About Taylor Swift

by

November 8, 2010

Dear Country Music,

Don’t get too excited about Taylor Swift’s sales numbers. They have nothing to do with you.

She’s a tween pop star at her peak. These numbers are normal.  Just ask the Backstreet Boys.

Now, Jason Aldean? He’s all yours.

Hope you like possum for dinner.

All the Best,

Kevin

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Category: Dear Country Music, Miscellaneous Musings
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  1. ZackNo Gravatar says:

    I love these letters. : )

    Anyways, probably 100,000 or less of those copies were actually brought by people who can vote.

  2. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    Well… it’s true. People aren’t necessarily buying her records because they love country music.

  3. robinNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks Kevin you are absolutly right. When is the country music industry going to get this news?

  4. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    I agree the numbers have nothing to do with country music. I think there’s more behind them than there was behind the Backstreet Boys.

  5. CraigNo Gravatar says:

    Couldn’t agree more. She seems like a nice girl, but she’s got to stop labeling her stuff as Country music, because it’s far from it. Unfortunately, as long as she keeps the snake that is Scott Borchetta by her side, she’ll continue to perform on top of buses in Los Angeles rush hour traffic on Friday evenings to get those sales up and running, just like every average pop star with an adequate singing voice would do to be over the top and notorious.

  6. Mike M.No Gravatar says:

    I say keep playing her on country radio. Even though it’s not necessarily country, it’s still much better than Jason Aldean, Kellie Pickler, Rascal Flatts, etc. She’s got more writing talent than almost anyone currently on the radio.

  7. PklongbeachNo Gravatar says:

    Taylor Swift is a pop singer. It’s all she’s ever been. The world see’s it but country music industry refuses to support the best of what they have and chases the dollar signs of a teen fade.
    When did this start happening?
    You have some very talented young musicians who appreciate country music. Why don’t you support them?

  8. CJNo Gravatar says:

    Are you going to post a review of Speak Now album? I’ve already seen the reviews from other sites, but I’m curious on your opinion regarding the CD. Thanks!

  9. I admit, I bought the “Speak Now” digital download from Amazon because it was $3.99 and I stumbled across a code worth $3.00 in their MP3 store. I figured, for a buck I’d take a chance. I suspect I’m not the only one who thought $4.00 was an attractive price for this release, and surely that accounts for some of the sales figures from those outside her target demographic.

    There are some nice moments and lyrics to be found, but the album as a whole reminded me far more of Avril Lavigne’s debut than anything else.

    I do appreciate that Swift hasn’t tried to convince us in song that she’s had life experiences she hasn’t (i.e., taking on a song like “One on the Way”). The danger, though, is that by going directly to the top at such a young age, it’s unlikely her life experiences will ever be comparable to those of her audience and she’s about a year away from no longer getting by with high school angst for material.

    It’s an alright pop album (I suspect I enjoy it more than I would like Sugarland’s latest, based on what’s been discussed here), but it’s not really for me. I’m not writing off Swift as an artist yet–I can’t imagine having tired of George Strait after “Right or Wrong”–but I’m certainly hoping to see some personal and artistic growth next time out.

  10. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    I bought the album because of the Amazon deal as well. This article, however, says that 73% of her sales were physical CDs:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2010/11/05/131096170/five-lessons-for-the-recording-industry-from-taylor-swift-s-massive-week?ft=1&f=1039

  11. Michael A.No Gravatar says:

    :)

    That’s all.

  12. Erik NorthNo Gravatar says:

    I do have a hard time with the claims from a lot of people in the country music industry that Taylor Swift is bringing new fans into country music. I have to agree with Ben Foster–if they buy Taylor’s records, it’s not because they’re country music fans or that Taylor herself is really “country.”

