Thursday, February 11, 2010
Why People Have Missed the Mark on Taylor Swift and the Grammys (and Just Who Should Be Blamed)
I mean, it goes without saying that her vocals were less than stellar. I'd like to put up a video of the performance, but her record label, Big Machine Records, has taken down all copies of the performance from YouTube, citing their ownership. I found this one last video (after the jump), and it'll probably be gone soon. Sad. But only kind of. You can't even find the performance on the CBS website. So, if you didn't see it, you missed it. Take it from me, it sucked. She was off key. Stevie Nicks could barely mask her contempt. But that wasn't the worst thing. Oh no. The worst part of Taylor Swift's trainwreck of a performance was Butch Walker. Yes, Butch Walker. That Butch Walker. The Butch Walker that wrote songs for Dashboard Confessional, American Hi-Fi, Hot Hot Heat, and SR-71. The Butch Walker that produced albums by the aforementioned Yorn, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry, and Weezer. That Butch Walker was the featured banjo player with Taylor Swift and he didn't sink the ship, but he was the man who made the hole bigger.
Walker might be a passable banjo player, I don't know. My knowledge of banjo playing extends as far as Steve Martin's ridiculous banjo solo on Comedy Is Not Pretty. That's about it. But what I do know, is if Steve Martin (himself a Grammy recipient...for AN ALBUM OF BANJO MUSIC!) played with Swift the world would have been a better place. No, Walker's problems arose not as a result of his banjo playing, but as a result of his banjo performance. The problem with her entire band, as exemplified by Walker, was they played with too much damn conviction. Nobody cares THAT much about "You Belong With Me." I don't care how much traction amongst country fans you got with your cover of it. There is no excuse for any of the musicians to look like they care as much as these guys do. No excuse at all. So, why do they all look like they're playing at Live Aid?
In the end, Taylor Swift has about as much artistic integrity as Lady Gaga's sunglasses, which is to say, a small portion of the population care, but they don't care enough to look like they're part of the most important rock ensemble of all time. Stop pretending you care! Butch, you look stupid. Drummer, you too. Violinists, what the hell are you doing there? Academy of Recording Arts and whatever the hell your entire organization is called, why are you celebrating this song for being catchy? You can celebrate "What's My Age Again?" Since when did catchy give rise to celebration and false conviction on the part of the performer. Is it that good? No. So why are you pretending it is?
I think this is actually pretty exemplary of why Swift's music is as disposable as it is. It's fluffy, tactless, and juvenile, but get's away with it because it pretends really enthusiastically. The enthusiasm masks the infantilism of the lyrics, heavy handedness of the music and unoriginality of the pretense that is Taylor Swift. Do I think she's perky and cute and catchy? Sure. Do I think she should be paraded about as some sort of child prodigy that is the embodiment of originality, musicality, and all that good and right with the American Dream? Hardly. I'll take piano ingénues Alicia Keys and Fiona Apple over this piece of manufactured Nashville mediocrity. (music after the jump)
(sound quality isn't great, but who gives a shit?)