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Why Taylor Swift Offends Little Monsters, Feminists, and Weirdos
February 9, 2010 5:44 AM   Subscribe

"I don’t want my unborn grandchildren to listen to the story of how Taylor Swift won a Grammy she hadn’t earned. I want them to set pianos on fire."

In response to an MTV article on Why You Shouldn't Hate On Taylor Swift, Autostraddle gives a takedown analysis of the Swift public image.
posted by rollick (333 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yes. Yes, please.
posted by padraigin at 5:52 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The "Taylor Swift cannon"? I must have missed that episode of Mythbusters.
posted by lukemeister at 5:57 AM on February 9, 2010 [19 favorites]


Britney Spears’s psychotic vagina

Sock Puppet™ coming soon to a theater near you.
posted by nosila at 5:59 AM on February 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't hate Taylor Swift... saw my first interview with her on Oz TV two days ago with the want-to-hate-him-but-can't-hate-him-coz-he's-so-good-at-his-job Richard Wilkins. She seems to be like a bang-up, modest, grounded girl.

But harking back to the VMAs. Me and the missus both agreed with Kanye. Her film clip was an absolute shocker. An absolute Barry Crocker on a number of levels. How the fark did it even get short listed?!

And I love the first of the Imma Let You Finish meme videos. Obama's understated, relaxed "wrong" reply still cracks me up!

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/kanye-interrupts-imma-let-you-finish
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:05 AM on February 9, 2010


The thing is the Grammys have transformed into sort of an opposite award. It's a surprise if they manage to award tolerable records and albums. This isn't an oscar level oversight where there is a better more obscure movie that wins but the winner is still a generally critically acclaimed movie. Grammys are awards for sub-mediocrity. Vanity albums from people that haven't made interesting music in 30 years. Use somebody by kings of leon won! It's one of the worst songs I've ever heard. It seems like only after they managed to transmogrify themselves from an tolerable if uninspired band to a bombastic train wreck they receive accolades. If you win a grammy it's time to rethink things.
posted by I Foody at 6:06 AM on February 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


For a long time, I've been looking forward to the year they just say "We've looked at the historical record here - The Joshua Tree, Faith and Thriller from the 80's, Clapton's Unplugged and Dylan's Time Out Of Mind from the 90s, Speakerboxxx and Norah Jones' The Love Below from the 00's... Sadly, none of this year's nominees have produced recordings of that calibre. So we have decided not to award the Grammy for Best Album, and ask everyone to try harder next year."
posted by mhoye at 6:08 AM on February 9, 2010 [44 favorites]


Disclaimer: I can't get to the mtv article thanks to some adsense nonsense, so I may have missed something important in that.

I actually can't believe I'm going to admit this in public, but I'm at worst ambivalent about Taylor Swift and I've even found myself nodding/singing along with some of her songs when they show up on the radio. I've seen her in interviews, and I watched some awful MTV show where she went with some kid to his prom and she seemed completely adorable. But that Autostraddle article makes some interesting points about her work, which I'd never thought about before. Probably because there's not much to think about in her work. I'm not sure it's necessarily limited to her schtick any more than it is to a certain segment of pop music nowadays. And I can't say I agree with the author's assertion that GaGa is inherently better than Swift, artistically, although I'd have to agree she's at least more interesting to watch.

While wonderbread pop with an "anti-feminist" slant isn't great, at least it's better than Ke$ha (that hurt to even type, y'all).
posted by This Guy at 6:11 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


We used to criticize teen girl pop stars for not writing their own music, now we criticize them for writing it because their thoughts and feelings aren't what we hoped for.
posted by mpbx at 6:13 AM on February 9, 2010 [75 favorites]


This article is a lot more than (and a lot more interesting than) just "Taylor Swift shouldn't have won a Grammy," so the comments here castigating the Grammys, while valid, are sort of out of scope of the point being made here. The article is pretty great - if you have the time, definitely try to read it.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:13 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is there a background article on what the MTV article is responding to?
posted by DU at 6:16 AM on February 9, 2010


Also, TS won the VMA because teen girls are trendmakers, spend lots of money, and are MTVs core demo. What Kanye fails to understand is that the VMAs are largely promotional. And the Grammys are mostly about sales and airplay.
posted by mpbx at 6:18 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


"it's anti-music and anti-feminist, but i'm still going to watch"
posted by pyramid termite at 6:20 AM on February 9, 2010


I can't believe someone wrote 10 thousand words about this. Here, I'll break it down for you:

Shitty music will dominate the airwaves until replaced by different shitty music. Why? Because people buy shitty music.

That's it, really. It isn't more complicated than that.

Further, has anyone taken a Grammy as an indicator of quality in the last, I dunno, quarter century? No!
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 6:21 AM on February 9, 2010 [8 favorites]



The high end (in sales volume) of the music industry is geared towards 13 year olds. Swift is a product for teen marketing and the next step up after the Hannah Montana tweens get older. A discussion of the actual music she makes is pretty much irrelevant to the process.

Most of the issues this article points out about Swift being an absolutely terrible role model for girls are also true of other products geared towards girls far younger. Which is really pretty depressing.
posted by malphigian at 6:22 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


The article isn't criticizing Swift as viciously as it's criticizing the fact that, in a crowd of mature female pop artists, the award went to the immature whiny girl. And it argues its case comprehensively and wonderfully.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:23 AM on February 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Maybe I just liked the article because I found this graphic hilarious.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:23 AM on February 9, 2010 [21 favorites]


So we have decided not to award the Grammy for Best Album, and ask everyone to try harder next year.

According to Entertainment Weekly, The Oscars might start doing this for best song.
posted by drezdn at 6:23 AM on February 9, 2010


I drove to work this morning listening to Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) and came to the conclusion that real, creative, interesting music hasn't been made in decades.
Also...The Grammys have never been relevant.
posted by rocket88 at 6:26 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


This article is a lot more than (and a lot more interesting than) just "Taylor Swift shouldn't have won a Grammy,"

As far as I can tell, the point is that it's a feminist duty to hate on this girl because she happens to conform to traditional notions of femininity. Maybe that's just how she is -- sweet, deferential, whatever. Her mere existence is not an affront to other ways of being.

Also it pisses me off when people decide what personalities their kids are going to have before they're born.
posted by palliser at 6:29 AM on February 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


I drove to work this morning listening to Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) and came to the conclusion that real, creative, interesting music hasn't been made in decades.
Also...The Grammys have never been relevant.


I read this post and came to the conclusion that you are an elderly white male.
posted by mpbx at 6:29 AM on February 9, 2010 [89 favorites]


There were plenty of great albums released this year (cf. Girls, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Camera Obscura for starters in just one genre); it's a shame that the Grammy people couldn't find a single one of them to celebrate.
posted by PunkSoTawny at 6:30 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hated on Taylor Swift until she hosted SNL, and was awesome.
posted by ericost at 6:31 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The article isn't criticizing Swift as viciously as it's criticizing the fact that, in a crowd of mature female pop artists, the award went to the immature whiny girl. And it argues its case comprehensively and wonderfully.

So this is the point I think the article was trying to convey (or at least should have been trying to convey) and hit on several times in a nicely concise way. The problem is that it was buried in several paragraphs that seemed to attack Swift as Swift in a pretty verbose fashion. The section about the home-schooling, while it illustrated a point the author was trying to make about Swift's naivete (and about the value-system and environment she grew up in) went on a bit long and seemed to border anti-homeschooling/anti-Christian ranting. It also never really linked that to her current beliefs beyond "ooooh girls like boys! boys are dreamy! but don't sleep with them!" which isn't exactly a fringe stance.
posted by This Guy at 6:34 AM on February 9, 2010


My favorite line from the article:

Taylor, look at Lady Gaga in that bathtub and tell me that you’re the one in the bleachers.

... has anyone taken a Grammy as an indicator of quality in the last, I dunno, quarter century?

My wife, God help me.
posted by diogenes at 6:35 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Where did people get this idea that the Grammies are about quality? It's not an awards show for music it's awards for the recording industry. Sales and airplay and sometimes legacy.
posted by mpbx at 6:36 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I drove to work this morning listening to Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) and came to the conclusion that real, creative, interesting music hasn't been made in decades.

I read this comment and came to the conclusion that you have not made an effort to look for decent music in just about as long.
posted by griphus at 6:36 AM on February 9, 2010 [21 favorites]


Also it pisses me off when people decide what personalities their kids are going to have before they're born.

This, like a thousand times. That whole part rubbed me the wrong way. This is no better than the parents who decide that their kids can't be gay because it's not what they want. Let you kids be whoever they are.
posted by This Guy at 6:36 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


It doesn't change the fact that her kind of music breeds passivity and lack of empowerment among girls, and that's unacceptable to me. Give me P!nk. Give me Courtney Love, back in the days when she recorded music and wasn't a joke. Give me Poe. Give me Norah Jones and Beyonce and Lady Gaga and Kate Nash and Amanda Palmer and Mary J. Blige and Jill Scott and kd lang and Jenny Lewis. Give me *any* of these women, and a thousand more, who aren't selling this meek, milquetoast image to young women. I'll take a hellion before a pushover anyday.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:38 AM on February 9, 2010 [46 favorites]


Oh gnos! Innocence and simple trumped angst and edgy. Run for this heels! Bring this bitch down a notch! Or, worry about more important things than your daughters passing musical fancy. Because, if you concerns run headlong toward whether Swift > GaGa > Madonna the brother, you've got bigger problems.
posted by highwayman at 6:38 AM on February 9, 2010


It's nice to live in Japan and not have to ever, ever hear or see Taylor Swift, and any number of other US superstars. It's very gratifying that they are (surprisingly often) completely ignored in this little island nation!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:38 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Le' sigh. *your*
posted by highwayman at 6:39 AM on February 9, 2010


it pisses me off when people decide what personalities their kids are going to have before they're born.

I understand the sentiment in general, but I don't think there's anything wrong with hoping your kids don't get sucked into the crap machine that is American popular culture.
posted by diogenes at 6:41 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


There have ALWAYS been cutesy-poo female singers, though. Really, it was ever thus.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:42 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


> There wasn’t even anything to hate about Taylor Swift... until she snagged Album of the Year, thus transitioning her ... into the Legendary context associated with prior winners like John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Lauryn Hill, U2, Outkast, Natalie Cole, Norah Jones and Eric Clapton.

I... um. Sorry. You lost me there.
posted by ardgedee at 6:42 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I drove to work this morning listening to Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) and came to the conclusion that real, creative, interesting music hasn't been made in decades.

It's always the Pink Floyd fans being arsefaces.

Okay. Ignoring the proliferation of good songwriting in rap, ignoring the beautiful production of modern factory pop, ignoring the gorgeous compositions of indie gems like Sufjan Stevens and Joanna Newsom and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and the Arcade Fire:

Have you ever heard of Guy Klucevsek? The accordion composer? Because he continues to write pieces for instruments I couldn't imagine liking, and he does an incredible job. Or how about Shira Kammen? Certainly you know bluegrass virtuoso Chris Thile and the work he's done with Punch Brothers? Or Sainkho Namtchylak's weird, pulsating jazz? How about the renaissance pastiches of groups like Krless and Corvus Corax? Or the classical/electronica work of Venetian Snares?

Or are you saying that ROCK music hasn't been made well in decades? How about the work done by John Zorn and Mike Patton, both collaboratively and separately? The one's taken the idea of heavy rock and given it a compositional florish; the other's pretty much done everything, both in longform and short. I'm not a rock person — rather, my tastes in rock veer toward indie groups you hate like Neutral Milk Hotel — but I've heard wonderful things about groups like Cynic and Between the Buried and Me, and there's the postrock compositions from groups like Sigur Ros and Godspeed You! Black Emperor that've taken certain ideas of rock and exploded them.

But no. Nothing good has been done since you were a kid.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:42 AM on February 9, 2010 [113 favorites]


Winning a Grammy is like like winning the top door prize at the company Christmas party. Sure it's nice and all but it doesn't really mean anything. Anyone who would devote that much time and energy to knocking a bubblegum country/pop singer might want to step away from keyboard and check her priorities.
posted by MikeMc at 6:44 AM on February 9, 2010


She and Miley Cyrus crack me up. Both of them pretty, white girls from rich families given all the support they need so that they can become "super stars." Oooo feel the pain. I love how they show up on the red carpet in their designer gowns looking just like girls dressed up in momma's finery. If I was a professional in the music business, I would find it very difficult to take either of them seriously.
Her lyrics are praised for authenticity, but to whom? Their flat, archaic view of high school is likely a result of Swift not attending too much high school.

In fact, Swift left regular school at 15 and was then home-schooled via Tennessee-based Christian home-schooling network Aaron Academy. The Academy’s rules are based on The Bible’s rules. The Academy teaches Creationism. Here’s one of their favorite websites: Creation Science.
I also like (NOT REALLY) how Taylor can put on a pair of glasses and suddenly become the forlorn outcast. Oh it's a heartbreaker all right.
she’s pretty clear in “Fifteen” — really the only song where Taylor has an actual female friend — that “Abigail gave everything she had to a boy, who changed his mind, and we both cried.”

I’ll spare you the time of listening to the song and give it to you straight: Abigail had sex with a boy, and later they broke up. That’s right. No marriage. She gave him all she had.

That’s right. All Abigail had was her hymen.
And this is the crux of the matter. In Taylor Swift's world the entire worth of a young girl is dependent on her virginity, therefore if you aren't a virgin, you are so much less valuable. Sorry, Taylor. That is most definitely not the message I want my daughter to recieve.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:45 AM on February 9, 2010 [47 favorites]


My mom is nice as anyone, but she's been furious at Taylor Swift ever since she saw she can't sing on key. She wants Swift to apologize to Stevie Nicks for wasting her time. I haven't even told her that Lady Gaga lost the Grammy to Swift. I'm not sure she could take it.

Great article. I loved it when I first saw it in the comments, and I'm glad to talk about it here. I've never really been a Swift hater, but I do think she's been far too lucky for what she is, especially up against people like Beyonce and Gaga in the same genre.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:47 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


real, creative, interesting music hasn't been made in decades.

How true. It's been all downhill since Guillaume Dufay.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:47 AM on February 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


There were a couple posts on the Bitch blog last year about the Taylor Swift Lesson to the Youth of America that were pretty good, if not full of CAPSLOCK and strikethrough snark
posted by soma lkzx at 6:47 AM on February 9, 2010


There were plenty of great albums released this year (cf. Girls, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Camera Obscura for starters in just one genre); it's a shame that the Grammy people couldn't find a single one of them to celebrate.

You're right, but the most egregious oversight has to be Grizzly Fucking Bear. Aside from owning every single musical act out there (even you, Gaga, with my apologies), they're Jonny Greenwood's favorite band. For Christ's sake, is that not mainstream enough for the industry to even mention? I'm still shaking and crying.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:47 AM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


We used to criticize teen girl pop stars for not writing their own music, now we criticize them for writing it because their thoughts and feelings aren't what we hoped for.

Eh, not quite. Some are upset because songs written by teen girl pop stars win awards which were previously recordings of lasting regard. Will we look back in 5 years and say "hey, that Swift lady sure did amazing things for a teen country/pop star," or are we going to forget her for the next country/pop star?

There have ALWAYS been cutesy-poo female singers, though. Really, it was ever thus.

There will always be complaints that the pop singers aren't real representations of people, but I don't think that's the real point of the article. In essence, this is a complaint about awards becoming cheaper that they used to be. They were never a real mark of "universally best music of the year" because that would require actually seeking out the best music, instead of looking to the best sellers for a shortlist.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:48 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


flapjax at midnite: "It's nice to live in Japan and not have to ever, ever hear or see Taylor Swift, and any number of other US superstars. It's very gratifying that they are (surprisingly often) completely ignored in this little island nation!"

I have found getting old to be, at best, a mixed bag. But it does provide certain quiet pleasures. One of which, apparently, is listening to people passionately argue the respective merits of two pop stars - neither of whose music you have ever heard a note of.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:49 AM on February 9, 2010 [12 favorites]


I haven't really listened to country radio in a few years, but wasn't Swift's first big single, "Tim McGraw," about pining for a summer romance with a guy home from college (with *gasp* implied sex in a truck, and the narrator character in a "little black dress?")? Not exactly edgy writing there either, but it's interesting to me that she released that before all the 'go go gadget virgin!' stuff...

Anyway, what Medieval Maven said. (Also thanks for the link to Poe -- I heard the Hey Pretty single, wanted to hear more, then totally forgot about it..)!
posted by Alterscape at 6:50 AM on February 9, 2010


My mom is nice as anyone, but she's been furious at Taylor Swift ever since she saw she can't sing on key. She wants Swift to apologize to Stevie Nicks for wasting her time.

For what it's worth, I'm willing to bet that was a monitoring issue. Her records are autotuned to hell--enough with the goddamn robot country singers, please--but I'm reasonably certain she's not that terrible without it.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:50 AM on February 9, 2010


Another quality contribution from Joe Beese
posted by mpbx at 6:50 AM on February 9, 2010


(...) taken a Grammy

Euphemism coined.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:51 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is this something I have to give a shit about to give a shit about?
posted by MuffinMan at 6:52 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


ignoring the gorgeous compositions of indie gems like Sufjan Stevens and Joanna Newsom and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and the Arcade Fire:

Don't listen to him. You're unlikely tto find what you seek among the Pitchfork crowd. Might I suggest the following: The Project Hate MCMXCIX, Sunn O))), Wolverine, In Flames and Mastodon. There's always good metal being made...
posted by MikeMc at 6:53 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I drove to work this morning listening to Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) and came to the conclusion that real, creative, interesting music hasn't been made in decades.

Yeah, you haven't even been trying. Start with Porcupine Tree.
posted by jbickers at 6:53 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


>Oh dang I didn't realise it was being discussed elsewhere

I agree that the Grammy part isn't really the most interesting, but it was the easiest thing to pullquote
posted by rollick at 6:54 AM on February 9, 2010


She was hilarious on SNL. And the essayist should go over to AskMe and tell the women having a hard time in their relationships that they're so uncool and should pretend their feelings don't matter because getting so destroyed over a dude is anti-feminist. Also, the essayist is saying Swift says that "giving all you have to a boy" means losing your virginity. All you have can be a lot of things: faith, trust, belief, etc.
Lady Gaga sells dance music. That's all. She's a product too. And I like Ke$ha. Why does everyone overanalyze everything that doesn't matter? She can't write an essay about how to best fix the Prius brakes or solve real problems, but cares about stupid Grammys? This is the real problem.
posted by anniecat at 6:55 AM on February 9, 2010 [12 favorites]


It's nice to live in Japan and not have to ever, ever hear or see Taylor Swift, and any number of other US superstars. It's very gratifying that they are (surprisingly often) completely ignored in this little island nation!

Seriously? Beyonce is everywhere in Japan, man. There's no freaking escape.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:55 AM on February 9, 2010


Hating on Taylor Swift is dumb. How did she not earn her Grammy?
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:56 AM on February 9, 2010


Which nihilistic young white blonde marketing mascot do I prefer? Down Home Unexamined Family Values from our Mythical American Past Gal or Pointless Cultural Contrarian Lady?

Also, this.
posted by phrontist at 6:56 AM on February 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Don't listen to him. You're unlikely tto find what you seek among the Pitchfork crowd.

Which is why I said to ignore those names, and went on to list people whose names Pitchfork doesn't know. Unless now it's "in" to listen to avante-garde accordion, renaissance music, and freeform jazz, in which case I've been a lot cooler recently than I've realized.

People who only like one genre of music sadden me, particularly when the genre in question is rock.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:56 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


There wasn’t even anything to hate about Taylor Swift’s twangy addictive pop/country music until she snagged Album of the Year, thus transitioning her from “harmlessly popular teenage pop fad” into the Legendary context associated with prior winners like John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Lauryn Hill, U2, Outkast, Natalie Cole, Norah Jones and Eric Clapton.

Natalie Cole and Norah Jones are legends?

I drove to work this morning listening to Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) and came to the conclusion that real, creative, interesting music hasn't been made in decades.

Sorry, I love Wish You Were Here too, but no "real, creative, interesting" music made anywhere by anyone since 197frickin5? Holy cow.
posted by blucevalo at 6:59 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've found myself defending Swift recently (at least in the recesses of my own mind) even though I've never listened to one of her songs all the way through. I don't really care for her music one way or the other, but the recent "she's antifeminist and a sign of all that's wrong with the world!" meme has been driving me crazy.

It's like...is there an inverse of slut-shaming? Because in recent years people seem to have developed the weird idea that not being openly sexual is bad and wrong and antifeminist. That if a woman isn't having sex (and talking openly about it) she's repressed, or freakishly religious, or some Second Wave anti-man nutcase or whatever. Real Feminists are people like Gaga or P!nk (who I love, by the way) or anyone who fits neatly in the third wave/riot grrrl/freak categories.

God forbid that people are different and express themselves differently! Fuck that "real feminists do it THIS way" business.

I have no idea if Swift self-identifies as a feminist, and I don't care. She can rock on with her not-so-bad self, and more power to her. And frankly, you can do a hell of a lot worse than a girl who has had the maturity and self-knowledge to take control of her own career from a relatively young age, even if what she's singing isn't what you want to hear from her.
posted by Salieri at 7:00 AM on February 9, 2010 [35 favorites]


I bought my cousin a Taylor Swift doll (it's like a Barbie) and it sings.

By the end of the night, I wanted to behead it.


oh and she wears granny panties.
posted by stormpooper at 7:01 AM on February 9, 2010


If Swift’s work connects with teenage girls, it does so on the most simplistic, reductive territory of all: pining for boys, walking in the rain, kissing in the rain, crying drops of tears on her guitar, driving in trucks with cool boys, wanting boys she can’t have, more rain, more letter-writing, more stalking, more broken hearts, breathing problems as a side-effect of broken hearts

So does being a feminist mean you can't write love songs? A lot of my favorite bands (The Cure, The Smoking Popes, The Magnetic Fields, Hayden, Why?, etc.) write about these exact topics from the male perspective, and they don't get criticized for it.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:02 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Barking at shadows.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:03 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rory...While you make a very valid case, your argument also demonstrates the problem. Be very objective and tell me, out of all those artists you name, how many of them do you really think the average (or even above-average) listener will have heard of, let alone have actually heard? I'm not snarking...It's an honest question.

Out of the acts you list, I feel fairly confident that Sufjan, Arcade Fire and, probably, Zorn and Patton would enjoy relative familiarity. Well, maybe NMH. Maybe. The others? You're more apt to hear crickets chirping than get a nod of recognition. And that's the odd weakness in our connected world. That, for all the places online one could go to find new, exciting music, people, by-and-large, don't. It's a shame, really.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:04 AM on February 9, 2010


The only exposure I've had to Taylor Swift was seeing the YouTube of her Grammy performance and yeah, she was way off key. Not just during her duet with Stevie Nicks, but during her performance of her own song, she was flatter than... I dunno, something really flat. The Netherlands perhaps. She was so flat she was practically below sea level.

I'm not a professional, but I am a trained vocalist, and can call a bad performance when I see it. Maybe she was just having an off night, I'll give her that, but it was really unpardonably awful to be a singer of that caliber and not just miss a few notes, but to perform in a totally different zip code from where the pitch actually is.

If have daughters who want to sing, I want their role models to be able to find the right note on a taste test.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:08 AM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


That if a woman isn't having sex (and talking openly about it) she's repressed, or freakishly religious, or some Second Wave anti-man nutcase or whatever.

It's not that. It's the whole, "if you lose your virginity before you marry, you're damaged goods" point.
posted by giraffe at 7:13 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wait...there's still a music industry?!
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:14 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's always the Pink Floyd fans being arsefaces.

I should have know better. My example was just what I happened to be listening to today. I'm not holding it up as the pinnacle of music. But my sentiment stays the same.
That stuff was fairly popular in its time. Nobody had to search the deepest corners of the musical world to discover gems of creativity or musicianship. I'm talking about the Grammy nominees list or the top 40 or 100 or whatever list and honestly what does it have to show me in terms of musical virtuosity or real creativity that isn't regurgitated formulas of whats been proven to be popular? Who was the best instrumentalist in the major awards categories? What was new and exciting - musically - about any of the nominated songs, other than some good vocal ability (on those that weren't Autotuned, at least) and danceability? I don't think I'm stuck in the past...I think music is stuck in a formula it can't get itself out of.

Also...thanks for the recommendations. I'm always looking.
posted by rocket88 at 7:16 AM on February 9, 2010


I agree with most of what this human has written, but this human should put his/her name on his/her work. Who wrote this?
posted by Outlawyr at 7:18 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Record of the Year in 1975 went to Olivia Newton John, FYI.
posted by mpbx at 7:20 AM on February 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Damn. I have not realized how detached I am from current pop culture until now. Because everything I know about Taylor Swift comes from this article. I guess I'd heard of her when the "Imma let you finish" thing became a meme, but she was just some name I promptly forgot. Hell, all I know about Kanye is that he's the "Imma let you finish" guy.

I am not sure whether I am glad to have no fucking clue who she is and what she sounds like, or kind of worried at how out of touch I am. I mean, I've got a few albums in my collection from 2009, but none of them are from that branch of music - they're all glitchy, itchy, strange things like Clark or Two Fingers or a dubstep mix or something.

I can spend all day long listening to semi-new music that I haven't curated myself, now that I have a smartphone that can run Pandora or Last.fm or whatnot, and never have to hear anything that's designed and marketed to win a Grammy. In the eighties, I couldn't escape Madonna. In the teens, I am vaguely thinking that maybe I should actually listen to this Lady Gaga sometime just to see why she appeals to such a broad range. This is the culturally-atomized future, and I'm living in it. It's kind of cool and it's kind of frightening.
posted by egypturnash at 7:21 AM on February 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Best New Artist of 1979 went to one-hit disco wonder A Taste Of Honey over both Elvis Costello and The Cars.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:22 AM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


I drove to work this morning listening to Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) and came to the conclusion that real, creative, interesting music hasn't been made in decades.

PSH! The last good piece of music was the Well Tempered Clavier. Past that it's all just posers selling to rubes.
posted by fuq at 7:22 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why are some people on Metafilter so proud of their ignorance? Nobody cares about what you don't know, only what you do know.
posted by mpbx at 7:22 AM on February 9, 2010 [22 favorites]


est New Artist of 1979 went to one-hit disco wonder A Taste Of Honey over both Elvis Costello and The Cars.

that's because Boogie Oogie Oogie is the BOMB.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:25 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Taylor Swift's grammy performance. wow. She sounds like me singing in the car.
posted by stavrogin at 7:26 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, she sounds like my cat yowling in the car when I take her to the vet.
posted by stavrogin at 7:27 AM on February 9, 2010


Both of them pretty, white girls from rich families given all the support they need so that they can become "super stars."

This also applies to Lady Gaga though. Rich family, went to Julliard, etc.

(Maybe not "pretty" though.)
posted by smackfu at 7:28 AM on February 9, 2010


The US pays far too much attention to people who sing and/or act, or are good at sports.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:29 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why all the moralistic criticism? When people criticize video games for being violent, people tend to say that it's just a game, don't take it too seriously. Can't we judge her music not on the moral quality of the content but rather on the technical proficiency of her art? I'm not saying she doesn't also suck on the latter, but isn't that a more fair criterion?
posted by dd42 at 7:30 AM on February 9, 2010


Right, no other country does that.
posted by stavrogin at 7:30 AM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


I gave up on the Grammys after the JethroTull/Metallica debacle. Besides, just like all awards shows, it's just an excuse for the rich and glamorous to get together and fellate eachother and for Joan rivers and her mutant daughter to leave the house.
posted by jonmc at 7:31 AM on February 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Not just during her duet with Stevie Nicks, but during her performance of her own song [...] it was really unpardonably awful to be a singer of that caliber and not just miss a few notes, but to perform in a totally different zip code from where the pitch actually is.

Now that I actually watched the whole performance, I keep going back and forth on it. On the one hand, it looks like she's just searching for the key the whole time (like she can't hear herself). But on the other hand, she's clearly closing up completely on the high notes. This is the only other non-tuned live performance I could find ... it sounds like she's mediocre-or-worse, but still not as bad as the Grammy performance would have you believe. My money is on a terrible combination of nerves and bad monitoring.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:32 AM on February 9, 2010


Ha! Today's sellout.woot.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:36 AM on February 9, 2010



Complaining about song lyrics always struck me as funny - except when it was Al Gore's PMRC and the Moral Majority doing it. Then it was dangerous.

Still, am I going to be provoked into having an adulterous affair with Jesse's girlfriend ? Will I hear it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another you've been messing around ? Am I really not gonna take it ? Where have all the good times gone ? Will I crawl like a viper through those suburban streets, making love to women languid and bittersweet ?

The point I'm trying to make is that a critical analysis of the lyrics will probably yield a completely different product than what a literal analysis would. Not that it really matters anyway - the audience probably won't think about it too much, and if they do will bring their own luggage into the reading.

It's the same sort of stupid Zappa himself railed against 25 years ago. It's cool to rail against TS because her music doesn't do anything for you (and I find it vapid and boring, too), but it's another entirely to assert that her lyrics are going to somehow harm her audience. The kids my age did not go on to breaking the law, hellbent for leather while seeking and destroying, or being turned to steel in the great magnetic field.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:37 AM on February 9, 2010 [17 favorites]


stavrogen Right, no other country does that.

Not what I said. There are actually some countries where such people are appreciated, but not worshipped/reviled.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:37 AM on February 9, 2010


that's because Boogie Oogie Oogie is the BOMB.

Great, now that's going to be bouncing around in my head all day.Til I just can't boogie no more...
posted by MikeMc at 7:40 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]



Oh - and the Grammys ? They've sucked since at least the late 80s. Best heavy metal album to Jethro Tull ? Over Metallica's "And Justice for All"? How the hell does that work ?

Even the Milli Vanilli thing was better than that - MV's album was actually pretty good, especially given the competition that year.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:40 AM on February 9, 2010


This also applies to Lady Gaga though. Rich family, went to Julliard, etc.

(Maybe not "pretty" though.)


A lot of anti-T.S. animus seems to be anti-pretty/anti-cool-girl animus (you can't just become an outsider by putting on big glasses! You don't know THE PAIN!). Which ain't too pretty.

Is she my cup of tea? No. Is Gaga? Yes. But that's pretty much where it ends. Preference. I don't think I'll be using either as some kind of metric for how I want my kids to turn out or what is good and bad about music.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:42 AM on February 9, 2010


So does being a feminist mean you can't write love songs?

Singing about shmoopy adorable boys who don't notice you because you have glasses while those evil drama queen sluts win their hearts isn't a love song.

As to whether feminists can write love songs, well, there's an entire history of music written by women out there for you to explore. I think you'll discover many of them are able to write about love as something more than some bizarre, boy-obsessed, jealous-of-other-girls adolescent fantasy.

Hell, I'll get you started.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:43 AM on February 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


I'm with Bill Hicks in that I want my kids to play from the fucking heart.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:44 AM on February 9, 2010


Bette Davis Eyes, I Write the Songs, and Wind Beneath My Wings won Grammys too. What are we arguing about?
posted by solmyjuice at 7:47 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


there's an entire history of music written by women out there for you to explore. I think you'll discover many of them are able to write about love as something more than some bizarre, boy-obsessed, jealous-of-other-girls adolescent fantasy

Taylor Swift is writing adolescent songs for adolescents.
posted by mpbx at 7:48 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I gave up on the Grammys the year Taste of Honey beat out Elvis Costello and The Pretenders for best new artist.

Thems was the days I tell ya. The outrage.
posted by pianomover at 7:52 AM on February 9, 2010


Artful Codger: "The US pays far too much attention to people who sing and/or act, or are good at sports."

This is different than other countries?
posted by octothorpe at 7:53 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I think music is stuck in a formula it can't get itself out of."

CORPORATE music is stuck in a rut it can't get out of.

Traditional music (bluegrass, real country, folk, etc) is doing just fine, as is cutting-edge future music (Squarepusher, Amon Tobin, The Ruins, Hovercraft, Don Cabellero, ICU, etc).

It's just that you have to work a little to hear it, and most people aren't willing to do that. As long as what you hear is determined by your car radio or television, you are sure to hear solid shit from one end of the dial to the other.

Please, go down to the Festivale International in Lafayette Louisiana in April, and come back here afterwards with your new, humbled idea of what modern music can be.

Oh yeah, and FUGAZI RULES.
posted by chronkite at 7:54 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fuck you guys. Jethro Tull rules.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:55 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


The guy playing banjo / mandolin on the Grammys with Taylor was Butch Walker, and that arrangement of her song was his cover of her song. Now I realize everybody here considers themselves a music expert, but if Butch Walker doesn't mind being on stage with her I'm going to have to go with the idea that there is some redeeeming level of talent there.

She wrote all (or almost all) of the songs on 2 albums that have sold millions and millions of copies, she seems to have her head screwed on decently, and so-far has managed to avoid the spiral of drugs, alcohol, and bad decisions that seems to come with the territory of teen star. She's not an ugly girl and yet as far as I know has not felt the need to show up at awards shows or on magazine covers embarrassingly half naked.

The whole thing about the song Fifteen is fracking ridiculous., The moral of that song is not only virgins matter, it's that a 15 year old boy that says I love you is probably lying, or at best confused. Having been a 15 year old boy once, I'd say that is a very accurate statement.

I can think of a lot worse role models for my teenage daughter.



-+
posted by COD at 7:55 AM on February 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


I drove to work this morning listening to Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) and came to the conclusion that real, creative, interesting music hasn't been made in decades.

Are you crazy? I don't understand how you can write that when there are still acts that are on tour right now like Minibus One, The Johnnie Walker Blues, Poof It's Magic Bitches, and Strangers with Ghandi! Or if you are into something more indie, you should try listening to The Francophone Black Nationalists, Scout Snipers, or Can'o'Corn. There are so many great bands out there to listen to.

(Those are not really the names of bands. They are team names from various fantasy baseball leagues. But I think they are less obscure than other recommendations I have read in this thread.)
posted by Slap Factory at 7:58 AM on February 9, 2010 [34 favorites]


Taylor Swift is writing adolescent songs for adolescents.

No she isn't. She's selling fantasies to adolescents. I wouldn't mind her if she were legitimately representing the adolescent experience of love, which is messy and complicated and fraught with confusion and excitement. She's basically repackaging the worst rom coms for a younger audience, and its a bill of goods.

The girl groups in the Sixties also sang about love. Here's an example. It's just as simple lyrically as anything Swift has done, but represents a real terror about the fleetingness of youthful romance that Swift has never gotten close to.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:01 AM on February 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


CORPORATE music is stuck in a rut it can't get out of.

I find the sentiment of this post to be so obnoxious and I say that as a former experimental college radio station program director and current independent music critic.

Fugazi fans won't shut up about how much better they are than everyone else cause they have to make their own tshirts. Or some other diy bullshit. Fuck off.
posted by mpbx at 8:02 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


You're adults turning your critical reasoning on pop music intended for casual consumption by 14 year olds who will have moved on to something else in 6 months.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:02 AM on February 9, 2010


Fuck you guys. Jethro Tull rules.

Dude, I love me some Tull, but metal they are not.
posted by jonmc at 8:04 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


The guy playing banjo / mandolin on the Grammys with Taylor was Butch Walker, and that arrangement of her song was his cover of her song.

