Do I, a White Man in my Forties, Enjoy the New Olivia Rodrigo Album?

Answering what is apparently the most important question of our times.

Jude Ellison S. Doyle
6 min readSep 14

“I’m just not sure this song about kissing Joe Jonas under the stars after we appeared together at ‘High School Musical: The Show: The Musical: The Live Show’ captures MY experience.” — Jason, 33 years old. Photo by Trust "Tru" Katsande on Unsplash

I sometimes tell people I transitioned so I could stop having an opinion on Taylor Swift. This might not be a joke. Tons of people like Taylor Swift, and it’s fine if you like Taylor Swift, and basically every female friend I have adores Taylor Swift and I welcome them to her, but her stuff just doesn’t work for me. Never has.

You could come up with all sorts of theories for this — I’m a dude; I’m trans and weirdly triggered by normative femininity; I got bullied by the preppy girls in my Christian youth group; etc. — but the most important fact is that Taylor Swift is roughly ten years younger than me. Her songs are usually conveying an experience I no longer share, if I ever did. I mean: She’ll have a song, and the lyrics will be something like, “I still remember the time you broke my heart and shattered my self-esteem and left me beside the highway like a dead deer carcass and I envy that dead deer because it has no more feelings whereas I will forever be destroyed by the horrible thing you did,” and you’ll look up the story behind that song, and it will be about some guy who didn’t come to her birthday party.

A birthday party. Good Lord, Taylor Swift. Get it together. Then again, that song was written by a twenty-two-year-old, and I would have been exactly that dramatic about a birthday party when I was twenty-two. I’ve lived through multiple wars, I remember where I was on 9/11, I’ve survived a pandemic and a recession and an attempted coup, I’ve come out and gone on hormones and lost all my grandparents and one parent and gotten married and had a kid: I am old, and my heart is tired, and I cannot care about birthday parties. But there is a kid somewhere who is absolutely heartbroken about a party, and that kid needs Taylor Swift to get them through it intact.

One of the people who needs Taylor Swift is Olivia Rodrigo. Rodrigo is the singer behind “Brutal,” that one pop song that sounds sort of like Elastica and a lot like the general concept of the 1990s. Olivia Rodrigo cannot remember where she was on 9/11, because Olivia Rodrigo had not yet been born; she’s twenty, which means she was born in (brace yourself)…

Jude Ellison S. Doyle

Author of “Trainwreck” (Melville House, ‘16) and “Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers” (Melville House, ‘19). Columns published far and wide across the Internet.

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