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)

Secrets of TS6: The speculation about Taylor Swift’s sixth album

(Original photo: Barlow & Schofield / BMR)
(Original photo: Barlow & Schofield / BMR)

For your eyes only, Taylor Nation.

There’s a common tagline that you find way too often in movies, tv series and even music: “It’s like nothing you’ve seen before.” It rarely delivers. In the case of the Blonde With the Sparkly 1989 Microphone, it’s both true and false. The Sparkly Dressed has been known to deliver a new album with a new style, always evolving towards the next one. That means we’ve come to expect a jump everytime, but at the same time she remains on point towards a certain style in the way she treats each evolutionary stage.

From Taylor Swift to Fearless she jumped into the national stage. Speak Now is one album where I disagree with most critics, it’s severely underestimated. Red was her unofficial transition to pop, but I consider it more of a practice album for what came next. The next album 1989 marked not only a full transition, but a complete reinvention that invigorated her music and an impromptu homage to the 80’s musical style.

And then she took a year off. Yes, we’ve come to expect a new Swifty album every two years, but the streak was broken in 2016. What happens now? Where do we go from here? Nobody knows. Taylor’s not saying a thing.

We know how this one goes, right? When the album enters the last stages of development, Taylor starts putting out clues in social media. They’re never extremely complicated, but we fans tend to overdo it (nooo, really???) and read way too much into every little thing. So without any clues, and knowing already she’s firmly rooted in pop, perhaps we can make a few guesses. These are not meant to be accurate or deductive. I don’t have any insight into Taylor’s current songwriting style. I’m just speculating to pass the time.

Chances are there will be more collaboration with Jack Antonoff. He’s amazingly talented as a performer, a songwriter and a producer and shares the credit of penning some amazing songs with Taylor. I’m not a huge fan of Max Martin and Shellback collabs in general, which have mostly sound geared towards radio play time. It’s not that I dislike cheery songs, it’s that when a song has too many bells and whistles the music tends to get lost. Fortunately, most of the collabs that they’ve done with Taylor do have a message, albeit a short one.

I know a lot of people still wish the Enchantress would go back to her Country music roots. I used to be one of them, but nowadays I will admit I don’t see why she would. Taylor’s career has plotted a course set by one captain: herself. That doesn’t mean she hasn’t taken input from her fans. Taylor knows you want to dance at her concerts, so she’s slowly added some danceable tracks. I expect a few to make it to the new album. I also still expect the lyric-heavy songs that read as stories, which are more traditionally associated with Taylor. After all, she honed her craft in Country music songwriting where storytelling is abundant.

One thing that I believe will change is the notion that each song has a name associated to it. More and more, Taylor’s songs have drawn from a collage of her experience and imagination rather than from one particular relationship which used to be her modus operandi. She has thrown a shoutout now and then to a specific event (a forgotten scarf, a visit to an emergency room after an accident) that throws the fandom and the media into a frenzy. I would rather she kept away from those, but I won’t deny their impact. They’re a surreal songwriting equivalent to clickbait. The other growing trend is that celebration of youth. That dynamic happiness of living with imperfections and all, experimenting and evolving. I don’t know about you, but I say we keep that. 🙂

The hardest thing to speculate on is the album’s theme. The Blonde With The Sparkly Guitar has always found one subject to envelop her album and gather together the tracks as if they were a bouquet of flowers that go well together. 1989‘s track list orbited the 80’s pop rock feel and style evoking both the style and nostalgia. This album had such excellent results that I’m almost fearful that Taylor will be pushed to recreate it. She shouldn’t. 1989 was a risk, and it payed off. The next album should be another risk, another creative leap of Taylor’s songwriting craft. We expect it to be recognizably Taylor-esque and at the same time, sonically different.

Here at the Swift Agency, just a guy who knows how long the waiting for the new album is going to feel, we know the expectations are high for this one. I know some people are hoping for the lyrics to include a vague reference to a past romance we only saw from the outside. Myself, I just want more great music.

I want to congratulate the people who are going to get to see Taylor Swift on Houston on February 4. Get some pictures and video for the rest of us to enjoy. Just a request, I’m not sending ninjas after you or anything. 😉

Coming up next, on next year’s calendar:

 

The 10 Year Anniversary of Taylor Swift, the album

(Source: Big Machine Records)
(Source: Big Machine Records)

Sometimes I’m out of words, Taylor Nation.

Taylor Swift released her self-titled debut album back in October 24, 2006. Her name was starting to sound familiar in country music channels. Back then I was not yet a fan. I had arrived in Canada a year before. A friend of mine who was a Rascal Flatts fan had turned me onto country music. It wouldn’t be until the year of Fearless of 2009 that I would start watching her video blogs and become a fan. The blog was born on November 10, 2009.