    In terms of her voice, I actually exposed myself to more of her music in recent weeks than I had done in all the previous four years she’s been around, because I wanted to know what it was about her voice that irritated me so much. I don’t know about anyone else here, but, whether it’s because of the studio trickery she and her producers indulge in or something else completely, I just hear a monotonic, almost robotic quality to her voice, lacking in any real emotion or passion, just full of mannerisms. It just doesn’t bode well for a particularly long career (IMHO).

  13. KNo Gravatar says:

    I think Taylor seems like a sweet girl, great role model, and she has written some excellent material. I respect that she writes all her own music, and seems to be very much in control of herself and her career.

    I do think she has grown up a bit on “Speak Now,” even though it’s not something I’d buy.

    I think some people forget that Taylor is still young- she will grow up and mature with time, as she has with this record. I think she does have a bit of a disavantage being so young at times- people expect her to grow up and mature faster when she has such a narrow scope of material- she’s writing at her own pace that is probably appropriate for her- but others think she needs to mature faster simply because she doesn’t have much life experience.

    Although I thought Taylor had a firm grasp on country music and its audience with her debut, I’d hesitate to say the same thing after watching her progression over the past several years.

    “Fearless” had some strong songs and great sugary hooks- but only a few of the tracks sounded fit for country music. Taylor took her success and ran with it in the pop world, and only furthur discredits her identity with country music.

    95% of “Fearless was a good pop record- and when the pop world latched onto it, Taylor began to receive the chance to promote herself in ways that country artists couldn’t even dream of. She was everywhere in mainstream media, on every talk show, magazine cover, and she was promoted overseas, which is an oppertunity that isn’t given to country artists if they don’t appeal to the pop world.

    Country artists aren’t given those oppertunties unless they are thought pop enough for the mainstream. Taylor was given that chance, and her music as “country music” is still fairly pop, even without remixes.

    I agree with Eric’s comment about Taylor’s voice- I can back her as a talented songwriter, but I’ve never been able to enjoy her as a vocalist.

    Her voice is incredibly monotone and void of emotion live- which is a shame, because I think a lot of her recorded material has a certain charm to it, but it doesn’t seem to translate onstage.

  14. J.R. JourneyNo Gravatar says:

    That stings as much as a Dear John letter.

  15. joeNo Gravatar says:

    Guys. The Amazon deal did not give her even 5% of the sales. That is completely besides the point.

    I think she is great. Beautiful person inside out- country music should keep her around. She does write age-appropriate, and i find it very real. She does not try to do something she is not. Give her 10 years—i am sure she will grow to be even better. BTW her new album is just beautiful.

  16. Dudley23No Gravatar says:

    Oh Kevin is still hating on Taylor for absolutely no reason at all. Comparing her to “the back street boys”. Now, really? How about comparing her to the only other 3 women to ever sell one million copies in one week? Whitney Houston, Norah Jones, Britney Spears and Taylor Swift. With the exception of Britney Spears all the women who’ve sold 1 million have also won the Grammy for album of the year. You ever stop to think that perhaps that is why Taylor sold one million copies? Besides being critically acclaimed she is coming off her most successful album. Stop the unnecessary hate and do a little research. Being a pop act nowadays isn’t going to sell you 1 million copies in a week just ask Katy Perry, Rihanna, Kesha, Kelly Clarkson, Miley Cyrus and I could go on forever. Those acts are lucky if they can sell 1 million over a years time.

    Taylor sold one million copies, not because she’s a pop star but because she a bona fide SUPERSTAR putting out critically acclaimed worked and the fans can’t wait to snatch it up.

  17. I only offered the Amazon digital price as an anecdotal reason for my personal purchase and speculated that others had taken a chance on it at that price; I never claimed or even meant to insinuate that it was lion’s share of her album sales!

    Conventional sales trends suggests she should get another boost after the CMAs air tomorrow night, and then another boost late in the month as Christmas shoppers snag CDs to give as gifts. They’ll sell a lot by year’s end.

