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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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. 😉
She always had the best day with you, Taylor Nation.
Happy Birthday, Taylor! For the young singer-songwriter, music is the one thing that has been there for her all the time. For us here at the Swift Agency, just a guy who tries to be honest with you as much as my writing allows it, we could’ve said the same about Taylor – except that the truth is not that simple. For most fans, she’s an idol. Or a big sister. Or their best friend. For me, she’s been more of a muse. I’ve found something to write about her for more than seven years now.
Being a fan has never been a mild walk in the park. It’s been more of a roller coaster ride. I’ve gone from not knowing why I’m doing this to feeling like I have a zillion things to write from one week to another. Feelings can go from zero to a thousand heartbeats, which has been known to happen in the same day if I’m attending a concert. At the same time, she’s grown to a huge superstar to the point that she’s feel as distant as a comet. Then she releases some acoustic performance in a small setting and I’m ready to write again.
She’s gone from independent to becoming mainstream in an uphill climb that is more steep than the media gives her credit for. She’s reinvented herself, and in that transition we fans have learned to adapt. Taylor has had his shortcomings, but she remains the same person inside – and at the same time, a different one. As she herself has said, she will never change but she will never stay the same. She’s recognizable, relatable and sometimes she does shock us all. Approve or disapprove, Taylor is still the one we cheer for, stand in line and wave desperately for/at/with.
So if you indulge me (No? Gonna do it anyway, k?), I’m going to reminisce about that time I got to meet her in person, back in September 21st, 2013. I had just been talking her ear off, as her voice was fragile from her three concert days and fighting a cold. This is after I decided to recite every single nickname I’ve used to refer to her in my blog entries:
She giggles at “the Blonde With The Sparkly Guitar”. Then she goes “Oh my God” in the most adorable way possible.
Taylor is then thanking me – which doesn’t really make a lick of sense – for what I do. And she loves that I love to do it (in case you’ve never visited this site before, what I do is write). Let’s make this clear. International music artist Taylor Swift thanking me only makes sense in bizarro world. I make sure I thank her.
You’ll probably notice that as usual, I blur the timeline a little bit as I tend to do whenever I’m describing a concert experience. I start writing in the past and switch to the present tense. It’s a cheap magic trick to take you to live that moment. It’s not a typo. I tend to relive things when I write about them.
And now, the cake… Damn ninjas again! Get back here! Every year… 😛