During a spoken interlude in her new single, “Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift says, “Just think: while you’ve been gettin’ down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world, you could have been gettin’ down to this sick beat.” Here, I plan to discuss which is the best decision.
In favor of gettin’ down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world:
The real question, which Swift avoids, is to what degree one should get down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats. Maybe you should never allow any subject to get you down and out, per se, if we define “down and out” as the state of being inconsolable or hopeless– although maybe there’s also an optimism to the phrase. “Well I’ve been kind of down and out lately.” “Out” must be “out of luck,” which could either imply the absolute end of a person’s luck forever or a temporary unlucky period– who can ever know for sure?
But there’s also a kind of a British, stiff-upper-lip quality to the phrase “down and out,” right? I associate it primarily with George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, which I haven’t read, but which I know is autobiographical and of course I know Orwell ended up doing pretty well for himself. I associate the phrase secondarily with this tweet by Richard Dawkins, which has been the subject of some mockery in certain circles because of its out-of-touch quality– Dawkins’ apparently genuine confusion shows how out-of-touch with the real world he is, but so does the use of the quaint phrase “down-and-out,” used as a noun.
Neither of these references touch on what Swift’s speaker is describing, which I think we can assume must refer to an emotional state. The problem with Swift’s point is she’s implying that you must spend 100% of your time either letting haters get you down, or 100% of the time dancing. I submit that it has to be okay to at least be aware of the haters and heartbreakers– in fact, her best songs have been written in response to them. Had she chosen simply to respond in fun dance-hit form to these dirty, dirty cheats, we would not have the blistering, obsessive “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” or the remorseful, cathartic “I Knew You Were Trouble.”
In favor of getting down to this sick beat:
The beat is undeniably sick. Those saxophones?
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were Trouble” are breakup anthems, and “Shake It Off” is a getting-over-it anthem. From what I can tell, the latter has been met with more criticism, more snideness from critics. Do we, as a culture, not want Swift to get over it, and by “it” here I mean whatever problems given her by haters, heartbreakers, liars, and dirty, dirty cheats? Are we such vultures that we require a healthy, innocence-exuding young girl to, once a year or so, sacrifice herself at the altar of our various romantic sorrows?
There are a million things you can do instead of getting down to this, or any other, sick beat. There are a million liars and dirty, dirty cheats out there who must be stopped. If we respond only by dancing, we let them win. There is, and always has been, a war going on between dirty liars and dancers, and the dancers cannot win simply by doing what they do best. Even Swift, who cannot dance, feels she must align herself with the dancers, lest she become down and out.
And yet, the beat, its sickness, it calls to them.