    The question is whether her sales are attracting buyers to poke around the other country offerings. I can’t find any reason to believe that’s the case–certainly not like the early 90s, when people came for Garth and picked up other titles–but then, there may be another reason for this: maybe consumers are just as underwhelmed by the rest of today’s country music as the rest of us.

    There was a time when I literally bought between 50 and 100 new country releases in a year. Soundtracks, tribute albums; if they had a song by an artist that interested me, I was there. Even if my money situation was still the same (and it’s certainly not!) I can’t imagine even being curious about more than, say, 15 to 20 new releases this year.

    Again, this is anecdotal. I may be the only person in the world who is so disinterested in this year’s mainstream country album releases. But looking at the overall picture, it does look like quite a lot of people just aren’t buying what’s out there this year. Maybe it’s time country music stopped being the soundtrack to a Republican convention and started getting back to telling interesting personal stories again?

  18. Dudley23No Gravatar says:

    Oh an BTW, selling 1 million copies in a week isn’t normal for anyone. Only 16 acts have done it.

    BTW, Is anyone accusing Garth brooks of being too successful to be a country act?

    Because he has the biggest sales of all so country acts are quite capable of selling 1 million copies if they can get the fans interested enough. Heaven’s knows country artist have enough awards shows on tv that all their artists should be able to sell million’s easily. Don’t hate just because country fans don’t want to purchase everyone like they’ve purchased Garth Brooks and Taylor swift.

    BTW, you’re praising Jason ALdean for being country yet he’s singing at the CMA’s with a POP STAR. Hypocritical much? I guess he loves POP.

  19. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Firstly, I don’t think Jason Aldean is all that country these days.

    Second, Taylor Swift is no Garth Brooks.

  20. Michael A.No Gravatar says:

    Travis’ story sounds a lot like mine. I used to spend a huge portion of my disposable income on country music. That hasn’t been the case for a few years now.

    I also echo Leeann’s comment.

  21. TomNo Gravatar says:

    …i think country music can live quite happily watching the rise of one of its most gifted offspring ever. it’s not taylor swift’s fault that country music is just a niche genre, although a delightful one, outside the usa. this young lady is simply a worldwide musical sensation among her demographics.

    i remember how i enjoyed every release of a garth album way back then. if today’s kids and teens feel alike about taylor’s albums, i can’t see anything wrong with that and somehow i think country music sees it quite the same way.

    that reminds me of something that i’ve been wondering about for a while, kevin: where would you place her among your 100 greatest women of country music, today? when you counted them down in 2007, she didn’t even make it onto that list yet.

  22. joeNo Gravatar says:

    her success sure can`t harm. hell, she`s always eager to point out her background and country roots. that must be interesting to look into for a young fan of hers. and i`m sure many do just that.

    btw sugarland last album is even less country than taylor. lets cry about that too.

  23. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Joe says: “btw sugarland last album is even less country than taylor. lets cry about that too.”

    I don’t know that your claim is even true, but we are sad about Sugarland’s album too.

    People say that Taylor Swift is bringing people to country music, but I’m not seeing that to be true. I have younger sisters who love Taylor Swift, but don’t like country music in general. There’s a difference between people who say “I don’t like country music, but I love Taylor Swift” and people who say “I love Taylor Swift, so I think I’ll check out country music.” I, for one, haven’t heard the latter from the younger set, but I hear the first comment very often.

  24. @Dudley23 – Garth is fairly well received in country these days, but back in the early to mid 90s he had quite a backlash. I’ll never forget the flap that occurred when a local country station put up a billboard slamming him, positioning themselves as playing “real” country. He was so mad about that that he didn’t come to Louisville for a concert again until 1998.

    In that regard, then, I much prefer the way that today’s country embraces Taylor Swift. I always thought Garth was out of line to react as strongly as he did, but I can also understand that it was a sort of microcosm for his professional identity crisis at the time. I’d hate to see the industry wedge itself between an artist and his or her fans like that again, even if I’m not a fan of that artist.