Butch Walker produced Lindsay Lohan's album A Little More Personal and most of Avril Lavigne's albums. Whatever merit he brings to his own music, his work with preteen starlets has been distinctly sub-par.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:04 AM on February 9, 2010


swifts "she gave all she had" lyric is just the aftermath of "will you still love me tomorrow" ;)

Carol King also wrote "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)"
posted by mpbx at 8:05 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you really want Joan Rivers and her daughter to stick around Grey Gardens all the time? That alone justifies all the award shows.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:06 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


You're adults turning your critical reasoning on pop music intended for casual consumption by 14 year olds who will have moved on to something else in 6 months.

I was 14 once and I deserved better than this sort of dismissive attitude toward the experiences and tastes of adolescents. And I still listen to a lot of the music I listened to then.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:06 AM on February 9, 2010 [18 favorites]


I don't have passionate feelings about this, since I don't really think about it, but I've got to express my desire for adolescent music that somehow teaches adolescents something and makes them wiser, versus adolescent music that makes adolescents feel like they're justified in their worldview. As a kid I got a mix of the two sorts, and more and more I wish I'd had access to that teen music that grows you up a bit in the process. I still envy teens whose rebellious music was Patti Smith and Velvet Underground and even Pulp.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:07 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was 14 once and I deserved better than this sort of dismissive attitude toward the experiences and tastes of adolescents..

Good for you, but the fact is that there are hordes of teens who don't listen to pop music very deeply nor care to.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:09 AM on February 9, 2010


Carol King also wrote "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)"

Yes she did. It was written in response to the fact that Little Eva was being beaten by her boyfriend, and was intended to protest that sort of thing. The arrangement for it is deliberately ominous. It's a pretty savage song.

Little Eva was a year younger than Taylor Smith when Carol King wrote that song for her, which goes to show that the experience of love for young people can be a lot more complicated than Taylor's songwriting demonstrates.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:09 AM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Good for you, but the fact is that there are hordes of teens who don't listen to pop music very deeply nor care to.

I guess I just get tired of people saying, oh, this is unimportant, don't waste your time talking or thinking about it.

If it's unimportant to you, stay out of the thread. For some of us, it matters.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:11 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


I guess I just get tired of people saying, oh, this is unimportant, don't waste your time talking or thinking about it.

Well, again, good for you, but it is a large world out there and not every kid is going to have the same musical consumption inclinations. Some will seek out more interesting music, many will be content with what they are served up.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:14 AM on February 9, 2010


EmpressCallipygos: "There have ALWAYS been cutesy-poo female singers, though. Really, it was ever thus."

I have a recording engineer/musician friend who just paid for his house and a SHITLOAD of music gear by having Nashville talent people fly the "next Taylor Swift" to his house, recording a demo and sending them back home. It's an insanely lucrative little thing he has going ($1500 per song) but everyone is looking for the next TS. I listened to a few of the demos (three different singers, one of them 14 years old) and the were nearly indiscernible for each other. It's a whole different world and one which I just can't wrap my head around.

I actually like Taylor Swift, the person. Her SNL thing was cool and I've seen her in interviews where she seems to be pretty consistently grounded. Her music, however....
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:16 AM on February 9, 2010


I really don't care about her except for one thing:

Whether or not she deserved that award or not, she should have brought that thing down HARD on Kanye West's skull when he went up there and started his interruption.

People would have loved her forever for that.
posted by mephron at 8:16 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


The real reason she's on the bleachers is because she's boring. It has nothing to do with her glasses. She's being nice to herself by saying it's because she's nerdy. I mean, who hasn't felt that kind of fantasy, where they're like, "Brad Pitt and I would make the most awesome couple. She doesn't love him like I do." It's very adolescent. Then you grow up and go, oh wait, he's not interested in you. I bet there's some oboe player into her and she's all pining after whatshisname because he's unavailable. She's not ready for a romantic relationship. That's what you do when you aren't ready. You obsess over someone who clearly doesn't want you.

There. Satisfied?
posted by anniecat at 8:16 AM on February 9, 2010 [14 favorites]


pianomover: "I gave up on the Grammys the year Taste of Honey beat out Elvis Costello and The Pretenders for best new artist."

Actually, The Pretenders lost to Christopher Cross.

That probably doesn't make you feel any better.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:16 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not hating on *Taylor Swift the Person* - I don't like her image, and I don't like the ideas she sells, the pining for boys that don't want you, the fairytale, the madonna/whore stuff. I don't care, at all, for her *image.*

I do very much prefer Amanda Palmer's image, not because she wore a naked dress to the Golden Globes, but because she is her own person. She is an empowered woman who has made her own life, independent of any of this Taylor-Swift-esque (or early Britney-esque, or a 1,000 other things-esque for that matter) fantasia.

There is nothing wrong with liking her music. There is a lot wrong with her as a role model. I would rather a thousand million times we raise a thousand million Amanda Palmers than a thousand million Taylor Swifts. If that makes me a bad person, I'm okay with that. I want girls to BE fearless, not title an album full of bad "love" songs "Fearless" and call that the same thing.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:19 AM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


rocket88:
"I drove to work this morning listening to Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) and came to the conclusion that real, creative, interesting music hasn't been made in decades.
Also...The Grammys have never been relevant.
"

nice troll.

P.S. fuck you, the last good piece of music ever recorded was the 1962 David Tudor recording of John Cage's Cartridge Music.
posted by idiopath at 8:20 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, The Pretenders lost to Christopher Cross.

That probably doesn't make you feel any better.


It makes me angry, because he so clearly didn't need or want a Grammy. Sailing took him away to where he was going. Doo doo doo.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:21 AM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Nobody had to search the deepest corners of the musical world to discover gems of creativity or musicianship.

You don't have to now; they're out there, in plain sight. Your response was friendly enough but I sincerely doubt how hard you're always searching for good music if you haven't found much since Pink Floyd.

Not to mention the fact that once you find some, your ability to throw that blanket statement out there is gone. It's a vested interest statement I used to carry around until I realized that it only prevented me from recognizing the good music that's out there now.
posted by Hiker at 8:21 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Fugazi fans won't shut up about how much better they are than everyone else cause they have to make their own tshirts. Or some other diy bullshit. Fuck off."

Son, watch your tone with me.

I did NOT say anything about being better than anyone else, or t shirts, or anything of the sort.

They are simply an example of a great independent band that did everything honestly, charged a fair rate for their albums and shows, welcomed kids and adults alike, and hmmm...what else...OH! ALSO KICKED OUT THE MOST MASSIVE JAMS EVER.

And they are just one band of a thousand that eclipses Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Beyonce, and all this other corporate music.

So maybe YOU fuck off, Mr. I-Was-A-DJ-Independent-Music-Critic.
posted by chronkite at 8:24 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dude, I love me some Tull, but metal they are not.

Yeah. Rock Island isn't even that great of an album.

Taylor Swift is boring musically, lyrically, personally. This is, of course, why she is so popular. The first thing I heard of hers was an irritating snippet of Love Story for a Rock Band commercial or something. I looked up the lyrics because I expected there would be some hidden, bitter twist to it, because I didn't believe it could be as inane as it sounded on the face of it. But it was. Then I heard a bit of You Belong With Me. I can only assume the rest is just as bad. They have the same key, same meter...it's the Spin Doctors all over again.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:25 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


"corporate music"

Hahaha. Kids. When will they ever learn?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:27 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Singing about shmoopy adorable boys who don't notice you because you have glasses while those evil drama queen sluts win their hearts isn't a love song.

Obviously there are kinds of love songs that aren't like that, but my point was that there are tons of songs that are exactly the same as that but with the male-female roles reversed, and I've basically never heard those artists criticized for their subject matter. For example, one of the bands I mentioned, The Smoking Popes, has practically never written a song that was not about being obsessed with a girl or crying from a broken heart.

As to whether feminists can write love songs, well, there's an entire history of music written by women out there for you to explore. I think you'll discover many of them are able to write about love as something more than some bizarre, boy-obsessed, jealous-of-other-girls adolescent fantasy.

Yes, I know that there are plenty songs by feminists in general and love songs by feminists. I am a fan of women artists from Kate Bush to Bratmobile. I almost put a qualifier like "sappy" before love song in the sentence you quoted but I don't think there's a short adjective that describes the specific kind of love songs I am talking about. Call them bizarre, boy-obsessed, jealous-of-other-girls adolescent fantasies if you want, but my point is that's a pretty well-established topic for songs, and the small subset of female artists that write those kinds of songs get criticized for not being feminist enough.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:28 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think what people are missing is that since TS writes her own songs, this is how she, a young girl, views her world. You're saying that teen girls deserve better but what you're really saying is that teen girls are wrong to feel how they feel and that they should think and feel like adults.

Taylor Swift isn't a role model teen girls aspire to be, she's who a lot of teen girls already are. She's popular because her audience can identify with the pupy love and teenage heartbreak and fantasy.

The anti-swifters in this thread are telling teen girls what they should be but refuse to listen to what they are.
posted by mpbx at 8:29 AM on February 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


For example, one of the bands I mentioned, The Smoking Popes, has practically never written a song that was not about being obsessed with a girl or crying from a broken heart.

Yeah, I hate that shit from men too. Sorry for not addressing your specific point.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:33 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why do people keep saying that Taylor Swift gets credit for writing her own songs? She uses a committee of "cowriters."

From americansongwriter.com:

'On Taylor Swift, she wrote most of the songs with Liz Rose. “She’s one of my favorite co-writers,” Swift says, “and she and I wrote eight of the songs on my first record, and I think three of the songs on my second record are ones I wrote with her. I felt so comfortable with her that sometimes I would bring in the craziest ideas. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t. A case in point where it worked was when I brought in an idea called ‘Tim McGraw.’ She looked at me like I was crazy, and then, as I kept on playing this idea for her, it sunk in. She got it.”'
posted by baltimoretim at 8:34 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


You're saying that teen girls deserve better but what you're really saying is that teen girls are wrong to feel how they feel and that they should think and feel like adults.

I really am not saying that. I'm saying that what Taylor Smith sings about in no way reflects the actual experience of teenage romance. I'd love to hear a teenager singing about what she thinks and feels. Swift strings romantic cliches together -- the sames ones prepackaged by Hollywood. That's not the same thing.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:35 AM on February 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


I've got to express my desire for adolescent music that somehow teaches adolescents something and makes them wiser

"Be My Baby" by the Ronettes does. So does "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys. So does "I Want You Back." There's probably even a lesson or two in "I Gotta Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas and "Walk the Dinosaur" by Queen Latifah (two of my four-year-old daughter's current faves).

But those lessons? They aren't in the lyrics.

If there's any tragedy unique to contemporary mass-market pop, it's that the music is so often banal and formulaic. But I suspect 'twas ever thus. Looking at the No. 1 singles list for 1968 (by most objective measures one of the most fruitful years in pop history), we've got "Hello, Goodbye" and "Dock of the Bay" and "Mrs Robinson" and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," but we've also got "Tighten Up" and "Judy in Disguise."
posted by gompa at 8:37 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I should have know better. My example was just what I happened to be listening to today. I'm not holding it up as the pinnacle of music. But my sentiment stays the same.
That stuff was fairly popular in its time. Nobody had to search the deepest corners of the musical world to discover gems of creativity or musicianship.


I had you written off as a troll, but you do seem to actually be serious. Okay. We seem to be about the same age, so we both remember what it was like in the mid 70s. You found out about new music by listening to FM radio, by knowing people who had decent record collections, through reading (if you could find it) Creem and the English music press (I'm assuming, for no good reason, that you are North American, like me), and (if you were very lucky) hanging around the local record store. You had no idea what band members looked like outside of the pictures on their albums. Live performances were momentous, fleeting experiences. If you were, as I was one day in 1977, over at the apartment of somebody's older brother, and found your mind being blown (as we used to say) by your first hearing of ECM jazz, you wrote down every bit of identifying information on the album so that you could try and buy it yourself. It took a couple of months to track it down (it was Ralph Towner's Solstice). It was much more dificult, in ways that people who have grown up with CD burners and broadband and iPods aren't aware of, to find "gems of creativity and musicianship". You know how hard I had to work to hear Joy Division back in the day? And now? You can't spend ten minutes online without hearing something streaming or downloading an mp3 that sparks an interest. There is no excuse for declaring a 35 year old Pink Floyd album the best thing you've heard in the last three decades. And if you are such a Pink Floyd fan, what on earth are you doing not listening to Radiohead? I mean, come on. This is just laziness. I am happy to direct you to a few high-profile sites to get you started, if you want.
posted by jokeefe at 8:38 AM on February 9, 2010 [16 favorites]


That was a thoroughly enjoyable article--thank you. Taylor Swift is a smarmy, smug, pudding-faced purveyor of bland.
posted by Go Banana at 8:39 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


but we've also got "Tighten Up" and "Judy in Disguise."

one of which is a killer dance tune* (and the only record to reach number 1 while it's singer was recovering from wounds recieved in Vietnam) and the other a catchy Beatles half-parody by a journeyman bar-band. There's room for all kinds of music.

(I'd favorite your comment a million times if I could, gompa, just needed to add that little adddendum)

*Salsa masters Larry Harlowe and Ismael Miranda did a nice record called "Horsin' Up," which they explicitly state in the intro was a combination of the Horse and the Tighten Up. That record had an impact, dude.
posted by jonmc at 8:43 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


we've also got "Tighten Up" and "Judy in Disguise."

"Tighten Up" is one of the greatest instrumentals ever written (the song's lyrics are really only serving a rhythmic function). And Archie Bell could sing just as good as he walked.

I won't bother to defend "Judy in Disguise." Because I can't. There has always been a lot of idiocy in music. That one is especially idiotic, as singer John Fred wrote is because he misunderstood the lyrics to "Judy In The Skies."
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:44 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a question about Lady Gaga. In the article, the author refers to her as "a revolutionary." So, my question is: where does this idea that Lady Gaga is some sort of visionary come from? As near as I can tell, she just wears crazy outfits and sings derivative glam-pop. But I seem to hear this idea everywhere, especially from my friends who are gay, male academics. A little help?
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:45 AM on February 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


As near as I can tell, she just wears crazy outfits and sings derivative glam-pop.

In a world where nothing seems very interesting, it doesn't take much to start a revolution.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:45 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


How true. It's been all downhill since Guillaume Dufay.

Dufay stole everything he knew from Philippe de Vitry.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:46 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Fugazi fans won't shut up about how much better they are than everyone else cause they have to make their own tshirts. Or some other diy bullshit. Fuck off.

Oh yeah, and this shit absolutely does not go unchallenged. I go on and on about Fugazi - if someone seems interested in knowing - because In On the Killtaker was a lifechanging record for me and because a Fugazi concert was about as close to a sense of communal unity as you could come in a music venue ca. 1993 and nowadays because The Argument is a flat-out brilliant album and anyone who likes rhythmic, anthemic heavy rock should know it intimately.

Don't like 'em? Your loss. No need for hostility about it.

And on preview, I'll concede maybe I was a little too dismissive of Archie Bell and the Drells. I'm not buying any contextual defences of "Judy in Disguise," however.
posted by gompa at 8:47 AM on February 9, 2010


I'd love to hear a teenager singing about what she thinks and feels

you are hearing it, you just don't like what she has to say.
posted by mpbx at 8:47 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


FTA: bunnyrabbitchild persona

LOL
posted by peep at 8:48 AM on February 9, 2010


The anti-swifters in this thread are telling teen girls what they should be but refuse to listen to what they are.

No, as a former teen girl, I'm saying I want them to have some music that maybe challenges them, that maybe shocks them, that's maybe made by self-made women. Because music and art in general should do more than feed back to you who you are, it should maybe give you something to aspire to or think about.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:49 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm saying that what Taylor Smith sings about in no way reflects the actual experience of teenage romance.

But that's the thing - who are you to say that it doesn't? Maybe that wasn't your experience as a teen. But there's no such thing as The Official Teen Romance Story. I'm sure there are plenty of teens who find familiarity in what she's singing about.
posted by Salieri at 8:49 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


MY FAVORITE MANUFACTURED POP IMAGE IS MORE AUTHENTIC THAN YOUR MANUFACTURED POP IMAGE! PWNED!!
posted by spicynuts at 8:49 AM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Often the star is not the beautiful, but rather the plain dressed up to look beautiful. It's relatable that way. Taylor Swift, along with her image as created through marketing, connects with her audience in this way. She's not a highly-talented, highly-trained superstar like Lady Gaga or Beyoncé. She seems like a pretty-but-non-threatening girl with normal teenage concerns, whose voice, after the studio gets to it, sounds pleasant but without being threateningly virtuosic.

The link is interesting, but it misses two points: one, that Grammies don't matter, and two, that not all teenage girls are obligated to be piano-flaming rebels right out of the gate. Many of them are human beings who like moon-eyed pop about inaccessible boys they like.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:50 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


> And I can't say I agree with the author's assertion that GaGa is inherently better than Swift, artistically, although I'd have to agree she's at least more interesting to watch.

OK, no, GaGa's music is far more interesting than Swift's, if you do just a little bit of basic harmonic analysis you'll see that.


>Be very objective and tell me, out of all those artists you name, how many of them do you really think the average (or even above-average) listener will have heard of, let alone have actually heard?

This is the basic tension between what music really is and is about to most people, and what it is to those who view it as a means to profit. Whether or not particular music is any good, as objectively as one can say, has little to do with audience size. Charles Ives wrote some pretty brilliant symphonies that sat on his shelf unplayed for a few decades, didn't make them any less good during that time.

But as a product, yes, it matters how many people listen. As a musician myself, I reject the commodification of music as a value system, as a metric for measuring music's worth, and thus consider a music's popularity orthogonal to its goodness.


>but it was really unpardonably awful to be a singer of that caliber and not just miss a few notes, but to perform in a totally different zip code from where the pitch actually is.

And this is why I can't listen to Sinatra, either. Always under pitch, always. It's not laissez-faire delivery, Frank, it's called singing flat. Get a vocal coach and learn some breath support. And as bad as Swift is, I wouldn't call her a singer "of that caliber," or of any caliber. I'd call her a famous singer, maybe, but famous != good.


