In Defense Of Taylor Swift…But Not “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

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Taylor Swift poses with an ACM Award after the 47th Awards Show. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Taylor Swift poses with an ACM Award after the 47th Awards Show. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Charlie Mitchell Charlie Mitchell
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Yesterday, Ally posed the question…”Is Taylor Swift Too “Pop” for Country Fans“, asking…

“Are there ANY country music fans who would defend Taylor Swift against these listener comments?”

Yes, there are.

I am a Taylor Swift fan. I have always been a Taylor Swift fan.

I appreciate how she’s drawn new fans to Country Music, many of them younger fans, just like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain used to do.

I also appreciate Taylor’s ability to relate through her songs. She’s been this All-American Everygirl who paints vivid word portraits with her music. It’s easy to imagine real people in her lyrics…a key component of Great Country Music.

What’s more, Taylor Swift knows she’s a role model and thus far has been careful to keep her content from veering into NSFW territory…while yet being able to sing about life as a young adult. As a parent and Country fan, I appreciate that.

She’s set and broken sales records, tour records, chart records…and is one of the most-awarded artists ever in any genre.

So what happened to provide all the visceral reaction?

THIS.

It’s true that Taylor Swift’s always had her share of detractors.

Her vocal phrasing, especially when she speaks a lyric for emphasis rather than sings it, has drawn criticism that she can’t sing. Her mostly-younger fan base also provides plenty of fodder for her detractors. Although I respectfully…and vehemently disagree with these charges…”We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” provides a perfect storm for those detractors…and legitimacy.

To be clear: in my opinion, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is an irresistibly catchy POP song.

But as a TAYLOR SWIFT song, and more importantly as a COUNTRY song…it falls short.

Far short of what should be expected from The Biggest Star On The Planet – a position Taylor and her label Big Machine have placed in jeopardy by releasing this one song to Country Radio.

Now to be fair, we’d have never, ever played “Never Ever” for seven weeks if the song didn’t have its share of Country fans in and around Western PA.

And…to provide a proper historical context, Country has wrestled with the “Too Pop” question since…well, Patsy Cline.

No. REALLY.

In its day, “Crazy” was about as far removed from “Heartaches By The Number” as “Never Ever” is removed from the rest of Country Music today.

And although Taylor’s far from alone in testing the comfort level of Country fans…expecting those fans to embrace a song that is in no way, shape or form related to Country Music (other that the artist performing it) is Never, Ever a good career move.

Like, ever.

So..will this damage her career?

Even though “Never Ever” was the highest-debuting single in the modern history of the Country charts, it also stands as Taylor Swift’s biggest career flop, peaking nationally at #15…and #11 on the Jimmy & Monty Countdown.

The fact that Big Machine rushed a follow-up to market as quickly as it did…the most-definitely-Country “Begin Again”…is, in my personal opinion, as close as it comes to a mea culpa or an apology in this business.

But “Red” – leaked Monday (10/1) on ABC’s Good Morning America – has an arrangement in the refrain that may draw fire as “Too Pop” should it be released as a Country single.

I think Country Music’s a better, more diverse place with Taylor Swift in it. But no artist should abuse their position by releasing a song that, as good as it may be for a Pop audience, is an act of disrespect toward a Country audience.

As always, it’s up to you, the listener. Feel free to comment below or email…  charlie@y108.com.

And as always, I thank you for listening.

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