The Weekly Rant: Fandom thoughts

You’re in this one, Taylor Nation.

Hi-2015
(Source: Taylor Swift via Instagram)

This one’s definitely going to be a straight-out rant. I know it because even trying to describe it makes me go into a rant. Here at the Swift Agency, just a guy who knows his experience might differ from others, we’ll add a disclaimer here. This is a rant. There is nothing scientific or factual about what I’m presenting. This is just opinion.

A friend of mine once explained to me that being a fan is a weakness. You are forced to buy everything about the object of your affection, you’re forced to watch everything related to them, and you get nothing in return. My counter to this theory was that being a fan gives you a motivation that you can either apply or waste like any other resource. Being a fan of Star Wars got me into computers as a career. Being a fan of Taylor Swift keeps me writing.

The Taylor Nation, wait a minute… I guess I have to preface this for the recent citizens. I know we got re-branded as “Swifties” in most recent times. Back in the beginning of the Fearless Era we were known collectively as the Taylor Nation. Back then, I was the new fan.

Oh yes! We also tend to talk by “eras” which are the 2-3 years dominated by both the album release and the tour of the same name. The time before Fearless is usually known as the Pre-Fearless Era or the Pre-Headliner Era (referring to the fact that Taylor only got to tour as an opening act before Fearless). Current Taylor era is Post-1989 or Pre-TS6 (as in the yet unnamed Taylor Swift studio album #6). It’s a bit of a long era, and some fans are getting antsy. Err…

Okey, fine! I’m also hoping there’s some breaking news about the Sparkly Dressed soon. It’s just been too long.

But on the other hand, you have to accept that as part of a fandom, you’re one in several million. It’s hardly a fair relationship. For Taylor, she can say what she wants and the entire world is listening, but trying to get word back to her is… Well, unlikely. It does happen, but the odds are slim. You’re one in a million (several million actually) that are clamoring for her attention. So what happens here is a great amount of opportunity has to overlap a great amount of luck. There’s a lot to be said about location as well, the chances go up the moment you’re in the US. Then again, nowadays Tumblr and Instagram are your closer allies.

Okey, I know I’ve gone off track… But it’s a rant, so it comes with the territory.

The other thing about being part of a fandom nowadays is the immediate stereotype that you’re just automatically approving, encouraging and promoting anything that your idol (I hate that word – I don’t idolize anybody) does and says. That’s not always the case. You can see that for example in bands that have had a long discography. Some fans will like albums put out in the earlier years but would rather prefer to skip over certain albums done later. Nobody bats an eye when that happens.

Then again, “new” fandoms sometimes idolize their favorite performer so much that even when one dares mention they didn’t like a specific dress at a certain award they go mental (the romper at the MTV Awards of 2014 if you must know). To those fans, I say: chill. I’m certainly not going to turn anti-Swift over a dress. She’s made worst gaffes than that (not going into that again, go here if you want to recall that) and yet I remain a fan. That speaks to how much she’s grown as a performer and a professional artist.

Club Red_Nashville
The Last Club Red (Photo: TheSwiftAgency.com)

But I do think that as time has gone by, the fandom both shrinks and grows. Some people that have stuck around longer have a tendency to be a little too critical of the new blood (no, not the bad blood… not everything is a pun). I like to think that here in the Taylor Nation we’re mostly receptive (or we can learn to be). Sometimes it’s also life catching up with us. Or, age catching up with us (yeah that’s me). I remember when 1989 was coming out in 2014 because I was moving at the time. I’m sure I’m one of the few fans of Taylor that has a mortgage (no, not the only one – I’m sure).

(Yes, I know I’m overdoing the parenthesis thing now)

Quite a few Taylor fans have also gotten married, some even to each other (a little shoutout to Diane and Adam!). Plenty of others have kids now. Even the youngest ones will graduate and go to colleague or to university. Time just marches on. Because of that, some fans just phase out of a fandom and move to other things. Life takes over.

I guess the bottom line for me (again this is my opinion, not a fact) is just don’t worry about it. When Taylor puts out her new album, it will be automatic. You’ll either like it or you won’t. You’ll either want to follow up with her as she promotes it or not. You’ll find out the tour dates and see if any concerts are coming your way and…

And let’s be honest, you’d better start saving up. Chances are you won’t be able to put everything in your life on hold to follow Taylor around. But odds are really high that you will want to keep your options open to go and hear her one more time.

Enjoy your summer, Taylor Nation!

 

 

The 100M Song Certification, the return to Spotify & that other thing

Make music not war, Taylor Nation.

RIAA-100-million-song-certification

Let’s go with the official statement first. As posted in her Facebook page in June 8, it goes like this:

In celebration of 1989 selling over 10 Million Albums Worldwide and the RIAA’s 100 Million Song Certification announcement, Taylor wants to thank her fans by making her entire back catalog available to all streaming services tonight at midnight.

Some of Taylor’s catalog was already available to some streaming services, but now it’s showing up in new digital hangouts like Spotify and Tidal.

You probably recall why her return to Spotify was a big deal. Back in November 3, 2014 she removed everything from Spotify (almost everything – Safe and Sound was still there) which left the company pleading for her to return. Suddenly a letter she had penned to the Wall Street Journal back in July of that same year was instantly relevant again. If you don’t recall, here’s my take on it from back in the day.

Now there’s a lot to digest here. First of all, it makes her music accessible in an easier way. Second, her albums on iTunes have now dropped in price. But the other consequence, that other thing that I mention in the title is… Well, it’s been mentioned by a lot of people like an obvious coincidence that doesn’t sound like a coincidence at all.

Katy Perry’s new studio album Witness was released on June 9, 2017. This is the album that includes the song Swish Swish. The song has been considered a response to Taylor’s Bad Blood.

Ten foot pole, ten foot pole… Where did I leave it… Oh yeah, here it is. I haven’t had to use it in a while. So let me use this to touch on this subject. Hmm. I don’t think I would feel ok with doing that, not even with this tool to reach it. So, not even with a ten foot pole. Make a note of that.

Can you really leave it to people to draw their own conclusions? Well, gossip sites are certainly considering it a shade where it hurts artists the most – their finances. Any other date and we would be in the clear.

There is another reason for the Sparkly Dressed to reconcile with Spotify. Universal Music Group, her distributor, made a long-term deal with Spotify earlier this year. You can read about it on Billboard. Leave it to Taylor to always make a move financially sound.

Here’s where one pet peeve of mine: whenever it’s up for debate whether Taylor has any say in her own career, most haters will assure that “without a doubt” she’s just a puppet. Some even going as far as suggesting she doesn’t write her own songs either. But whenever a business move like this shows up in the news, there’s no doubt on anybody’s minds that she’s behind it. So whenever it’s convenient, she’s got nothing on her brain but when it’s time to call her smart, they’d rather call her evil. At least that’s what people say.

I don’t think anybody’s questioning that finally embracing all online streaming is a financially sound move. It’s the timing that is really hard to ignore. Then again, I wasn’t aware it was an issue until my newsfeed started getting filled with feud-themed articles.

On the other hand, we could just say that if you’re a fan of Katy this is not going to marr her album release one bit. I just don’t like the way this puts fans of both artists on the spot. I actually love some of her past hits.

The bottom line is that for Taylor Swift fans, it’s a good thing to finally have her catalog available everywhere. For Katy Perry fans, I hope they enjoy her new music and wish her and her fans the best. If the feud is fabrication, major troll points to you both.

But if it’s real, please keep your private affairs private and leave us fans out of it.

(Sources: Taylor Swift via Facebook, Spotify, Billboard)

Where do we go from here. An Editorial on Manchester.

On Monday, May 22nd at 10:33pm local UK time, police and emergency services responded to calls reporting victims of an explosion in the town of Manchester, England. This happened right after a concert of pop artist Ariana Grande. According to the Manchester Evening News, 22 people were killed and 120 injured after a bomb exploded in the foyer of the venue, between the arena and Victoria Station.

Ariana Grande performs pop music. You don’t have to be fan of hers or of pop music in general to see what this means. A concert of hers, attended by young fans expecting an evening of fun should be one of the furthest things from any political stance, from any religious extremisms, from any demonstration of hate. And yet, they were targeted because they were vulnerable. After the rage and the sadness and the grief, there’s a dangerous question we’re asking ourselves now. What do we do now? What can we do?

