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.


Beliebe in Fan Power

I really wanted the first thing I posted on modern avenue to be about sports, but sometimes you just have to write about Justin Bieber instead. Don’t worry, I’m working on something sports-related, but I’ve just been really busy trying to get Biebs to tweet back so I haven’t had a lot of time to work on it. And for the Justin Bieber haters, this is about more than just him so please stick with me.

I’ve noticed that the people who don’t like Bieber have formed a consensus that the main reason they don’t like him is because he’s “annoying.” I’m not sure about the merit of that statement, because it we’re talking about his voice, sometimes your Fran Drescher is the next guy’s Barry White. Show me a court that can judge annoyance level and I’ll bring you a 17-year-old pop star in hand cuffs. A second reason I’ve heard for Bieber hate is that he is too young to be singing about what he sings about. I didn’t see anyone complaining when Michael Jackson was singing things like “Life with out love, It’s oh so lonely” when he was a whole five years younger than Bieber. And that was 40 years ago, so I think that is an outdated standard. Also, he’s 17 right now. You were doing worse at 15. Finally, we get to the third reason, and focus of this column, and that is that people don’t like that he is everywhere.  He’s a household name, known to music lovers of every genre, whether they like it or not. And if you don’t like that he’s everywhere, what I have to say is, hate the game, not the player. We’ve been thrust into a generation of “artists” whose main focus is the fans. That’s right, fans first, music second.

Cue Lady Gaga.

I’m no expert, but before these pups (Gaga, Bieber, Ke$ha, ect.) came along, the trend of the music industry was at first to replicate and or improve upon the influence of the pioneers of a particular genre. After that, it became about being the best, and being different. Artists worked to create their own sound and to be the best musician they could be. Finally we arrived at the “new millennium”, a place where it’s all about the money (obviously) and what the fans want. The integrity of musicality is lost somewhere between club bangers and cheesy anthems. That’s not to say this is a stereotype for all modern artists, but it’s just the trend I’ve noticed, especially in pop music.

Back to Lady Gaga, who says she is connected to her “monsters” by an umbilical cord. “…I’ve realized that my purpose on the Earth is so much greater than writing hit songs,” she says in a Rolling Stone interview. “Someone said to me, ‘if you have revolutionary potential, you have a moral imperative to make the world a better place.” Now this certainly isn’t the first time an artist has used music as a platform, but again, this is an example of this new breed of artists who are all about the fans. Mind you, with the evolution of the music industry (we’re talking mostly of pop here, but its widespread, too) technology has also evolved, and this is a whole new game we’re talking about. Blah blah blah. But the point here is that “the game” to be hated is that of the connection of these artists and their fans that is more paramount than the quality of their music.

We’re talking Taylor Swift and her shotty vocals that take teen girls from the pages of their diaries to the big stage. We’re talking Justin Bieber following over one hundred thousand of his fans on twitter and retweeting what they tweet to him on a daily basis. Lyrics that focus on fans who don’t care about how their idol sounds, but that their idol cares back. Gaga & Monsters. Taylor & Swifties. Jonas & Jonatics, Ke$ha & Animals, Bieber & Beliebers. Whatever you think the motive, this new breed of pop stars has found its niche, a simple catalyst that rockets them to the mouths of dad at dinner tables and obsessed teenage girls who don’t care if the artist is a robot, as long as the robot looks good and outputs. So don’t hate these artists, hate that it is so easy for them to make it to the top. Hate that musicality is second to star power. Hate that teenage girls are writing direct messages to Justin Bieber on twitter, and he’s tweeting back that he read them.

Empty Spaces

The anticipation of a concert is always ridiculously high for several reasons. We spend WAY too much on tickets and expect to get our money’s worth, we idolize celebrities, and it’s a true chance to forget everything going on in life. I’ve seen concerts in every genre, from B.B. King, Usher, Nickelback, Lil’ Wayne and many other names not even worth mentioning. The one thing all of these concerts had in common is the fact that I left there feeling like I got my money’s worth. Well, they say there is a first for everything! This past monday I attended the Jason Derulo and Kevin Rudolf concert at Bramlage colosseum in Manhattan. I got up bright and early the day the tickets went on sale to assure the best seats possible, why? Maybe I thought an itunes top 100 duo could sell out a small venue. Maybe I thought students would jump at the fact that tickets were much less with their student ID. Like always, I was wrong.

The attendance at this event mimicked that of a WNBA game or maybe a Furman University sporting event of any type. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the names Jason Derulo and Kevin Rudolf here are some facts. Jason Derulo has had at least 3 top ten hits in the last year, and Kevin Rudolf has recorded songs with the who’s who of hip/hop and R&B including Lil’ Wayne. The music industry is hard enough to get into, shouldn’t we support those who deserve it? My dad always told me to go to as many concerts as I could just in order to learn music appreciation, which I honestly believe he is right.

The weak crowd with little to no intensity may have killed all of the artists excitement for that nights show. Rudolf took the stage playing one of his all time hits. Guitar in hand, he royally sucked!! This was similar to a drunk karaoke night at the bar, or a 2 a.m. game of rock band. Just an example for how people responded to this pitchy, so called super star, the girls sitting next to me who were obviously not born in the United States were so excited they could barely contain themselves. The DJ came out and they lost it, literally jumping up and down, clapping, and nearly crying. Not even five minutes later these college age girls were sitting in their seats talking to each other while the rest of the place stood, pretending to enjoy this distorted cat scratching sound. This may have been the ultimate buzz kill. A waste of anticipation at it’ s finest. Lucky for us he sang four or five songs and exited the stage gracefully, with little applause.

Lucky for us, Derulo was able to recover from his less than appealing opening act. Unlike Rudolf, Derulo was able to get over the fact that the crowd was the size of my high school graduation. He danced, he sang, and of course he made ever girl there wish she was the one that he could serenade. I am disappointed in my fellow students for not supporting these guys, but hey twelfth row isn’t bad at all.


Alex Carney

Find me on twitter, @carney316 or email me at ks.wordpress@yahoo.com! Thanks.