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The Secret to the Success of Taylor Swift
So I follow ChartNews on twitter which gives updates on how various albums are doing on the charts and how many copies are sold of each. Obviously everybody knows that Taylor Swift is doing really well with that 1989 album of hers. Now I can’t really critique it because I’ve only heard that one song – Shake it Off so I don’t really know how good it is vis a vis the competition. However, while I concede that the song is catchy and you can dance to it – in terms of great composition, musical arrangement, general musical genius? God no.
Looking at past Taylor Swift songs which to be quite frank I can hardly recall without Googling, there’s a pattern. Unmemorable, catchy for the moment type music that you hardly remember three minutes later. Enjoyable for the most part, yes I’ll admit that I can bop my head to a Taylor Swift beat; but my policy on buying music is that I still want to enjoy it by this time next year. Since I can’t recall a single song from any of her past albums I guess she doesn’t qualify. When one listens to the radio you also don’t really hear old Taylor Swift songs being played. That we are never ever ever etc song that everyone used to sing? Nowhere now is it? Who still listens to it? Contrast that with ‘Umbrella’ by Rihanna which is still very much in heavy rotation on my playlist and many playlists. But somehow she’s doing these incredible numbers in terms of sales that no-one else is seeing.
Lets jump to Katy Perry who even when she doesn’t have an album and doesn’t really do much in terms of perfumes or fashion or anything really, still manages to make the Forbes list every year. Now Dark Horse is a great song and Roar is that anthem people adopt when they’re going “Yes We Can” and not really believing it. However in terms of her success versus her craft, there seems to be some sort of disconnect.
In order to really understand what I’m saying you have to look at comparisons. Shake it Off is basically fluff and bubble gum and skipping about in the sunshine I guess. By next week I’ll not be able to recall the tune and she’ll have another album and those people who bought this one will have broken it in half and moved on to the next one. Now let’s examine a song like Flawless by Beyonce. You hear it the first time and it’s like, you’re not too sure if you like it or not. You watch the visual representation and suddenly you can not only relate but singing along makes you feel like…well, Jada Pinkett Smith (sorry Bey but she’s fabulous and flawless). It’s not only a song you can dance to, feel uplifted by with a very special message but it’s also a magnificent composition and music for the ages. It’s a quintuple threat. But when it comes to nominations for Song of the Year, Shake it Off is on the list, Flawless is not. What the fuck?
To look at another example; we have Ghost Stories, that phenomenal album by Coldplay. The music, the composition, the originality the sheer magnificence that is Ghost Stories. Their sales were good, but nothing comparable to Taylor’s numbers. And again, no nomination for Song of the Year even though absolutely any song on that album could qualify on artistic merit alone.
What is the mystery or the secret behind the success of Taylor and Katy and their underwhelming music? I fear that what it comes down to is that they are ‘wholesome’ American white females of a certain age. That market niche composed of mothers looking for a nice white celebrity role models for their tweens to latch on to before the evil influence of Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus takes over their lives is super attracted to these two singers. Their success hinges on the lack of competition in their niche group. It’s not about good music or whatever. It’s simply being the right colour and having the right image. Congratulations to them I guess – that’s what life’s about; playing to your strengths.