>Please, go down to the Festivale International in Lafayette Louisiana in April, and come back here afterwards with your new, humbled idea of what modern music can be.

As a native of Lafayette, I heartily endorse this recommendation. Festival is AWESOME.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:51 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


All her songs are about waiting around/crying/pining for a boy who's with someone else (someone hot).
How can parents think she's a role model? They should be teaching their daughters: the guy who's ignoring is an idiot that can't recognize a good thing if it spit him in face.

And that fairly tale song? She's waiting around for ages while he's sowing his wild oats then out of nowhere he proposes??? What kind of parent would want their daughter to think that's a good idea?????????

What happened to teaching girls SELF-RESPECT ???
posted by Neekee at 8:51 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, as a former teen girl, I'm saying I want them to have some music that maybe challenges them, that maybe shocks them, that's maybe made by self-made women

as a guy who gave his kid sister her first bikini kill cd, I agree, but I understood she had a right to enjoy the spice girls, too.
posted by mpbx at 8:52 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


...that said, when I was a teenager, I was listening to NIN, Coil, Foetus, Prick, Pigface, Orbital, and Björk, and my sister more or less did the same. My parents didn't necessarily encourage me to challenge myself in my musical tastes, but my dad was a King Crimson fan and my mom was an opera singer, so who knows.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:53 AM on February 9, 2010


I love all the people in this thread popping in to say whose being overlooked constitutes the real tragedy.

There's more than enough quality to go around, guys! No single awards program could possibly recognize it all!
posted by kenko at 8:53 AM on February 9, 2010


what happened to teaching punctuation????
posted by jonmc at 8:53 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well... All due credit to Gaga, regardless of my feelings for her music. She can actually sing very well (while performing her live routines, even -- something a lot of those "pop divas" don't do), she can actually perform, she knows how to grab the spotlight, and she is being *insanely* efficient at creating a brand and image for herself at a quite young age. She's doing something right.

And, honestly? There are some videos out there of her performing a couple of her dance songs impromptu, solo, and down-tempo, on a piano... and they actually showcase her talent much better, in my opinion.

All that said, she is still club music... and I have never been a huge fan of club dance music.
posted by kaseijin at 8:54 AM on February 9, 2010


Fugazi fans won't shut up about how ... they have to make their own tshirts.

You know what they say, not many people heard them at the time, but everyone who did went out and made a shirt.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:55 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Rather than choosing an established/evolved talent (Beyoncé) or a revolutionary (Lady Gaga)..."

Revolutionary? Houston, we have a problem.

Can somebody explain to me how in the world Lady Gaga has anywhere near the level of credibility as a musician she seems to have? Because I totally don't get it. From everything I'd read I was expecting an updated female David Bowie, but after actually taking the time to watch several of her videos on YouTube, I'm stumped. I literally laughed out loud in shock when Disco Stick started to play. I haven't had such a WTF moment since My Humps. Some of the video imagery is interesting, but it doesn't add up to anything as far as I can tell -- all stylized glossy syntax and no semantics beyond the fame of the artist (not even a unique problem).

I'm not part of Taylor Swift's audience either and I'd agree she doesn't deserve any distinguishing awards, but I don't understand how you can hold up Lady Gaga as some kind of artistic merit counterpoint to Swift. Or a revolutionary.
posted by weston at 8:56 AM on February 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


you are hearing it, you just don't like what she has to say.

I'm not. Unless she has actually had these experiences, she is collaboratively writing bad fiction.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:57 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fiction can tell you a lot about it's author
posted by mpbx at 8:59 AM on February 9, 2010


My god. I hadn't seen that Grammy performance by Ms. Swift. I think that pretty definitively proves she wasn't lip syncing. That was horrible.
posted by norm at 9:00 AM on February 9, 2010


Taylor Swift really reminds me of this roommate I once had who told me once that she wished she'd been picked on in elementary school because "it would make for an interesting story."

They're also both tiny, traditionally beautiful girls with long, perfect hair who somehow think ugly glasses give them character.

As a weird chick, I (moderately--because how much can you really care, as a grown-up?) resent pretty girls trying to steal my schtick. Because, as I've gotten older and become a woman, I've given up on trying to steal theirs--I've learned that I do my own thing much better. They do their thing fine, too. No need to step on toes.

I do like how, in the "Girl Next Door" video, the "weird" girl already has a boyfriend, and he's not even the centerpiece of her competition with the prom queen girl. In Taylor's version, it's all about stealing the dude away from the slutty cheerleader. Blegh.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:00 AM on February 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


they actually showcase her talent much better, in my opinion.

That's the music it seems like she's wanted to make all along. I recall reading an early interview with her after she first blew up, and she talked about having to dumb down her songwriting to sell and get visibility. The clips of her performing as herself (Stefanie Germanotta) are most telling--her songs are much more thorny, harmonically interesting, and lyrically sophisticated. I sense a fairly strong presence of irony in her GaGa creations, she strikes me as very bright and very talented.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:01 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


we've also got "Tighten Up" and "Judy in Disguise."

tighten up has one of the great bass lines of all time - and judy may be a novelty, but it's a good groove and it's fun

now, bobby goldsboro's "honey" is an utter abomination - one of the top 10 icky songs of all time
posted by pyramid termite at 9:01 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ok, so I was relatively ignorant of the past "Album of the Year" titles, so I found a partial list on amazon. It aint a sales pitch folks - unless some of you suddenly feel compelled to want (highlights):

1984: Lionel Ritche's "Can't Slow Down"
1990: Quincy Jone's "Back on the Block"
1993: Whitney Huston's "The Bodyguard Soundtrack"
1994: Tony Bennett's "MTV Unplugged"
1996: Celine Dion's "Falling Into You"
2002: Ray Charles's "Genius Loves Company"

and of course
2009: Taylor Swift's "Fearless"

Now don't get me wrong - you are allowed to like any of the above - but like an oscar's list, there should be some merrit of revisiting the album 10, 20, 50 years later and the album still holding up.

Plus there are plenty of cases where the wrong album is listed because the artist just becomes influential. Show me how "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" (2005) is more culturally relevant and a better album than "Achtung Baby" or "Joshua Tree" for U2 and I and so many other people will seriously have to laugh in your face.... seriously.

Anyways, back to hating... Lionel Ritche is a talented musician - the songs are songs which people still know - but find me anyone that says "dude check out my Lionel Ritche collection" and I'll show you someone that lives at home with mom in sort of a Norman Bates scary sort of way... The album was good, the songs have some nostalgia related longevity, but identification of the album as something anywhere near as culturally relevant as Michael Jackson's: Thriller (1983) is a complete farse. Ritche's album is a solid album and he's a solid musician, but man... its like Taylor Swift having to follow Allison Krauss... oh wait...
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:03 AM on February 9, 2010


but I don't understand how you can hold up Lady Gaga as some kind of artistic merit counterpoint to Swift.

See my above comments--but I wouldn't call her 'revolutionary.' Her latest album within its genre (as Ebert would have it) is quite exceptional and smart.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:03 AM on February 9, 2010


Fiction can tell you a lot about it's author

Yes. All sorts of stuff. Like they don't know how to write fiction.

I should have learned my lesson in the Thomas Kinkade thread. Any art, no matter how poorly made, will find defenders in people who don't actually like it, based on the fact that it is popular and they don't think much of the audience.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:04 AM on February 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Apparently that audience doesn't think much if itself if this music is popular, right?
posted by mpbx at 9:06 AM on February 9, 2010


Houston, we have a problem.

When I was a teen, it was Whitney Houston's vacuous, boy-obsessed "How Will I Know?" blaring from every radio station. Faced with that, I'd much rather have "You Belong To Me".

It's quieter.

Actually, I think I'm far more comfortable with teens acting like teens than adults acting like teens. I mean, magnitudes more comfortable.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:06 AM on February 9, 2010


Fiction can tell you a lot about it's author Narnia
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:06 AM on February 9, 2010


And this is why I can't listen to Sinatra, either. Always under pitch, always. It's not laissez-faire delivery, Frank, it's called singing flat. Get a vocal coach and learn some breath support.

How. Dare. You. Disparage. FRANK. SINATRA!
posted by anniecat at 9:07 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Apparently that audience doesn't think much if itself if this music is popular, right?

A lot of people have bad taste. I don't assume the problem here is that they are young.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:07 AM on February 9, 2010


(...) identification of the album as something anywhere near as culturally relevant as Michael Jackson's: Thriller (1983) is a complete farse

Isn't it just a liiiitle bit unfair comparing records to Thriller? I mean, if that is what you have to achieve in order to be relevant are there ANY records that are culturally relevant besides Thriller? That shit is once in a lifetime.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:08 AM on February 9, 2010


Actually, The Pretenders lost to Christopher Cross.

That probably doesn't make you feel any better.


the grammys are fairly conservative - on the one hand, you've got a guy crooning "It's not far to never never land"

on the other hand, you've got chrissie hynde sneering "i'm too precious, i had to fuck off"

guess which a bunch of old farts is going to go for?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:09 AM on February 9, 2010


On the whole Grammys thing, I think we're talking apples and oranges here, in a way. Grammys != "real," creative, interesting, etc., etc., although there are exceptions.

Pink Floyd's only Grammy was a Best Instrumental for "Marooned," a track from a 1995 album that was recorded well after their prime.

The other Grammy winners in 1975 were nothing to write home about. As mpbx pointed out above, Olivia Newton-John's "I Honestly Love You" was Record of the Year. "The Way We Were" was Song of the Year. The best new artist was Marvin Hamlisch. Marvin Hamlisch! Okay, so Stevie Wonder's Fulfillingness' First Finale was Album of the Year. Like I said, there are exceptions.

On the Taylor Swift thing, I live in Nashville and am thus exposed to her face and voice far more than I care to be. But the amount of sheer antipathy I don't really get. She's no worse than someone like Sheena Easton was in the 1980s or Olivia Newton-John was in the 1970s or Nancy Sinatra was in the 1960s, she writes her own songs, and she's not abysmally untalented, her Grammy performance notwithstanding. Her songs may not be your idea of enduring or groundbreaking music, okay, so what. I'm not going into some "Leave Taylor alone OMG!" screed, but there are far worse things to have happened to music in the last few years than Taylor Swift.

If Kanye had snatched that mike from Lady Gaga, she would’ve snatched it right back, called Kanye an asshole (he is), admitted he was right (he was), and the whole thing would’ve been done and DONE.

No, she wouldn't have. Maybe she'd have spewed fake vomit or something craptacular like that, but she wouldn't have snatched anything away from Kanye.

With almost frame-by-frame precision, Taylor Swift’s most popular music video is not only exactly like dozens of 80s and 90s teen flicks (which are basically remakes of 19th century romantic fiction & Shakespearean allegories), but it’s also exactly like the music video for “Girl Next Door.”

Every pop video is like every other pop video and every other pop video ad infinitum. AND? Who cares?

Lady Gaga opens her dress, extracts her gut, assembles it in shapes splashed in sinister glitter and then shatters her dangerous violent diamonds onto the piano and screams FIRE and it sounds like bad romance. She wants your ugly, she wants your disease, and she’s everything Taylor Swift will never be. Punks don’t win awards, they eat awards.

I give her props, but Lady Gaga is spectacle, not punk.
posted by blucevalo at 9:10 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


A lot of people have bad taste. I don't assume the problem here is that they are young.

I don't think it's a problem at all, but what so you think the problem is?
posted by mpbx at 9:11 AM on February 9, 2010


She's no worse than someone like Sheena Easton was in the 1980s or Olivia Newton-John was in the 1970s or Nancy Sinatra was in the 1960s

Nancy Sinatra performed on a slew of great records, solo and with Lee Hazlewood. Sheena is totally redeemed by this. Olivia...well...
posted by jonmc at 9:14 AM on February 9, 2010


I don't think it's a problem at all, but what so you think the problem is?

Bad taste.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:16 AM on February 9, 2010


Olivia...well...

...Xanadu.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:16 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Best thing I ever did for myself culturally was to switch the radio dial from the classic rock station to the local college station. My musical interests exploded and I haven't looked back.

It happened because the morning DJ was such an unrepentant pro-Bush conservative asshole that I just couldn't listen to him any more. It wasn't worth putting up with his horseshit only to be rewarded with Bob Seger or Deep Purple playing for the 3,796th time that week. I sat there, in my car, asking myself just what the fuck I was doing. It was insane. I'd been putting up with this crap for so many years simply because it wasn't Top 40s or dance music or the shit that passes for country these days, and for what? So I could be the intended audience for a fat, old rich white man who couldn't understand how anyone could criticize W without automatically being an anti-American terrorist supporter? A man who had been slowly turning into a small-market Limbaugh wanna-be, backed by a dusty pile of music mostly recorded before I was born? I scanned through the dial. I hit the college station. I realized it was commercial-free, and that in addition to some cool old songs I liked but rarely if ever heard, they also played a metric shit-ton of stuff I had only heard OF, stuff I had NEVER heard, bands I didn't realize existed, bands I had listened to in the mid-80s when hanging out with the other outcasts after school, punk and retro, rap and rock, indie and emo, electronic and acoustic, alternative country and local music. It was like that moment in Wizard of Oz where Dorothy steps out of the dismal black-and-white house into the glorious Technicolor madness of Oz.

I still have my old Zeppelin, Beatles, Stones, et cetera. I still listen to it occasionally, and enjoy it more than I used to simply because it isn't on constant repeat in my life now. But ever since my moment of awakening, my music collection has expanded exponentially in genre, range and size, and my dial is locked on the local public radio station (which is like my old college station on steroids). I wish I had been able to find music like this when I was younger. My only consolation is that my son will grow up with it, and hopefully with that kind of a background I will not be forced to listen to whatever vanilla pap is being peddled by the industry when he's a teenager.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:21 AM on February 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


'Britney Spears’s psychotic vagina'? I must have missed that episode of Mythbusters.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:21 AM on February 9, 2010


Can somebody explain to me how in the world Lady Gaga has anywhere near the level of credibility as a musician she seems to have?

Her music has a lot of really interesting things going on with it and it is getting better. Her public image appears to be a conscious and deliberate subversion of a lot of pop iconography. I think her videos-- up until Paparazzi-- were pretty boring, but then came Bad Romance, and there is so much imagery and creativity packed into it that failing to see talent strikes me as being deliberately obtuse.
posted by norm at 9:23 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


mpbx, I never said that teen girls don't have the right to like or listen to this kind of music, but I want the choices to be visible. I realize it might be a pipe dream. But lord help me, Courtney Love may have been insane, but being a weird girl in high school, just knowing she existed and wasn't afraid, wasn't pretty, wasn't perfect, and didn't care, that mattered to me. I don't want girls to miss out on THAT. There will always be a Taylor Swift.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:24 AM on February 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


my dial is locked on the local public radio station (which is like my old college station on steroids)

I read this and thought "OMG he's also from Minnesota and is listening to the Current". Heh heh.
posted by norm at 9:26 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Olivia...well...

...Xanadu.


Which, however terrible the movie was, represented the first time I, at the tender age of 9 or 10, figured out just why boys like girls. I had no idea what I wanted to do with OLN, but I knew I wanted to do it with her...

Which sort of reiterates what I said upthread, it's best if you leave aside trying to read meanings into songs or their lyrics. People will bring their own meanings into it anyway, and who the hell knows what that might entail ?

(and Magic was a better song than Xanadu. ELO + OLN == awesome)
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:26 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's nice to live in Japan and not have to ever, ever hear or see Taylor Swift, and any number of other US superstars.

On the other hand, you're trapped on a small island with Kumi Koda.

(Disclaimer: I fucking love Kumi Koda.)

Taylor Swift is Perry Como.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:27 AM on February 9, 2010


(Actually norm, I'm from Michigan originally, where my old college station The Impact is still going strong - and damn was I glad to find The Current when I moved to Mpls!)
posted by caution live frogs at 9:29 AM on February 9, 2010


Taylor Swift is Perry Como.

He had better sweaters.
posted by jonmc at 9:30 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


There may be some confusion in this thread. People seem to think that if somebody says music is bad, they are saying people don't have a right to listen to or enjoy it.

As somebody who watched Eaten Alive last night, I could never make the case that people can't have or enjoy crap. There's real pleasure to it.

I'm saying it helps to be aware of limitations, and aware that there is more out there. People can listen to Taylor Smith if they like. She seems like a really nice young woman, and she makes well-produced, infectious pop music. But, fundamentally, it's not very good -- she's got a weak voice and her lyrics are tripe. And, if that, and its ilk, all you listen to, and you're not aware of its failings, your world is limited in a way I would want to experience.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:32 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Er, would not want to experience. Although I think it might actually be fun to spend a day with Taylor Swift. Hell, I could probably spend a week with Deborah Gobson.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:32 AM on February 9, 2010


Yes, Gobson.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:33 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


There may be some confusion in this thread.

I think the confusion is that the article that started this whole thing wasn't just saying her music was bad - which can then be discussed. It said right in the title that Taylor Swift offends feminists (and others). And as a feminist...count me among the un-offended. That's what I'm arguing about.
posted by Salieri at 9:38 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oops. And to follow up:

People seem to think that if somebody says music is bad, they are saying people don't have a right to listen to or enjoy it.

The problem with the "anti-feminist" label is that you *are* making a judgment call about what it means to listen to/enjoy her music (neither or which I do, for the record). It's easy to defend music as a guilty pleasure for being silly/frothy/uncomplicated tripe. But saying "your music sends a bad message to women" comes pretty close to "...and you're a bad person for listening to it and thereby supporting its bad message."
posted by Salieri at 9:42 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nancy Sinatra performed on a slew of great records, solo and with Lee Hazlewood. Sheena is totally redeemed by this. Olivia...well...

Absolutely. My collection's full of both Nancy (and Lee) and Sheena (although I don't think "You've Got the Look" is her best).

I wasn't dissing them. I was saying that Taylor Swift is no worse than they are. Perhaps debatable as a proposition, but that's not dissing Nancy and Sheena.

