The River's Badge

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Swiftification of Music


Oh, just call me "mean".

I'm frankly tired of surfing over to Entertainment Weekly's website or to my local newspaper's site and having to read yet another glowing story about Taylor Swift. (Okay, I guess I don't have to read them, but the masochist in me just can't seem to resist).

Even our local music reviewer, Jon Bream, has now labeled Taylor the "artist of the century", and I really used to respect Jon's common sense. I don't know for sure, but Jon looks to be about 62 (sorry if I'm wrong, Jon!) So, really? What 60'ish person is running out to buy Taylor Swift CD's? If they're even able to run.

I'm younger than 62, and I don't know anyone my age, or even ten years, or twenty years younger than me, who's buying her music. Jon, are you trying to hold onto your lost youth, the relevance you had when you were reviewing Led Zeppelin back in the seventies? Is Taylor really on your ipod? If you know how to work one of those new-fangled contraptions, I mean.

Sorry, but call me skeptical. The same way I seriously doubt that the legends of country music (and I'm not talking about stars from the fifties - how about stars from the last decade?), like Vince Gill or Patty Loveless, are comparing notes about which Taylor Swift song is their absolute, number one fave. "Ooh, I like 'Fifteen'! I can totally relate to being a freshman in high school, and all the boys are telling me how cute I am!", says Patty, or Vince.

Sure, ask them in public, stick a microphone in front of them, and they'll say, "Oh yes, we just LOVE her!" They know better than to rock the boat.

Privately, they're probably whispering to each other, "Can you believe this crap? What the....? Where did country music go?"

Well, Patty and/or Vince and/or the rest of you, how about coming clean about how this chick is ruining country music? Stop this politically correct garbage, Jon!

As a supreme sacrifice to my ears, and in the interest of this blog post, I clicked on over to Taylor Swift's official YouTube page tonight and listened (sorry, couldn't watch) to an assortment of her songs. Oh sure, now I'm number 28,512,234. Great. Just what I want to be known for.

This girl has remained on the outer edges of my consciousness for lo these past few years, for the simple fact that I really hate everything her songs stand for.

From my extensive (10-minute) research, I have found that the things Taylor stands for are these: boys, sparkly things, martyrdom, ballerinas, snowflakes, boys, glitter, canopy beds, lip gloss, boys.

Not that I have anything against snowflakes (or boys, I mean, you know, if they're my sons.)

Try posting a critical comment on one of these online stories, though, and the predictable retort magically appears, as if arriving on the tip of a snowflake: "Well. I'll have you know, I took my 12-year-old daughter to Taylor's concert, and she just loves her!"

Exactly! I'm not twelve!

You know, it wouldn't be all that bad, if every new act wasn't mimicking her. Thus, the "Swiftification of Music". Oh, you can hear it in practically every song now (if you dare listen). The same vocal cadences. The pop phrasing. The breathiness of the vocals (and then there are the female singers). I'm thinking they're afraid to speak in anything other than a whisper, because apparently there is a shortage of oxygen now (blame global warming!), and one really needs to save what little breath they possess in their eighty-pound bodies, because, who knows? Oxygen might come in handy one day!

Tammy and Patsy, I'll bet, are turning over in their graves. "What? I can't hear her!" "Get her a bigger microphone!" "Is she lip-synching?"

Then, of course, there are the run-on lyrics, like these:

This is looking like a contest,
Of who can act like the careless,
But I liked it better when you were on my side.
The battle's in your hands now,
But I would lay my armor down
If you said you'd rather love than fight.
So many things that you wished I knew,
But the story of us might be ending soon.

Now I'm standing alone in a crowded room and we're not speaking,
And I'm dying to know is it killing you like it's killing me, yeah?
I don't know what to say, since the twist of fate when it all broke down,
And the story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now, now, now.


The devil-may-care, who needs a song to rhyme, when you can just jot down your stream of consciousness ramblings that really don't need to make any sense, except to tweenagers, which makes the songs so much easier to write, because, if you've ever listened to a tweenager talk, she just goes on and on and on and on about nothing, until you really have to go into another room and shut the door quietly, in order to regain some sense of equilibrium and sanity.

There! See? I just wrote me a modern country song!

I like the term, "Tween Country" (which I have just now coined). I say, let's differentiate this stuff from real country music. And then I'm fine. Just stop calling it country music. In fact, while we're at it, can we stop calling all this current stuff country music?

Jon Bream, I know you have good taste. I've read your stuff for years. I know that you know what good music is. Stop pandering.

It's time that somebody, or a lot of somebodies, puts a stop to this.

Yea yea; why do I have to be so mean?


I leave you, as I generally do, with a video, since this is a video blog. Here's what a singer can do when she's not trying to hoard her oxygen supply:


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