Jesse Plemons Is a Bully Who We Have Allowed to Fail Upward

How have we let this happen? How have we, as a nation, allowed Jesse Plemons, a.k.a. Meth Damon, to fail upward like this?

There were warning signs. All it took was his second film appearance, as Tommy Harbor (younger brother of star QB Lance Harbor) in Varsity Blues

What do we call this? Bullying. Pure and simple. And the only thing bullying produces is more interpersonal violence: 

Fool me once, shame on you. But fool me twice? 

The red flags were all around us. This bullying behavior by Plemons’ character Ox in Like Mike is textbook. The aggression. The lack of empathy toward a height-challenged Lil’ Bow Wow. Look at how he thrives on the insecurities of others (to hide his own insecurity at being an orphan, perhaps?) while misusing his power over other foster children. 

America appeared to be on to this shitbird after Like Mike. Plemons spent the remainder of the early 2000s schlepping it from CSI to Grey’s to NCIS. But somewhere along the way we lost our focus, and we allowed this bully to continue to fail upward. Worse, we let him continue to think that his antisocial behavior was okay. 

Like most bullies, Landry Clarke’s pals on Friday Night Lights might not have thought there was anything wrong with him. But just tell that to the man he MURDERED. How does a kid go from a stable, football-loving home in Texas (Varsity Blues), to an orphanage in Los Angeles (Like Mike), to committing involuntary manslaughter back in Texas (FNL)? BECAUSE WE ALLOWED HIS WORST CHARACTERISTICS TO DEVELOP WITHOUT CHECKING HIS UNWANTED, AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR, THAT’S WHY.

And don’t for a minute think that Landry’s killing (not the last murder Plemons would commit on screen, either) was a once-off, spur-of-the-moment type of thing. No, Plemons would continue to commit ever-more heinous acts of violence against those less powerful than he:

Like most bullies, Plemons’ Todd in Breaking Bad flirts with white supremacy. Based on his meth-slave relationship with Jesse Pinkman, it’s clear that he also struggles with letting his friends be independent from himself. 

The bullying would continue. Take Plemons’ appearance in Black Mirror, in the episode “USS Callister,” for example. Plemons’ intimidation and coercion has progressed into middle age, where he takes out his frustrations and resentments on sentient digital clones of his coworkers. Unsatisfied with bullying on a terrestrial stage, Plemons now appears to have taken his abuse to galaxies unknown. 

And the behavior persists to this day. It was only last year, in fact, that Plemons portrayed Chuckie O’Brien—the man who may have been responsible for Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance—in Martin Scorsese’s lauded TV mini-series The Irishman.

What can possibly be next for this heinous bully? What new heights will we allow him to climb? Will Jesse Plemons next portray Regina George in a gender-reversed recasting of Mean Girls? Will he transport back in time to join Cobra Kai? 

Whatever he attempts next, it’s time for the American moviegoing public to just say no. Plemons’ bullying has to end. It must end.

RIP to JTE

On Sunday evening, news broke that Justin Townes Earle—singer, songwriter, and son of alt country legend and The Wire utility man Steve Earle—passed away at age 38.

There was worse news reported on Sunday. And you can’t really say that JTE’s passing was unexpected—the man was named for Townes Van Zandt after all. But the world is a little bit darker today because a man who made things a bit brighter with his music is gone too soon. 

Mourning the death of an artist, especially one as untimely as JTE’s, often feels like an exercise in reflecting on what they meant to us. For me, Earle’s 2012 album Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now was one of the most impactful records I’ve ever heard by someone in our generation. 

In 2012, I was interning at Bloodshot Records, an alt-country record label with an otherworldly lineup of musicians who have come through its doors. This was not a company that expected to have interns, and I didn’t have much ambition for the job other than to say I got to do something cool and music adjacent (see the first sentence in this paragraph). So I ended up taking two trains and a bus every Tuesday afternoon in 2012 so that I could listen to Fresh Air and stuff media mail envelopes with records that would go out to buyers. That’s how I came across JTE: temporarily assuming title of a copy of Nothing’s Gonna Change from Bloodshot’s stack of CDs it sent out to college radio stations. 