    @Leeann – You make a good point in both instances. I can’t really find much of anything in today’s country that feels familiar to me. I don’t begrudge the new artists their day in the sun; I was one of Garth’s fans when older country fans resented his presence and influence on radio. It would be nice, though, if the corporate programmers weren’t so narrow-minded and guided by payola (you know it and I know it). There have been quite a lot of artists with songs that the average country listener would very likely have enjoyed, had they ever heard them.

    @Michael A. – Part of my lack of interest in the last several years really has to do with the shift in songs that radio emphasized. For instance, I loved Darryl Worley’s first two albums. I loved the songwriting, the arrangements, his voice; it was a breath of fresh air. Then came “Have You Forgotten?” and everything since then has been one “I’m Gonna Sing Songs About Things Everyone Else Is Already Covered But I’m Going To Act Like I’m The Only One Talking About Them So You’ll Think I’m Standing Up For Your Marginalized Values Even Though They’re Not Really Marginalized” anthem.

    I can’t take the guy anymore, I really just can’t. The most offensive was “Sounds Like Life.” You know what, Darryl? Drowning people don’t need you to tell them to kick their legs harder. Then came this year’s “Keep the Change” and he tried to sell it as “controversial” because it was anti-Obama. I think the real reason radio didn’t respond strongly to it is because it was a weakly written song that tried to make too much out of a bumper sticker. It’s like he’s not even trying anymore, and as someone who enjoyed his first two albums, it’s been especially disappointing to see him become so trite.

  25. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Oh yeah, I remember feeling much like the younger country fans feel now back in my teens. I liked the new stuff and not the old stuff as much.

  26. grannaNo Gravatar says:

    Country artist can’t sell squat because of Taylor. If she were where she really should be then maybe Country artist would be selling better. The hype over her is really crazy, IMO! I haven’t heard or seen anything from her that would make me flip over her like the rest of the world is doing. She is just the hype now and everybody has to run after that same gold ring and grab it before it’s gone. It’s like if everybody jumps off the cliff…would you? Yes, I believe all Taylor fans have. Too much technology out there now for everybody trying to keep up with what everybody else is doing. I thought it was bad when Gretchen Wilson came on the scene, then Carrie, but I believe this insanity over Taylor is beyond comprehension. I’ll just be glad when all this insanity does (I hope) eventually calm down!

  27. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    It sounds to me like Taylor has been getting less country with each new release. She might have brought a few new fans into country music at one time, but I don’t think she is now. But I do think her new album is more country than the new Sugarland album, albeit not much.

  28. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    By the way, Taylor’s not a teenager anymore. She’s going on 21. There have been plenty of stars who broke through at that age without getting the “not much life experience” talk. Just a thought – not really sure where I was going with it. Add to it what you will.

  29. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    I do hope everyone realizes that I’m poking fun at the country music industry here, not Taylor Swift.

    Country is acting like the first boyfriend who gets a pity invite to the wedding but still thinks he’s got a shot with the bride.

    But they can claim Jason Aldean fully as their own. Not because he’s particularly country. There just isn’t any other genre who wants him.

  30. AMRNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t really like categories, when it comes to music. I leave that to the marketing people. So, if we talk about Taylor outside a genre, like country music, then what do we think? I don’t like her music or Garth’s, but admit that they are commercial artists with wide appeals.

  31. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Maybe it’s my need for some sort of organization in my life, or my need to find a way to describe music as a reviewer of it, but I really can’t grasp the concept of people who say that they don’t like labels or categories when it comes to music…and this is coming from someone who most enjoys putting her iPod on shuffle. I just can’t wrap my head around not categorizing music in some way.

  32. Hoggy from OzNo Gravatar says:

    Kevin:”But they can claim Jason Aldean fully as their own. Not because he’s particularly country. There just isn’t any other genre who wants him.”

    haha. Great point.

    I’m not a fan of either Aldean or Swift, but I prefer Swift to Aldean. Aldean’s music, to me, is just too shallow and rock-leaning in most cases. I like rock, but not his kind.