I know politics have to necessarily be involved in the solution in the long run. There’s a balance of both security and diplomacy here. I lean on the side of a cautious balance where racism and religious intolerance are NOT fought with racism and religious intolerance. I’m not for carefree open borders either. Law and order are necessary in the world we live today. In the short run, vigilance is essential. In the long run, I just hope diplomacy wins. It’s a complicated world to navigate.

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(Source: Ariana Grande via Instagram)

Ariana Grande has the right idea. She’s gone ahead and visit the surviving victims of the Manchester attacks and she’s one of the artists participating in a charity concert today (June 4, 2017). Joining her on stage will be Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Usher, Pharrell, Little Mix, Robbie Williams, Black Eyed Peas, Niall Horan and Take That. The benefits of the concert will go to the victims.

Additional security will be in place. The price of freedom might just be eternal vigilance, at least for now.

Stay safe.

Behind The Blog: A new look. Happy Birthday, Liz!

New look for the blog! What do you think, Taylor Nation?

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(Source: Elizabeth Huett via Twitter)

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Huett! The talented and beautiful performer and former Agency backup singer is the most charming person you’ll ever meet. Here at the Swift Agency, just one guy who was lucky to meet her seven years ago at my first ever Taylor Swift concert (The Fearless Tour in Toronto, Ontario), we’ll always love that moment captured and remembered for posterity. We can’t wait for what’s next. And there is something coming soon.

In the meantime, we have no Taylor Swift news. Do you feel like you’re stuck in a call, in permanent hold, feeling the days and weeks go by and you have a bit of a void in your heart? Is it killing you like it’s killing me? This Swift dry spell is made worse since no new music has come out. That means the Sparkly Dressed is not up for any awards anytime soon – meaning no award show appearances. Okey, you’ll mention the “I Don’t Want To Live Forever” song with Zayn Malik. I’m not a big fan of the song nor the movie it promotes, but she did co-write it. That was in December 2016 though. Yeah we got a video last January. Nothing has happened since then and it’s almost June. Argh.

You’ll wonder why I pick this time in the desert of No-Swift-Land to update the site. It’s simple, I’m not busy right now so I want to make sure it works with my writing before I’m too busy to meddle with it. I’ve also taken the last plunge so that you shouldn’t even see WordPress ads. They weren’t intrusive but it came with the package. The site has never been monetized anyway. I’ve evaluated doing it just to offset the cost but there’s hardly any ads that I can say I can stand behind. Until I find those, no ads at all is best.

Now, I know a lot of Taylor Swift sites are picking news that are even remotely related to Taylor. That’s fine. I am not policing how other people write. If you are a long time reader or even a casual one, you might notice that I don’t even report on certain news even when Taylor is involved. This is because I don’t find everything interesting. I don’t want this to be a regular celebrity blog. I try to treat her more as a performing artist and less like a celebrity. That’s why I won’t go TMZ on T-Swizzle just because she was seen in the street.

We’d rather give you some solid blog entries that a lot of barely worthwhile stuff. You will notice that I try to give you a lot more grown up content and less high school gossip style articles. That’s me just trying to evolve this site a little bit. Don’t worry, once in a while I do like to throw in a ninja or two into the mix just to keep you on your toes.

I’m still writing. Keep reading.

The faults in our stars. An Editorial.

(Source: Taylor Swift via Twitter)

This might sting a little, Taylor Nation.

Here at the Swift Agency, we’re aware that Taylor has a lot of young fans online. To them I might want to preface this with a warning: I’m going to touch on a lot of subjects that might not be to your liking. I almost want to set this post for adults only.  I don’t because nowadays we have ample evidence that being an adult does not mean you are emotionally mature, and I’ve seen young people exhibit maturity beyond their years. As all editorials, this is only my humble (and sometimes not so humble) opinion.

In today’s day and age, seems everyone is pursuing one or several social issues, sometimes a little too fervently, sometimes in a misguided sense. Politics is everywhere these days, to the point that celebrities from all sorts put out their opinions. The fact that someone is a good singer or a good actor does not necessarily makes them a good judge in the political arena. Yes, they might sing your favourite song or have put on a wonderful performance in that movie you like or be the star of your favourite TV show. That doesn’t translate into wisdom in a different field. However, if you have a platform and an audience that you can reach, it’s considered almost wasteful not to use it to push an agenda for a cause you believe in. And so, we have singers, actors, performers and celebrities of all sorts pushing social issues and political leniencies.