The album sideswiped me. It is deceptively simple: 10 songs clocking in at 30 minutes. There’s so much space between the instruments in the mix, which allows you to practically hear JTE’s fingerprints sliding over the strings of his guitar. The drums sit comfortably in the backbeat, and every song has these beautiful, subtle horn arrangements that come in as cool as a breeze off the river on a humid Memphis night. Earle’s lyrics were vague enough to feel applicable to my own life: songs about quick calls home and half-hearted, self-serving apologies. All this is to say that the album sounded particularly good walking around campus at night, sneaking furtive, self-destructive Marlboro drags and feeling things. 

One of my pinnacle achievements in music (of which there are few) was playing with my band in the side lounge of the same venue where JTE was headlining. It was at a time when my performing dreams were still very much alive, and an artist like Earle made me think they were attainable. But it takes hard work to make simple songs sound as beautiful as he did. It’s easy for any asshole with a drinking problem to pick up a guitar. It’s so much harder to create something as emotionally resonant as Justin Townes Earle did. 

It’s fucked up that he’s gone so soon. And it’s fucked up that my way of remembering him is to think of what he meant to me, purely in the context of myself, and not to think of what his life was like on its own. 

It’s also notable how JTE shows just how much of our fathers we carry in ourselves. How our dads give us our name (“Townes” and “Earle” for Justin, as if one whiskey-and-cocaine-drenched chain wasn’t heavy enough to carry) and then give us the tools to deal with it, for better or for worse. How we take the good and bad from them in equal parts. 

For Justin, he built on his dad’s approach to songwriting—one that fused a traditional guitar technique and country feel onto modern subject matter—in a way that developed his own reputation rather than sit in father’s shadow. I know I’d rather listen to just about any JTE album than a Steve Earle record. I mean, just listen to that percussive way he fingerpicks his guitar here (my all-time favorite Bruce Springsteen cover) in a manner that’s clothed in decades of tradition but also 100% original.

But he also got the bad side of his two namesakes. The cocaine, the pills, the drinking, and the questionable facial hair. You don’t need to live like the people JTE wrote about to write such melancholy and honest songs as he did. But he tried. 

When you lay down to sleep that’s when it’ll hurt the most
When you wake up alone and still smell my smoke

Some stars are tragic, and we love them for it. JTE wore his tragedy in the tattoos on his forearm and in the grooves of his music. RIP to a real one.

The Spectrum of Autumnal Sad Music, As Drugs

Taylor Swift, folklorCBD
The National, I Am Easy to Find: Marijuana
Sun Kil Moon, Benji: Heroin
Sufjan Stevens, The Age of AdzEcstasy
Father John Misty, Fear FunCocaine
Phoebe Bridgers, PunisherLSD purchased from your neighborhood feminist co-op
Counting Crows, August and Everything After: Ibuprofen and white wine
American Football, American Football: Weed dust that’s been emptied onto a Pavement CD while you sit in your mom’s Corolla. 
Cannonball Adderley, Somethin’ ElseMethadone 
Elliott Smith, Either/OrKetamine
Bon Iver, Bon Iver, Bon IverMushrooms
Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: Revolution Anti-Hero IPA
Van Morrison, Astral WeeksSandalwood-scented incense candle

Was the Angels’ victory over the 1994 Chicago White Sox in Angels in the Outfield the most improbable sports victory in movie history?

I’ll come out and say it: The most improbable aspect of Disney’s Angels in the Outfield isn’t the fact that Christopher Lloyd somehow skirted the player’s union to get on the field or that Joseph Gordon-Levitt wouldn’t be adopted. Instead, what really grinds my gears is that the lowly California Angels—despite not receiving any angel assistance whatsoever in their final game—somehow beat the 1994 Chicago White Sox to clinch the division title and the pennant at the end of the movie.