  33. KNo Gravatar says:

    “Country is acting like the first boyfriend who gets a pity invite to the wedding but still thinks he’s got a shot with the bride.”

    Although I understand your point, Kevin, I think your missing some bigger factors in this “country vs pop” debate that has surrounded Taylor’s career since she became the industry’s saving grace with the blockbuster success of “Fearless.”

    Yes, I think most people realize that most of her huge success does indeed come soley from pop fans, pop radio, and the larger relam of exposure that those artists receive as a whole.

    However, Taylor Swift did start her career as nothing more than a 16-year-old girl with her guitar who honed in on the emotions and niche of her audience better than most artists ever dream.

    With the release of “Fearless,” she was started to have massive success with both country and pop, and was the darling of all things related to media, press, and awards.

    Even though a large portion of the success was due to pop fans and the broader relam of exposure that comes with that format, I think country music still felt they could claim her as “one of their own” because she herself claims her true indentity lies within the genre, and she never made any comments to suggest she wanted to soley move to pop.

    If Taylor still wants to have her identity as a country artist, the industry would be foolish to not try and claim some of her success, because she still is someone largely supported and publicized in country music.

    Until Taylor moves to pop, I think the country industry is going to take full advantage of the fact that she still wants to be tied to the genre.

    The industry is probably both flattered and relieved that they can still claim her as symbol for country music- doing that gives both Taylor and the genre of country music a big boost in more ways than one.

    Also, the country music industry has showered her with an endless stream of praise and awards for everything from her record sales to vocal performances. It would make the entire genre look extremely niave if they showed undying support of an artist whom they claimed as their own top draw- then decided to let her unleash an indentiy as a pop artist.

    They reward her as a country artist for the sake of sales and noterity at this point. If not, the entire industry is basically saying, “well, she was country, and we rewarded her while that happened. But now she’s pop, so she wasn’t purely country music’s “own” to begin with, right?

  34. @AMR & Leeann – I’m conflicted. On one hand, I’m a list-making fool, and I am meticulous about my iTunes track tags. It bugs me to no end to use the generic term, “classical.” I want it to be specific, such as “baroque” or “romantic,” etc., but that’s entirely unimportant here.

    Country’s claim on Taylor Swift is actually fairly legitimate, because country music as a format has spent the last decade courting soccer moms. Remember Lonestar’s power ballad era? They went from Texas honky tonkers to singing about sippy cups in the blink of an eye, and somewhere in that, country music became a suburb of pop music.

    Remember “Grown Men Don’t Cry” by Tim McGraw in 2001? There had been a time when the country song would have been about the woman instead of the upper-middle class guy driving off in his Suburban. That, to me, was a clear line of demarcation from the country music I knew to its contemporary incarnation. Hell, even George Strait hasn’t covered a Bob Wills tune in ages.

    Taylor Swift’s music would have been dismissed as trivial just a decade ago, after ten years of sanitizing the format from the grittiness of Haggard and Jones, it’s not just a good fit for today’s country; it’s fairly representative of it, as well.

  35. Michael A.No Gravatar says:

    Oh, man. I’m so with Leeann and Travis on the organization of my music. I’m completely anal about it. It might make for an interesting thread – the weird ways we categorize our music and determine parameters.

  36. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    I still categorize Swift as country only because she chooses to do so as well and that’s how she’s technically marketed. That’s my problem, however. If she marketed herself as pop at this point, I wouldn’t be nearly as frustrated with her music as I am. I’d honestly applaud her for being a pretty brilliant pop artist rather than being frustrated that she’s not the country artist that she claims to be. If she’d only say that she is a pop singer now, I’d never have to be negative about her music again, since I rarely talk about pop music on country music blogs. Do I make any sense?

