Taylor Swift. What can you say about her? A lot more than you probably thought you’d be able to back when you were first introduced to her in 2006, I’m sure. She’s one of the most successful and powerful female musicians alive today, considered one of the finest songwriters of our generation and paved the way for so many memes over the past couple of years, from her tendency to overdo her surprised face when she won an award, to her face during the infamous Kanye interruption during the 2008 VMAs.
But hold on. Let’s go back to 2008, shall we? Taylor Swift was just hitting the mainstream with hits like “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me”, remaining country’s princess while experiencing a boost in popularity from pop fans who were catching wind of her crossover appeal. She had the innocent girl-next-door, deer-in-headlights kind of charm about her that made you want to root for her. Since then, she’s evolved, going from the country twang of Fearless and Speak Now, to the pop/country blend that became Red, to the complete lane change of 1989. Though, in my opinion, her songwriting has remained admirably creative, leaps and bounds ahead of many other artists in the pop field and has only gotten better, her music has changed, and so has she. But the music itself has taken less of a spotlight to Swift’s personal life. Everyone has differing opinions on whether or not that was more her own fault or the fault of the Hollywood-obsessed society in which we live that thrives on practically having her stalked. The way I see it, it’s been a combination of both. Paparazzi follow her everywhere she goes and that hasn’t made things very easy for her if her intent was keep her private life private. The other side of it, though, is that because her life is displayed on every magazine cover and billboard possible, she uses the publicity she gets by simply sneezing to her advantage, and has come off very manipulative as of late (lest I mention the infamous “Famous” controversy with the leaked Snapchats). And then there’s her love life, something that has pretty much become a staple whenever you see her name at the beginning of a headline. Jake Gyllenhaal, John Mayer, Harry Styles, and most recently, Tom Hiddleston have all been connected to her.
So, from where you stand, you either really love or really hate Taylor. You either see her as one of the most influential artists around right now, or you see her as a snake, working her way through the industry, taking what she can get from each person that comes across her path, and then moving on to the next person and the next trend that will make her more money. Regardless of your opinion though, she’s still hanging around and, according to multiple sources on the Internet, has been feverishly working on new material. It is because of this that I have decided to write somewhat of an open letter to Miss Swift in the hopes that it will help her figure out how best to navigate what is going to be quite the minefield when she decides to start rolling out new material.
So, without further ado……
Dear Taylor Swift,
As 2017 progresses, you’re probably going to be working towards putting out new music. That’s great! But there’s something you should know…well a few ‘somethings’ you should know. In fact, I’ve compiled a list of DOs and DON’Ts for your convenience that I think would really help you as you plan to return with a new album.
DO continue to explore different musical influences. 1989 was a thorough pop album, and despite you going from country to pop which may have lost you some fans from the country world, your pop music was quite good. Your writing style is fantastic, and though pop music feels very recycled nowadays, the production value was great and the lyrics were compelling. Personally, I liked your country music better, but that’s just me. I hope that you going back to your roots in Nashville will help with this.
DO find your political voice in some shape or form and start standing for something with your music. As I’ve said before, it’s all well and good to stay neutral on things so as not to anger anybody, but that’s not going to cut it when you’re Taylor Swift. You’ve spoken about things you’re passionate about before, like the whole deal with Apple Music, and see how that turned out! It ended well in your favor, and in the favor of other musicians still trying to figure out where they stand on streaming as a prominent avenue for music consumption. You also stand for the breaking down of barriers for females in Hollywood (we’ll get to more of that later). You’ve voiced your opinions about other things before, so we know you have the power and ability to do so now. But you’ve remained silent on everything about our current political administration, and now, it affects you too. Women are being affected by Planned Parenthood losing funding, and their healthcare being screwed with. Any fans of yours from the LGBTQ community are in their own way being prejudiced against, as well as fans from any minority group. Artists just like you are being stripped of funding that could help them to make their dreams come true. This is not something that you can just sit idly by and let happen. You are arguably one of the most influential musicians in the industry. Your voice could mean a lot to the cause.
Then, by extension….
DON’T think people are going to let it slide that you do not address these issues. Gaga, Katy, Miley…every one of your peers in the pop realm is voicing their support for what they believe in. The more time you spend avoiding these issues, the less credible your new music will seem. Because it’s like you’re putting on blinders to the issues that are right outside your door, and that’s not going to do you any favors.
