Pop Genealogy: Taylor Swift

I hate that the following statement has become controversial, but I adore Taylor Swift. I really do. I can still vividly remember the first time I heard her. I was watching music videos on CMT, and a 30-minute special followed, kicking off with her music video for “Tim McGraw.” Ever since, I have affectionately referred to her as “My Queen”. I don’t care about the drama. I care about the fact that few things in life make me happy than singing along to Taylor Swift at uncomfortably loud volumes in the car. From her beginnings as a pop-country starlet at the ripe old age of 16, to her current status as a pop superstar, Taylor Swift will go down in history as a major influence for a new generation of country and pop artists. Country is still in her bones, (proven by the fact that a song she penned but gave to Little Big Town won Song of the Year at the 2017 CMAs) but specific country influences and trips are still evident even in her pop career.

Country influences

Shania Twain

“To me, Shania [is] one of those people who has that pure confidence and pure independence. I always loved watching her perform. I just never forgot what it’s like to be a fan, singing into a hairbrush in front of the TV watching a Shania Twain concert special,” Swift told Chrissie Dickinson with the Chicago Tribune while promoting her album Red. I swear I’ve said these exact words about Taylor Swift herself. They both own the stage gracefully and graciously.

The Dixie Chicks

The Dixie Chicks were another major influence for Swift. At a 2011 show in Newark, New Jersey, she told the crowd how “Cowboy Take Me Away” was the first song she ever learned on guitar. More than that, the two acts shares similarities that live on to this day in their tendencies to make a statement with their music. The Dixie Chicks released “Not Ready to Make Nice” in 2006, 3 years after their controversy in which they openly criticized President George W. Bush and the impending Iraq War. The group was met with incredible backlash, a ban on country radio and death threats. The song was a seething reaction to their backlash: “How in the world can the word that I said/Send somebody so over the edge/That they’d write me a letter/Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing/Or my life will be over?”

Brace yourself, because I’m about to dish out some Taylor Swift criticism, and that’s a rarity. Taylor Swift doesn’t shy away from making a statement in her songs. Most of her songs are melodic diary entries about which the public loves to speculate. However, where the Dixie Chicks make important political statements, Swift makes petty stabs at people who have wronged her. Lets take the 2nd verse from “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” from her recent 2017 album reputation: “It was so nice being friends again/There I was giving you a second chance/But you stabbed my back while shaking my hand/And therein lies the issue/Friends don’t try and trick you/Get you on the phone and mind-twist you/And so I took an axe to a mended fence.” That’s not throwing shade; it’s more like throwing a black hole directly at Kanye West after the controversy surrounding his song “Famous” and the equally famous phone call. But while it’s so petty, childish and hard to defend, it’s also so expertly crafted that I feel the severity of the burn.

Works Cited for this post can be found here.

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