Taylor Swift has opted for being mostly silent. She has encouraged people to vote, but other than that she hasn’t shown a preference for a particular political party. This has been interpreted by some people in social media comments to mean she supports a particular political figure or a controversial social issue but won’t say. Silence is hardly evidence. Taylor has no political credentials and plenty of reasons not to get into it.

Taylor has shown flaws in social issues before. I don’t need to remind you, or perhaps I do, of that awfully condescending tweet to Nicki Minaj about letting her come onstage if Taylor won. Yes, that was a little too much from a place of privilege. I’m sorry about the reminder, I know it hurts and I know it was a painful lesson for her. I also wasn’t a fan of using the performance of “Style” to turn the runway into a model’s catwalk during the 1989 tour. Give me a duet with another artist anytime, but a fashion/celeb spotlight felt out of place. You can draw on this to imply lack of awareness, insensitivity or even insincerity but I find it hard to find ill intent in these mistakes. Even in the very polarizing subject of feminism, she’s changed her stance with time. That’s as far as I mean to go. I don’t have the credentials to police anybody on that topic.

Taylor has done wonderful things for people. She’s visited sick children in hospitals and unlikely shown up at weddings and birthdays. She’s given gifts and money to schools, libraries and even regular fans. You can argue the publicity angle here, but she’s still done those things. She may not be an activist, but she does comes off as a philanthropist. You can call it all an act, but the time was spent, the money was given and the charity work was done. And yet, when she tweeted her support for the women’s march, so many comments spoke about her absence while others assumed it implied a political leniency kept in secrecy.

Has stardom changed Taylor? She’s grown in fame and popularity. That means now there’s a security detail, a very reserved and more meticulous schedule and a different circle of friends. I know someone’s going to bring up her relationship with the band. I have to be honest here, there was a golden period when she and the band would almost seem as friends. That working relationship may have seemed very close back then, but nowadays it is a lot more distant. Taylor still rehearses and sound checks, but she doesn’t hang around with the band like in the old days. Some of the former members of the Agency actually stay in touch with each other and remain friends. Some are even nice enough to still talk to the crazy and weird fans (I count myself here). I know I’m digressing from the subject of this post, but I just had to reminisce a little.

I don’t buy albums from politicians. I don’t particularly take political advice from music artists either. Yes, there have been people that use their platforms for activism, but they must first spend time in the trenches before they have something to say that is worth a listen. Furthermore, it’s a bit jarring and somewhat embarrassing to hear politics spoken at a concert when you’re there for the music. That’s why I’d rather artists would keep their political affiliation and their professional work separated.

The strangest thing is how there seems to be this notion that anytime you disagree with an extreme position, you’re immediately boxed in the opposite extreme side. Not every person is full blown liberal or democrat. There’s more sides than two. Reasonably, people will have opinions that fall in a wide array across the political spectrum. Some opinions might be easily categorized, some may not. Same with people, not everyone has to have a position that falls neatly in one camp. If there’s a particular topic you feel passionate about shouldn’t you speak now…? Or would you rather be silent in case you lose some of your fandom? But should you choose to say it out loud, the topic will have many experts ready to judge your words and intention.

It’s harder and harder to see Taylor. Long are the days of  local festivals and small venues. She’s become her own brand. She’s a company and a marketable name. Her time and her attention are a commodity that feeds a larger machine. That for better or worse, is stardom. She does peek from behind the curtain once in a while, but those instances are few and far between.

Her lyrics are still there. Sometimes, not so much in the made-for-radio hit single, but in that rather obscure ballad with the crazy bridge hidden inside the album, cocooned between other songs that maybe experimental or single themselves. You know it because it won’t hit the radio, and it will only be sang by a few hardcore fans. But the moment it gets its time on the stage, that track alone will command silence and attention. I think that’s when we get a rare unadorned view into the songstress herself. Miss it and it’s gone.

Did I get off track…? My apologies to you then. I guess you expected some sort of exposé on the Sparkly Dressed. Or perhaps some evidence about how she’s worth or not worth your time. I think you can decide on your own and chances are good that you already have. But I also think that before you can truly say that you’re done with the Blonde With The Sparkly Guitar, you have to know how that next album is going to sound. After all, if the music still has the allure to bring you back, then you have been a fan all along.

Have a wonderful week.