I like some of Olivia's stuff, too.
posted by blucevalo at 9:44 AM on February 9, 2010


Taylor Swift's grammy performance.

some observations

1 - if she was in an indie band, the kind of out of tune singing she does on the low notes would be considered charming and authentic

2 - stevie nicks misses more notes on rhiannon than she does

3 - she pulled off the last song fairly well in spite of stevie's off key moaning

4 - she's a decent guitar player who's locked into the band
posted by pyramid termite at 9:49 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


But saying "your music sends a bad message to women" comes pretty close to "...and you're a bad person for listening to it and thereby supporting its bad message."

You're right, no one should criticize anything.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:51 AM on February 9, 2010


You're right, no one should criticize anything.

I'm sorry, did I say that?

Criticize away! In fact, what I'm doing is responding directly to the criticizing by saying that, for the most part, I disagree with it. That's all. I'm not The Man and I'm not trying to shut anyone up.
posted by Salieri at 9:55 AM on February 9, 2010


I drove to work this morning listening to Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) and came to the conclusion that real, creative, interesting music hasn't been made in decades.

This was awesome. rocket88 in one simple sentence seems to have located and pressed the hell out of MetaFilter's "namedrop" button!

LooseFilter: OK, no, GaGa's music is far more interesting than Swift's, if you do just a little bit of basic harmonic analysis you'll see that.

...

But as a product, yes, it matters how many people listen. As a musician myself, I reject the commodification of music as a value system, as a metric for measuring music's worth, and thus consider a music's popularity orthogonal to its goodness.


It seems to me that musicians (I am one) are often some of the least qualified in terms of being able to offer an accurate assessment of what makes popular music interesting. Harmonic complexity correlates to interest? You must hate country! The fact is that most popular music listeners don't fetishize the tertiary structural aspects of the music they listen to. Beat, lyrics, melody, texture...all of these things outweigh harmony (maybe 'tertiary' is too kind), though it's worth noting that the favored trait in any component of a popular song isn't complexity but affective power. Comparing the relative musical interest of Swift's songs vs. Gaga's songs is totally missing the point, because they have different audiences (which they've successfully captivated) and so they speak very different languages, both of which are results-oriented and not particularly concerned with the musical object itself.

As for rejecting the commodification of music, that's a losing battle of Adornian proportions, though I think the fact that we're even talking about Swift and Gaga means that you've accepted that in your heart! Of course, I don't believe it's the case that ironic co-optation in the manner of Gaga is a position actually opposed to the mass culture industry, as it seems so many people want it to be, given that it's a position that lives firmly within the boundaries of what the mass culture industry can successfully sell. It does make it more entertaining for some and I imagine it's the most sanity-preserving option for her, too, which is really all anybody could hope for.

Also: you seem to suggest that 'goodness' is a trait inherent to the object itself, rather than something that arises out of the interaction between an object and its cultural context. Why?
posted by invitapriore at 9:57 AM on February 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


Between that essay (which I think is pretty good), the MTV thing and the Rolling Stone article, I've spent a lot more time reading about Taylor Swift than I have listening to her music.
posted by box at 10:06 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, did I say that?

No, you didn't, but what you did say seemed to be pretty broadly applicable to anything with questionable or harmful ideology. If anything, your point that art can mean different things to different people seems to uphold the opposite of your argument: We should point out those things that are racist, homophobic, anti-feminist, etc., without worrying that people will hear 'and you're a bad person for listening to it.' I feel like I can pretty safely say that Birth of a Nation is a horribly racist film without worrying that film buffs who watch it will be offended by my saying so. The fact the audiences like things for different reasons doesn't mean we can't say anything objective about the message of art.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:07 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


They're also both tiny, traditionally beautiful girls with long, perfect hair who somehow think ugly glasses give them character.

I heard they were originally going to use a polio shoe but it got lost in the close-ups and didn't help the dancing around the bedroom scene.
posted by anniecat at 10:08 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This also applies to Lady Gaga though. Rich family, went to Julliard, etc.

(Maybe not "pretty" though.)


Everyone who enters my house in the past three months who has not heard of her has been required to watch Lady Gaga videos with me. And I keeping hearing from guys how 'not pretty' she is. They admit that she's talented, that it's cool she writes her own stuff and sings well, even if it's not their scene. But then they've got to throw in that she's 'not pretty' at the end, as if that cancels the rest of it out. But plus: I don't get how she's not pretty.

So, my question is: where does this idea that Lady Gaga is some sort of visionary come from? As near as I can tell, she just wears crazy outfits and sings derivative glam-pop.

I think part of it is intangible--just the right person coming along at just the right time to capture the imagination. But also, she makes a sincere effort. She's not wrapped in other people's songs that have nothing to do with her; her stage show is not some all-purpose circus act that she was plopped into; in what I've seen so far, she seems genuinely concerned with entertaining her fans more than feeding her own ego; she maximizes the technology and does it very well (her karaoke and Tap Tap things on iPhone are fun and high quality, and she tweets and facebook-updates her fans constantly, and more than half those messages, easily, are to thank her fans and express appreciation for their support); and her stuff is really addictive (I have friends who are 'not into that kind of music' who admit to singing her stuff like three days after I play it for them, and a few who buy her stuff outright; myself, I was in a heavy old-bluegrass phase when I got hooked). She has a seemingly innate sense of art and theatricality that Madonna tried and could carry off only sporadically. She has Madonna's marketing savvy minus her insatiable self-obsession, Cher's fashion courage minus a goofy Republican ex-husband, and Tori Amos's talent minus rape and twee faerie shit. Plus she seems to do all this like genetically; she gets accused by some of being talentless, I think, because she makes it appear effortless. Lesser personalities would be swallowed by the massive costumes and stage sets she seems to have been born into.

And, strangely, I'm finding more and more that older people really like her.

I think the 'revolutionary' label comes in part from that fact that she is being thrown into a pool of overly homogenized, manufactured, packaged, dull, gloomy pop celebrities who have fairly low standards for what constitutes entertainment. Even absent the comparison, I think she's great.
posted by troybob at 10:13 AM on February 9, 2010 [12 favorites]


your point that art can mean different things to different people

I don't know that that was my point.

We seem to be talking at cross-purposes, because I agree with you here:

We should point out those things that are racist, homophobic, anti-feminist, etc.

The point in my original statement wasn't, "Stop offending me by making me feel like a bad person for what I listen to!" It was to raise the point that there's an objectively different thing between criticizing music for being bad music, and criticizing music for sending a bad message. The original article was about the latter, and this thread kind of diverged into the former. I was responding to this statement...

People seem to think that if somebody says music is bad, they are saying people don't have a right to listen to or enjoy it.

...by saying that that whole "having a right to enjoy it" thing becomes much more loaded when you bring it back from "bad music" into "bad message" (which was the original point).
posted by Salieri at 10:16 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, I think the case was pretty well made that the messages of some of her songs -- which are boy obsessed and see other women as romantic challengers (and in which Swift is often romantically passive), and that a woman who loses her virginity is in some way ruined -- are pretty questionable by feminist standards. Oviously I see myself as a feminist, but, as with Eaten Alive, with is likewise highly questionable, it's possible to be aware of antifeminist messages and still enjoy bad art.

So I'd say calling her work antifeminist doesn't mean people shouldn't listen to it and are bad for doing so. It just means "be aware that there are some values in this work that you might not share."
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:17 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I heard they were originally going to use a polio shoe but it got lost in the close-ups and didn't help the dancing around the bedroom scene.

Taylor Swift with fake polio is still Taylor Swift!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:19 AM on February 9, 2010


I'm not trying to shut anyone up.
posted by Salieri 24 minutes ago [+]


Eponysterical.

posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:21 AM on February 9, 2010


(Or, probably more accurately, still Taylor Swift.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:21 AM on February 9, 2010


d that a woman who loses her virginity is in some way ruined

I think this is a rather speculative interpretation of the lyric. It's more about disappointment than shaming or anything like that. Even the idea that the lyric is about sex is speculative, actually.
posted by mpbx at 10:21 AM on February 9, 2010


a woman who loses her virginity is in some way ruined

Argh, and I'm commenting way too much here. I'll shut up. But first, a question.

I keep seeing this stated, and I agree it's a horribly antifeminist message. As I said, I'm not exactly a connoisseur of the Taylor Swift oeuvre. So can someone more familiar with her work (anyone? Bueller?) tell me if this is what she's actually saying, blatantly and straight-out? Because from the little I've seen I haven't seen anything about non-virgins being worthless or broken or dirty. And from what little I've seen about the artist, I don't think she's made the same kind of "virginity yay!" statements about her personal life that Britney Spears made back in the day.
posted by Salieri at 10:23 AM on February 9, 2010


Yeah, I suspect "cannon" is drifting into "canon" for future English speakers.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:23 AM on February 9, 2010


We seem to be talking at cross-purposes

All right, apologies.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:26 AM on February 9, 2010


They admit that she's talented, that it's cool she writes her own stuff and sings well, even if it's not their scene. But then they've got to throw in that she's 'not pretty' at the end, as if that cancels the rest of it out.

I think that's how a lot of women feel about male artists. It's tough for me to listen to Josh Groban. But what really counts in the end is that both Lady Gaga and Josh Groban are rich enough to pay people to tell them how gorgous they are. I take it your friends aren't Bette Midler fans either.
posted by anniecat at 10:28 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


But then they've got to throw in that she's 'not pretty' at the end, as if that cancels the rest of it out. But plus: I don't get how she's not pretty.

I love her, but the awful bleached-blond hair in bangs is not good. She looks much better in the NYU video with dark normal hair.

But also "pretty" => "soft" and Gaga is not soft.
posted by smackfu at 10:30 AM on February 9, 2010


Even the idea that the lyric is about sex is speculative, actually.

Well, only in the sense that it could, by refusing to pay attention to the implicit meaning, mean something else. The lyric is as follows:

"Abigail gave everything she had to a boy, who changed his mind, and we both cried"

Now do a Google search for the phrase "gave him everything" and see what an almost unanimous consensus for its usage is.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:30 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


But saying "your music sends a bad message to women" comes pretty close to "...and you're a bad person for listening to it and thereby supporting its bad message."

I take the "her music sends a bad message" thing as part of institutionalized sexism. Swift isn't making this music in a vacuum. Yeah, this stuff happpens and girls really feel it, but it happens in a cultural context of female rivalry for the attention of teenage boys and all the baggage that comes with that. I can think Swift's music and the implicit bad messages suck and wish there were less of that message without going all Soviet tractor art about her making it and people listening to it.

Until this thread inspired me to watch Swift's "You Belong With Me" video, I'd never heard her music, just seen her picture. This is not a matter of pride in ignorance so much as pop-country just not appealing to me. The video reminded me a lot of the Avril Lavigne song Girlfriend, a song that I liked quite a bit to listen to but was disturbed enough by the video to turn against.. I know there are a lot of songs along the same theme that predate both of these, but the recycling of the imagery with the dark hair and the goofy girl who's better and loves the boy more were particularly striking. At least the Swift video didn't involve physical violence against the other-self rival.
posted by immlass at 10:32 AM on February 9, 2010


Even if it is about sex, I don't see Abigail portrayed as ruined, just sad.

The implication that sex is everything is the issue, a mistake teenagers often make.
posted by mpbx at 10:33 AM on February 9, 2010



Now do a Google search for the phrase "gave him everything" and see what an almost unanimous consensus for its usage is.

I did, and the third link talks about the mother of a killer on trial, and what she had done for him.

Was there a different unanimous meaning you meant ? Because this one really changes the tone of the song.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:36 AM on February 9, 2010


Lady GaGa has grown on me like mad. I went from dismissing her out-of-hand this time last year, to becoming a surprising fan of her music.

What first made me like her was how independently weird her music is. Spectacle has been done before, yeah, but not among pop, and not quite to the level that she's brought it to. She's worn a handful of outfits that just make me giggle. The Kermit one, the gyroscopic one, the red one stretched over her face that makes me think of the Masque of the Red Death. "I like this," I thought. "I can get behind somebody doing this, even if her music's not my thing." And I liked that she seemed to have a grip on her persona better than anybody, and I liked what a bizarre public figure she was, or how half the videos I found of her were of her playing small shows in Germany and France and Japan, rather than them all being huge concerts and music videos. (Though she does have wonderful music videos.)

Then I bought my mother Fame Monster for Christmas and listened to it for a month straight on break. Then I began to really buy into some of the overhype. Here's why: For all her persona and weird stylings, more than anything she's just a damned good pop writer. Not semi-rock, not semi-R&B... her music is more about the hooks than it is about anything, though her music is masterfully produced as well. Off The Fame alone, I'd say seven of the thirteen songs are absolute earworms, each with multiple hooks that really get caught in your head. And they don't all follow the same speeds or same patterns. I'm thinking especially of Beautiful Dirty Rich here, which is almost synth-free.

Fame Monster is just as good, if not better. I mean, a lot of it is dwarfed by Bad Romance, which is one of the greatest pop singles of this decade, but the rest of it shows her progressing a lot as a musician. She doesn't go for easy outs lyrically. She's making a grab for something more sophisticated. She doesn't always reach it, but the attempt's certainly being made.

So, in regards to this article's calling her revolutionary: I think that's a little bit much, but the heart's in the right place. Certainly GaGa is a different take on pop music than we've seen for a long, long time, if ever. She's got a pretty unironic love for partying and sex and money and fashion, but it's coupled with a surprising sincerity, and a desire to accept people for who they are. And rather than being just empty words, she's leading the way with her own bizarre sense of humor and stylings. I don't think many people are superficially as bizarre as she is. In a society that has us debating half this thread about which celebrities are pretty and which are ugly, having a smart, sex-fueled pop star who isn't classically pretty, who's arguably plain herself without her larger-than-life persona, is a healthy thing.

I'm hoping more pop musicians follow in her footsteps. I don't entirely have faith that they will, but it makes me thrilled to no end that there's a pro-freak pop artist making it enormously huge. There's a message that young people can learn from. Even if it's bundled with the usual pro-sex, drugs, and partying stuff that I'm not an enormous fan of in pop, it's a hell of a lot healthier than we've had previously.

So I guess in that respect I hope she does turn out to be revolutionary. Certainly I wish she'd won over Taylor Swift. Swift sings about pining over guys and not having friends. GaGa sings about being weird and about being in control of herself. I'd like a generation of young girls being taught that weird is good.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:37 AM on February 9, 2010 [15 favorites]


Salieri: Based on my extremely scientific method of hearing that one song "Love Story" on the radio a few times, Swift is kind of promoting a purity ball-lite kind of message. There's nothing about Jesus, or even explicitly about virginity, in that one song. At the same time, it's very passive (the song's vaguely based on Romeo and Juliet, with her playing a Juliet who basically does nothing but sit at home and cry and pine for her beloved) and patriarchal (the song ends with a twist: instead of a double suicide, "Romeo" convinces Taylor's dad to let her marry him. One of the last lines of the song is "I talked to your dad, go pick out a white dress" or something). Also, she pretty humorously refers to herself as a "Scarlet Letter" in a way she probably didn't intend, which just says sad things about public schools and her parents' homeschooling chops.

Apparently she has other songs. I don't know anything about those.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:37 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Perhaps I should ahve said "almost unaminous among young people in common usage," but I am sure if you dig around Google long enough you'll also find a few exceptions to that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:40 AM on February 9, 2010


What does it have to do with being ruined though?
posted by mpbx at 10:42 AM on February 9, 2010


She has Madonna's marketing savvy minus her insatiable self-obsession, Cher's fashion courage minus a goofy Republican ex-husband, and Tori Amos's talent minus rape and twee faerie shit.

I like her persona and some of her music, but she has quite a way to go to claim the mantle of any of those three. I think even Stefani Germanotta would be humble enough to admit that.

Certainly GaGa is a different take on pop music than we've seen for a long, long time, if ever.

If ever? Really?
posted by blucevalo at 10:44 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, I used to work in a record store (an independent, and then a chain (they had benefits)) and I used to write for a local music rag. I spent much of the 90s seeing amazing bands in tiny clubs.

And yet, here I am some ten years after all that ended for me, and I can't imagine caring that much about modern pop music, much less arguing about it on the Internet. Hell, it took a herculean effort just to write this comment.

So this is what it's like to be old.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:46 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


According to wikipedia, Abigail is a real person, Swifts best friend, Abigail Anderson, who was also featured in the video.
posted by mpbx at 10:47 AM on February 9, 2010


"Gave him anything' is just in and of itself a problematic phrase. It suggests that once a girl gives up her virginity, there is nothing else she has to offer.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:48 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


everything, rather.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:49 AM on February 9, 2010


Her latest album within its genre (as Ebert would have it) is quite exceptional and smart.

Dance? Because that's the only genre I can think of where what I've seen would have a chance of "smart," and I disagree that even there the music would be exceptional.

That's the music it seems like she's wanted to make all along. I recall reading an early interview with her after she first blew up, and she talked about having to dumb down her songwriting to sell and get visibility. The clips of her performing as herself (Stefanie Germanotta) are most telling--her songs are much more thorny, harmonically interesting, and lyrically sophisticated. I sense a fairly strong presence of irony in her GaGa creations, she strikes me as very bright and very talented.

That clip definitely shows off more talent and more interesting music, but I'd actually consider that more tragic. I think you deserve credit for what you create, not for the talent, and the Dominique Franconesque beat-the-world-at-their-corrupt-game is just another way to sell out, not a way to prove anything.

It does help me to see that there might be some irony in the GaGa stuff, but if it's there, it's too subtle. She isn't doing enough to let the audience in on it, so the irony doesn't function in the service of any kind of point.
posted by weston at 10:50 AM on February 9, 2010


If ever? Really?

Was Marilyn Manson considered pop? Or Bjork? Bowie was popular, but were his various personas ever really the message he was pushing forward?

