Taylor Swift and why pop may not be a bad thing. An Editorial.

(Source: Peter Hapak / Marie Claire)
(Source: Peter Hapak / Marie Claire)

Country road, take me home…

Heads up, editorial headed your way. This means I get wordy. A lot. Here we go.

I’ve always hold back a little when I’ve talked about Taylor’s progressive transition into pop music. Pop was not originally a genre but it become one a long time ago. It was basically the most popular vein of music, easy to listen and hard to forget. Pop music can be dance music, can be rock, can be even have flavors from hip hop and other genres, also including Country. However, its origins are in crowd-pleasing popular rhythms that the audience majority listens on radio. It’s not a stretch to think that the more popular an artist gets, specially one that gets to define her own genre as Taylor does, the more chances their music will have some pop flavor to it.

Taylor’s roots started in Country music, and the fact that she has declared her upcoming 1989 album her first fully “documented” (I’ve gone over what she means by that and I’m not sure yet) pop album is more an admission than a change. She hangs out with a lot of pop stars as her best friends. Some of them make amazingly great music, such as singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson. She also once had Sara Bareilles as a guest which is another amazing singer-songwriter that I hope influences her. On the other hand, there are other pop singers I’d rather she does not draw anything from but I can’t stop that.

The fact that Taylor may not put any country flavor anymore in her songs does make me treasure her first hits and miss those times, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to listen to where she’s going. For all her statements about doing what she’s never done before, Taylor also responds to trends and what her fans want. They wanted to dance, they wanted to see her happy. She actually does all that in her first single “Shake It Off”.

But as a lot of genres have pop influences, pop does have its own sub-genres. That’s something that you should look forward to with gusto. Taylor may have added too much pop into country for the taste of traditional country listeners. I also want her to infuse pop music with more than just the bells and whistles that accompany most of flavor-of-the-day hits nowadays. I want her to take the pop world by storm. “Shake It Off” is just Taylor saying “hello, I’m Taylor” with a little welcome side of sass to all her detractors.

Every Taylor Swift album has had specific poignant songs aimed at a particular taste. “Long Live” was that triumphant anthem of nostalgia and success that earlier on was occupied by “Change”. “All Too Well” is that power ballad that you could possibly compare to “Last Kiss” and “Dear John” put together. USA Today’s Brian Mansfield called “Shake It Off” Taylor’s “Mean” 2.0, although I’d compare it more with “22”, “We Are Never Ever Gonna Get Back Together” and “You Belong With Me” but I might have to concede him that the message does go deeper than those previous hits.

So in 1989, what will “Long Live” sound like? What will be song with the passion and fire that belongs to “All Too Well”? I always think that critics were a little too unfair with the Speak Now album, it did had tracks that never had their day. Did “I Knew You Were Trouble” took the place of “Haunted” or is that too much of a stretch?

What about her country hits? Would the market really respond to a song like “Tim McGraw” all over again? What about “Our Song”, which Taylor has constantly brought back during concerts for her B Stage? She can’t change and won’t change who she is now. She can’t really come out in curls and a sundress anymore because she did that already. She has to move forward, but I’m really pining for some mix with Folk or Americana like the songs she composed with now the disbanded duo The Civil Wars.

Alas, that’s not going to happen. Her transition from country to pop is now complete (that sounded a little too Darth-Vader-y, didn’t it). But I hope I do get to see her start a transition from regular pop radio favorite pop into more potent deeper, indie-like, arena-pumping, heart-fueled popular music.

Why should I want more than pop? Because Taylor IS more than pop. Her genre changes, and I might be biased and more than a little jaded, but I’m not thrilled with songs made to become pop radio’s favorites. I want the quiet and powerful ballads with a raging storm underneath a calm surface. I know she can deliver those. Will it be so terrible if I don’t like all the songs in the next album? Can I remain a fan if I have a few favorites and others that I can listen but I don’t play that often?

Most artists that I like have some songs I don’t like. Some even have some purely poppy songs before more serious, deep songs came along. Ones helps sell the album, the other gives you the other side if you care to listen. Can Taylor have a happy song without being called a lightweight or  a sellout? Let’s be honest, Taylor can’t have a song without being called any number of things. She might as well have fun with it. That’s how “Shake It Off” can be an earworm of a song with empowerment.

