What everyone is finding out too late about Taylor Swift: The “evolution” of a “country” singer


Instead of starting this column with some crazy attention-getter that shows you how I really feel about Taylor Swift, I’m going to try to keep it clean so all the “Swifties” reading this will hear me out. I’ve spent the last hour catching up on all of Taylor Swift’s music and it has been about as torturous for me as it would be for Michael Jordan to sit and watch an hour of Lebron James footage. But I tried to have an open mind. Here’s what I learned/already knew:

Taylor Swift straight up USED the country music genre. And you all let her.

To explain this one, I should jump ahead to her next genre abuse of choice, pop music, but I want to stick with her brief, though affective, country music career for a minute. You should know that I hate country music. This column is not about me, but you need to know that I largely ignored everything from Swift straight outta’ the gate, because I largely ignored the entire genre as soon as I learned about a little group called TLC. Having grown up in Kansas, where almost everyone listens to country, I heard a little bit about Taylor Swift, and “Teardrops on My Guitar” and “Our Song” were all over the two major popular music stations in Wichita, so I heard those. But that draws me to my first point: Why would those stations be playing a Swift song right after a Black Eyed Peas song? Now this is hard to explain, but I’ll take a guess.

Question: Swift’s fanbase is comprised mostly of what demographic? Answer: 12-18 year old girls. Middle and high schoolers. Why? It was a group of girls that were born into the Jonas Brothers era. They were too young for Britney Spears or Destiny’s Child, and there were no other female superstars after them until Swift. At least ones that even mom can agree with. And what do millions of Jonas crushing girls need? A Jonas-aged singer to come along with songs written solely from her diary that they can relate to. Her self-titled album in 2008 came out at just the right time, with songs about high school breakups and being in love with the quarterback. Who DOESN’T want that? In middle and high school, every single text message from a boy deserves a song.

Back to country music. Swift’s timing was perfect. Some of the greatest female country singers, let’s say Faith Hill and Shania Twain, were kind of hitting the twilight of their careers at that point. There were few, if any, young, sparkly dress wearing, and most importantly, RELATABLE girls coming up in the genre at that time. And here she came, with perfect timing (as I mentioned above), a single metaphor to represent an entire nation of dramatic, whining, heart-broken tween girls. So if she had all of that going for her, why did she start as a country artist? My hypothesis, (ATTENTION SWIFTIES, DON’T GIVE UP ON ME AFTER I SAY THIS) is that Swift is not a good singer. I’m sorry. When I say good, I’m thinking of my favorite singers Beyonce, Adele, Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill and more. You can’t tell me Taylor Swift can SANG. Now I didn’t say she’s terrible, I just said she isn’t good. I’ll talk more about her vocals later. But let me make one things clear, I think that she could have held her own in the country genre. It should also be noted that she had a ton of fiddle, guitar, and male country vocals around her to provide a cushion for her iffy vocals on that debut album. Again, I have my anti-country genre biases, but the twangy guitar and sing-songy shout-outs were perfect for a weak vocalist. I mean, at the very least, the girl can carry a tune, and that’s all that mattered. “Our Song”, her third single, made her the youngest person to single-handedly write and perform a number one song on the country charts. She NEVER could have done such a thing on the pop charts where Beyonce was debuting as a solo artist, Rihanna and Chris Brown were pumping out their first big singles, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were still relevant. But the sneaky little PENNSYLVANIAN, mind you, was a genius. She schooled ALL OF THEM and made her own way. With a slew of personally written songs, good hair, and an I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST WON THIS AWARD attitude, she was a perfect, shining star that headed, untouched, for earth. It lead to an explosion.

IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME: A singer becomes so “fearless” that she forgets to use her fake country accent.

So now we’ve got a superstar. If there’s one thing I can’t deny about Swift, it’s that she knows the business. Or at least her management does, because she turned around REAL quick with a sophomore album. But whatever it was, whether it was the fact that she couldn’t keep up her country façade anymore, the fact that she genuinely prefers pop music, or the fact that everyone in her new home of Nashville rejected her as a fraud (okay sorry, that was a bit sensational), she decided on a cross-over album. Want to know how she did it? A little song called “Fifteen.” This song had a little country twang and a similar “high school sucks and so does getting your heart broken” message. EVERYONE COULD RELATE TO THAT ONE. Even girls like me who hated country. What? I mean I PERSONALLY cannot HYPOTHETICALLY relate…I didn’t mean that…Okay maybe I thought “You Belong With Me” was a personal narration to my life…just kidding…but really…The point is, this album still had it’s fairytale, teenage dream, theme that Swift had become a hero from. And radio stations needed her. ESPECIALLY pop music stations. It was a formula for success. A perfect kinetic bond of angsty country lyrics with fun, cheap melodies and some real guitar. It still had a bit of a country sound, but the important thing to note is that TAYLOR SWIFT had lost her country accent. I’m telling you. Go back and listen to “Our Song.” It’s about the most nasel-y country twang you’ve ever heard.

