This morning, "Track 3" from Taylor Swift's new album, "1989," rose to No. 1 on Canada's iTunes. This would not be notable—yet another Swift song, catapulting to the top of the charts—except for the song itself: "Track 3," it turned out, was simply eight seconds of ... white noise.
You could see the whole thing as a simple glitch (and, of course, as a commentary on the deep loyalty of Swift's fan base, in Canada and in the U.S.). But you could also see it as something more meaningful, something in the tradition of Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons and, of course John Cage: Taylor, an expert in the agonies of love and loss, extending her reach to explore technology and nihilism and the entire human condition. "White Noise" may be the great song of our time. So we asked for a review of it from Don DeLillo, the author of one of the great novels of our time.
"Track 3," 2014
Reviewed by Don DeLillo
It is possible to be homesick for a place even when you are there. "Track 3," the latest release from Taylor Swift's 1989, explores the dropped pin, uniting the past and present—the now, the then—with the sharp pangs of its own absence. White noise. Black hole. The gravitational pull of nothingness. The silence's soft ecosystem, nourished by Apples and Cokes and plotted upon plastic products whose names begin with i. On the Internet, it is always spring. It is every season. It is any season. It is the time of year, the time of day, for a small insistent sadness to pass into the texture of things. Dusk, silence, iron chill. Something lonely in the bone.
In the silence, there is solitude. In the solitude, there is silence. This is the whole point of technology. It creates an appetite for immortality on the one hand. It threatens universal extinction on the other. Technology is lust removed from nature. It is purity. It is clarity. It is bravery. The world is full of abandoned meanings. In the commonplace I find unexpected themes and intensities.
The noise evolves. It succumbs to the inertia of music, of industry, of reality. All plots tend to move deathward. This is the nature of plots.
Fear is unnatural. Lightning and thunder are unnatural. Pain, death, reality, these are all unnatural. We can't bear these things as they are. We know too much. So we resort to repression, compromise and disguise. This is how we survive the universe. This is the natural language of the species. This is the language of waves and radiation, or how the dead speak to the living. And this is where we wait together, regardless of our age, our carts stocked with brightly colored goods. A slowly moving line, satisfying, giving us time to glance at the tabloids in the racks. Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks. The tales of the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. The miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The cults of the famous and the dead.