I believe I’ve already mention it, but just in case I haven’t or haven’t been clear about it, it’s my intention to be a little more selective on the posts that I write. You’ll still get every major announcement, award and appearance but I’m trimming down on the pictures of Taylor going to the gym or other articles written about the same thing. I specially don’t think I need to mention every article on her unless there is something new in there.

Then again sometimes I revise that policy if Taylor does something particularly cute 🙂 In those cases, I’ll try to group all those little tidbits so I don’t spam you every time it happens, deal? Deal.

Taylor Swift is included in Marie Claire’s 20 Women Who Are Changing The World. The article mentions her song “Ronan” and her commitment to charity including spending valuable time with children in hospitals out of the blue.

Coming up on the Calendar!

(Sources: TheSwiftAgency.com, Marie Claire)


5 thoughts on “Taylor Swift and why pop may not be a bad thing. An Editorial.

  1. Well done. I agree with much of what you have written here. I also hope that Taylor doesn’t lose the imagery in her lyrics as she makes the transition to a more pop sound. That is a rare quality. The only other song writer that comes close (in my opinion) is Robert Smith of “The Cure”. [Taylor & Robert is my dream collaboration] With both of them, just close your eyes and you can see in your mind’s eye the song play out. It’s amazing like a four minute vacation for your brain.

    Of course, “The Cure” have the reputation of being “Goth” but they have had some ridiculously poppy song over the years. Taylor is now exploring her pop side full on. We have one song. It’s a good song, no doubt! We’ll have to wait and listen to the other 12 to get her full vision.

    Should I ever get to ask Taylor a question about the new record it would be if the shirt she’s wearing for the album cover of “1989” Is a nod to the ’80’s band “A Flock of Seagulls”. I saw that straight away during the Live Stream. I may be reading too much into it.

    1. Thank you! I actually saw the cover and thought it was a bit David Bowie-esque for some reason. I do see a reference to A Flock Of Seagulls. Perhaps it’s a mesh of imagery put together to resemble something 80s familiar, but I do like the retro style of the cover art.

  2. Great editorial…..I hadn’t thought about Taylor’s Pop-subgenre. It could be really interesting watching her change Pop Music into something more meaningful.

  3. Have faith, sir. You can absolutely be a fan and not love an entire album. I felt that way about Red. I was very disappointed by WANEGBT but my feelings about Shake It Off are a complete 180; I think this is the best single she’s ever released next to maybe Our Song (which I think will always be my favorite song). She said in that interview with Alicia Mendez on Fusion that while she loved Red, she essentially felt that it was too musically schizophrenic (like, folk then dub step? Kind of giving her audial whiplash, is basically what she said), and that that was her motivation for making 1989 her most sonically cohesive album. I don’t think that means every song will necessarily sound the same, certainly not thematically. I mean, her first record was as pure country pop as this will be pure pop, and yet she managed to give every song a different enough mood, at least for me.

  4. I love reading your feelings about Taylor’s music. This editorial made me want to comment. If only just to chime in with a couple thoughts.
    I think that when Taylor said “documented” she was saying that yes, on the top of everyone’s minds is the genre question, so let’s just officially *document* this album’s genre as pop. When I read her op-ed for the Wall Street Journal I liked reading her take on the genre subject. I thought of that when the word “documented” left her lips. Everything is inevitably labeled and put into its tidy box by the media (to say it bluntly and oversimplified in a sentence). But for a creative artist, it’s probably a huge challenge to keep overthinking all of this. At the end of the day, it’s music.
    One of my all-time favorite bands is Talking Heads. And I’m one of those fans that loved every musical transformation they ever did. Sure, I have favorite albums, and missed prior “eras” of the band’s collaborative lineup, but ultimately it was all such an exciting, creative musical ride. My one major fear with Taylor’s transition into Era Five is that much-loved members of her musical family won’t be present, just as I was deeply saddened when David Byrne went completely solo and Talking Heads were no more. So this coming Sunday I am wondering who is going to be on stage with Taylor.
    I, too, would love to see Taylor do more “indie-like” songs with depth, and I’m sure 1989 has the depth (indie ? I guess we find out on Oct 27, haha). But no matter the ingredients, the components, the equations, her heart is invested and infused into everything she creates, and I think that’s what pulls her pop-heavy songs out of that whole mechanical, production-bot category.
    Sorry for commenting a novella! -Alan-

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