I'm asking seriously. I'm too young to really know what constituted pop any time earlier than this decade. And within that limited frame (and from what I know of 90s pop) there weren't any real freak pop musicians. Were there earlier than that? If so, who? I'd like to know.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:51 AM on February 9, 2010


Until this thread inspired me to watch Swift's "You Belong With Me" video, I'd never heard her music, just seen her picture. This is not a matter of pride in ignorance so much as pop-country just not appealing to me. The video reminded me a lot of the Avril Lavigne song Girlfriend, a song that I liked quite a bit to listen to but was disturbed enough by the video to turn against.. I know there are a lot of songs along the same theme that predate both of these, but the recycling of the imagery with the dark hair and the goofy girl who's better and loves the boy more were particularly striking. At least the Swift video didn't involve physical violence against the other-self rival.

Actually, because I have an almost 11-year-old who listens to both Swift and Gaga, and because we have been snowed in here for days, I have seen the "making of" Comcast on-demand video about that song, and the weirdest thing about it for me was learning that not only does Swift play the goofy girl, she also plays the "other-self rival." So that brought up an interesting discussion, not just about the good girl/bad girl (or madonna/whore, if you're not talking to a 10-year-old) dichotomy in general, but about point of view and story, and whether or not knowing that Swift was both the goofy girl and her own rival changed how we thought about the song (like: was it a metaphor about standing in your own way? about the dangers of seeing everything as stereotypes or extremes? have there ever been times in your own life where it seemed like you weren't going to get what you were hoping for, but then you realized that standing around only hoping was what was making you not get it? that sort of thing).

Mostly I'm just glad we're past the Hannah Montana phase. (And don't get me started on Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, and the iCarly chick.)
posted by mothershock at 10:52 AM on February 9, 2010


It does help me to see that there might be some irony in the GaGa stuff, but if it's there, it's too subtle.

Really?
posted by oinopaponton at 10:52 AM on February 9, 2010


Perhaps I should ahve said "almost unaminous among young people in common usage," but I am sure if you dig around Google long enough you'll also find a few exceptions to that.

Well, if I have dig around on google long enough, it's probably not unanimous.

Without being too douchey, I'm trying to say that the lyric is vague on that point (which is probably intentional) and so open to interpretation. Point being that yeah, you can read it that it's about sex, or you can read it as something else.

No matter the reading you choose, it seems like a decent coming of age lesson - "Exercise better judgment with whatever it is you consider valuable."
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:53 AM on February 9, 2010


What first made me like her was how independently weird her music is.

Your whole paragraph could have been written by me, but (maybe like a lot of people) I stumbled on her weird, edgy stuff first, and expected more. Have I missed anything? I count two fantastic, freaky videos with songs to match, at least one more very clever song (Poker Face) with a dumb-as-dishes video, one or two other catchy tunes and then a whole lot of blah. Oh, more clever costumes in interviews and performances, but her body of work? Still at least 75% blah. And with everyone clamouring about her "control of her image", I'm left wondering who the "real" Gaga is. Because people seem to be in love with, so far, a very minor portion of her work.

Now, the freaky worked, the freaky sells, so I have no doubt we're going to see a lot more of the freaky. And unlike, oh I don't know, Alanis, there wasn't a full pop failure precedent where you have to sit and wonder if she'd ever get "jagged" if the pop stuff had worked. There's obvious something going on here when an emerging pop starlet inserts freaky into the intro effort. But have I missed some of the greatness, or are we all just being a little hopeful here? I don't deny the talent -- the accoustic stuff is what hooked me.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:53 AM on February 9, 2010


I'm hoping more pop musicians follow in her footsteps. I don't entirely have faith that they will, but it makes me thrilled to no end that there's a pro-freak pop artist making it enormously huge

It will probably just follow the same pattern as David Bowie and glam rock. Bowie had the idea, everyone else copied, and Bowie moved on.
posted by smackfu at 10:56 AM on February 9, 2010


I keeping hearing from guys how 'not pretty' she is.

I'm a straight guy, and I think she's pretty hot. But all your praise for her doesn't really answer my question. She's a marketing maven, a glamorous dance act. Something somewhat different in a landscape of sameness-lameness. I mean, I'm not saying she's "bad" although her music does not appeal to me in the slightest. But still, she seems like little more than a flashy product.

And "fashion courage"? Really?
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:57 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Without being too douchey, I'm trying to say that the lyric is vague on that point (which is probably intentional) and so open to interpretation. Point being that yeah, you can read it that it's about sex, or you can read it as something else.

Yes, it can. But my point is that it is a phrase that is very commonly used to mean "I had sex with him." In fact, it's used exactly and unambiguously that way in that recent roller girls film. And if you look into the world of Christian homeschooling that produced Taylor Swift, that's pretty much exclusively it's meaning.

So yes, it could mean something else. Probably doesn't, though.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:59 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


And "fashion courage"? Really?

Actually, the movie Paris Is Burning taught me that fashion, in the right context, could actually be revolutionary,
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:02 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Bowie was popular, but were his various personas ever really the message he was pushing forward?

I'm not really sure what this question means. That Bowie had a number of obviously not-him personalities that he took on and dropped at will seems like a very concrete acknowledgement of the self-awareness in his act. Lady Gaga strikes me as his heir in a lot of ways, but I've personally always found more to latch on to in Bowie's music.
posted by invitapriore at 11:04 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm too young to really know what constituted pop any time earlier than this decade. And within that limited frame (and from what I know of 90s pop) there weren't any real freak pop musicians. Were there earlier than that? If so, who? I'd like to know.

Anyone? We could get a whole list going here, depending on your definition of "freak."
posted by blucevalo at 11:06 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


So anyone find it interesting that the religious right has pulled a one-two punch by harnessing the power of teenage girl's raging hormones with He's Just Like Jesus boy fixation and somehow claim they're "outsiders" or embattled rebels? That's a pretty good trick there, wonder if they can do it twice.
posted by The Whelk at 11:08 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


So yes, it could mean something else. Probably doesn't, though.

Probably doesn't to you.

The kids will bring their own interpretation to it.

It's hard to make a case that it's unambiguously anti-feminist when it's only unambiguous if I look at it a certain way.

In any event, as I said, the broader message of "Exercise better judgment with whatever it is you consider valuable" holds no matter which reading you choose.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:10 AM on February 9, 2010


I'm not really sure what this question means. That Bowie had a number of obviously not-him personalities that he took on and dropped at will seems like a very concrete acknowledgement of the self-awareness in his act. Lady Gaga strikes me as his heir in a lot of ways, but I've personally always found more to latch on to in Bowie's music.

What I meant is: Bowie did take on characters, but GaGa's character is specifically — to some degree, anyway — about letting people feel free to be themselves, weird as that might be. That's the message I take out of her media appearances, anyway. So they both have characters, but Bowie's didn't have that same "stop being plastic" message about it. At least, from my perspective.

I'm hoping Lady GaGa evolves her music as much as Bowie did. I like listening to Hunky Dory and thinking about how unexpected the rest of his music was.

Anyone? We could get a whole list going here, depending on your definition of "freak."

I'd love that for any definition! But in this case, I was thinking the Zappa sense of freak, or even the No Wave idea: Do anything, as long as it's you. If we're arguing if Lady GaGa is revolutionary, the argument would probably have to focus on that message and on how she's spreading it by actively trying to be as weird as possible. That's something that's been done and said by lots of other people; I'm wondering if anybody as enormous and bestselling as GaGa has said the same message using the same tactics. It's entirely possible that it's been done in the mainstream and I've missed it; but the mainstream I'm accustomed to is rarely as willing to admit freakishness.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:12 AM on February 9, 2010


Anyone?

Prince?
posted by MikeMc at 11:15 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just went looking for Poof It's Magic Bitches' MySpace before I finished reading Slap Factory's comment. :(..
posted by frenetic at 11:16 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


In any event, as I said, the broader message of "Exercise better judgment with whatever it is you consider valuable" holds no matter which reading you choose.

Well, yes, it's always possible to offer up a chairtable reading of something ambiguous. It's very dog whistly to me, though, and expressing discomfort about that is certainly legimiate criticism.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:18 AM on February 9, 2010


And "fashion courage"? Really?

Yeah. Celebrities have been playing it way too safe in terms of fashion for a long time--understandable in the environment of tabloid scrutiny and NASCAR-like fashion endorsements, but still boring.

I tend to praise Lady Gaga in terms of her mastery of pop culture because I don't have the expertise to critique her musically. I do love her music in its own right, and I think it is well structured and very hook-y; I love seeing her acoustic performances of it, where you see more of the influences and a neat mixture of styles that is likely closer to the way she writes. In sitting down at the piano and figuring out some of her stuff, I appreciate how solid and interesting it is (though, again, speaking as an amateur).

I'm interested to see where she'll take it. My suspicion is that dance pop is her way into the business and that she's ultimately aiming for something more 'serious' in terms of songwriting and performance style. I think she did a lot to reinvigorate the type of music she does, but I hope she's not too locked in by expectation to stay there, and that she can maintain the quality of her work and its sense of humor as she goes forward.
posted by troybob at 11:20 AM on February 9, 2010


Astro Zombie, it's interesting that you'd bring up Paris is Burning with regards to Gaga. I showed it to my roommate for the first time a few days ago, and we had a discussion afterward about how Lady Gaga must have taken the idea for her "Haus of Gaga" not just from Warhol's Factory, but also from drag ball houses like the ones followed in the movie.

Gaga: more fun than a plate of beans
posted by oinopaponton at 11:20 AM on February 9, 2010


Jeez. Don't set piano on fire. Pianos are beautiful and someone worked hard either building that thing or designing the assembly line. Not to mention tuning. And moving; it's probably been carried up and down a staircase once or twice in its lifetime. Do you want to tell those people their work has been in vain?
posted by Anything at 11:27 AM on February 9, 2010


If Jerry lee Lewis sets fire to your paino, your work has not been in vain.

Although that was an interesting reference for this feminist article, as Lewis, was not very good to the women in his life, isn't the model feminist I would want my daughter to grow up to be.

Hell of a showman, though.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:36 AM on February 9, 2010


It does help me to see that there might be some irony in the GaGa stuff, but if it's there, it's too subtle.
Really?


First off, it's not entirely clear what the satirical message is there. Is it in the commentary or in the performance? This is actually one of the general problems with spectacularly self-aware commentary: which way the references point isn't always clear and it can collapse on itself.

But more importantly, I don't think the occasional meta-commentary at an industry event works very well as a means of modulating the mass message. If you had to explain it at the awards ceremony, it was probably missing from the work as you distributed it.
posted by weston at 11:37 AM on February 9, 2010


Jeez. Don't set piano on fire

I learned it from Jodorowsky.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:39 AM on February 9, 2010


First off, it's not entirely clear what the satirical message is there.

I thought one of the coolest things was how the barker at the start of the show announced, "She is a monster...and she's turning all of you into monsters," followed by a Grammy show in which acts like Beyonce and Black Eyed Peas did off-the-hook big dance-and-costume productions, and Pink was on a trapeze, for fuck's sake!
posted by troybob at 11:52 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't get how she's not pretty.

One of the things I like most about Lady Gaga is her straight-outta-dah South Bronx honker, the kind Madonna used to have before she slowly whittled it down to a nub.
posted by The Whelk at 11:55 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]



First off, it's not entirely clear what the satirical message is there.


Lets see, during an event largely seen as a Industry circle-jerk for bland corperate music one performer has an entire machine set made of identical robotic dancers and a barker who is "selling" the singer (who is dragged on stage as a lifeless object) to the audience by proudly announcing she has no soul.

I wonder what is trying to be conveyed here.
posted by The Whelk at 12:00 PM on February 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


Also, here she is doing Poker face as a blues-y burlesque which I just saw

Note the hat.
posted by The Whelk at 12:13 PM on February 9, 2010


She's Italian-American! So she's got a nose!

It's amazing how quickly some people will dimiss people from the category of "pretty" because they haven't scalpeled away their ethnic features.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:16 PM on February 9, 2010


Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. What's wrong with that? I'd like to know.
posted by Sailormom at 12:19 PM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Because some of those silly love songs are sung by Mariah Carey
posted by The Whelk at 12:20 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was thinking the Zappa sense of freak, or even the No Wave idea: Do anything, as long as it's you.

I'm not sure how to answer your question -- there've been many freaks (by the "do anything" definition) throughout pop/rock (and before that), starting in the 50s with Little Richard and Esquerita, down through "who wasn't a freak" in the 60s, down to Elton John's (who played on the stage opposite Gaga at the Grammys) freakish persona in the 70s, and on forth into the freakishness of much pop in the 80s and 90s.

My list is very inadequate and woefully incomplete, but you could argue that even Elvis Presley was a freak by the standards of 1954-1956.
posted by blucevalo at 12:21 PM on February 9, 2010


Blucevalo: I know; sorry if I'm not being clearer. I was looking specifically for people going out of the way to be incredibly bizarre, to the point where it can't even become a trend. Lady GaGa's fashion won't become chic because it's so personal to her and so avante-garde. But, at the same time, she's a pop musician who is in a position of idolatry.

Elton John is actually somewhat close to what I was thinking of, but for him too his fashion wasn't front-and-center his appeal.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:32 PM on February 9, 2010


Lady GaGa's fashion won't become chic because it's so personal to her and so avante-garde

Well, yeah, it's not like you can go out and buy an off the rack Gaga outfit at the store - anyone remember Macy's "Madonna" dept? Everything you needed to look like Madonna - I don't see that happening with Gaga, although the hair-makeup could catch on but dark-eyes/white blond Nico cuts have been popular in the clubs for a while now.
posted by The Whelk at 12:36 PM on February 9, 2010


It's amazing how quickly some people will dimiss people from the category of "pretty" because they haven't scalpeled away their ethnic features.

Honestly, I think only about 50% of the 'she's not pretty' thing is because she isn't a perfect carbon copy of every other blonde pop diva indistinguishable sameness of ideal Western beauty blah. The other 50% is 'Even though I said I like her music, I think she's ugly so therefore I'm not shallow.'
posted by shakespeherian at 12:36 PM on February 9, 2010


Taylor Swift sounds like a porn name.
posted by Tacodog at 12:39 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always thought the "Abigail gave..." lyric referred to a dude getting Abigail pregnant. But, it seems like the virginity angle might make more sense.
posted by josher71 at 12:43 PM on February 9, 2010


Rory, I'm five years your senior, but some of the most outrageous pop/glamrock acts I can remember were in the 80s and early 90s. I'm failing to see how people even a few years my senior and then some, are seeing Gaga as anything other than par for the course as far as catchy, generic pop music, who, with a team of people (aka close friends) is just more eye-catching.

I like her stuff, I do; I'm an absolute addict for what I would consider well-produced but not-so-greatly written dance music. But I find myself continuously saying, "Why is she so popular? Why do they keep saying she's some sort of musical revolutionary? I heard this kind of dance music on mainstream radio in Minnesota back in 1991 while jumping on the bed." Throw her back 20 years and she wouldn't be getting this much attention. We've got a new wave of kids who haven't experienced this before, and adults are just getting tired of the puppets and how lazy the industry is getting. Pop is an incredibly viable form, but for some reason, people think that it needs to conform to such a specific formulas in order to be picked up on.

Thankfully, she's an eccentric girl from a well-to-do family who always wanted to make music. Who did whatever she could to get her name out there and pushed envelopes and went against her parents' will to do so. She is to pop music what people like Jack Conte (and the list goes on..) are to their own genre -- people who have a very real desire and dedication to make music and have something more to show for it. Whether or not you particularly like it is up to you.

The reason she's different is because most pop artists are hand-selected, semi-talented but always stunning girls who are then molded into what the labels already know will sell.

What I think a lot of people are getting caught up on is that while she is a phenomenal performing artist and can hit the notes and play the music, she by no means is the sole driving force behind what she is. She was able to morph into this super-pop monster of all that is fabulous because she is working amidst people who have not only the same goals, but have known the face and the voice that is Stefani Germanotti for years before we ever did, and known exactly what she was capable of. Any sort of group effort leads to this sort of thing, and it's a shame we don't see it much within pop.

That said, I don't think what she's coming out with is really all that new or exciting. Designer chocolate is simply that - a little bit purer and just in fancy, outlandish packaging. Is there anything wrong with that? No. And I think in times like these we need more of it.. but "Holy shit; my mind.. blown!" Ehh..
posted by june made him a gemini at 12:52 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also the whole pretty/ugly thing is ridiculous. She's naturally stunning and any of the candid shots you'll find of her back when she still had her natural hair color attests to that. The bleach blond isn't working out for her (it doesn't work for a lot of us) and accentuates features that normally wouldn't be as highlighted as they are with light hair -- I'm sure any female here who's tried a new shade has found this to be true.

But that's another angle they're taking her -- don't make her look good all the time, throw out rumors that she has a penis.. make her just different enough for everyday people to say something about it around the watercooler.
posted by june made him a gemini at 12:58 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also the whole pretty/ugly thing is ridiculous. She's naturally stunning

I'm gonna go with average. Not bad looking, not a knockout.
posted by MikeMc at 1:04 PM on February 9, 2010


If the Taylor Swift is anti-feminist, I'd like to add a few things that women should stop doing unless they want to be accused of being anti-feminist: studying English, art history, art, education; going to Paris, working in fashion, working in editing, aspiring to write, aspiring to be an artist, cooking, writing about cooking, studying French, designing, studying psychology, being psychologists, being social workers, studying social work, freelancing, teaching, having babies, etc.

Just add it all in. Because you're probably guilty of whatever syrupy traditional female stereotype you're criticizing. A hundred tattoos and three hundred one night stands, and all the so called hard rock music doesn't make up for not having an engineering degree when you could have gotten one. There are a hundred ways to criticize women for things they do because they feel like it or want to, so unless you want to be criticized for some of the anti-feminist themes in your life, I wouldn't get on that high horse.

And honestly, I would not have a great relationship with my mom if she was judging my musical tastes because she has some intellectual philosophy that characterizes stuff I am drawn to being "bad music." I'd think she was a pretentious jerk who needs to not blow things out of proportion.
posted by anniecat at 1:06 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Does anyone read the comments this far down? A few weeks ago, someone answering an AskMefi question mentioned a book called "American Popular Music: from Minstrelsy to MP3" by Larry Starr and Christopher Waterman, including 2 CDs. I bought it and read it (and listened to the CDs), and it's really filled in my musical education and caused me to buy a bunch of CDs. There were Taylor Swifts in the 1870s, the 1970s, and will be in the 2070's, but there's a whole lot more to listen to. Thank you, AskMefi-answering-person. Thank you especially for Wanda Jackson. Let young teens today listen to *her*.
posted by acrasis at 1:10 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also the whole pretty/ugly thing is ridiculous.
vs.
But that's another angle they're taking her -- don't make her look good all the time,
posted by smackfu at 1:10 PM on February 9, 2010


Medieval Maven: "No, as a former teen girl, I'm saying I want them to have some music that maybe challenges them, that maybe shocks them, that's maybe made by self-made women. Because music and art in general should do more than feed back to you who you are, it should maybe give you something to aspire to or think about."

A whole lotta "maybe" in that comment. My nine-year-old daughter loves Taylor Swift and has been inspired to play guitar. And get this: she also like some Zappa, Sahara Hotnights, some Jeff Boyle, some Nirvana, etc... Your assumption that people who listen to Taylor Swift aren't "challenging" themselves is presumptuous.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:19 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


While we're debating the merits of pop music stars, let's discuss whether or not our children will be studying the wordsmithery of Young Money.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:22 PM on February 9, 2010


I'm comfortable with discussing Lady Gaga's appearance as it relates to her act. I'm not really comfortable discussing whether she is pretty or not, unless it's a discussion she has instigated in some way herself. Firstly, it's pretty subjective. Secondly, I think part of what makes music suck so much is a focus on bland prettiness over character. And, thirdly, it starts edging toward LOL I'D HIT IT territory.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:33 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Secondly, I think part of what makes music suck so much is a focus on bland prettiness over character.

This. I have only a vague notion of what Carole King looks like, and yet I love her music. I probably wouldn't recognize Joni Mitchell if I saw her on the street. Why am I supposed to care whether fifty assorted internet nerds think Lady Gaga is hot or not?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:37 PM on February 9, 2010


Lets see, during an event largely seen as a Industry circle-jerk for bland corperate music one performer has an entire machine set made of identical robotic dancers and a barker who is "selling" the singer (who is dragged on stage as a lifeless object) to the audience by proudly announcing she has no soul.

I wonder what is trying to be conveyed here.


Cute. I'll respond in kind: if you're not smart enough to see the ambiguity, just move on.
posted by weston at 1:41 PM on February 9, 2010


There was a time when the entire band Grand Funk Railroad could be riding next to you on a bus and you wouldn't recognize a one of them. This despite the fact that they came to your town to party down.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:43 PM on February 9, 2010


What are they doing on a bus? They're not the Minor Funk Trolley. What do they do, walk?
posted by The Whelk at 1:44 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is there an RSS feed I can subscribe to keep track of what makes Astro Zombie comfortable and uncomfortable? Oh, nevermind, found it.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:49 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Re: Lady Gaga's nose: Life Art imitates the Paparazzi video.

But it's kind of dumb to argue about her looks. Male pop stars don't need to look good or be at the "perfect" weight. It's seen as a bonus if they're sex idols, but it's not essential.

For the record: I think she's pretty like Sarah Jessica Parker. Facially, she's attractive as a person, but not as a sex object. Hence, the reason why some people are mystified by guys saying, "Yeah, but she's not pretty." They're not lusting after her, so thus she's not "pretty."
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:50 PM on February 9, 2010


This is like Wings driving a car or Meatloaf eating sushi.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:51 PM on February 9, 2010


I was looking specifically for people going out of the way to be incredibly bizarre, to the point where it can't even become a trend.

Well, I mean, some who've not already been mentioned --

Jerry Lee Lewis
James Brown
George Clinton and Bootsy Collins and their multiplicity of personas
Nona Hendryx
Captain Sensible
Sly Stone
Prince
Boy George
Kate Bush (who was wearing tons of weird shit and pushing the envelope before Gaga was born)
Nina Hagen
Rob Zombie

I'm still not sure that I'm understanding your definition, which seems to equate pushing the envelope with musical edginess, persona trend-bending, and the fashion avant-garde, but the list goes on. As for not becoming a trend, it's kind of difficult for the avant-garde not to become a trend anymore. That's the only way the mainstream has left to appropriate new material and regenerate itself, other than nostalgically re-animating past-culture corpses.
posted by blucevalo at 1:53 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


That RSS feed makes me uncomfortable.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:53 PM on February 9, 2010


What are they doing on a bus?

What, you think train tracks take you everywhere?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:54 PM on February 9, 2010


For the record: I think she's pretty

THERE IS NO RECORD

NO ONE CARES

STOP TALKING ABOUT IT
posted by shakespeherian at 2:05 PM on February 9, 2010 [31 favorites]


ANYWAYS, the original quote was:

Both of them pretty, white girls from rich families given all the support they need so that they can become "super stars."

Which I still think applies to Lady Gaga just as much as Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus. She's just a few years older.
posted by smackfu at 2:20 PM on February 9, 2010


Why am I supposed to care whether fifty assorted internet nerds think Lady Gaga is hot or not?

Why comment in a thread about one internet nerd who thinks Taylor Swift doesn't deserve a Grammy? Anyway, Lady GaGa's "look" is an integral part of her act so I guess her "looks" go along with it.
posted by MikeMc at 2:24 PM on February 9, 2010


I thought the article was good, but I was still a bit amused on her focus on Swift winning the Grammy. Grammys have always been a joke -- not just for the last nth years like others have said.

Take for example 1969, while arguably not the greatest year for music release, one of the great years for released music that everyone at the time listened to. Here are a few of the albums released: Abbey Road - The Beatles; The Allman Brothers Band - The Allman Brothers Band (debut); Aoxomoxoa - Grateful Dead; At San Quentin (live) - Johnny Cash; Ballad of Easy Rider - The Byrds; The Band - The Band; Bless Its Pointed Little Head - Jefferson Airplane; Blind Faith - Blind Faith; Clouds - Joni Mitchell; Crosby, Stills & Nash - Crosby, Stills & Nash; David's Album - Joan Baez; Everybody Knows This is Nowhere - Neil Young; Free - Free; From Elvis in Memphis - Elvis Presley; From Genesis to Revelation - Genesis (debut); Goodbye - Cream; Hot Rats - Frank Zappa; I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! - Janis Joplin (solo debut); In the Court of the Crimson King - King Crimson; I Say a Little Prayer - Aretha Franklin; Johnny Cash - Johnny Cash; Kick Out the Jams - MC5; Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin; Led Zeppelin II - Led Zeppelin; Let It Bleed - The Rolling Stones; Live/Dead - Grateful Dead; Man of Words/Man of Music - David Bowie (later re-released as Space Oddity); Monster Movie - Can; Mott the Hoople - Mott the Hoople; Neil Young - Neil Young; A Salty Dog - Procol Harum; Santana - Santana (debut); The Soft Parade - The Doors; Soul Shakedown - Bob Marley & The Wailers (debut); More - Pink Floyd; Spooky Two - Spooky Tooth; Stand Up - Jethro Tull; The Stooges - The Stooges (debut); Then Play On - Fleetwood Mac; Tommy - The Who; To Our Children's Children's Children - The Moody Blues; Ummagumma - Pink Floyd; The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground; Volunteers - Jefferson Airplane; Wanted Dead or Alive - Warren Zevon; Yellow Submarine - The Beatles; Yer' Album - James Gang (debut); and Yes - Yes (debut).

And the winner is: Album of the Year -- Blood Sweat and Tears - Blood Sweat and Tears.

Autostraddle makes a lot of good points about Taylor Swift, but outrage over her Grammy win should not be one of them.
posted by rtimmel at 2:29 PM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why comment in a thread about one internet nerd who thinks Taylor Swift doesn't deserve a Grammy?

You don't think there's a difference between talking about pop culture awards and talking about whether someone we don't know is hot or not?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:35 PM on February 9, 2010


Male pop stars don't need to look good or be at the "perfect" weight

What? I think Justin Timberlake would have been a lot less successful if he looked like Steve Buscemi. Pop is always about image, and boy-bands and their like are all about having "cute" guys.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:36 PM on February 9, 2010


And the winner is: Album of the Year -- Blood Sweat and Tears - Blood Sweat and Tears.

"You've Made Me So Very Happy" and "Spinning Wheel" aren't horrible songs, but okay.
posted by blucevalo at 2:41 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jeez. Don't set piano on fire.


He threw one down from the top of the stairs
beautiful women were standing everywhere
they all got wet when he smashed that thing
but off in the dark you could hear somebody sing

it breaks my heart to see those stars
smashing a perfectly good guitar
i dont know who they think they are
smashing a perfectly good guitar
posted by mintcake! at 2:44 PM on February 9, 2010


What's wrong with Blood Sweat and Tears? Somebody's got to win, and it's a good record (not as good as Child is Father to the Man, but better than a lot of the stuff on that list, which seems to include a lot of middling albums by well-known groups).
posted by box at 2:48 PM on February 9, 2010


(Also, while the Grammys are getting play in multiple threads, the 14-year-old version of me was crushed when "Graceland" beat "So" for best album in 1987. PG live at the Meadowlands on that tour (the summer before I freaking started high school! I'm old!) was the first huge concert I'd ever attended. Golden moments, y'all. Grammy hate feeds my money machine.)
posted by mintcake! at 2:52 PM on February 9, 2010


The reason she's different is because most pop artists are hand-selected, semi-talented but always stunning girls who are then molded into what the labels already know will sell.

OK. I buy this. There is some distinctiveness there. The problem I guess I have is also the one you articulated: the product, while entertaining, doesn't really seem worthy of the superlative distinctions, and I suspect you're also right about the reasons why it gets them.
posted by weston at 3:03 PM on February 9, 2010


I don't mean to say that Blood, Sweat and Tears is a bad band, it just seems that in a year with so much music released, it was hard to imagine that it was the best band. Granted, someone may like their album more then let's say, Abbey Road, Live and San Quintin or Let It Bleed, but saying that it is more relevant or important is hard argument.

The Grammys have always been about safe. The Albums of the Year for 1968, 1970 and 1971 (to fill in the years around my original post) were By the Time I Get to Phoenix - Glen Campbell, Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkle and Tapestry - Carole King. While these were all perfectly fine albums, those were years where there music was undergoing major changes.

But that's what the Grammy's were for -- to reflect very safe, middle of the road tastes. And Taylor Swift apparently does safe quite well.
posted by rtimmel at 3:29 PM on February 9, 2010


Taylor Swift also won that really safe MTV VMA...
posted by smackfu at 3:54 PM on February 9, 2010


If the Taylor Swift is anti-feminist, I'd like to add a few things that women should stop doing unless they want to be accused of being anti-feminist:

oh man, discussions that head in these directions are frustrating. it's tough, because the discussion never should have headed into the territory of "people shouldn't listen to or like taylor swift." the article wasn't saying that, and that's not some kind of feminist stance on taylor swift. it's frustrating that these things become that. what a person chooses to listen to for themselves, and why, is their business. everyone is free to listen to and like taylor swift, and they're not anti-feminist to do so.

having said that, let's look at the other hand:

pop music has a long and troubled history regarding depictions of women, and the message it sends to its female fans about their self worth. the message of "you're worth something if a boy likes you, so long as you're not a slut" not only sells records, but perpetuates itself as a record selling force by keeping young girls ashamed of their bodies, their desires and their sexuality so that they keep wanting to buy records about boys, being pretty, etc... taylor swift helps perpetuate this. not because she's bad, but because she is (almost certainly unwittingly) a part of that machine. that being the case, it is every consumer's right (NOT obligation) to reject that message, and to reject rewarding that message through a corporate mouthpiece like grammys.

and I wish that were what people were focussed on. the blog post is very specifically not talking about taylor swift the person. they are talking about taylor swift the musical act whose participation in that cycle is "a feminist's nightmare."

last note: calling her music "a feminist's nightmare" is not the same thing as calling her an anti-feminist. the latter explicitly accuses swift of acting intentionally against women's interests. the former discusses her body of work as it exists within a social context. it is a mistake to confuse the two.
posted by shmegegge at 3:56 PM on February 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


invitapriore: It seems to me that musicians (I am one) are often some of the least qualified in terms of being able to offer an accurate assessment of what makes popular music interesting. Harmonic complexity correlates to interest? You must hate country!

I wasn't very clear--I did not mean that harmonic complexity correlates to interest, simply that basic harmonic analysis will show you why GaGa's music is more intrinsically interesting than Swift's. Not more complex. (For instance, in Poker Face, the song is ostensibly in B major, but all of the verses and transitional material center around vi, G# minor. You don't find out you're actually in B major until the chorus, and the only time you hear the B major chord is the first time she sings the lyric "poker face" in each iteration of the chorus (to facilitate those playing along at home, the chord progression in B is vi-IV-I-V, or g#-E-B-F#). The tonal ambiguity created with a harmonic vocabulary virtually identical to any other pop song from ever is what is clever about it, and the way that she holds back tonic for that one moment makes it very satisfying.

In fact, I think it's one of the basic elements that make it most interesting to most listeners. You continued:

Beat, lyrics, melody, texture...all of these things outweigh harmony (maybe 'tertiary' is too kind), though it's worth noting that the favored trait in any component of a popular song isn't complexity but affective power.

Hmm, maybe to your conscious perception, but in a tonal song, harmonies matter a great deal, and are the heart of any emotional affect or effect. Most people just aren't perceptive enough (which, granted, takes training) to figure out what, exactly, makes a track effective. If the harmony doesn't hit you where you live, all the fun textural effects or melodic hooks won't make up for it. There are good reasons pop keeps going back to the same damn chords and the same damn progressions--they consistently stimulate the emotional reactions we want. My point is that, within the idiom and its limitations, GaGa is clever.

(I should add, the affective power of harmony is an aspect of much consideration among musicologists et al--I recommend particularly Jerrold Levinson's essay "Music and Negative Emotion," which covers much of this in great, perceptive detail.)

Comparing the relative musical interest of Swift's songs vs. Gaga's songs is totally missing the point, because they have different audiences (which they've successfully captivated) and so they speak very different languages, both of which are results-oriented and not particularly concerned with the musical object itself.

Huh? Very different languages? I hear their music as far, far more similar than alike. All the people who listen to either of their music (or both) mostly like the genre we call Pop. GaGa and Swift are just slightly different flavors of it. You don't think there are at least few hundred thousand teen girls out there who love both of them?

As for rejecting the commodification of music, that's a losing battle of Adornian proportions, though I think the fact that we're even talking about Swift and Gaga means that you've accepted that in your heart!

Well, maybe, but that's a side argument so maybe we should take that off-thread : ) I meant that personally, in making evaluations of musical work, I disregard the marketplace.


Also: you seem to suggest that 'goodness' is a trait inherent to the object itself, rather than something that arises out of the interaction between an object and its cultural context. Why?

I would say that both are true, and that music can validly be evaluated as both object and as experience. Trained musicians make the mistake of conceiving and evaluating music too much as object; listeners typically value it only as experience, with no critical thought given to craft. I think both are important.
posted by LooseFilter at 4:14 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


weston: Dance? Because that's the only genre I can think of where what I've seen would have a chance of "smart," and I disagree that even there the music would be exceptional.

Pop would be the basic genre I was thinking of, but Dance also. I find in her latest album all sorts of references to the past 20 years of the genre (smart; knowledgeable about the history of her idiom); as well, there are lots of clever riffs and plays off of those references. Others have substantiated this more. It's also very, very well crafted dance music.
posted by LooseFilter at 4:18 PM on February 9, 2010


Her records are autotuned to hell--enough with the goddamn robot country singers, please--but I'm reasonably certain she's not that terrible without it.

Many years ago I first read about digital pitch correction and I thought it was an interesting concept. I mentioned it to a friend who works in audio: "Oh yeah, they've had those computers in Nashville for a while now. They're called: "Turd-Polishers"."
posted by ovvl at 4:28 PM on February 9, 2010


I think it's odd that nobody is comparing Taylor Swift to Shania Twain. They have a pretty similar target audience.
posted by Phssthpok at 5:07 PM on February 9, 2010


LooseFilter, I think we're arguing past each other. Certainly I find tonal ambiguity of the type you mention interesting and pleasurable -- for example, the tonal ambiguity (of a different sort) in Schumann's Im wunderschönen Monat Mai, from the Dichterliebe cycle, is pure candy to me -- but your claim that this interest is a function of something intrinsic to the object is what I object to. I stand by the word complexity (what you "clever," which it is too), because while the chords may be simple triads all, what you're citing is nonetheless an example of structural play that goes beyond a simple I-IV-V harmonic framework. Harmonies are of course important, even from the point of view of someone conditioned to hear them sensually as opposed to structurally, but our cultural context goes a long way towards determining what we find affecting, pleasant, or interesting. The way you frame it, I'm bound to hear the harmonies behind GaGa's tunes as more affecting than the ones behind Swift's, and I'm saying that depending on what I've been conditioned with, it could go either way, with the intrinsic content of the music having very little sway in comparison. When you say:

There are good reasons pop keeps going back to the same damn chords and the same damn progressions--they consistently stimulate the emotional reactions we want.

