Taylor Swift's First Year as NYC's 'Global Ambassador': An Assessment
It’s now been a full year since Taylor Swift, the Patron Saint of Corporate Shilling, was named New York City’s Global Ambassador of Tourism. If you don’t remember how her position was announced to the world, it was via a cloyingly anthemic piece of marketing (disguised as a 1989 single) called “Welcome to New York,” plus a video teaching people how to pronounce “bodega” — a lesson Dave Chappelle gave non-natives years ago. It's still cringe-inducing to think about Swift saying “bodegas are your friends.” Ma, you put in work to make your bodega guys your friends. New York does not succumb to your magical friendship hypnosis that anyone within a foot of your orbit is sucked into; it requires more than bedside cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar. Yet some of our government decided their #squadgoals would be facilitated by Swift, and this is what happened in that wake.
As the world’s greatest bandwagoneer, Swift joined the ranks of Spike Lee, Padma Lakshmi, and Ben Stiller in Madison Square Garden’s celebrity row to cheer on the Knicks. Great move, Taylor. I'm serious. You came into your adopted city and rooted for our real team. Glomming on to the Brooklyn Nets is for transplants and people under the age of eight. (No disrespect to Jay Z, but Houston pride is probably not the sole reason Beyoncé wears a Harden jersey.) So you win this round, Tay-Tay. But you know who didn’t win very much after your reign began? The actual Knicks. Ending the 2014–15 season with a 17–65 record, the team has never looked or played worse in franchise history. Not even Phil Jackson could save them from the cloud of bad juju that came to the arena once Swift donned a home jersey and let Stat and Melo teach her how to hoop. I would have gone to Dallas, too, B.
Quickly after Taylor’d declared her short-lived support of the blue and orange, it was announced that beloved Williamsburg DIY space Death by Audio would be shuttering in November. Glasslands, another venue vital to our city’s music scene, would also close its doors before 2014’s end. “Please welcome to the stage”...no one. Because they continue to have fewer places to play. No wonder she’s included so many cameos on her 1989 Tour: She feels so badly for dismantling an integral part of our live show culture. R.I.P. Cameo Gallery, too.
Speaking of culture, you know what else New York got this year? A Dairy Queen. Oh, please forgive me for besmirching your nostalgia for goopy cold gravy for your chicken tenders and a goddamn Blizzard, which is also a McFlurry, which is also not as good as what you can get from the litany of shops opened by and lovingly tended by people who actually serve you real ice cream. (A Blizzard is made from a bunch of frozen chemicals that only taste like your memories.) Why do we spend so much to live in a cultural mecca as it continues to be railroaded by a Chik-fil-A that has a longer line outside of it than any club and literally a hundred Walgreens outposts? Listen, I’m sorry if I’m hurting feelings here, but go get yourself a nice Mermaid with tart key lime custard and beautifully made vanilla soft serve at Big Gay Ice Cream and you will feel better. Save your Blizzard-eating for when you go home for the holidays.
Perhaps the worst of Swift’s rule over New York has been that one of our worst celebrities has invaded America beyond reality TV screens. While he continues to dwindle in the polls, there was a period of time Donald Trump was the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. For the uninitiated, Trump isn’t just the former host of The Apprentice. If you’re a lifelong New Yorker or have lived here for at least a significant chunk of yours, he’s been omnipresent. He's a real estate magnate whose luxuriant(ly thinning) blond coif has been part of the collective NYC consciousness since the Eighties, and he's been duping New Yorkers since long before Omarosa was a household name. Sure, Trump properties are all around the country and even global, at this point, but we’ve been privy to this dude’s insanity since Ivana had a ring on it. But at least now our communal groan over his entire existence can be shared nationwide and isn’t relegated to his specific stranglehold over New York and assorted other local real estate markets. (Did you guys know most of the Knicks live in Trump Towers in White Plains? Wait a minute. I smell a conspiracy...)
And that’s what all of this is. Just conspiracy. Taylor Swift’s cushy position as the face of coming to New York when not being from New York has pretty much meant nothing. And that’s what she’s done: nothing. Her biggest accomplishment is that landing at JFK now means you’re likely to be regaled with “Welcome to New York.” Are we better or worse for it? Listen, the Spotted Pig has always been tough to get a table at if you aren’t famous or you don’t know someone, and you’ve always needed to be armed with a samurai sword to make your way through more heavily concentrated parts of Manhattan. Tourism is not to blame for the standstill foot traffic on the northernmost stretch of Bedford Avenue. That is most likely James Murphy’s fault. But you know what? He would be a much better candidate for tourism ambassador. He sure guided a lot of people’s musical tourism in the mid-Aughts! And maybe it would stop those pesky reunion rumors, too.
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