How could this have happened? How could that year’s Angels squad, a team so bad that Gordon-Levitt’s father bet that he wouldn’t have to regain custody of his child until they won the pennant, pull off a victory against a White Sox team that clearly would have won its first World Series championship in 77 years had the 1994 season not been stopped short by a player’s strike? It’s a mystery that grows ever more perplexing when you compare the team’s rosters: 

First Base
White Sox: Frank Thomas. Frank Thomas losing out on the full 1994 season is one of the worst travesties in American sports. The Big Hurt posted a shocking 1.217 OPS in 1994, the 18th best single-season OPS of all time. The guy was in the midst of a Ted Williams–caliber streak, and he was well on his way to earning his second straight AL MVP award and my everlasting love and affection. The Angel Gabriel couldn’t have stopped Frank from winning this game. Post-playing career boosted by Nugenix. 
Angels: Mitchell Page. Second place AL Rookie of the Year in 1977. Career batting average of .266, but he couldn’t make the roster for the Athletics’ 1981 postseason campaign. Post-playing career cut short by alcoholism. 
Advantage: White Sox, and it’s not even close. 

Second Base
White Sox: Joey Cora.
 Survived a stabbing, one-time All Star, and won a ring as the third base coach for the 2005 White Sox. Brother of Rob Manfred–patsy Alex Cora.
Angels: Israel Juarbe. Played Freddy Fernandez in The Karate Kid, a role for which he has been referred to as a “bitch motherf*cker” in at least one MMA-themed forum. Probably best known for his limited role as the room service waiter in this exceptionally 80s clip
Advantage: White Sox.

Short Stop
White Sox: Ozzie Guillén. 
There’s a lot that can be said about Ozzie. The spitfire-spewing third baseman-turned-Fidel-Castro-praising-and-gay-slur-using manager who we let things kind of slide with. The man invented Ozzieball (grind out a single, bunt him over to second, then smash a two-run home run) and managed the best Sox team of the 21st century. But I think this clip comes the closest to capturing all he brings to the table.
Angels: Albert Garcia. Dude doesn’t even have a wikipedia. 
Advantage: White Sox.

Third Base
White Sox: Robin Ventura. 
A two-time all star, six-time gold glove third baseman, and by all accounts a nice guy who was never as good of a manager as he was as a player.
Angels: Stoney Jackson. Appeared in the “Beat It” music video. Doesn’t seem to have heard of a “Drake LaRoche.” 
Advantage: Angels. As far as I know, Jackson never got his ass whooped by a 65-year-old Nolan Ryan. 

Left Field
White Sox: Tim Raines. 
A 10th-ballot hall of famer and arguably on the Mt. Rushmore of Montreal Expos players (I assume that this is a statue made out of chewing gum and used kilts outside a Montreal punk venue). 
Angels: Mark Cole. Actors without their own wikipedia pages are the theater equivalent of kids getting stuck playing left-center field. 
Advantage: White Sox.

Center Field
White Sox: Lance Johnson. 
Most famous for the fact that I somehow confuse his name with Larry Walker’s. Wikipedia tells me he’s the only person to lead both the AL and the NL in bats, hits, and triples, which is cool if that’s the thing you’re into. 
Angels: Matthew McConaughey. With McConaughey, you get power and longevity. The McConaissance was still decades away when McConaughey made this spectacular catch in center field. Dude had range, and no I’m not talking about going from Dallas Buyers Club to Wolf of Wall Street to True Detective to Interstellar in a calendar year.  Just imagine the 30–30 potential he would have deep into his Magic Mike era as a ballplayer. 
Advantage: Alright, alright, alright. Angels. 

Right Field
White Sox: Darrin Jackson.
 Jackson’s most notable career achievement to date has been the fact that he (mostly) stayed awake alongside Ed Farmer’s radio calls (RIP to a real one, Farmio). That fact alone is far more impressive than beating out Nicolas Cage for a bullshit Oscar for The Pianist.
Angels: Adrien Brody. This man definitely would not kneel for the national anthem. We never see him playing his position, but given his Mookie Betts–esque stature and Italian American–ass quaff, he must be a right fielder. 
Advantage: Angels, I guess. 

Designated Hitter
White Sox: Kit “Hit or Die” Kesey.
 In real life, this position would probably be filled by Julio Franco, who slashed .319/.406/.510 in 112 games. But one of the few White Sox players we actually get to see in the movie is good old “Hit or Die,” which doesn’t even come close to the worst nickname for a White Sox player. 
Angels: O.B. Babbs. He’s listed as only an “Angels Player” on Wikipedia, so I guess he gets slotted in at DH. 
Advantage: White Sox. You don’t cross a guy with a nickname like “Hit or Die,” especially when he’s allegedly the league RBI leader

Pitcher
White Sox: Jack McDowell.
 Played in a band that once opened for The Smithereens. Also pulled off a goatee for most of his career and won the Cy Young in the year before Anaheim started receiving angelbolic steroids. 
Angels: Tony Danza. Angels wasn’t Danza’s first or best role as a washed-up MLB player. In real life, Danza went 9–3 as a professional boxer, but in Angels it is revealed that he’s about to die because of his lifelong smoking (womp womp).
Advantage: White Sox.

Catcher: 
White Sox: Ron Karkovice.
Daddy. The only thing Ron Karkovice looked like he enjoyed more than performing an unconstitutional traffic stop is drinking a Miller High Life after mowing the lawn. 
Angels: Tony Longo.Daddier. And noted chili dog aficionado
Advantage: Nobody’s out-thiccing Longo. 

Manager
White Sox: Gene Lamont. 
Fresh off a 1993 Manager of the Year Campaign. Survived more than 15 years of working in Detroit and Pittsburgh. 
Angels: Danny Glover. Keeps referring to a mysterious, ill-fated “stint in Cincinnati” throughout the movie. But he won’t come clean about working with Mel Gibson? Also, google keeps thinking I’m trying to do half-assed research about Donald Glover. 
Advantage: White Sox. Say what you will, but Lamont never threw his players on the bus by suggesting that they needed angels to win a game.

Secret Weapon
White Sox: Michael Jordan.
 Performed surprisingly well at AA Birmingham while he was riding out the storm after retiring from the NBA under suspicious circumstances. Would probably choke out Ozzie during a practice. Remember, even angels buy shoes. 
Angels: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. College dropout. Shoehorns the female lead into a “manic pixie dream girl” persona in (500) Days of Summer. Had better chemistry with Tony Danza in Don Jon


As if that wasn’t bad enough, JGL gets savagely dunked on during one of the worst (among many) screenwriting of this film: 

  • [having just given up custody of Roger, JGL’s character, forever] 
  • Mr. Bomman (JGL’s character’s father): I’m sorry, boy. 
  • [he exits the courtroom]


Advantage: White Sox. And you know Jordan is betting on this game too. 

Owner
White Sox:
 Jerry Reinsdorf.
Angels: Ben Johnson.
Advantage: TBH both of these owners seem pretty anti-player and determined to lose rather than spend an extra dollar. This one’s a toss-up. 

Overall: If this game had actually occurred in real life, I had known about sports gambling, and the internet existed to the point where I could place a bet with an offshore sportsbook whose servers are located in modern-day Yugoslavia, this would have been a traumatic gambling loss for me. That is to say, it is patently absurd that the White Sox didn’t win this fictional game, and I hope that Disney deep-sixes Angels in the Outfield from Disney+ like it did to Song of the South and Star Wars: Ewoks

it’s offensive t-swift had to release folkore in summer

it’s ridiculous. preposterous. a miscarriage of justice? okay, not that far. but it’s pretty fucking bad. i’ll just say it: it is offensive that taylor swift, poet laureate and heiress to the stevie nicks’ throne of “forest fairy who also will wreck your life with a single song lyric”, had to release folklore, an obvious fall album, during the middle of this godforsaken summer.

let’s look at the facts:

  1. the song “august” clearly takes place in the past. knock, knock? who’s there? it’s still july you ingrates. i should be crying to this in september. 
  2. all of the photography for the promotion took place in a woodsy clearing. you know what sucks in the middle of summer? big, open, woodsy spaces. they’re too hot, and not appropriately moody. the amount of editing it must have taken to produce those photos is a travesty.
  3. “exile” required bon iver to come out of his annual summer hibernation, which is like inviting a vampire to an outdoor garlic festival at 1pm.
  4. say it with me: “cardigans are not summer appropriate.” 
  5. tears evaporate too quickly in the summer, and then you’re just sitting there like some puffy, sad salt lick.

