April 19, 2009
Probably the trickiest part of being a big country music fan right now is explaining to people why I don't hate Taylor Swift. It's certainly easy to see why I would. On the surface, Swift seems an impossible sell for any country classicist: she writes bubbly pop-rock, she never seems to sing well live, her whole spiel is basically the epitome of teenybop. Depending on how much those qualities bother you, it can be very hard to avoid judging the entire Taylor Swift book by its cover (or in this case, totally rad t-shirt + fan-mosaic OMG!).
But to dismiss Swift's art because of her trimmings is to ignore just how good that art is at doing what it sets out to do. Yes, “You Belong to Me” finds Swift writing about a high school crush, and no, it isn't really country, even if it is (quite wrongly) being shipped to country radio. These issues may clash strongly with certain personal tastes and personal desires for the mainstream country climate – they do mine, at least. But do they make this, on its own, bad music?
I certainly don't think so. If anything, I think this works because Swift sounds fully invested in her youthful perspective and poppy approach. The lyrics here sound directly ripped from the cute pink diary (or LiveJournal) of a self-conscious girl unsure of how else to express herself. The melody, perhaps her catchiest yet, surges with the somewhat melodramatic intensity you'd expect from a young person experiencing his or her first big heartache. Even Swift's girly, gaspy vocal stylings sound fully in service of the particular song she's singing, the particular character she's portraying.
Of course, it's not a character we're used to hearing about in country music, and it may not be one we can all identify with or even like right away. But it's a c
haracter Swift endows with feeling, life and believability, and that's a hugely impressive feat for any musical artist – country or pop, nineteen or ninety.
Now, Taylor, if you'll just go ahead and transfer this release directly to Top 40 stations and Radio Disney, we can just pretend this whole mix-up never happened. :p. <3. lol.
Written by Taylor Swift & Liz Rose
Listen: You Belong With Me