DON’T make the focus of your new music solely about your relationships. Look, I get it, you’re sick of hearing about how you’re a serial dater who goes through men like no one’s business, and you hate how that moniker has shaped your public image. But you don’t help that image of yourself when the only thing you can seem to write about is your experiences in love (and look, “Blank Space”? Great comeback to the haters…
…however, with everything else you’ve said and done after that, it was like watching a scene from a movie where someone makes a good comeback in an argument, but follows it up with something stupid, and everyone goes back to hating on them). And not that there’s anything wrong with singing songs about your relationship experiences! However, the problem is that you make your albums a witch hunt for fans to go through and decipher hidden messages, all of which tear down each of your exes (Is Red about Jake Gyllenhaal? Is 1989 about Harry? We know you drop hints in songs on purpose, like breadcrumbs for your fans to find and piece together, don’t play with us, girl) and that can describe almost every song on your past couple of albums. And yes, I DO mean “tear down” when I talk about the fashion in which you discuss your exes, because there’s only one song (“Back To December”) that’s ever felt apologetic from your end. Is it true that all of these relationships have been that bad for you? That you’ve really been the victim in every single one of these situations? I find that a little hard to believe. Look, feel free to write love songs, but stop making it feel like that’s all you’ve got. “Never Grow Up”, “Mean”… these are perfect examples of songs you’ve written that aren’t about exes, and they’re great! And I love some of your songs about your past relationships. “All Too Well”? Incredible song. But that troupe of “love songs and how I’ve been done wrong” gets tired. I’m also not saying to write about things that aren’t authentic to you. You don’t strike me as the kind of person to go out clubbing all the time, so a party anthem from you would just seem…well it would seem rather out of place, so I wouldn’t go there if I were you. Take the time to reevaluate where you are in life and balance out the new material with songs about love and songs that discuss LITERALLY anything else.
DON’T continue to call what you see as “feminism”, feminism. If you want a lesson on feminism, talk to Emma Watson. She knows exactly what she’s talking about. Don’t misunderstand, you’ve become a great role model for young women who want to see a determined and powerful female succeed in her line of work without taking any shit from anyone, man or woman. I can get behind that 100%. However, you have created a very strange perception of feminism, and THAT is the part I can’t get behind. Feminism shouldn’t be man-hating. I know, oops, there, I said it. But seriously, it shouldn’t! And to go back to my original comment about how every song you write about an ex feels incredibly negative towards them, it’s quite clear that’s essentially how you see it. Hell, your whole squad is comprised of women, one of which (ahem, Selena Gomez) who has said, and I quote, that because women have faced sexism for years, that there’s nothing wrong with a little sexism thrown back at men to combat the whole thing….WHAT?! I’m not saying you have to let a guy be a part of your squad, because, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a DAMN about the squad. But that message that you and your squad are sending to those young females that are looking up to you is toxic for the feminism movement to be seen as anything but petty. And it’s not just the way in which you see men! Need I mention Katy Perry? The public will never know (and really don’t care) what the hell happened between the two of you that pissed you both off, and caused you to write “Bad Blood”. But calling yourself a feminist and then basing an entire song and music video event around tearing her down doesn’t seem feminist to me at all. By doing that, you’re almost as bad as any man out there who has told a woman she’s lesser than he is. Okay, that might be a little bit of a stretch, but still, it’s not the way to do it. The petty part of me applauds it, but the other part of me knows it’s wrong, and hypocritical. Please, if you’re going to stand with your fellow female artists (something you should also have been doing at the Women’s Marches in January, but I’ll let it go for now, except OOPS I DIDN’T) and send the message to everyone that females and males should be seen as equal counterparts, do it the right way, or don’t call yourself a feminist.
DO approach this latest album campaign with a sense of transparency. If you could be given an approval rating like the President gets, you’d have hit an all time low when those “Famous” Snaps came out, my friend. The ball started rolling back when Calvin Harris went on that Twitter rant about your relationship and how petty you were being about the whole “This Is What You Came For” deal, but nothing was as damning as seeing those snapchats. And from Kim Kardashian of all people! I’m no Kim K fan, but come on, that was some impressive work. As you prepare to come back into this whole ordeal, you need to remember that people aren’t all that fond of your recent antics. When you put this new music out, you don’t need to bare it all for people about what every song is about and tell the world everything under the sun about your life since you went into hiding. But you really should be clear about the fact that you are playing a clean game here. Otherwise, things are only going to get worse for you as far as public perception goes.
DON’T continue to play the victim. This connects to my above point. You played the victim in the whole “Famous” situation, until you were exposed for twisting the details of how the whole thing went down. You played the victim in the Calvin Harris situation, until people found out that your response was to make everyone know you had a part in writing a hit song for him, and then attempting to drag him. And, in almost every one of your songs talking about relationships, you’re the victim of mistreatment in some way shape or form. If you are an intelligent businessperson and decide to make masterminded moves for marketing purposes, or whatever the case may be, own up to it! Don’t keep putting on this, “I’m Taylor Swift, squeaky clean and so nice!” persona, because we know it’s not true. You’ve grown up since those days where that act passed and was believable. It’s time for you to own up to being an experienced player in the business and accept that that’s who you are. No one has a problem with people that make these strong armed business moves. We just really hate it when people attempt to deceive us about why they’re making those moves, like we can’t see the reasons behind it, like we’re stupid. If you want to be a snake, be a snake, but you have to own up to it.
DO talk to someone about radio burnout. Your songs are being played to death, and people are just getting more and more tired of hearing from you. Tone it down a bit, sister, or you’re going to be headed into the same lane that Maroon 5 is stuck in (please God, if I hear another song from them on the radio that isn’t from Songs About Jane, I’m going to claw my ears off of my head).
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. I’ll be here eating a sandwich.