now, i want to make one thing perfectly clear: i do not fault taylor swift for this, and not just because I fear her powers. taylor has managed to make us all feel a new flavor of sad during this hopeless summer, versus the standard lukewarm defeatist depression. no, i blame everyone who hasn’t worn their goddamn mask and every government official who decided that it would be supes cute to open businesses when we had “flattened the curve” at roughly one billion cases a day, because you created an atmosphere so devoid of anything to watch or do that our great cardigan goddess felt compelled to release this album now instead of waiting for a more appropriate season. she shouldn’t have had to do this. it is cruel, unusual, and seasonally inappropriate.

if there is any justice in the world, taylor swift will soon be releasing an album that, when played backwards, sends all of you back to the hell you crawled out of. for now, we’ll all just have to settle for knowing that, in the grand scheme of this hellpit summer, we’re all betty. 

the only correct responses to hearing folklore

it is the summer of folklore and we are *feeling* things. t-swift has dropped an emotion bomb, and while our response has been to sob into a decaying oak tree, that may not be your vibe. however, there are certain reactions to this woodsy attack on the heartstrings that are more appropriate than others. here are the twenty-three definitively correct things to do after listening to folklore:

  1. calling your high school ex, begging them to get back together, fifteen years later
  2. diving headfirst into a murky bog and proclaiming it as your new home
  3. screaming, “why don’t you look at me like you used to?!?” at your mailman
  4. renting a 2006 honda civic for an unnecessarily cramped make out session
  5. getting a bob, regardless of whether you have the face shape for it
  6. editing every profile photo you’ve ever uploaded to be black-and-white
  7. listening to early lana del rey and whispering and pointing out all areas where taylor has now done it better
  8. muttering, “i gave so many signs” whenever you’re asked to repeat yourself
  9. calling your high school ex to tell them you hate them now more than ever, then hanging up and blocking their number
  10. replacing all of your summer tops with cardigans and embracing the sweltering heat because suffering is love
  11. cyberbullying inez
  12. buying a baby grand piano that literally can’t fit in your apartment
  13. carrying out an illicit affair, but, like, sadly
  14. authoring a hamilton-esque chilean historical musical titled “my tears, pinochet”
  15. calling your high school ex and crying, “was it true???” over and over, at a higher emotional pitch each time, until they finally say, “yes.” it does not matter if they know what you’re asking about
  16. getting in a fight with bon iver
  17. installing a screen door in your fifth floor walk-up, just to be able to slam it
  18. saying “fuck” in dulcet tones
  19. increasing the thickness of various sweaters
  20. allowing august to slip away like a bottle of wine
  21. legally changing your name to betty 
  22. holding grudges, tenderly
  23. chamomile

how taylor swift avoided the lead single trap

as taytay has amassed wealth, fame, power, and cats over the last decade, she has been unable to escape one non-kanye-related nemesis: the first song released from her own albums. even as she churned out albums packed with chart-topping, introspective bangers, she seemed incapable of releasing any of those songs in the buildup to her album release.

instead, she continually opted for songs that could generously be described as “sonically foul” and which were wildly out of step with her actual albums. 

the most recent and galling example was a vile poptastrophe titled “me!” that inexplicably featured brendon urie, everyone’s third-favorite pop rock frontman. while lover itself was a delightful journey into the world of a young woman who feels it all coming together… “me!” was a terrifying descent into someone’s half-hearted and frankly reckless journey through the looking glass.

before that, there was the evil and wretched “look what you made me do,” a right said fred ripoff that would have been more at home in an off-broadway parody of the mean girls musical. reputation surely wasn’t as complete as her other pop albums, but from “getaway car” to “call it what you want” and “delicate,” there were plenty of more appropriate options.

