Saturday, June 22, 2013

30 Day Song Challenge (The Sequel), Day 22: A Song By the Most Overrated Band/Artist You Can Think Of

It's really no mystery to anyone who knows me how much I dislike Taylor Swift, today's pick for the most overrated artist I can think of.  Also, if you don't want to read the rest of this, let me sum up:


Just in case you're still reading, though, here's some elaboration.  It genuinely pains me to spend any time or space at all writing on this otherwise-respectable blog about Taylor Swift.  I'm sure she's a nice person in real life, and for charity's sake I'll even assume that there's a "real" person behind all that NashVegas commodification of her, but my chief complaint about Swift (and her music) is and has always been that she is so "produced" that it's practically impossible to take her seriously enough to include her in the category of natural kinds.  Swift even warranted inclusion in my series of posts on the Uncanny Valley as one of the preeminent examples of a simulacrum. (You can read my whole treatment of her here).  Despite myself, I do have to admit that her songs have gotten (slightly) better over the years, but that small credit I would otherwise grant her is mostly canceled out by the fact that, as her music has gotten better, it's done so on the back of a public-image campaign championing her "realness." 

If there's one thing that music lovers can sniff out like bad dairy products in the fridge, it's industry-produced "authenticity." 

Music fans don't abide bogus authenticity well.  And not in exactly the same way that art-lovers don't abide forgeries, I think.  Art forgeries are disappointing to discover, but there's something deeply, almost personally, offensive about fakery in music.  Especially music of the fundamentally "authentic" genres, i.e., country, folk, blues and gospel.  Perhaps more than the others, country music in particular has been a battleground for this contest between the real and the counterfeit.  The whole alt-country movement of the 90's was, in part, a reaction to what looked like (and was) for many artists and fans a regrettable turn in the Nashville-dominated country music industry towards mainstream/crossover/pop-country music.  When Nashville (henceforth, NashVegas) went "pop," so the story goes, all the real country songs with real country stories of weeds, whites and wine, of shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die, of kissing an angel good morning,  of gambling, of tears in beers and of all the exes in Texas either got lost or, worse, started to be sung by ingenues who had never smoked, drank or snorted anything, who had never kissed or broken up with angels, and who had never shot anything at all in Reno or anywhere else in their lives.  For a lot of us that love country music, every song that NashVegas put out after the mid-90's sounded like stock songs with well-placed, professionally-played but over-produced fiddles and pedal-steels and harmonies, but with absolutely no heart or grit or pain or realness whatsoever.

To wit, here is Taylor Swift's most recent hit, a truly bubblegum pop song, "We Are Never Getting Back Together":

Taylor Swift is, in my view, the very worst of the ingenues that enabled the rise of what is now the indomitable NashVegas (Evil) Empire.  There's really no excuse for calling Swift a "country" artist at all, which she is not.  And there's really no excuse for even the most uninformed country-music listener being hoodwinked into accepting that her self-absorbed, shallow and ridiculously conventional diary-entries count as real country songs.  Yes, she manages to manufacture a decent hook from time to time, including the especially infectious one in this song.  Yes, she's got that farm-girl je ne sais quoi that seems like she just stepped off a bus with a single suitcase and started waiting tables at The Bluebird Cafe to make ends meet.  Yes, she's a pretty girl that has had her heart broken.  But, c'mon now, her ex-boyfriends are John Mayer and Taylor Lautner and Jake Gyllenhaal.. You'll forgive me, I hope, if I don't rush to call the whaaaambulance for Taylor.

Taylor Swift is talented, I'll concede.  But only if you grant me in return that she's the most overrated talented artist today.

Nostalgic?  Check out my entry for Day 22 of the 2011 version of the 30 Day Song Challenge.

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