I feel that I’m starting to ramble, and for those of you who are still hanging on, I appreciate you, and I’ll try to get on with it. I do, however, want to stop to note the vocals on the “Fearless” album. Although it’s a different look, it’s still the same voice. Swift still cannot hit the power notes and has a lot of moments where you just wish she wouldn’t have held the note that long. This might not make sense but I’ll try to articulate. And mind you, I’m not singing expert, but I feel like I know enough to say that Taylor Swift has the most annoying vibrato I’ve ever heard. It’s almost like a “lack thereof” situation, but it’s there. When she holds out notes, you hear it and want to cry. But when she punches a note, she almost gets away with it. And anything in her head voice is fair game. I actually think she has a really good indie/singer-song writer type voice (See “Safe and Sound” from the Hunger Games Soundtrack, her best song ever). Meanwhile, she’s wins album of the year and FOUR (It’s pains me to say this) Grammys. WHO LET THAT HAPPEN?

CHAPTER 3: A celebrity dates celebrities, and continues to write about them like they’re all in high school.

I’m trying to wrap this up. I’m already at 1250 words, and could write a whole book on this. But this is “modern era” of Taylor Swift where she has already taken a dump on the entire industry and all of America and gets to run around in LA giggling about it and dating some of the hottest guys on the planet. But, she writes another album, pretty much entirely about John Mayer. WHAT A JOKE. John Mayer did that too, but about, like, twenty other girls just like you, and now he’s too cool and old enough to not have to do that. We all knew he was that way, but you didn’t. You could have taken a hold of an actual platform, made a difference with your fame, and taken some time to reflect on REAL life and write some good songs. But you continued to act like a high-schooler, and everyone already loved you so much that they accepted a half-rate album, “Speak Now” that didn’t even have really any hit singles on it. I’m getting a little less technical because this has gone on far too long. But you all know what I’m talking about. You accepted it. You still love her. YOU’VE BEEN BRAIN WASHED. It’s Taylor Swift’s world and we’re all just living in it.

The final straw: Swift ironically dates an actual high schooler and puts out the weirdest album on the planet.

WUT JUST HAPPENED. Swift has taken some time off to actually put some thought into her latest album. She left the LA dating scene long enough to regroup. She dated all these older men, and acted like a high schooler. Now, she’s a little older, but she’s dating a high schooler. It all works out in the end doesn’t it? NO, IT DOESN’T BECAUSE OF HER NEWEST ALBUM CALLED RED. Just because you get bangs and wear red lipstick all the time now, doesn’t mean you can add dubstep to your life and say you’re reinventing yourself. She should have gone off, traveled, read some books, and grown up. I’m not saying progression of music/sound is not acceptable. I think artists should look for ways to grow musically. She tried to do that, without growing personally. Obviously I don’t know her, but this is how it looks: Swift’s new album isn’t out yet, but the first three singles are not Taylor Swift. She tried to come out with a new sound, but guess what? Her lyrics are still about high school and are about as shallow as the Jonas Brothers’ career was long. One of her big hooks is, “Loving him is red.” What does that even mean? The single “Red” actually is a bit Carrie Underwood-ish. So there’s a bit of country there. But “We Are Never Getting Back Together” is a total Avril Lavigne punk song. It makes absolutely no sense to me. She sounds like a man on part of it and simply talks on other parts. It’s just a mess. Finally, her latest single “I Knew You Were Trouble” has a dubstep chorus. I think it’s safe to say Swift is having a musical, but not personal, identity crisis. She has played so many positions on the field at this point, that she is missing the grounders.

The Swiftian Manifesto Concludes

I am not a Grammy winner, nor am I a talented song writer. So I am absolutely not qualified to say anything I just said, or even pretend I know her. But if you know me personally, you’ll know I haven’t liked Taylor Swift’s music from day 1. That’s not saying I don’t think she is a cool person (I don’t really think that either actually….stop pretending to be so surprised when you win an award, ya wierdy. We don’t even need Kanye West to tell us it’s a joke at this point). And Taylor, if you ever read this, know that I think you’re a nice person. I’M JEALOUS OF YOUR BANGS, OKAY? If my favorite artist Jon Foreman likes you as a person, than I do to. I am just writing to point out how Taylor Swift played us all. It happened so fast that no one knew what hit them. But now we’ve got country singer dropping the bass in one of her choruses and we’ve all got to decide what to do about it. How much longer can this go on!? When will we see Taylor Swift for who she really is?! The answer is never, because even she doesn’t know the answer to that. And if she does, we’re being played even worse that we all thought.

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About Abby Hamblin
Abby is a senior journalism major from Andover, Kansas. She has been a member of the Point Weekly for four years, having served as staff writer, news editor, and now, editor-in-chief. Abby aspires to be a reporter after college, whether that be in sports, politics, or anything in between. She loves exploring San Diego and rooting for all the disappointing professional sports in southern California, as well as supporting Kansas State University. She has interned at the Washington Examiner in Washington, D.C. covering local politics, and also at U-T San Diego covering features and Arts and Entertainment.

6 Responses to What everyone is finding out too late about Taylor Swift: The “evolution” of a “country” singer

  1. emilyzmak says:

    Hah! This was great. Thank you for summarizing my thoughts on this schizophrenic woman-child with a high schooler’s heart and a 22-year old’s maturity, but the best marketing team in America.

  2. kasey's dad says:

    loved the sports analogies, you like music but your heart belongs on the field.

  3. Dylan Lysen says:

    You wrote a lot and I love it.

  4. Didi says:

    Love it! Abby you’re awesome.

  5. Veronica Santoro says:

    I can’t wait for you to come back to college so I can play Taylor Swift in the apartment every day and every night….

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