and let’s not forget that the lead single for the world-altering, record-crushing, career-defining 1989 was, inexplicably, the entirely forgettable “shake it off.” this faux-empowerment anthem featured taylor claiming people said she stayed out too late (no one has ever thought you partied too hard, sorry tay) and ogling black women’s asses (take the video down, tay)—and was somehow selected from an album that featured, in no particular order: “style, “blank space,” “wildest dreams,” “style,” “new years day,” “clean,” “out of the woods,” “style,” “this love,” “style,” “how you get the girl,” “style,” and “style.”

but this time around, taylor managed not to fall into the same trap. so how’d she do it? she started by filling the album with only good songs, then didn’t release any as lead singles. she just released the dang album, let us vibe to it, and peaced out. 

and we are truly grateful.

Is Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” an Allegory for the U.S.–China Climate Pact?

Taylor Swift is having a moment. If you’ve been anywhere near an electronic device in the last month, this is no news to you. Her album 1989 debuted to critical success she’s never seen before and commercial success no one’s seen since Britney’s hayday. But if there’s been one knock on our pop star du jour, it’s that she’s a relative lightweight.

While Beyoncé samples Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s feminist poetry, TayTay sings about mean boys and fun nights and how old she is. Right? WRONG.

Turns out, T-Swift is using her noted lyrical prowess to comment on the great Issues Of The Day with biting analysis—we just haven’t been looking hard enough. And the proof is in her latest smash-hit single, “Blank Space.”

“Blank Space” has been praised as many things: a self-aware take on her “boy crazy” reputation, a strong repudiation of the stereotypes placed on women, a pure-pop cakewalk that’s easy to listen to and hard to forget. But what we’ve largely ignored is Swift’s intriguing commentary on the recent climate deal struck by American President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Right now you might be thinking, “What on EARTH is [name redacted for legal reasons] talking about, that makes no sense.” Or, you might be thinking, “Wow [name redacted for legal reasons] is so smart I’m glad I’m reading this.” If you’re thinking the second thing, you’re right. Let’s look at the lyrics to find out why:

Swift starts off with “Nice to meet you/ where you been?” as a way of politely chastising China’s absence from previous rounds of climate discussions. It’s as if she’s saying she’s happy to see China finally at the negotiating table, but there really is no excuse for their previous refusals to consider action on climate change.

In the next stanza she moves on to “New money/ suit and tie/ I can read you like a magazine.” Here she acknowledges that it has only been in the last half century or so that China has fully industrialized, and in the process has become an economic powerhouse able to rival and likely surpass the other richest countries. Plus—and this is really getting a bit weird—if you look at the attire both men wore while speaking to the press during Obama’s visit… it’s actually a suit and tie! Spooky!

“Ain’t it funny/ rumors fly/ and I know you’ve heard about me” is an interesting take on President Obama’s known hatred for leaked information coming out of his administration. She wryly calls such leaks “funny” while pointing out that China’s vast intelligence operation has likely already heard plenty. 

When she sings “So hey/ let’s be friends,” I’m 99% sure she’s actually just quoting President Obama’s opening line in the most recent round of negotiations.

“I’m dying to see/ how this one ends,” is one of the more macabre lines in the song and the lyric that makes clear where Swift stands on the issue of climate change. Always one to turn a phrase, she points out that we’ll all be “dying”—in flooded cities, burning hillsides and drought-ravaged plains—to see how HUMANITY ends if we fail to act.

One of her least subtle lines comes next: “Grab your passport/ and my hand.” Yes, Taylor, we understand that this agreement was hashed out on President Obama’s overseas trip last month, and that Obama and Jinping like holding hands.

But she’s right back at it with “I can make the bad boys good for a weekend.” China has long been the proverbial “bad boy” of climate change discussions, but over just a few days of intense negotiations, President Obama was able to make them “good.”

“So it’s gonna be forever/ or it’s gonna go down in flames” is a dire warning once again. Either both nations stick to this hugely important pact for the long run, or the planet literally runs the risk of being consumed by flames fanned by higher temperatures, more severe droughts, and increased lightning strikes.

