What’s wrong with Taylor Swift? Our all-American tween-country star drops her first #1 single and her fans seem to hate it (one review: “If Taylor Swift wins country music awards this year it will be the biggest insult to country music!”). But why? After all, the undeniably fun video (which powered the song’s meteoric rise from #72 to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in one week (!)) has got the requisite pajama dancing and scream-along chorus. Have a look:
Maybe these haters are just too young to savor the song for what it is–a trip down memory lane. First, we’re in 1999. The song kicks off with the twangy arpeggiated guitar that seems to be lifted out of TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’. Swift’s familiar low-register, three-toned patter takes us into the verse. But is that really her voice? Her lyrics and delivery recall the condescending self-referential chatter of Ke$ha’s ‘Your Love is My Drug.’Next, we’re
treated to some of Katy Perry’s ubiquitous yodels before Avril Lavigne’s guitar gets us into the chorus. Here, finally, is some classic T-Swift belt. But the chorus is so 2004. Jumping joyfully to celebrate a break-up? ‘Since U Been Gone,’ anyone? Even the percussion has an identity crisis. Her keytar-bearing furry animals drop a classic Hank Williams country backbeat over the House-music four-on-the-floor. It’s just strange.
But maybe strange isn’t bad. Swift’s cooked up a creole stew, rich with the gifts (some tastier than others) of decades of pop-music. She brings together beats from Hank Williams’s Alabama and Chicago’s House music. Her guitars rip off both TLC and Avril. Her voice could be Katy Perry’s or Ke$ha’s. And she joins the lineage of the great contemporary female break-up singers: TLC, Beyonce, and Clarkson.What happened to the good ole’ Eastern PA country girl bemoaning her bleacher-sitting, boyfriend-less fate? She seems like she’ll never ever be called all-American again. Or maybe not. Maybe Swift’s finally becoming truly all-American. After all, what’s more American than making your music a mixing pot of everything that came before?
Check out Ms. Swift’s long-anticipated performance at the MTV Video Music Awards tonight. She’s at least more American than One Direction.