  37. TomNo Gravatar says:

    …perhaps, on her next album there’ll be a steel heavy, tear-in-her-beer-honk-tonk-song (now that she’s 21 she’s legally entitled to make such an experience) that’ll leave all of us speechless. then what?

  38. ZackNo Gravatar says:

    Could it be that this might be an issue of sales as it was with Dolly? Pop artists do sell more than country artists [unless you are Carrie Underwood]. Maybe Taylor’s producers want more money and see that she makes more money in the pop genre. But I think Swift never intended to make a switch from country to pop, if she wanted to be pop, why did she go to country first?

    …….I don’t know what point I am trying to make here.

  39. joeNo Gravatar says:

    So Leann, you are saying pop music is garbage and she is making brilliant garbage? lol

    I think if she is making tunes that sound like country, country music should keep her. “Mean” and “Back To December” can be certainly classified as country songs.

  40. What Taylor Swift needs is an abusive alcoholic in her life next year. Then she can make the kind of music that will make us all happy.

  41. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Did I say that pop music was garbage?

  42. DiamondNo Gravatar says:

    Yes, country music gets a lot out of its continuing, cozy relationship with the mega-successful Ms. Swift. I think she certainly benefits from that relationship as well. She does claim her roots are in country music. How deep those roots truly go is questionable. But her classification as a country artist will only change if Taylor decides to abandon the genre. I see no chance of the genre abandoning her. There is too much money at stake.

  43. MIANo Gravatar says:

    I used to listen to country radio and follow country music and its artists online. I was a big fan. However, the past few years I’ve stopped turning on country radio and visiting the blogs completely. I swear it’s like country music dropped off the face of the earth.

    I still regularly visit mainstream music and entertainment sites, but I almost never hear about country music. I was a bit shocked. I did hear that Carrie Underwood got married, and that Taylor Swift got dissed by Kanye and then dissed everyone she’s ever met on her new album (I heard about those two things ad nauseum). But that’s about it (and very little of it music based).

    Why country music shouldn’t get too excited by Taylor’s sales? Pop fans don’t have to venture into country music to find Taylor Swift. They don’t have to listen to country radio, turn on a country awards show, or read a country blog to find out about her. Her relation to country music in the mainstream is tenuous at best. And there’s nothing on her album that indicates it’s related to country. She’s not bringing many fans to country music. In fact, I’m sure many of Taylor’s fans are still unsure it exists.

    *Prediction for next album: She’ll put a rap artist on there. Why not branch into rap and R&B too? ;)

  44. StephanieNo Gravatar says:

    Dear Kevin,

    I wonder why you felt compelled to write this, considering nothing Ms. Swift does has anything to do with country music.

    All the Best,
    Stephanie

  45. SydneyNo Gravatar says:

    Kevin,

    I somewhat agree with you about Taylor, and Jason.. he’s totally country! I LOVE this stuff. Have you seen his new video “My Kinda Party?” Pretty sweet!
    http://www.cmt.com/videos/jason-aldean/578609/my-kinda-party.jhtml

  46. AMRNo Gravatar says:

    The Victorians (in England) were good about organizing and cataloging things. Just saying. These days, I miss the grit, the emotion and/or heart in the throat of country (vulnerability?). Anyone can sing (miss Carrie) and write clever and catchy songs (miss Taylor). The true artist transcends the genre or boundaries of where he/she exists. In a long-winded and unglamorous way, I guess, I am saying quality over quantity. Sinatra, technically, was not the greatest vocalist who ever lived, but he was “the voice.” Think about it.

  47. @AMR I get what you’re saying but I would caution against expecting too much from today’s artists. There was a time when George Jones was just another hillbilly singer, you know. And The Possum’s discography is chock full of mediocre songs, too. They can’t all be “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift are still very young and it’s quite early in their careers to dismiss them for not already earning “legend” status.

  48. AMRNo Gravatar says:

    Travis: you make a good point. And, Sinatra did have to make the transition from a teen idol in the 1940s to some of his best work, starting in the 1950s.

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