Here at the Swift Agency, just a guy that knows he’s late writing this, we started as a new fan. We missed the years of Taylor Swift making a name for herself in local town fairs. She was a rarity, a teenager that would spend her free time writing songs and playing small venues. A teenage country singer? Who would’ve bet on that? Much has been written about Taylor going for the untapped country music teenage market. What record label would take that risk back in 2005? Enter Scott Borchetta, and the birth of Big Machine Records (now a label group) and the Spark – wait, I can’t call her that yet – and Taylor had a record deal. Let’s be honest, even back then Scott was a force to be reckoned with but Big Machine was in its infancy. Taylor was taking a huge risk too.

By the way, it was Taylor who brought Nathan Chapman, the producer who had made her demo CD, to Big Machine Records.

Taylor’s first studio album was going to be the make-or-break for both Taylor Swift and Big Machine in late 2006. “Tim McGraw” was already a single since June of the same year. Her name was starting to sound. So many things were riding on this album. It wasn’t an overnight chart-topper but it was received positively, debuting on the Billboard 200 on the nineteenth spot with 40,000 copies sold. The sales would rise to a peak number of 187,000 in January 2008. The album peaked at number 5 on January 19, 2008. Here in Canada, Taylor Swift reached the 14th spot on the Canadian Albums Chart and number one on the Canadian Country Albums Chart.

The album was certified five times platinum by the RIAA on February 2014. In Billboard’s Greatest Albums of All Time it comes in at number 18. Fearless comes in at number 4.

That’s all well for numbers and figures, but what do you remember and love about T’s first foray studio album? I remember seeing the video for “Picture to Burn”. I also remember first loving the song “I’m Only Me When I’m With You”, which was a track only available in the deluxe edition. I remember I didn’t discover “Tim McGraw”, meaning really, really listening to it, until later and realizing how amazing that song is. I remember realizing that “Our Song” is kind of a favourite for Taylor Swift. If she’s doing an acoustic segment for her classic songs and nobody has any suggestions, she’ll play it first.

Well… Those acoustic moments are now scarce. When they do, there’s more chance we’ll hear something newer or more popular. Taylor Swift was after all, her first album and a country album at that. It was the times in which she had a twang in her voice, she was never caught anywhere without her boots and her hair was always in curls. She was also a fan of the sundress, which is the reason you still see the littlest fans in sundress and boots. Nowadays, her boots have heels and she’s the one wearing short skirts.

Perhaps that’s one thing Taylor didn’t have back then and the one skill she’s had to develop. She’s learned to evolve and grow and experiment. That is a part of anybody’s life but in the world of music, specially of pop music, the Sparkly Dressed can’t keep the same look twice. She’s also moved on to pop music, something that has taken her audience some time to accept. For that reason, we always have this album to remind us of the country times. The way we’ve learned to see it, Taylor Swift has become her own genre and her own style. And yes, she’s always trying to rehearse and prepare for all her performances. It comes with the territory, but improvisation is a luxury that she doesn’t take on her big concerts.

So if you’re not doing anything special for this 10th anniversary, I invite you to pop the old album in the record play- I mean, pop the CD in the – I mean, just bring up the album in your iTunes playlist and listen to some old Taylor for a while. Better times? Too raw? I think there’s one or two songs that can still make you sing along in there.

Coming up next, on next year’s calendar:

(Sources: Big Machine RecordsWikipedia, CMT News)

Video Showcase: Taylor’s GRAMMY moments

(Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
(Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Too much seriousness, let’s put some clips up, Taylor Nation!

Here at the Swift Agency, just a guy who has to send a shoutout to the Ninja Department because they’re complaining about not getting enough shoutouts lately, we swore we had some leftover cake on the fridge. Anyhow, let’s get to some clips – starting with an official clip with Taylor’s win for Album of the Year. I love that it took a moment to hit her that she had won. Legit surprise there. Also, how adorable was Taylor’s handshake with Jack Antonoff? And finally, I did love how she walks over to Kendrick Lamar to give him a hug. And yes, of course the speech which I could write a hundred more editorials about 🙂

Watch on YouTube

Here’s the Eternal Overachiever (I can’t claim this one, Reba came up with it) with her new three GRAMMYs for a photoshoot at the Press Room. Keep in mind, those are not hers, they’re just props for the photos. The real ones are delivered to her after the show. Yes, they take the GRAMMY after you receive it on stage… Still, Taylor wanted to make sure she didn’t have a repeat of 2010 when she dropped one.

