I’m sorry, but I think I’m going to have to pull a Kanye here…
After the Grammys gave Taylor Swift the Album of the Year award for her second album Fearless last week, I’m starting to think Kanye West had a point back when he decided to crash on Taylor’s MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) acceptance speech.
It’s like he was saying “we all love you Taylor, but when it comes down to awards, they should be given to those who are really darn good.”
And the thing is, I love Taylor too. I think she’s got a knack for writing pleasant, uncomplicated, country-tinged pop songs that’s pretty refreshing, and it’s hard not to like her personality.
But giving her an Album of the Year Grammy, which is supposed to be the biggest prize in the music industry, is kind of like giving Barrack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize.
Honestly, I like the album. Taylor injects just enough of country music’s best qualities – simplicity, solid melodies and story-telling – into mainstream-friendly pop tunes with her unique songwriting abilities on Fearless. It’s really genuine, really sweet country-pop that could serve as the guilty pleasure of those who despise all things pop.
But if you asked me, it’s still a long way from living up to the standards of past winners, which includes masterpieces like Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life and Innervisions, Michael Jackson’s Thriller and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Like Obama, Taylor would probably someday produce work that can measure up to those lofty standards. She’s got time on her side, and the talent too. But in the here and now, Fearless, pleasant-listening as it is, does not qualify as a masterpiece.
And though people have been dragging the Grammys through the mud for some time now (even Britney Spears has a Grammy. ‘Nuff said), if you take a look at the past winners like Carole King’s Tapestry, U2’s Joshua Tree, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company and OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, you’d see that the Album of the Year category has managed to maintain a certain standard; which is why the award to Fearless came as a letdown to me.
The manner in which Taylor’s lack of vocal prowess was exposed during her performance at the award ceremony only exacerbates the problem, even though performance has technically nothing to do with Album of the Year awards as much as songwriting and production. Naturally though, people would think that if you’re going to give the award to someone, at least give it to someone who can deliver on stage as well as on records.
But “America’s sweetheart” was more like an American Idol reject during her duet with Fleetwood Mac vocalist Stevie Nicks. Taylor was painfully out of pitch and she oblivious of it too, happily strumming away at her guitar.
Team Taylor gets it all wrong
Scott Borchetta, the head of Taylor’s record label Big Machine Records jumped to her defence, saying: “This is not ‘American Idol.’ This is not a competition of getting up and seeing who can sing the highest note. This is about a true artist and writer and communicator.”
Kelly Clarkson’s comeback to this statement was golden: “We not only hit ‘high’ notes, but we generally hit the ‘right’ notes.”
Borchetta continued: “Maybe she’s not the best technical singer, but she’s probably the best emotional singer because everybody else who gets up there and is technically perfect, people don’t seem to want more of it. I think (the critics) are missing the whole voice of a generation that is happening right in front of them.
“This is what always happens and is the unfortunate part of the American dream, that we build these people up to watch the critics tear them down.”
Well in that case, we should just award Arsenal the Premier League trophy because their beautiful football “affects” people the most and brings them more joy; or let Manchester United win the league because they have the most fans.
It’s like an argument for fifteen-year-olds. There’s no denying that Taylor’s music and persona is Taylor-made for teenagers. Her awkward, geeky demeanour and fairy-tale princess looks has won her as many fans as her music, so it’s no surprise that Borchetta has gone for the underdog, us-against-the-big-bad-critics defence.
Taylor was probably better off without Borchetta going around blaming faulty ear-pieces, American Idol and the music industry for her bad performance.
In fact, Borchetta’s arguments simply imply that a) he doesn’t believe Taylor’s a good singer, b) his record label doesn’t mind compromising musical values such as technical excellence in order to cater to the market and c) her album does not measure up to the critics’ standards. And no, contrary to popular belief, the critics don’t hate all music. People just tend to notice scathing reviews and ignore positive ones.
If you asked me, I think Gaga should’ve won. The Fame was more exciting, sophisticated and ground-breaking. Gaga basically reinvented pop with her bold musical style and that for me should’ve bagged her the award. The Fame wouldn’t look as completely out of place amongst the past Album of the Year winners as Fearless. Even the Black Eyed Peas The E.N.D. would’ve been a better choice.
Ianyway, I know revenge from you Taylor fans will be swift. But before you compose your nasty comments, remember that I love Taylor too – it’s just that Gaga had one of the best albums of all time… One of the best albums of all time!! =P