What about those unconfirmed reports that Swift has never *gasp* cashed in her V-card? If the former is true, is the threshold the number of boys you’ve swapped spit with? Once, I made out with three different boys in two weeks (all with the middle name of Edward, weirdly enough). Does that make me a slut? Why should we even care about which (and how many) dreamboats Swift has shared snuggles and/or sexy times with, other than the fact that we would like to be the one sharing snuggles with said dreamboats? (And if you’re trying to assert that you wouldn’t love to be on a swan with a Scotsman who looks like this, you’re lying to yourself.)

Without even bringing in any hardcore feminist theory, I think it’s pretty clear that this is a moot point. But if you want feminist theory on “sluts,” read this.

2) You think she’s a “mean girl.”

Have you actually been personally victimized by Taylor Swift? No? I didn’t think so.** I suppose it’s pretty easy to infer from those picture-perfect Instagram blasts that Swift and her squad are trying to rub their picture-perfectness in your face—along with the fact that you weren’t invited. But maybe, just maybe, these ladies are just snapping some pics to remember the occasion. I mean, how many times have you done the same with your gal pals? Not to mention the number of times you made your friends retake that #candidselfie because someone’s bangs were parted funny, or someone’s smile gave them a fat chin face, and so on…

**Exceptions can be made for those I know who have actually felt belittled by Swift during an in-person encounter, either as a child growing up in Pennsylvania or as an awkward adult at an industry-only party (or if you’re Camilla Belle). I’m sure there are those out there who feel the same hatred towards me. Apologies to everyone who may fall into this category. I hope I can make it up to you someday.

3) You think she promotes unrealistic ideals for women.

Now this is a tricky one. I must admit that on certain days, days when I’m scheduled to work fourteen hours between two jobs after attending class in the morning, days when I find my tummy pudge larger than usual and my chin riddled with acne because all I’ve eaten in the past 24 hours are a giant bag of Ruffles I keep in my desk drawer in case of emergencies and a $1.19 Taco Bell burrito I managed to scrounge up the change for since payday is still two days away, days when I get up at 5:30 a.m. and don’t stop moving until 11:30 p.m., I really, really, really hate Taylor Swift. I hate how I open up Instagram, or Buzzfeed, or even just my Facebook in search of mindless entertainment and instead have to be confronted with her unnaturally perfect blonde head of hair, or her otherworldly glowing complexion, or her perfect little chicken legs. I hate how she takes on the “I’m just like you” stance by posting photos of her bloody cat scratches one minute—just to turn around and flaunt her glamazon Vogue shoot a few posts later. I hate how it seems that at least 50% of her year is spent being fabulous and not working, while I watch my (surprisingly) above average household income be siphoned off into rent payments and car payments and tuition payments and health insurance payments and so on… I hate how fun and lovely and celebrity-filled her 4th of July holiday seemed to be, all while on my end, I was grateful for the mere fact that a) I had some alone time waiting for my husband in the car while he worked a late shift and b) I could use said alone time to catch up on paying bills and sending work emails and scheduling doctor’s appointments that, between working two jobs and being a full-time student, I haven’t even had the time to think about.

But this story, this hatred, really isn’t about Taylor, now is it? It’s about me. It’s about the luck of the draw. It’s about white beauty. It’s about capitalism. It’s about uneven playing fields and neoliberalism and obsession with celebrity and everything in between. It’s about the kind of media I choose to consume, even though it has a greater chance of giving me FOMO than helping me relax. It speaks volumes about what we value, consciously or otherwise, as a society, and very little about the pop star herself.

Bet you didn’t think this listicle would take such a dark turn, did you?

In short, it’s easy to hate on celebrities because we—well most of us—don’t really know them. It’s easy to project all of your hopes and dreams and fantasies and frustrations upon a (flawless and perfectly coiffed) representation of a human being staring back at you from your TV/laptop/movie/iPhone screen. Though, if you pause for a second from drinking the haterade and reflect, you might realize something about yourself. Even if it is just that you secretly have a thing for malicious Norse gods.

Standard