my turn


Today's Swiftian New York

So Taylor Swift is our official spokesperson. "Our" meaning New York's. Some who have paid attention to this development are dismissive of NYC & Company's choice of the pop star as the voice and face of brand new, Brand New York. They would have preferred someone more representative, ethnically, of the city's actual population and mise en scene. They would argue that making Swift New York's spokesperson is like making Rihanna the face of Anchorage. 

But that would be an utterly specious comparison. First of all, Rihanna doesn't own a $20 million loft in Anchorage. Come to think of it, you could probably buy Anchorage for $20 million. That would be a lot more acreage than Taylor got in Tribeca. 

I might as well throw in in my 5.3 cents because it is a branding question, after all. And I think she's a great choice, and proof that New York's tourism organization understands the broad appeal of a global personality for a global city. Because she really does represent what the city has become: a pop-up city for young people with their heads in a virtual world. She really is the new, new New York: gone is the grime, the crappy old steaks/chops/seafood restaurants, the classless hotels, the bad coffee in Athenian cups, smutty Times Square storefronts, and the gravitas. Gone are the gimcrack acting studios, dance spaces, cheap rehearsal studios, cigarettes, bad food, composers in cheap rooms on 57th street, Hell’s Kitchen. Mercifully gone is the old Lower East Side, with the drug dealers in Tompkins Square Park, and Alphabet City. Gone are the west side piers, replaced with driving ranges. 



And best of all, gone for the most part are the old people, who have thankfully slammed the door to their rent-stabilized apartments on the way out. They used to shuffle around the city with bad clothes, little flair, and shopping bags from D'Agostina. Spared are we from hordes of desiccated widowers and dowagers creeping from rent-controlled apartments to bodegas and back. Gone are the bodegas for that matter. And gone, for the most part, is rent control, meaning the city is far more attractive now, as its denizens are hotties and hottos with the pied a terre and extremely frequent flyer mileage. 

So, Swift, like New York, is young, scintillating, super rich, utterly pristine, shiny as anthracite, smooth as glass, and vacuous as Frank Gehry's Internet Ad Bureau building. With a certain ascetic/hip thing going on, she's picture-window perfect for a city of angles, glass, with a bit of glitz and a hint of anorexia. Glassy, glossy and completely opaque, but not outright garish and hideous like the Charles Gwathme fiasco at Astor Place. 

As a brand, she also represents where the city is going: she's very "now," very start-up, digital, and she rocks the Marilyn Monroe retro thing, with fire-engine red lipstick chic. Very going-places, Millennial, skinny-latte reified. 

She’s New York today, which is a little bit Cleveland, a little bit Nashville. Or Indianapolis, or Chattanooga, or any other city upon which has been superimposed a geographically neutral mask of global brands, Starbucks, and brand ownership of what used to be venues with irritatingly authentic character: Big Nick's, The Edison Cafe, Colony Records, Carl Fisher Music, etc.  She's about pop-up stores and boutiques, whole neighborhoods resurrected for today’s John Galt. For places whose developers laud as pure authentic, but in an improved way, and ultra-safe for walking at night while texting and checking Instagram. Hip, but sans heroin syringes cracking underfoot. Cleansed of people now living in Far Rockaway. Yes, a new, better, grungy district, for young tech workers, and hedge fund managers who still identify with their roots in Scarsdale, but Scarsdale in Williamsburg. 

If Taylor Swift were a district, Taylor Swift would, in fact, be the Meat Packing District, today’s version, now defined by brand new towers, sheeting the waterline like Noguchi tables, and an infusion of brands squirreling their way into premium Millennialism and its arts and crafts. 

And she is most representative of the image NYC & Company has of what New York should really be: self-assured, but global and able to shake booty like a sister. Because New York, like every other neo-resurgent metropolis, is like a person taking an aerobic twerking class at Equinox. But if Taylor were a health club, she wouldn't be an Equinox. That's last week. She'd probably be a class at Soul Cycle because she has so much going on, and is busy spinning brands into gold, just Like New York.

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