Taylor Swift set the music industry on its heels this fall when she pulled her song catalogue from Spotify. The 24 year old has now become the first woman in Billboard chart history to replace herself at number one on the Hot 100.
Her latest single, Blank Space has kicked Shake it Off from the number one spot, where it sat for the last four weeks. Others to have accomplished this include the Beatles. Nice company but sales and charts are only half the story. Shifting from country sweetheart to sophisticated pop darling requires a certain kind of smarts, if only to put up with the haters.
As queen of her own creative empire, Swift has morphed into a curious blend of feminist bravado and cheeky cheerleader for the Girls generation.
Dropped are the sequin Cinderella gowns and long angelic locks. These days, Swift is resetting the ballroom to her own tastes, and spurned princes aren’t necessary for backdrop. Crafting clever pop songs that speak to a generation struggling to define itself is not for wimps. Throw in crossing genres and confusing an industry that had you pegged? Clever. The artist, notoriously connected to her fan base, reminds me of the twinkly bright president of a sweater sorority, where dissing bad boyfriends is grist to the mill. Girl code here is make up your own rules as you conquer the world and don’t believe your bad press.
That bad press has always amused me.
She only writes about boys.
Duh. Try most of the pop music canon.
She’s a mediocre singer.
Great pipes are hardly necessary for pop music. See Madonna for reference.
She pretends to be just like us but comes from a wealthy family.
Creating a brand is showbiz. Full stop.
She’s all G-rated sequins and sparkles.
Cultivated or not, Swift and her squeaky clean self are a nice break from the jiggly twerk tinsel. Putting aside her music, which I could do without- it’s friggin’ everywhere (nothing is that good to be so ubiquitous), I have come to appreciate the celebration of girlhood Swift represented. As a mother raising daughters on Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Alica Keys, I’ve had to turn the volume down on a swamp of overtly sexualized pop tramps. My version of sex ed was I feel the earth move. Swift’s clever canon is a wink to the world, a golly shucks-I’m still figuring out boys. Who isn’t? Discovering the singer now has a sly wit, poking at her own brand and her critics, seems as good a reason as any to put up with the music being blared from bedroom speakers. I might even add Shake it Off to my iPod, if I can bump these two off my workout playlist.
Smart and confident risk takers, with an obvious sense of humour, are not bad as role models go.
Don’t fit me in a box, Swift seems to be telling us. I will just break out and try another. That’s worth applauding.
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