Now that we’re past the “get to know you” phase, let’s reminisce! I’m sure you want to know what the heck we could be nostalgic about when you only “met me” one post ago, right?
It’s not me we’re reminiscing. It’s pop music before the age of “let’s make every note and every word sound undeniably perfect.”
The latest creation unleashed with this mindset is, I sadly admit, Taylor Swift’s newest album, Speak Now. I say “sadly” because before anyone reading this assumes I’m just here to bash and insult Swift, I do in fact like her music and own her previous two releases. In an attempt to be objective though, I just can’t jump up and snatch this from the nearest music store.
Typically if I’ve been following along with an artist’s career, I pick up their material because then I can see how things have changed or progressed. Unfortunately, I’d say there’s more deterioration than progress going on here.
Swift broke onto the music scene at 16. She sounded young because she was. Her age combined with instrumental proficiency and compositional independence made her stand out, and rightly so, in an industry where there is a designated person for just about every step in the music making process. Add in the relatable factor and grateful attitude Swift constantly carries and it’s rather difficult to dislike her as a person at least.
The thing is, if you listen to Swift’s first single off her debut album, “Tim McGraw,” and then flip right to the latest single she released off of Speak Now, “Mean,” there are points in the latter song where the vocals are so mechanical it made me stop in my tracks and say “wait..what?” because the sound is so abrupt. Overall the character of her voice is definitely dissimilar between the two songs. In my opinion the newer song has her voice stripped of its natural power and personality.
Taylor Swift – Tim McGraw
Taylor Swift – Mean
Here’s where I see this becoming a problem with Speak Now. This debuted perception of Swift –her down-to earth attitude, her youth-experience-filled lyrics, her light and cheery vocals…to me it seems like the person in control of her latest mix down either decided or was told by a higher up, to keep the “original version of Swift” as alive as possible on the new record. While I hear an attempt to advance the life stages of her lyrics, (She’s writing about college and paying bills in the single “Mine” and wedding crashing in the title track. No more high school stories.) her voice has seems to have been forcefully frozen as its 16 year old self.
In my opinion this may be a strategy of someone at Big Machine Records to not mess with a working marketed formula. If Swift was so endearing at the start of her career and that same young singer has garnered almost every music affiliated award possible to date, it makes sense to a point that you keep as much of what made that person popular, intact for as long as possible. Target listeners will easily go with what they recognize and heuristically process their purchase. The disappointing irony is that Swift’s track record of devotion to fans and appreciation for fortune have associated her with a heavy layer of authenticity. To have that, only to then release an album that shows a loss of real vocals almost makes one wonder if Swift’s authentic reputation will be enough to stand up against less-than-authentic record production all for the sake of a possible business and profit influenced decision.