It's a self-perpetuating cycle. Those harmonies stimulate those emotional reactions because our environment has essentially told us that they should. There's nothing special about vi-ii-V-I, for example. You can of course argue that the descending fifths in the bass and the smooth voice leading that progression enables are what gives it its power, but even those responses are conditioned, and I'd argue that, for the listener of popular music, they are secondary in value to the power of that progression (or any other) as a signifier, and the links between musical signifiers and their emotional signifieds are forged by cultural forces, with the objective properties of the signifier being basically irrelevant. When I say that Taylor Swift and Lady GaGa are speaking very different languages, I'm referring less to their respective manipulation of tonal harmonies and melodies than to the cultural signifiers you can find in their music. In the wide space of all musical genres and styles, it's true that they're not that different, since they're both able to survive within the American commercial music establishment, but they're nonetheless quite distinct in terms of the grammar of their respective images, and this is the grammar that matters with popular music -- the musical object is only important in traditions, like WAM, that emphasize its importance. In popular music, the veil between craft and product is entirely opaque.

On a side note, thanks for recommending Levinson, I'll be sure to check that out. My favorite book so far concerning the mechanics of musical cognition has been Ways of Listening, by Eric F. Clarke. It's hard to summarize, but he puts forth a model for cognition that depends on the assumption that the brain operates not by imposing order on unorganized stimulus but rather by learning to distinguish information already present in the signal. That sounds unremarkable but it starts to contradict a lot of intuitive notions we have about musical perception when taken to its logical conclusion. I recommend it if you've got some free time, it's a fairly short read.
posted by invitapriore at 5:11 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like run-ons.
posted by invitapriore at 5:13 PM on February 9, 2010


the message it sends to its female fans about their self worth. the message of "you're worth something if a boy likes you, so long as you're not a slut" not only sells records, but perpetuates itself as a record selling force by keeping young girls ashamed of their bodies, their desires and their sexuality so that they keep wanting to buy records about boys, being pretty, etc...

I feel like we had a similar discussion in regard to the Jonas Brothers a while back, and I guess I still think pretty much the same thing, which is that for many (most?) young girls, there are stages to sexuality. For me, anyway, as a 10-14-year-old girl, I wanted to hear about "boys, being pretty, etc.," and not about, I dunno, anyone's ugly or their disease. Not even their disco sticks, to be honest. It was not, for me, a precursor for any kind of body/sex shame. Just a phase of sexual self-expression.

I think there's a lot of truth to what mpbx was saying above about how people don't really want to hear what goes on in young girls' minds because they find it insipid. Maybe it is insipid. Hey, all the young dudes have plenty of stuff they can listen to.
posted by palliser at 6:10 PM on February 9, 2010


Hey, all the young dudes have plenty of stuff they can listen to.

No, no... all the young dudes carry the news.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:21 PM on February 9, 2010


that was conscious
posted by palliser at 6:26 PM on February 9, 2010


oh.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:30 PM on February 9, 2010


I was looking for that scene from Clueless where Silverstone voices 'What's wrong with boys these days?' over a montage of saggy pants and backwards caps while 'All the Young Dudes' plays, but I couldn't find it.
posted by box at 6:30 PM on February 9, 2010


Seriously? Beyonce is everywhere in Japan, man. There's no freaking escape.

Yes, but fortunately we also have Naomi Watanabe.
posted by armage at 7:01 PM on February 9, 2010


Seriously? Beyonce is everywhere in Japan, man. There's no freaking escape.

Yeah, I didn't indicate that there are NO American superstars seen/heard or known here. But surprisingly often huge stars in America, like Ms. Swift and many others, are virtually unknown.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:46 PM on February 9, 2010


Merzbow should have won it.
posted by bardic at 7:52 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


For me, anyway, as a 10-14-year-old girl, I wanted to hear about "boys, being pretty, etc.," and not about, I dunno, anyone's ugly or their disease.

I actually listened to stuff featuring Jungian psychology and anti-nuke songs.

Okay, it was because I was into The Police and Sting and it was because I saw that flying metalunderpants scene in DUNE at a very impressionable age but I still thought the lyrics were all deep and stuff.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:08 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Music -- real music, real, good music, is supposed to be a fucking _fight_.

It's the fight that Lee Scratch Perry had trying to splice reel-to-reel tape together over and over to create dub loops.

It's the fight of Einsturzende Neubauten playing jackhammers on concrete in time to a beat.

It's the fight of Public Enemy opening for U2 in Phoenix, and playing "By the time I get to Arizona", burning an effigy of the governor who wouldn't establish an MLK holiday, and walking off the stage.

It's the fight of the guitar hook from Smells Like Teen Spirit.

It's the fight of the Beatles against weak ballroom music. It's the fight of the Clash against weak pop music. It's the fight of Skinny Puppy against weak new wave music.

Music that coddles you, music that doesn't make you question the world around you, music that tells you everything's going to be okay, that kind of music shouldn't win any awards, ever, because that isn't real music.
posted by mark242 at 9:01 PM on February 9, 2010


Any female artists in your record collection, mark242? Just thinking it would have been nice to see even one in your list of "real musicians," given the fucking point of the FPP.
posted by palliser at 9:30 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Any female artists in your record collection, mark242?

If he doesn't have any PJ Harvey, he's just frontin'.

definitely should've put PJ into that comment...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:57 PM on February 9, 2010


Music that coddles you, music that doesn't make you question the world around you, music that tells you everything's going to be okay, that kind of music shouldn't win any awards, ever, because that isn't real music.

Right. Toss out Bob Marley, Aretha Franklin, The Beatles (yep) etcetera. There are more kinds of real music than just macho noise and angst.
posted by jokeefe at 10:17 PM on February 9, 2010


Actually, the more I think about it, the sillier that comment is. Have you ever listened to Strauss' Four Last Songs? After the final, precious notes are left to linger, you know what you feel? You feel okay about death. You feel divinely comforted. All that is solid melts into air. All that is mortal fades into the sublime. It's a kind of elemental magic. Jackhammers on concrete (and even The Clash) have their important place, but they are only one thing.
posted by jokeefe at 10:24 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The country that produced Morning Musume doesn't need Taylor Swift.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:39 PM on February 9, 2010


rocket88: "I drove to work this morning listening to Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) and came to the conclusion that real, creative, interesting music hasn't been made in decades.

What, Pink Floyd? You mean one of the bands that caused rock to disappear up its own bunghole until punk and new wave came along? I mean, I don't even know what genre you'd put Pink Floyd in because It's definitely not rock or pop. You can't dance to it, you can't make out to it, the only thing you can do is go "*ffffffttt* Like waaaow maaan, that's soooo coooosmic *fffffffffttt*", and then get a job in a Wall Street brokerage and vote Republican for the next 30 years while listening at home to songs about how life in England in the 1970s sucked for aging hippies. Can you even mosh to their music? Has anyone tried moshing at one of their concerts? You'd have zoned out hippies scattering like geese, running off imaginary cliffs. It's just not worth the effort.

Anyway, Taylor Dane or Swift or whatever isn't worth getting your panties in a bunch over. Yeah she's another neatly packaged generic corporate product, but so what? If you find yourself singing one of her songs in the shower it's only embarrassing; singing "Wish You were Here" or "Welcome to the Machine" in the shower is an indication you need psychiatric help right away. Or a sign you're an aging baby boomer.
posted by happyroach at 11:10 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Music -- real music, real, good music, is supposed to be a fucking _fight_.

Yes, real music is exactly as you describe it -- which in reality leaves out a huge amount of real music. Ella Fitzgerald singing a Cole Porter tune. A Bach fugue. A desolate, resigned Frank Sinatra ballad from In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning. A wispy, ethereal Billie Holiday number. A jaunty ragtime piece. A Glenn Miller tune. A stupid but sublime minor Paul McCartney song. A bouncy, lighthearted Django Reinhardt number. A deliriously dumb but ecstatic club track. "Tutti Frutti." "My Ding-a-Ling." "Flash Light." "The Twist." "Louie Louie." A ridiculous and humorous Flavor Flav rap to counterbalance the rage of "By the Time I Get to Arizona." James Brown singing "I Feel Good." Songs about dogs, cars, baseball, ice cream, milkshakes, stupid dance fads.

The fight of the Beatles against weak ballroom music? How about songs like "Glass Onion," "Yellow Submarine," "Octopus's Garden"? What about "She loves you yeah yeah yeah?" The Clash versus weak pop music? What about "Train in Vain"? What about "Rock the Casbah," which was as pop as it got in 1982? What about Mick Jones in Big Audio Dynamite, which was even more pop? "Smells Like Teen Spirit"? A song named after a deodorant?

Yes, some good music is about not coddling, about not settling for the status quo, about forcing the issue, about shouting with rage. But not all.
posted by blucevalo at 11:19 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


You mean one of the bands that caused rock to disappear up its own bunghole until punk and new wave came along?

Sure. Punk/new wave never had any navels to gaze at, corners to hide in, or bungholes to disappear up. It was all a forthright march into the endless horizon of open engagement and pure relevance. Nobody ever reacted against it. It was never The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle.
posted by blucevalo at 11:24 PM on February 9, 2010


Wait, how are my unborn grandchildren supposed to set these pianos on fir—
Oh my god, the flaming piano's calling from inside my uterus!
posted by blueberry at 12:34 AM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Listen, guys, the Well-Tempered Clavier is a FIGHT of LEFT HAND VERSUS RIGHT HAND.
posted by palliser at 5:20 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lee Perry, on the other hand, was a guy who spent most of his life in his backyard recording studio smoking gigantic spliffs.
posted by box at 6:34 AM on February 10, 2010


Is a guy, dangit.
posted by box at 6:34 AM on February 10, 2010


It's the fight of the guitar hook from Smells Like Teen Spirit More Than A Feeling.
posted by minifigs at 8:04 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I feel like we had a similar discussion in regard to the Jonas Brothers a while back, and I guess I still think pretty much the same thing, which is that for many (most?) young girls, there are stages to sexuality. For me, anyway, as a 10-14-year-old girl, I wanted to hear about "boys, being pretty, etc.," and not about, I dunno, anyone's ugly or their disease. Not even their disco sticks, to be honest. It was not, for me, a precursor for any kind of body/sex shame. Just a phase of sexual self-expression.

there's an argument that girls are trained to value this kind of thing in their media by... the media. that fashion mags, teen mags, gossip mags, teen-centric tv shows, music, movies, etc... all reinforce this value system, and that a person is inundated by the message that that's what she should value and think about herself from before she's old enough to resist such impressions. that's not to say these feelings and opinions aren't natural, or anything like that. I think it comes down to saying "yes, many X_aged girls WANT to listen to this stuff, but why wouldn't they when the whole world has been telling them that's what they should want for as long as they've been alive? we'd like to stop telling them that." because at the end of the day, saying things like "girls just like [x] kind of thing" isn't fair to anyone. because plenty of the women I know didn't grow up listening to the comparable teeny pop music of their generation, they grew up listening to patty smith, ani difranco, the dead kennedys, iron maiden, the beatles, led zeppelin, bob marley, bob dylan, weird al yankovic, the zombies, the misfits, dinosaur jr, tupac, biggie smalls, and whoever the fuck else the rest of the world is free to listen to.

the point really isn't that one is wrong and one is right. it's that they're ALL basically right, but the idea that one style of music is in some way naturally suited to people born with a certain chromosome and the other isn't is pretty basically unfair on its face.
posted by shmegegge at 8:58 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Those harmonies stimulate those emotional reactions because our environment has essentially told us that they should....I'd argue that, for the listener of popular music, they are secondary in value to the power of that progression (or any other) as a signifier, and the links between musical signifiers and their emotional signifieds are forged by cultural forces, with the objective properties of the signifier being basically irrelevant.

Well, now we're talking about something different than my original comments were ever intended to broach. I think your argument above has merit, but it's a mistake to present it as fact. We don't actually know in any objective sense why we respond to music like we do. Your perspective is of course a common and valid argument, but certainly not the only explanation for the emotive power of music. (And as understanding of the brain, cognition, perception, etc., advances, we're learning unexpected things about how music is received by the brain and are inferring surprising things--like, that response to western tonality may not be conditioned, but more a part of pattern recognition responses etc. as much as anything else. I don't know nearly enough current research to have this argument, but do know that to a fair degree this whole set of questions has moved away somewhat from the expertise of philosophy or cultural studies or any other humanities perspective, and is having to consider scientific findings as well. My understanding is that this has caused a lot of tension in these fields. Personally, I have a hard time accepting that the rich tapestry of human responses to music is entirely conditioned--I was deeply moved by music at 3 years of age, and to me it felt as natural as laughter or hugs. I think there are very strong arguments against mere cultural conditioning being responsible for this phenomenon that is thousands of years old at least.)


When I say that Taylor Swift and Lady GaGa are speaking very different languages, I'm referring less to their respective manipulation of tonal harmonies and melodies than to the cultural signifiers you can find in their music.

Well, at first I thought we were talking about the use of harmony in their songs, but I see your larger point now. How do you reconcile the importance you give to cultural signifiers with the observation that many, many young listeners like both Swift and GaGa? Clearly they don't see any conflict in embracing both, and are moved by both. My only real assertion on this whole topic is that harmony is one of the basic elements in music that moves us, for whatever reasons (and there are many more in the mix, some inherent in the sound and some outside of it). Though Swift and GaGa present very different cultural perspectives and influences, their actual sounding music is not too much different, and of the two, GaGa's is in my estimation more interesting. If I understand you well, aspects of the sounding music that you tag as cultural signifier I may likely consider cosmetic, i.e. that I think what people really respond to in music may not be what is most apparent or even what they think they are responding to. In this perspective, cultural packaging would make a listener feel comfortable with new music (I like this kind of music!) but what they will respond to upon listening is the guts of the music--harmonies, form, etc.

Thanks for the Clarke recommendation--will dig into it this summer!
posted by LooseFilter at 9:22 AM on February 10, 2010


It's the fight of the Beatles against weak ballroom music. It's the fight of the Clash against weak pop music. It's the fight of Skinny Puppy against weak new wave music.

It's the fight of Taylor Swift against weak fight music?
posted by naju at 12:50 PM on February 10, 2010


According to wikipedia, Abigail is a real person, Swifts best friend, Abigail Anderson, who was also featured in the video.

omg how embarrassing. Jeez, she couldn't change Abigail to Mabigail or Mavis or something? Way to sell out your friend, Taylor Swift.
posted by anniecat at 3:26 PM on February 10, 2010


swift boat veterans for truth
posted by ovvl at 3:45 PM on February 10, 2010


In defense, Shine On You Crazy Diamond does have a specific poignancy which very few pop/rock songs made in the last three decades reflect. Perhaps Radiohead have tried.

I haven't heard the Strauss piece mentioned in this thread. I presume it is Richard Strauss. I like Richard, but I prefer Johann Senior.
posted by ovvl at 4:00 PM on February 10, 2010


In defense, Shine On You Crazy Diamond does have a specific poignancy which very few pop/rock songs made in the last three decades reflect.

Um... at the risk of being contrary, I'll agree that it has some degree of poignancy-- if one is being generous-- but there are many, many pop/rock songs out there that are far more truthfully emotional than Shine On, which really is an unsubtle work of musical kitsch. Off the top of my head-- and seeing as we're talking sort-of PF related stuff-- Elbow's Scattered Black and Whites is a memory of childhood which possesses genuine, unselfconscious (and non-selfcongratulatory) poignancy.

I like Richard, but I prefer Johann Senior.

Okay, now you're just messing with me, aren't you?
posted by jokeefe at 11:07 PM on February 10, 2010


Oh, and this: "Perhaps Radiohead have tried."

No, they haven't, because poignancy is not their territory.
posted by jokeefe at 11:14 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, Radiohead is about the closest I've heard from a mainstream band to what I was originally trying to get across with the Shine On example. I wouldn't call it poignancy, but it's as good a one-word descriptor as any. It's the quality of a piece of music that I feel is indicative of the musician being "in the zone" so to speak with the music, and staying there...not rushing it, not showing off with speed or flash...and not adhering to any formula of what this music should sound like.
That probably makes no sense because it's hard to describe. I've seen it in live shows where musicians get a chance to run on extended jams, but rarely on studio recordings. I'm always looking and listening, though. I always seem to find it through accident or having someone who understands point it out.
posted by rocket88 at 1:36 PM on February 11, 2010


I'm right there with you, rocket88 (I was going to make the Pink Floyd-Radiohead comparison, myself, as part of a longer reply but then didn't post it) but have to agree that "poignancy" is not exactly what they do. If you like the feel of Floyd, though, and somehow have never run into Radiohead, it's a natural fit.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:51 PM on February 11, 2010


If you like the feel of Floyd, though, and somehow have never run into Radiohead, it's a natural fit.

Yeah, just make sure you start with OK Computer. That's the one where there are a couple of deliberate bows in the Floyd direction (the guitar solo in Lucky, obviously).
posted by jokeefe at 4:35 PM on February 11, 2010


Why is it that, when somebody says there isn't any good music being made these days, they often seem to be a fan of classic rock?
posted by box at 6:53 AM on February 12, 2010


You're just not visiting the right forums. Ever hear (musically) conservative classical music fans whine about "new" music? You'll see articles written on this subject in sympathy of directors who can't drag audiences to hear anything new.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:13 AM on February 12, 2010


Probably because "classic rock" is a huge catch-all term for all kinds of music spanning about a quarter-century. There's lots of good stuff in there to cherry-pick from among the crap.
And there is some good music being made today. But what was presented at the Grammys as the best of the year didn't include any of it. Not even close.
And I guess my original point was that there was a certain connection and musicianship that I personally like to hear in music that is much rarer these days than in the "classic rock" era, even among the good stuff.
posted by rocket88 at 7:23 AM on February 12, 2010


Replace Pink Floyd with Velvet Underground, and you may have a point.
posted by naju at 8:15 AM on February 12, 2010


After thinking about it a little, I think it's mostly just that rock music is really, really popular. I mean, there are plenty of jazz fans that think there hasn't been anything good since the '60s, and reggae fans who think there hasn't been anything good since the '70s, and hip-hop fans who think there hasn't been anything good since the '80s. It's just that more people like rock.
posted by box at 12:17 PM on February 12, 2010


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