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05:51 AM on 11/03/12
#2
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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The Smackdown Has she jumped the shark?

By playing to everybody has she undermined her core country audience?

Don't trust the media. The media is there to be manipulated, it likes a story. Ergo, the election. If there's no horse race, there's no ratings. If everybody else is doing a story on Taylor Swift, then you should too, even if you're the "New York Times."

So the media crowns you superstar of the month, but does it last?

It's not like we haven't seen this movie before. With Peter Frampton. Credible rock artist triumphs amongst mainstream and promptly plays to his newfound fans and is abandoned by his core and is ultimately kicked to the curb by everybody. Of course it was not that simple, but "I'm In You" sold prodigiously upon release. And then went straight into the dumper. Is this what's gonna happen with Taylor Swift?

First there's the single, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," one of Max Martin and Shellback's best. They want to get paid, they're saving their A material for superstars. The only problem is country radio wouldn't play it, not for long. It wasn't made for them but Top Forty radio. But Top Forty radio is fickle, loyalty does not exist, if callout research is less than stellar, they drop your track, no matter who you are. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" may have set sales records, but it seems to have the shelf life of a cup of yogurt. Well, not that short, but in a world where some tracks fester in the public consciousness for the better part of a year, like Cee Lo's "Forget You," "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" seems more like a flare than a lasting light.

Then there's the Papa John's tie-in. It sold few copies of the album, but those on Taylor's team would talk about the publicity factor. As if the target audience, as if those who don't even care, were unaware. But it became an internet meme. People kept forwarding it to others, essentially saying "Can you believe this? Does the woman have no shame?" Of course it wasn't Taylor herself, but when you're the star, you bear the brunt of all criticism. Your handlers can find another act, you're saddled with being you.

And then there was last night's CMAs. Where not only did Taylor get shut out, going 0 for 3, they made jokes about her love life from the stage.

You can't manage affairs of the heart. If she fell in love with Conor Kennedy, so be it. But suddenly Taylor looked bad, robbing the cradle for a high school student after abusing John Mayer for taking advantage of her when she was young.

And suddenly Taylor Swift is no longer so young. And there's a distinct backlash going on. Now people are pointing at her, saying she's the problem as opposed to those she's writing songs about, attacking.

In other words, Taylor Swift was not satisfied with being the queen of country. She needed to be the queen of EVERYTHING! As if anyone's gonna remember she sold a million copies of "Red" last week. It's ultimately a meaningless statistic, only the music matters.

And too much of the music is not country. And now, more than ever since before the Beatles, pop music is seen as disposable. It's country music that lasts. It's country acts that last. Taylor Swift could have been the new coal miner's daughter, er, financial advisor's daughter, you get my point, she could have been Loretta Lynn. Dolly Parton even. Who never forgot her country fans but did sacrifice country airplay when she went mainstream, became a movie star. Then again, to equate Taylor Swift's talents with those of Dolly Parton is to believe Snooki can play outfield for the Mets. Then again, with the season they had!

The harder the sell, the bigger the turn-off. Remember when Jewel was the biggest star of the land, with new singles seemingly every week and incessant appearances on TV? Today Jewel can't get arrested, she's a trivia question, people have a bad taste in their mouth. Furthermore, once upon a time, Jewel was a folkie, before the label remixed her tracks to be hits. The label made its money, it's Jewel who's left holding the bag.

Just because someone says they'll promote you that does not mean you should tie in with them. Pearl Jam won't tie in with anybody, but they do great live business to this day, despite having almost no radio hits since "Ten." Pearl Jam knows if you don't stand for something, you stand for nothing. And saying you owe it all to your fans is not lip service, you have to make decisions with them in mind, not only put them first, but make sure they can get the good concert tickets, because when the mania's done, they're the only ones who'll remain.

I'm not saying Taylor Swift is going to fade into oblivion by Christmas. Hell, she might survive this overhype and continue to triumph. Then again, today albums of pop and country stars are single dependent. If Top Forty abandons her and country gives her the cold shoulder, "Red" could have a very short shelf life. Better slow and steady than to be a rocket ship that burns out. Better to be Mumford & Sons and sell for a year than be number one and then fall off the chart, or languish at the bottom.

It's tough being number one. Everybody's gunning for you. Instead of going on this premature victory lap, Taylor Swift should have employed the soft sell. Will the hard sell come back and bite her?

Expect ticket sales to be good.

Then again, the Dixie Chicks sold out arenas and today can barely get arrested. They pissed off their country audience.

Those Max Martin/Dr. Luke singles are trifles, usually with short shelf lives. Taylor Swift built her career by revealing her inner truth, by relating to the outcasts, the thinkers, everybody but the cheerleaders and football captains. But now she's playing the role of winner herself. She's subtly gone from the sidelines to homecoming queen. And that comes with a price. It's kind of like that old teen movie "Can't Buy Me Love," abandon your friends for a better crowd and when they dump you, your old buddies can't be found, you're nowhere.

Taylor Swift can work until she dies. She's had that many hits.

But somehow, with the overhype and move to the middle, she's torn away some of her underpinnings, she's become unmoored, we're no longer exactly sure who she is.

And if we don't know who you are, it's hard to stay in love with you.

The little girls may scream, ticket sales may be rampant. But if you don't see it my way, if you don't think her career now has more questions than answers, you're not thinking at all.
06:58 AM on 11/03/12
#3
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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I subscribe to Bob. His newsletter is great and don't always agree with him but he makes you definitely form an opinion one way or the other.
He makes my day worth it with his insight. Always. Regardless if I agree or not. Love being a subscriber. Going on five years now. And counting.
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