Look what you made me write. An editorial.

I’ve got a list of names too, Taylor Nation. Tomatoes, peppers… Wait, this is my grocery list. Never mind.

Here at the Swift Agency, just a guy who’s committed to write about things a little bit deeper, we’re doing one of those critiques that not everyone enjoys. First of all, I don’t think that you do any favors as a fan when you accept everything blindly. I prefer to think that a smart fan is the one loyal because they like their artists (I don’t like to use the word “idols”, sorry it makes me cringe) with flaws and all.

That being said, the following critique is not on Taylor Swift as a person. I don’t know her as a person, I’ve only known her as an artist. I might take a stab at thinking I can guess her frame of mind when she wrote a particular song, but that’s as close as I think anybody can get. The only think I can criticize is her work, her craft. It will still be my opinion, and therefore it might miss the target for a mile. That being said, this is on her musical persona, not her personal identity (I might have to explain that one a bit further).

“Look What You Made Me Do” is the first single from her album Reputation. Unfortunately, its biggest flaw is repetition – a rather constant cliche in pop music to repeat the same lyric over a familiar beat so it can be easily learned. The beat in the chorus is a re-sampling from Right Said Fred’s “I’m too sexy”. Honestly, that doesn’t concern me that much as the monotone repetition. That’s not an accident, it will probably end up as club music with a quick remix. Taylor may not frequent clubs as much, but Kanye, Kim and Katy might have a cheeky DJ play this song in their faces the next time they step into one.

The choice of the phrase for the chorus and the track’s title have been pointed out in this Bustle article as being part of domestic abuse speech. Yes, but you are taking the phrase out of context here. We allow other songs to exist which glorify violence in context so I find selective criticism a bit askew. Lots of songs use suggestively charged titles that out of context mean trouble just to get our attention. This one is not even one of those situations. That being said, if you want to use this as a mechanism to bring awareness about domestic abuse, it’s a worthy cause and I’m not going to stop you.

I actually have more problems with the other repetitive phrase in the bridge which is in context: I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me. There’s anxiety and depression in that phrase. Be careful repeating it – don’t let that seep in. I know what I’m talking about here. For the same reason, I don’t like Taylor laughing at her own death.

That’s Taylor Swift the musical persona, the one in the video as a corpse, as a jewel-bathing millionaire, as bike gang leader and as Snake Queen. I think Taylor is taking some actual distance between herself and her image. That allows her to be extravagant with the way she presents herself artistically but she’s keeping her private persona in private from now on.

By the way, there is a list of names. Every single artist that tours several times ends up with a list. It’s got the names of every stalker fan (no, not you – real stalkers) that has been judged as a risk (a bit too cuckoo for coco puffs if you get my drift) to attend or be too close to Taylor. It’s the kind of people that security keeps an eye on when they show up. For the record, I don’t think I’m in there, but I know I’ve been recognized.

Finally, here’s the other thing about both video and lyrics that I’m not quite a fan of – it makes the song a little too meme-friendly. Now, memes are everyone’s favorite thing. Viral phrases and selected situations re-played and parodied over for everyone’s amusement. This might be Old-Man-Swift talking (and to be real, that’s true for the whole article), but it does seem to unintentionally endorse gossip and scandal reporting. In other words, I fear this will reward gossip lovers everywhere. It will also encourage fans to follow gossip from now on.

I believe that Taylor might have given in too much here. Even the video is a little too TMZ-friendly for my taste. The song itself has too many hints towards you-know-whom. I really would’ve preferred she’d taken the high road instead. I think that’s the reason this song sounds like it does. It’s a club song with a message to someone. It’s as close as a diss track as she’s ever made (and I hope she doesn’t have more). I’ve got high hopes for the rest of the tracks because overall this one is not in my favorite list.

