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.

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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.

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

Make music not war, Taylor Nation.

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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.

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.