Taylor Swift – Paradigm Change (Taylor’s Version) – An Xperience Essay

Written by on January 5, 2024

It is easy to hate on Taylor Swift.   She is everywhere and she sucks the oxygen out of every room when she shows up.  That being said, and I am naturally a contrary type, I have to defend Ms. Swift and tip my hat to her.

While Ms. Swift’s music is not really my cup of mead I am intrigued.  Taking a look at her career from the angle of a sociological point of view has opened my eyes to the fact that she may very well be bigger than The Beatles.

Taylor started out as a typical country artist with some potential but she almost immediately began to venture into the world of pop.  Her songs are well crafted and catchy.  She understands and interacts with her audience in ways no other artist ever has.  She is a phenomenon we have never experienced before.

Swifties (a name Taylor’s fans have coined for themselves) are largely female, mostly Millennial and Gen Z, and they are LEGION.   And for the first time in the history of pop music these female fans have another woman as an idol.  Gone are the days of screaming teenage girls crying over Elvis or The Beatles.   Gone are the days of teen idols on the cover of pulp magazines being hailed as the latest heart throb.  Swift has turned that upside down.  Gone is the worship of some cute faced nominally talented male.  These young people are being empowered by a woman who speaks to them in and on a level they not only relate to but understand.  So sorry boy bands- you’re out.   Swift has completely decimated the age old practice of reaching female fans through their genitals and replaced it with relatability and, on some level, sisterhood.   No other female artist has achieved this.  I dare you to prove me wrong.

Recently, in conversation, with a friend who is of the boomer generation things got heated.  He was put out by my defense of Swift and my admiration of her success.  I, of course, poked the bear by skewering his childhood by saying she was bigger than John, Paul, George and Richard.  His face turned a lovely crimson and he began to shake.  I had committed blasphemy and this true believer was not going to stand for it.   “None of her songs will be around in 30 years, there is nothing there!” “The Beatles wrote for an entire generation!”   GOTCHA!, I thought before responding.   Then he went on to say, ”She just writes pop. Pop never holds up long term.”    Quietly smiling, I replied, I agree just like “I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ will never last?”.   “It isn’t the same” was the response.   It isn’t the same and that is what makes it so interesting.  Swift writes her own songs, produces her own albums and manages her brand with a deftness that has never been seen before.  I realize, I was picking a fight but I was trying to make a point that us old folks have had our run and our heroes are being replaced.  We can sit back and complain, just like our parent’s did about our music, or you can look at what Swift has accomplished and be impressed.  She is the voice of a new generation and for her fans she is it.

Aretha, Janice, Joan Jett, Joni Mitchell are all giants in the musical lexicon but I challenge you to prove to me that their impact is/was as big.  They were women playing in a man’s game and they broke barriers, but they have never reached this pinnacle. They had large mixed audiences but still it was the male audience that drive their careers.  Swift is obviously standing on their shoulders but with that boost she has created a whole new paradigm for female performers and fans.  She has made the next 20 years hers by giving young women a voice!   Some say she is vapid and immature.  Maybe, on the surface, but her lyrics prove otherwise.  “Shake It Off” and “Bad Blood” are now lyrical genius but not every song an artist writes need to be.  Check out the Red album or Folklore by Ms. Swift read the lyrics and then let’s talk.  These records are not “Blonde on Blonde” but honestly, they are good.   See for yourself.

Let’s address the personal attacks about various lovers etc.   People have messy relationships and people have sex and people who are musicians sing about it. The slut shaming is hilarious and hypocritical.  Taylor does write a lot of songs about her love life and at times, it seems, that is all she writes about, but she is hardly alone.  Ahem, Stevie Nicks? “ Go Your Own way”?   Let’s face it Stevie slept her way through most of her band and management team.  Nobody seems to care about that.  George Harrison and Eric Clapton practically share a wife.  “Layla” a great song but…  Joni Mitchell and the Go Go’s devoured men during their careers.  Let’s get real people, nobody is a saint and some of heroes are straight out libertines.  And by the way, she hasn’t destroyed football with her latest flame.  The NFL should thank her for boosting their sagging ratings.  Swifties vote with their wallets check out Travis’ merch sales and get back to me.

The economics of Taylor’s last and current tour are undeniable.  Not only for her but for the cities her tour stops in.  Think about all the local businesses that have benefited from her coming to town.  After the last few years this has to be a godsend.

People are all upset over Time magazine naming Swift “Person of The Year” a dubious honor at best.  Checkout some of the past winners.  Jaw dropping to say the least.  I once again ask you, who else could they have picked.   Really, who?

Taylor Swift is only 34, her fans are mostly young.  She reaches them through social media and operates on a level they find intimate.   She is going to be around for a LOOOONG time and we old farts better get used it.   The game has changed. It is exciting and intriguing.  Old gods die and new ones arise, Paradigms change and this one is Taylor’s Version.

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