By Virginia K. Smith
Have you heard the bad news? Social media ain’t so good for the ol’ brain. Even if you’re an Art Deco skyscraper and technically don’t have one. That devilish dopamine engineering is simply too intoxicating to resist, and before you know it you’ve gone from making charming TikToks in conversation with your fellow skyscrapers to clout chasing on the coattails of a Taylor Swift condiment meme.
If you’re wondering what on God’s green earth we’re talking about here, big congrats to you, you’re probably somewhat mentally well. But also, we’re talking about the Empire State Building’s social media presence, and its increasing reliance on simping for Taylor Swift. Let me explain.
Back in September, the 54th-tallest building in the world got in on the “ketchup and seemingly ranch” frenzy that resulted from a fan account’s assessment of Taylor’s snack choices at a Kansas City Chiefs game, lighting up the damn building (or at least using an old photo to pretend to have done that) in colors to match the aforementioned chicken tender sauces.
Classic case of a brand — sorry, not a brand, one of the “Seven Wonders of the Modern World” — hopping on the bandwagon of a zeitgeist-y meme, and by doing so, stamping said meme into the ground. In fairness, plenty of other accounts including Mrs. Met also got into the mania, it jumped the shark, we all moved on.
Smash cut to this week, when “the building” dropped a cryptic post with a black heart emoji, which heavily online Swifties who'd been hunting for assorted clues for days took to mean as an official signal that Swift would announce a release date for the "Reputation (Taylor’s Version)" album within the next day or so. (Look, I’m heavily and sincerely obsessed with Taylor Swift and would follow her into the jaws of hell, but I don’t really get much of the above either, so don’t ask.)
As of press time the album’s release date has NOT been announced, leading to predictable (and let’s be honest, not that serious) internet backlash for “the building.”
48 hours after all that, “the building” culled a collection of mildly critical tweets into a montage of haters to launch its own “Reputation Era,” complete with shots of the building lit up in neon green, a reference to the aesthetics of the actual "Reputation" album.
For readers who have had a few other things on their minds since this blew up in 2016, Taylor released "Reputation" amid the fallout from Kim Kardashian “exposing” her alleged lies about Kanye West and flooding her mentions with 🐍emojis, iconography that later became a massive part of the album and tour.
And for readers who want a reality check, you can always look online for the official schedule of Empire State Building light colors and their meaning, which are often for causes like The New York Landmarks Conservancy or The Alzheimer's Foundation of America. This week, they're also lighting up in honor of the KISS farewell tour.
But back to the Taylor stuff: On Spotify Wrapped day yesterday, more of the same:
Firstly, you're gonna have "Anaconda" in your top New York songs when "212" is nowhere in sight? This list is a mess in every conceivable way. Secondly, everyone knows "Cornelia Street" is Taylor Swift's actual top New York-related song and "Welcome to New York" is widely disliked even among superfans like myself.
Thirdly, and most importantly, why does one of the most famous buildings in the world need to work this hard to ride the zeitgeist of whatever Taylor Swift stuff is happening on Twitter (again, I refuse to call it X) at a given moment? As far as we're aware, there's no official partnership here, and Taylor Swift has long since quietly stepped down from her 2014 post as the city's official tourism ambassador. If she is still some kind of on-the-books public official, hi Taylor! Dave has a few questions for you.
We're not here to be totally joyless (well maybe Tim is — he claims to not even understand the concept of an "Era" at this late stage in 2023). The Empire State Building's social media evolution over the past few years has largely been cute and fun (except when it's trolling us about the New Jersey Devils or the Philadelphia Eagles or whatever), and anyway, we reserve the right to get weird and thirsty on our own social media if at some point it becomes necessary for The New York Groove brand.
But this all just feels a little much, a little sweaty, a little like a widely beloved inanimate, historical entity working too hard to attach itself to a human celebrity's pre-existing brand. But all that said? If it turns out this is just a roundabout way of telling us that the Empire State Building killed Henry Kissinger, all will be instantly forgiven.