Watch on YouTube

And this is actually an Ed Sheeran moment, where he wins Song of the Year. I was going to use the audience cam for Taylor’s reaction, but it’s actually closer on the official clip and then you also see Ed accepting the award. It sucks that Amy Wadge, who co-wrote the song “Thinking Out Loud” didn’t get her time on the microphone. She got cut off as the show immediately cut to the Glenn Frey tribute.

Watch on YouTube

Here’s more. I wanted a longer clip, but here’s a part of the official GRAMMY portrait made by photographer Danny Clinch. And yes, those GRAMMYs are for the portrait only as well. I’ve shared one longer version on Facebook via Taylor Swift Videos if you care to look, including the takes with Joseph Kahn, Selena Gomez and Serayah McNeill.

Watch on YouTube

Oh and one more thing! Taylor won a NME award for International Solo Artist of the Year. You can watch the acceptance speech (pre-recorded before the GRAMMYs) via @TaylorSwiftVid. Just a word of warning here, be aware the design of the NME award is a bit interesting. Don’t play this at work or if you’re easily offended.

Watch on YouTube

Coming up next… A big ball of nothing 😦 Holy crap, what are we going to do with ourselves? Well… I suggest you don’t despair because the chances of the Sparkly Dressed being away for too long are slim. Although, we’re always missing her. Chances are we’ll get to see her again collecting a few more awards before her big break. That’s of course if it doesn’t turn into a songwriting spree for the next album.

(Sources: YouTube)

The greatest feeling in the world. An Editorial.

(Source: @TheGRAMMYs)
(Source: @TheGRAMMYs)

When you get to where you’re going, Taylor Nation.

It’s easy to think that the Blonde With The Sparkly 1989 Microphone just used her acceptance speech to deliver a comeback to a recent slight, but dig deeper. Taylor did much more than that and made it a reference to more than herself. She does that often. As Scott Borchetta once tried to define it, she can be the “great communicator.” That needs more spark, but he’s on the right path.

Basically, the Sparkly Dressed turned a reference to her diss into a lesson. A lesson against people who believe it’s ok to tell a career woman -any career- that she owes them her success. In life, we’re all striving to get somewhere. We all have our goals and reaching a milestone is not something you do alone. You get help from every little thing.

You can even say that a detractor that early on put you down or slighted you became a challenge to keep going.

However, that’s fucking light years away to be considered supportive. Overcoming a small hurdle might have prepared you to face a bigger obstacle, but the pebble in your shoe did not get you up the hill. It’s your determination that got you there. It would be the recourse of a hypocrite to think that because you cause someone strife you owe them the success that came afterwards. The credit goes to the people that supported you in a lesser degree. It goes to you for hanging in there and making it all the way to that milestone.

Unfortunately, this is even harder for women and it’s because of men more often than not. That made Taylor’s speech a hundred times better because it wasn’t really about the rapper whose name I often forget, but about men that trip all over their ego. Which is a shame, because even people with egos can be talented. They are bound to become their own greatest enemy. They didn’t learn the lesson the first time around, so now they have to learn it all over again. Taylor didn’t diss anybody but people who try to take credit for your work.

And finally, shifting gears, I wanted to address what the GRAMMY win means, and what it doesn’t.

It’s an award voted on by peers in the music industry. However, I truly believe the selection of your work (a nomination) is already a distinction. Specially when it goes beyond a genre nomination and into a “Best of the Year”. I am glad though, that there isn’t an Artist of the Year. It’s about the performance or the body of work, but not the person itself. That also means, it isn’t about the meaning – it’s literally about the music.

I think 1989, To Pimp A Butterfly, Sound and Color, Traveller and Beauty Behind The Madness were all winners in the Album of the Year category. It was anybody’s game, albeit 1989 and To Pimp A Butterfly felt (in my opinion) like they could earn some distinction. And that’s all it comes down to, a popularity contest – not one done by the general public, but by the Recording Academy. It comes down to them liking what they like.

We’re all biased here. You can tell me that Kendrick Lamar’s music sounds better to you that Taylor Swift’s craft, and should’ve won. You would be on your right, since they were both nominated. For that reason, Alabama Shakes had also a hell of a night and could’ve taken it with Sound and Color. But when it comes down to the meaning behind the music, then we’re no longer talking the GRAMMYs. Each artist puts all their effort to create music. Their motivations and their feelings behind the work might be differently invested. Significance however, is not weighted at the GRAMMYs. It’s all about the music. That means in the end listeners, and GRAMMY voters can’t help but be those, like what they hear. Choosing one doesn’t make the rest of the nominees’ works any lesser.

Thanks for reading if you got this far. I’ll add some ninjas next time 😉