In the end, I just hope there’s something in Reputation that is not meta. I prefer non-club music, not explicit made for Pop Radio and more lyrically complex that a simple phrase played over and over. To put in other album’s terms, I think LWYMMD is the “Bad Blood”, the “Better Than Revenge” song of the album. Now I want to hear the “All Too Well”, the “Clean” equivalents. Unfortunately, if history repeats itself, they won’t get to be singles. We’ll have to discover them when the full album drops.

Coming up in the Calendar:

November

  • November 10: Reputation, the new album by Taylor Swift is released!

Nevertheless, she persisted. An Editorial.

Just breathe, Taylor Nation.

cropped-taylor-swift-vogue-cover-may-2016-05.jpg

The jury is in. Taylor Swift was awarded her counter-claim for assault and battery. She will receive her symbolic $1 dollar. Mueller’s claim against Andrea Swift and Frank Bell was denied. The jury deliberated for 4 hours to reach that verdict. A victory, bittersweet as sexual assault victories are, means a lot more than just that dollar.

Taylor’s very aware of the ramifications, as she says in her statement:

I want to thank Judge William J. Martinez and the jury for their careful consideration, my attorneys Doug Baldridge, Danielle Foley, Jay Schaudies and Katie Wright for fighting for me and anyone who feels silenced by a sexual assault, and especially anyone who offered their support throughout this four-year ordeal and two-year long trial process.

I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this. My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves.

Taylor Swift

As it has been pointed out by several people in comment sections around this topic, you don’t have to like Taylor Swift or her music. Nobody deserves to be sexually assaulted. Yes, there are other people that symbolize the struggle that victims of sexual assault encounter when trying to bring their perpetrators to justice.

I’m not trying to rally the troops here. There was no conviction in this case. Mueller has to pay a dollar. He has, however, been judged by a jury as guilty of assault and battery – that will follow him for life. And yet, to get to this point where a privileged, protected and powerful young woman was almost forced to pay $3M to her own attacker – I don’t have to say alleged anymore – she had to go to civil court and withstand cross examination with the world watching.

Small victory, that seems it should’ve been over sooner. Now imagine someone without the means, without the media attention, and with less resources fighting an even more upscale battle. The odds don’t seem fair, do they?

Sexual assault, battery, rape and any forms of violence are wrong. It’s not about boys being boys, it’s not women asking for it, it’s not because of a short skirt, you never, never assume. You have zero rights to touch a woman without consent. Doesn’t matter who you are, doesn’t matter who she is. She does not deserve it and no man is entitled to sexual favors ever regardless of whatever you’ve seen in a TV ad or in a music video. No means no. But if this is too hard of a concept to grasp, I give you a different one: Unless she says yes, the answer is always no.

Respect.

Review Corner: Liz Huett – STFU and Hold Me

lizhuett_2017-Aug-07Sour candy and whiskey, Huett fans.

Liz Huett has finally revealed her new single “STFU and Hold Me” and a new stage in her career begins. She’s been teasing us with new music for what feels like an age, but she has not been slacking on the job. Her effort pays off in a ballad that is both gentle and sassy. This ballad is less saccharine and more sour candy and whiskey.

That’s kind of Liz’s image in a nutshell. She’s going for the main spotlight now, but she’s not leaving herself behind. The song works as both a more direct approach to a relationship and as a simple advice to anybody who’s debating whether she’s headliner material.

The candid language is just a more realistic way of cutting through the all the red tape. Relationships are messy and sometimes words get in the way. It also makes me think this is a way in which Liz is defining where and when that song should be sing. I don’t think morning shows will get why there’s a swear word thrown in there, but a real couple in a real grown-up relationship will understand a lot better. Not everything comes with an instruction manual.

The song works in melody and harmony for a solo singer with key backup points, but I wouldn’t mind hearing it unplugged. It is not overproduced, and there are no bells or whistles getting in the way of Liz’ clear voice. I think she has a solid first single of what I hope is an upcoming album. Even as a standalone, it’s worth a top spot on your playlist.

Watch on YouTube

You can catch “STFU and Hold Me” on its several platforms here.

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)