There has been an issue in music that I’ve tried to avoid. I’ve closed my eyes and ears and tried to run away from reality, but now I can’t because it was all over the VMAs and now there is a new music video, which is absolutely ridiculous and makes me think she sleeps with that damn ruby-red lipstick on. You know who/what I’m talking about: Taylor Swift. Now, going into the territory of criticizing Taylor Swift is just dangerous. Her fanbase is incredibly loyal, and that’s actually part of the reason I’m even writing about this. I am a part of that fanbase. Taylor is my go-to for songs when I sing karaoke. She is a phenomenal singer, and her songwriting is pretty great too, if it sometimes verges on childish. I guess I can say that I’m a fan and supporter of Taylor Swift, and if anyone was bashing her for anything other than what I am going to talk about here, I would be fiercely defensive. The reason I am not going to pull punches now is because, as a fan, I am taken aback by the newest single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
The song, at face value, is not the worst song I’ve ever heard. It’s actually an acceptable pop song that I’d expect from the likes of the Disney Factory musicians or Avril Lavigne-Kroeger (they aren’t married yet, but I’m preparing myself for it). It’s catchy, it has a bit of that embittered relationship-failure edge that’s so popular in pop right now and it’s apparently easy as hell to cover, because there have been more covers of this song than I’ve seen in a long time on YouTube. While these are all compliments on the song, I don’t mean them for Taylor Swift. They are almost an insult to her, because everything I just described suggests “generic and bland,” two things not commonly used to describe a star with a huge closet of awards to brag about.
Taylor Swift is a country/pop star. She found her popularity through that, and she has garnered a huge amount of respect from many for breaking into a field where nobody would give her a shot. Swift could be considered a keystone figure in both modern and future music, and it’s something I don’t think that she fully understands either. She’s important for modern music because she has basically acted as a stepping stone for young people interested in pop music, to allow them to discover what country has to offer. She doesn’t make stereotypical country music or full-on pop music, but what she does allows for an experience with both genres, broadening the horizons of the next generation of musicians.
The second half of my point is that Swift is greatly important for the future of music, because she’s inspiring a whole new group of musicians. She’s getting people to play instruments and write songs that they otherwise might not have. Even if she’s not the best musician or songwriter, the lyrics and music are hers. This is inspiring because she’s a highly lauded musician and songwriter, and she’s just turning 23. She shows the next generation of musicians and performers that there’s some value in being able to write and perform the music you become famous for. By contrast, did you know that the newest Katy Perry song had about seven writers working on it, her included? Did you know that Beyoncé’s “Run the World” had six writers, in a song that basically just shouted “girls!” at you multiple times until you felt sorry for Jay-Z? I mention these artists because they inspire music’s future as well, and it saddens me to admit that Katy Perry might be an influence on anything. Swift illustrates the difference between a musician and a performer.
I guess my concern comes from what this new Swift single means; I see it as one of two things.
A) The industry has finally sunk its hooks into her and she’s lost some of the decision-making clout regarding her own music.
B) She really thinks that this song is a form of musical growth and maturity.
I’ve heard from fans that she shouldn’t receive too much criticism for trying to experiment and grow as a musician. I’m all for experimentation (wiiiiiiiink), but this isn’t experimentation, it’s regression. She removed the country side of her music and exposed the vanilla pop shell. The song is simple, catch, and a large departure from the accessible hybrid she became famous for. I can’t help but feel like it follows the pattern of how many pop stars have fallen from grace. In that respect, I feel it’s my obligation as a fan to not support this music. I’ll admit it’s catchy as hell, but so are Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus, so is that enough?