Saturday, February 06, 2010

Now we're going to hate on Taylor Swift? Seriously, people?

So last Sunday night at the Grammy Awards, someone sang out of key. And now the whole fucking world is going to spin off its axis! Batten down the hatches...

Look, I am 39 years old, going on 40 in a couple of short weeks. Out of my 40 years, I have seen approximately 26 or 27 Grammy Awards shows. On those shows, there have been an average of 10 live musical performances per show. Of those performances, roughly half suck. So that's 130 sucky performances in the last 26 Grammy Awards shows -- and trust me, I'm being conservative. The main sucking point is usually that the band is playing in a key far different than the lead singer is singing in. In general, it's because the quality of the talent isn't that high. But more often than not, there is an OBVIOUS issue with sound, and the singers clearly can't hear the backing music. Presumably, too, there's a lack of rehearsal time. Some of these people have a lot of other things going on. And sometimes, good bands and good singers just have an off night, on national television.

What's interesting is that, until now, no one ever calls them on it. But now we're going to hate on Taylor Swift. Because she sang poorly during a duet with Stevie Nicks. Who is apparently a perfect goddess who has never sung out of key a day in her life (10 years of cocaine abuse notwithstanding, apparently Stevie Nicks is so magical that she was a perfect performer throughout).

I have news for you, people: Stevie Nicks was ALSO out of key during the very same Grammy Awards performance. Her voice is definitely not what it once was, and she was struggling. Also? The Black Eyed Peas were out of key. And we've seen them in concert, and they were freaking awesome, and totally not out of key. And yet no one is going on about how crappy Fergie is for singing out of key on one night. Also? Green Day. Not quite in tune. But I guess they get a pass because it's totally punk rock to not be in tune.

What disgusts me though is the overall tone of the picking on Taylor Swift. This tone of she's only won all her awards because people felt sorry for her after the whole Kanye West incident.

Um, no. Just because some of you were living under a rock and didn't notice that she had the biggest selling album of 2009, or the biggest video of the year (Single Ladies dances moves notwithstanding), doesn't mean that it didn't happen. Just because you failed to notice doesn't mean that Taylor Swift hasn't connected and touched a nerve with a massive audience. And THAT is how you win awards. Awards don't go to the best technical singer, or the band with the most proficient drummer, or the guitarist with the most amazing and original riffs. Awards go -- and have always gone -- to the people who lead the music industry at any given time. And whether you like it or not, Taylor Swift is currently leading the music industry. It would have been shameful NOT to give her all the awards she's been getting, and trust me -- people would have bitched about that instead.

She's not a powerhouse singer. She isn't a Beyonce or a Jennifer Hudson. Never has been. Her thing is music and lyrics. Her voice is more akin to the pop singer-songwriters, like Ingrid Michaelson or Sara Bareilles (ew) or Norah Jones. Since her thing is country, it is easy to forget this, and to assume, having never heard her sing before, that she's going to come over all Faith Hill or Martina McBride (who, incidentally, has sung out key, in public, on national television, on more than one occasion). But that's not who she is.

When you listen to her songs, if you really know how to listen, you'll hear that the backing vocals are always from bigger voices than hers. Hers is the smaller voice out front. She's never belting out giant notes. She's just sharing her thoughts and strumming her guitar. If anything, she's the victim of the overproduction that characterizes today's mainstream country music.

With the popularity of American Idol, suddenly everyone thinks they know some shit about music and singing and what it's like to do it and what it's supposed to sound like. Even NPR has entered this debate about Taylor Swift. Personally, I think NPR has better things to do with their time, but whatever.

Consider this: She already knows she's not the very best singer in that room. She's 20 years old, and still nervous about how people she admires perceive her. She also suffered the embarrassment of the Kanye incident -- sure, he did a douchebaggy thing but what if he was just saying what a bunch of other people were thinking? And she's singing with a legend, Stevie Nicks, someone who gets a free pass because she's been so admired for so long. And to top it all off, the sound quality onstage isn't great, and she can't hear a damn thing.

You'd sing off key too.

Yes you would.

But in the end, Taylor Swift is a nicer person than probably 80% of the people slagging her off. She has more going for her. She has millions of fans who believe in her. She writes awesome songs. She isn't some mental case wannabe prostitute who's going to have a nervous breakdown in the middle of Sunset Boulevard 8 years from now. She has grace and style, something most people know nothing about (see: aftermath of Kanye incident, where she refused to indulge in name-calling or the vilifying of Kanye). She doesn't really need your approval.

If you don't like her, fine. Get over it.

But for fuck's sake. Don't pretend you actually know anything about music. You'll only hurt yourself.

No comments: