Perhaps we should file this under “Duh,” but Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor recently said something that critics of American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift have known for a long time: That she keeps quiet about political issues because she doesn’t want to hurt her brand. But is the Trent Reznor Taylor Swift criticism fair? Let’s take a look.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Reznor, the 53-year-old musician was asked, “Do you feel that musicians have a responsibility to address politics?” He said that during the mid-‘90s someone told him that he has influence and “that it’s my job to call out whatever needs to be called out, because there are people who feel the same way but need someone to articulate it.”
He continues, “And I think about that today, because it seemed like it was a lot easier to just keep your mouth shut and let it go back then. You don’t hear a lot from the Taylor Swifts of the world, and top-tier, needle-moving cultural youth, because they are concerned about their brand, their demographic and their success and career and whatnot.”
Later on in the interview, Reznor calls the actions of U.S. President Donald Trump “concerning and infuriating,” adding that Trump’s “disregard for decency and truth and civility is what’s really disheartening.”
In November 2017, when the confessional country songstress turned savvy pop-stylist dropped her sixth studio album, Reputation, we wondered why Swift had never addressed her popularity among neo-Nazis and so-called “alt-right” white supremacists, haters who revere her as an Aryan goddess. Shortly after her Swift Life app was released, it got taken over by Trump-supporting homophobes and racists.
But while Swift hasn’t spoken out about Trump, she hasn’t been entirely silent on politics either. During her recent June 2 concert in Chicago, Swift dedicated part of her concert to “everybody who has been brave enough to be honest about how they feel, to live their lives as they are, as they feel they should be, as they identify.”
Commemorating Pride month, she added, “This is a month where I think we need to celebrate how far we’ve come, but I think we also need to acknowledge how far we have left to go.”
While Swift may avoid speaking out against racism and Trump for fear of hurting her brand, her silence on these topics can prove problematic because — as Brooke Gladstone, host of WNYC’s On the Media, points out — white supremacists and neo-Nazis “view any silence as approval.”