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.

Review Corner: Ed Sheeran’s Divide (÷)

(Source: Asylum Records UK)

I’m on my way, driving at ninety down those country lanes…

Like a lot of other people, I got introduced to Ed Sheeran‘s music during his opening gig days on the Red Tour. He remains in my mind, a musical genius capable of putting his music center stage without little to no scenery. Back then his style was almost urban, and that’s never a bad thing. Beat and a rhythm comes so easily to him that for Divide, or to be specific the ÷ album, he’s already past the mastery of the craft and begin the innovation stage. Or perhaps both were always the same thing to him.

This is one of those albums you experience more than listen, where all melodies blend themselves together the first time and you don’t really want to interrupt by looking up song titles. It takes a second listen to forcibly abstract yourself from the audio and finally check out what was that amazing track you just heard. “Castle On The Hill” was a favourite before I even owned Ed’s third studio offering, a mix of nostalgia and longing in a coming of age story that is almost cinematic. I could recognize the pop and the club beats influencing Ed and he in turn influencing them back in “Shape of You”. I’m not much for dancing music but I can’t help but like it. He goes back to ballads easily, so “Perfect” is almost a surprise in the sense that it’s not an easy track musically and lyrically. A less musician would’ve been happy with less, but the more you hear the more you become impressed.

“Galway Girl” is another impressive feat that has Ed’s style as well as old time folk music, something out of a Celtic fairy tale. “Happier” and “What Do I Know?” are also impossible-to-skip favourites already. You might have heard of the story behind the tear-jerker “Supermarket Flowers” which is a beautiful tribute written from her mother’s point of view to her grandmother, but it’s still going to make you cry.

Highly recommended album to listen non-stop. Available now on iTunes.

Happy International Women’s Day. Commentary.

It could end up in burning lights or paradise, Taylor Nation.

How are you? How’s the family? I hope everything is good on your side of the world. Here at the Swift Agency, just a guy who is not a journalist but some days feels like he’s dreaming with this “journalistic integrity” ideal, we’re missing reporting on the Blonde With The Sparkly Guitar. On the other hand, the current political climate is really charged, isn’t it?

(Source: internationalwomensday.com)

Taylor has opted to stay silent about social issues so far. People have interpreted her silence in different ways, some more outrageous than others, but all of them are speculation. The Sparkly Dressed is not playing the political game and I respect that. Myself, I was ready to go all out and criticize both left and right, but the truth is I’m really tired of entertainment having a political agenda. As entertaining as some people might find to go crazy over politics, I don’t expect politics when I go to an entertainment site. That being said…

I do want to wish you all a Happy International Women’s Day 🙂 Because of the date there’s something I think it’s worth saying without playing to sides, hopefully.

So, here’s my disclaimer. In the beginning I thought I’d sit this one out and say nothing. Let the women have their say. But since I’m choosing the latest moment of the day to speak now, I hope nobody will mind. The thing is, I’ve learned that believing in gender parity doesn’t mean you can preach about it – specially if you’re on the side which is mostly getting more benefits than detriments. In the past, I’ve foolishly taken the name of feminist without knowing that the role means different things to different people. So I’ve stepped back and decided that rather than seek out to fit labels, I’d rather just state what I think and hope I don’t get pushed to anybody’s camp. I’m going to be imperfect and awkward but I’ll try be honest.

Women are awesome. They’re awesome in the sense that they can be inspiring, wonderful, sensible and smart human beings. They don’t need to fulfill a particular societal archetype BUT they’re welcome to take any role they want without being policed, which means they don’t need to answer to anybody. Women are flawed, they get frustrated, they lose their patience, they miss their step and they get lost. But there’s no telling what they can do when they find their footing. They don’t need anybody but their achievements do not lose any greatness if they ask for help. They’re not the other half of humanity but complete humans themselves. Women define femininity exclusively.

That’s it 🙂

Coming up! Eh…. Not a thing. Darn it. Something better pop up soon.

I Don’t Wanna Live Forever: The music video drops. The hotel room is trashed.

We don’t endorse hotel room mayhem, Taylor Nation 😉

(Source: Universal Studios)
(Source: Universal Studios)

Chill, it’s a joke. I’ve made no secret that I don’t endorse the film Fifty Shades Darker, as you’ve probably already read. The song “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” by Zayn and Taylor Swift doesn’t really break any new (holy) ground musically. The music video, however – which no doubt was directly influenced by the atmosphere of the film – ended having its own momentum. I was curious what direction (seriously no pun intended) it was going to go.

Zayn plays himself – or a version of himself, arriving at a hotel that has obviously forgot to pay the bill to the electric power company. Fortunately he has the flashes of the paparazzi to guide his way in. By the time he gets into the elevator I half expected him to bring out his cellphone to light the way. And yes, I’m being half sarcastic and half funny because most of the video is in half darkness, but it’s not really a bad video.

Taylor coalesces out of the dark, dressed in lingerie but donning a coat which accomplishes two things that a vampy femme dreams of: she’s both classy and sexy. She hints at the lingerie but never quite takes the coat off all the way. Taylor plays both the seduced and the seductress, keeping an even playing field with Zayn’s brooding. Actually I breathed a sight of relief at that, as I kinda dreaded any power game that would emulate the movie. It’s not that I’m being a prude, it’s just that I’d rather Taylor not take the submissive nor the bitch role. There’s no extended story, it’s just two lovers and some light hotel room trashing. Let’s just go to the video, shall we?

Watch on YouTube

The video is also up for sale on iTunes.

Coming up next, on next year’s calendar:

(Sources: YouTube, Universal studios)

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: