New York City, Monday, August 18 - Taylor Swift went live in a big way at the top of the Empire State Building in New York City, New York with supposedly “big” news in a worldwide live stream Yahoo event on Monday afternoon, August 18, 2014. Nevertheless, although disheartening to Country music lovers, it was no real surprise to those of us who are fans of true Country Music that Taylor Swift will release her first pop album titled 1989 on October 27. Taylor debuted “Shake It Off,” the first single, available at iTunes now and video (which can be viewed at TaylorSwift.com) from the new pop album. The new album will be in stores on Oct. 27. In the nicest way, we hope Taylor sees big sales from her younger pop fans...but it will not come from those of us who have lost our last thread to her link to Country music.
The opinions and statements swirling around this “news” are a mixture of “we knew all along that she was simply commercial pop…” to “Country fans feel betrayed and disillusioned.” As a National Country Music Examiner, it is just as if seeing a classical music artist switch to heavy metal and feeling somewhat duped. But, to fully understand a Country music fan’s dissatisfaction, you must know just a short background of Taylor Swift’s journey into the music industry. She moved to Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 14 to pursue a career in country music. She signed with the independent label Big Machine Records and became the youngest songwriter ever hired by the Sony/ATV Music publishing house. The 2006 release of Swift's self-titled debut album established her as a country music star. "Our Song", her third single, made her the youngest person to single-handedly write and perform a number one song on the Hot Country Songs chart. “Our Song,” mentioning Tim McGraw, seemed to immediately establish her as “Country.” Those of us who were and are still entrenched in true Country Music were refreshed and hopeful that Taylor's little commercially pop threads in her songs were simply just those…little threads.
She received a Best New Artist nomination at the 2008 Grammy Awards. Scott Borchetta, a DreamWorks Records executive who was preparing to form his own independent record label, Big Machine Records. She became one of the label's first signings, with her father purchasing a three per cent stake in the fledgling company at an estimated cost of $120,000. As an introduction to the country music business, Borchetta arranged for Swift to intern as an artist escort at the CMA Music Festival. From there to many awards and songs later, came the news which die-hard country musicians and fans knew would come all along - with Taylor Swift “coming out” in the Yahoo live stream event on Monday, in her dedication to completely pop music.
Now, back to the worldwide live stream on the Yahoo event from New York City on Monday afternoon, August 18, 2014:
Swift gathered a very intimate crowd that she had handpicked to be there. Swift explained that these were "some very dedicated, incredible people." The live stream event from a comfy kind of living room setting also showed her “crowd” looked to be waiting with bated breath for the three big secrets that Taylor was about to reveal to them and the worldwide audience.
Unveiling her new single, "Shake It Off," was the first big secret. Swift played and sang along dancing with the crowd. The fluffy, heavily pop song’s lyrics told about the tough lesson in life she had learned; you can’t control what people can say about you but you can control your own reaction. This is probably the best advice Taylor can give herself, because her Country music fans are saying a lot and it’s not favorable.
Next, Swift announced her new album 1989, two years in the making and named for which is Dec. 13, 1989. She is very proud of the pop album, saying, “We made my favorite album that I've ever made." and excited that this is her first "official pop album." "I loved the chances they were taking," Swift said of the inspiration of the late ‘80’s bold pop music. The music is definitely pop, heavily keyboard and beat driven as usually represented in Taylor’s music.
The 1989 album will include 13 songs, CD booklet designed by Taylor, one of five collectible sets of 13 exclusive photo prints, and a code to enter the 1989 Swiftstakes™. A deluxe version of the album will include three additional songs and three songwriting voice memos. These memos are personal audio recordings that offer a unique insight into Taylor's songwriting process and document the early creation of three songs on 1989, which are available at Target stores in both the U.S. and Canada.
Finishing up the live stream event, Swift played the music video for "Shake It Off." Commenting on the video, Swift explains that it was "A huge group of incredible professional dancers and they throw me into the middle of them." It does feature Swift dancing in the middle of scenes with modern dance, break dancing, ribbon dancers and ballerinas. Moreover, it’s difficult to forget added twerkers and the cheerleaders.
Swift has self-identified herself as a country music artist with hints of pop and pop rock - or so Country music fans once thought. Today, Taylor Swift's music should be pop and pop rock with earlier hints of Country music. At one time, the Rolling Stone asserted that, "she might get played on the country station, but she's one of the few genuine rock stars we've got these days." Really? Many may certainly disagree with such a bold statement.
Swift's own definition of country music as stated from her Wikipedia quotes, "is really pretty simple. It's when someone sings about their life and what they know; from an authentic place, one guy will write about how he grew up on a farm and fell in love and raised kids on that same farm. Some people sing about how, when they get sad, they go to the bar and drink whiskey. I write songs about how I can't seem to figure out relationships and how I'm fascinated by love."
Taylor Swift, according to The Hollywood Reporter, "does her best, but certainly doesn't have the pipes to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Christina Aguilera or Carrie Underwood." Her live vocals have been described as "flat," "thin, and sometimes as wobbly as a newborn colt." Although Taylor has received praise for refusing to correct her pitch with Auto-Tune, in this Examiner’s conversations with unnamed and private sources who were present during studio recordings, seem to report the opposite with extensive changes and mastering.
As reported in an interview with The New Yorker, Swift sees herself first as a songwriter: "I write songs, and my voice is just a way to get those lyrics across." Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Records has agreed that Swift is "not the best technical singer" but describes her as the "best communicator that we've got." Taylor, herself, has admitted to "putting a lot of work" into improving her vocals. She has said that she only feels nervous performing "if I'm not sure what the audience thinks of me, like at award shows." It was reported in 2010 that she continued to take vocal lessons.
Taylor Swift is a seven-time GRAMMY winner and the youngest winner in history of the music industry's highest honor, the GRAMMY Award for Album of the Year. More of her illustrious honors and earnings beyond measure are on her Wikipedia page.
One may call her a crossover artist and that may be technically true. From a Country music fan’s heart – she’s been standing squarely in pop all along. The New York Times notes that, "There isn't much in Ms. Swift's music to indicate country – a few banjo strums, a pair of cowboy boots worn onstage, a bedazzled guitar – but there's something in her winsome, vulnerable delivery that's unique to Nashville." The New Yorker believes she is "considered part of Nashville's country-pop tradition only because she writes narrative songs with melodic clarity and dramatic shape—Nashville's stock-in-trade." The Guardian has said that Swift "cranks melodies out with the pitiless efficiency of a Scandinavian pop factory."
Although Taylor Swift has said there will be "a huge temptation" to make an alt-country record as her career progresses, will she be accepted again as a Country artist? Country music fans, whether traditional or alternative, have their pride and hearts deep into that genre. When an artist who claimed to be “country,” quickly leans toward and shows more passion in another genre, such as pop, we become a little less enthused by the jump back into what that artist once claimed to be as Country. Much like a classical artist becoming a heavy metal music artist, it’s difficult to swallow. Farewell, Taylor – we wish you well and only time will tell. Well, and possibly the 2014 American Music Awards.