Boy, do I love songs about New York City. It’s a helluva town. From the good old “New York, New York,” to the less old “Theme from New York, New York,” from the lovely Dinah Washington singing Rodgers’ and Hart’s “Manhattan” to the rather dorky Paddy McAloon singing his “Hey, Manhattan,” from Paul Simon strolling up Broadway with diamonds on the soles of his shoes to Lou Reed waiting for his man at Lexington and 125th street, there’s so many things to sing about and so many great songs that have been sung.
It’s a challenge today, however, to suggest that one more has been added to the list. Certainly, “Welcome to New York,” the new tune by Taylor Swift, is a song about New York, but that’s where the comparison with those aforementioned songs unfortunately seems to end. I have nothing against Taylor Swift—she’s made some listenable records in the past—but “Welcome to New York” comes across like nothing more than an advertising jingle, and not one on a very high level, at that. It’s not without potential, but the recording is so plastic-sounding, her vocals so flat and artificial, the lyrics so banal, that … well, I swear it has potential somewhere.
If you do pay attention to the words, you can pick up on the fact that the song is trying to get at that great feeling that New York City gives many new arrivals: that they can shake off the past and be whoever they want to be and do whatever they can dream of doing. But in overall affect, the message of this particular record seems more like “Welcome to the shopping mall; what do you want to buy today?”
I’m sorry, Taylor. Not this.