By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
Taylor Swift has always devoted herself to her fans. Now she has a brand-spanking-new website that allows you to break up with her, perhaps to inspire her next greatest hit! Just point your browser to BreakUpWithTaylorSwift.com, write yourself a tear-jerking Dear John letter, and push play!
Wait. Let me redact that. After further review, this looks to be another of synth-pop quartet Man-Cat's shameful pranks on the mainstream. Fooled again! And by the same tricksters responsible for Lana Del Rey's Pussy Cola campaign and poisoning Justin Bieber that night he puked in Glendale! Just what makes those feline jesters tick, anyway? We tracked them down to their lair in downtown Phoenix and demanded answers and — and the truth was actually kind of surprising.
"Taylor Swift is a corporation. I found something like Taylor Swift Incorporated or Corporation. That's where the bills go," the anonymous four-piece tells us, speaking as one. "The common public perception is she's a really fantastic role model for young girls because she doesn't show her tits and doesn't sing about getting cummed on all over, so moms and everybody are like, 'I'm so glad my daughter is into Taylor Swift!' But, psychologically, it's fucking up a whole generation to be victimizing themselves and being really, really open in public about private details in life and shaming people. Just really low, catty narcissistic qualities. That's what all the songs are about, and girls are like, 'Yeah! Taylor!'"
"People say, 'Taylor's a great role model, because she's nice. Look at how high her neckline is on her shirt.' But no! You're doing damage!"
BreakUpWithTaylorSwift.com, by now a distorted mix of Mad Libs and karaoke, began with the goal of jamming all her songs into one to demonstrate how similar they were. It evolved into a project that nearly swamped the band.
"It was a lot of coding — and a couple of us are learning that, but we aren't to the level we probably should've been," Man-Cat explains, a little sheepishly. "It was overly optimistic — like, yeah, you know, let's just make this interactive song . . . that is timed perfectly in every browser, and there's animation that goes along with it, and that's timed perfectly . . . Yeah, let's do that!"
There's also the threat of litigation.
After all, the mousers were slapped with a cease-and-desist letter last December after PepsiCo was peeved when Man-Cat branded a new soft drink (appropriating the famous logo) after the apparent flavor of Lana Del Rey's lady garden. If Swift does sue — or forces them to take down website — they won't have much recourse.
"I'm not sure there's much we can do about it, since we're using very obvious clips from her stuff," Man-Cat says, with a collective shrug. "Lana didn't really react to Pussy Cola, so maybe Taylor won't . . . But with her squeaky-clean image, she might have people scouring. This one is more where she could feel like an attack on her, whereas the Pussy Cola thing looked like it was about [Lana], but it was more aimed at Pepsi."
"A lot of Lana Del Rey fan sites and Tumblrs and stuff picked up on it. I feel like that was half of the views, at least. It seemed like really big fans of Lana Del Rey — and they were really excited — they were sharing it with people. Which is cool; they can take a joke."
Let's hope Swift can take a joke, too. But if she can't, Man-Cat won't be fazed. Like Anonymous and Banksy, the source of some of their inspiration, they're okay with impermanence. "I think it's really that someone can spend a lot of time on something and stick it up there for people to see for a day, half a day, a couple hours. But we still put a lot of work into them, and passion . . . That whole scene is a good way of looking at art. It's really cool when it's there and then it's gone, and that's okay."
Why does Man-Cat spend so much time and energy attacking (and stealing from) Top 40 hits? The band says it's unhappy with the way music is made and pushed on the public. Everything is derivative, with Song C borrowing a beat from Song B that was popular three months ago under a melody from Song A.
"It's inverted. It's not a matter of, 'Wow, Rihanna's song is all over the place because people really like it and they're calling in and requesting it,'" Man-Cat says. "No, Rihanna is really popular because her record label paid 40 grand to push it 20 times a day on all Clear Channel stations across America. And people are just absorbed by it. It's stuck in their head, and they like it. Totally inverted."
Sure, but hasn't it always been that way? What about George Michael and New Kids on the Block? Man-Cat says it's not new so much as more homogenized than ever. But the band also says it isn't out to denigrate pop entirely or doing what it does solely for the sport of subversiveness. Instead, it wants fans to consume consciously, just as they would at the grocery store.
"Health nuts aren't saying, 'Don't eat food, just starve yourself, just drink liquid shakes.' They're saying, 'Look at the nutrition facts, be aware of how it's made, be aware of where the farms are,'" Man-Cat says. "And that's the same thing we're trying to aim for with pop music. Consume consciously, be aware of who's behind it, be aware of the processes. Be aware of how you're being sold."
By highlighting the unoriginal process and greed behind popular music, Man-Cat hopes to coax people to look beneath the surface.
Maybe BreakUpWithTaylorSwift.com will do that for those adoring moms. Whether it does or doesn't, Man-Cat hopes to keep exposing the profit-driven thinking they see in these pop songs. "She has writing credit on all her songs, and people are like, 'Taylor Swift is so great because she writes all her own songs — look, there's a picture of her sitting on her bed with a guitar. She's a songwriter, you know?'
"But then you look at the writing credits and Max Martin is on there — or all the guys who wrote her greatest hits — and it's like, yeah, maybe she had the inkling of the first idea, or she tossed out a line [or] changed a word, but it's still just as manufactured." It's all about "how she'll play to the audience she already has."
Now, everyone can break up with Taylor Swift. But with the website up and running, Man-Cat remains mum about its next stunt.
"Lots of ideas in the wings being tossed around," Man-Cat says, all of them grinning at once. "We want to do one that's kind of in the real world again. It's more of a physical thing that might hit sometime this summer. Not sure when, but [the props] are taking up a lot of space."
@JohnQ.Public You're about as funny as my toenails.
@fireserphent Do you have those funky ones that are cracked and yellow and kinda' curl backwards? 'Cause those are pretty funny.
@JohnQ.Public Nope, just a few ingrown ones.