When Swift sings “You can tell me when it’s over/ if the high was worth the pain” there are actually two reasonable interpretations. Either she’s acknowledging that reducing carbon emissions will be a painful process for an industrializing economy like China’s—and that there’s no guarantee it will be worth it—or she’s pointing out that for decades China’s carbon levels have been too high and that we are all now due for the pain that is sure to come as a result. I’m inclined to believe it’s the former, but you can form your own opinion on this one.

You can’t, however, form your own opinion on the next line: “Got a long list of ex-lovers/ they’ll tell you I’m insane.” That’s because there’s no doubt that Swift is using “ex-lovers” to mean allies, of which the U.S. certainly has a long list. Yet would any of us be surprised if allies like Germany, Brazil, or Israel would refer to America as “insane” in light of recent NSA revelations? In fact, perhaps only Great Britain among our allies would be willing to stick up for us at this point; but in Swift-parlance, that special relationship is more likely to be considered a “soul-mate” than an “ex-lover.”

With “Cause you know I love the players/ And you love the game” Swift offers perhaps her biggest critique of Obama. While he tried to lead through the sheer force of personality and likability, Jinping has successfully mastered the “game” and led China to economic strength and international acceptance that no other communist nation with such a frightening human rights record has achieved.

“Cause we’re young and we’re reckless/ we’ll take this way too far” references the knee-jerk reaction from many American conservatives who said that Obama—despite a term and a half in the White House—is an inexperienced negotiator who made a poorly-thought-out deal with China.

“It’ll leave you breathless/ or with a nasty scar” is actually a little bit rude. Referencing China’s devastating pollution and smog issues (which have been known to leave residents with asthma literally breathless) in a song about their new efforts to reduce emissions just seems like a low blow. The kind of blow that could leave a nasty scar, actually.

After referencing America’s “long list” of allies once more, she goes to the crucial line: “But I’ve got a blank space, baby/ and I’ll write your name.” If there has been one nation missing from climate negotiations in the last few decades, it has undoubtedly been China. Each time an agreement is drawn up, their space remains blank and the pledge remains unsigned. Finally, after years of trying, President Obama is ready to write in China as a partner in the fight against climate change.

“Cherry lips/ crystal skies” is a quick paean to the literally brighter environmental future the two nations share—though I would argue that “cherry lips” is rather offensive if it’s intended to describe Chinese traditional white-face-red-lips makeup, but hey, this wouldn’t be the first time Taylor’s been accused of cultural insensitivity. 

At the end of the stanza she dives into a bit more of a realistic take: “Wait the worst/ is yet to come, oh no.” And she’s right. Even with this historic climate pact and a renewed worldwide effort to reduce carbon emissions, we have already done too much damage. We can do our best to mitigate the effects, but things are bound to get worse before they get better.

“Screaming/ crying/ perfect storms” seems to acknowledge this further in startling imagery. Is this the future we want? Death? Destruction? Massive hurricanes wreaking havoc?

Yet just a few lines later she’s back to describing the negotiations, with a line sure to please both Obama critics and his supporters: “Darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” To fans of the president, this line encapsulates the success of Obama’s trip to China. He smiled for the cameras. He wore Chinese garb. He glad-handed the elites. But behind closed doors he took it to China, getting them to agree to a deal that could limit their economic expansion in order to secure a better future for us all. The president’s detractors are sure to read the line as an indictment of Obama’s attempts to use his charismatic personality to cover up a failed presidency. 

After this, she repeats the chorus a few times for emphasis (as if to say, “Do you hear what I’m saying, America? THIS IS ABOUT INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE NEGOTIATIONS!”), then Swift has one more line of interest: “Boys only want love if it’s torture/ don’t say I didn’t/ say I didn’t warn ya.” Here, she tees up what we can expect from her next album: a scathing critique of the ‘enhanced interrogation” techniques employed by the United States during the War on Terror and the flimsy legal justification used to permit such practices.

I think we’re all looking forward to listening to that, but for now we’ll just have to make do with what we have: a catchy ear-worm of a pop-hit that doubles as a well-researched take on the U.S.-China climate agreement.