Taylor Swift & Pop Music’s Sins

The biggest story in music this week is going to be the release of Taylor Swift’s new album, “1989”.

While I have never counted myself a fan of Taylor Swift’s music, I am not one of those people who has any sort of problem with her.  Her music has always been in the periphery of my life, and what I have heard has been pleasant.  She doesn’t make the kind of music I would seek out and absolutely need to listen to, but when it comes on, I don’t mind it.  I can see her appeal, and I can understand why she has become the megastar she is.

That being said, what I have heard in the run-up to “1989” leaves me confused.  I understand her desire to do something different, and I don’t for a second mind her going full-bore into the world of pop.  My problem is that by doing so, she has shown the fatal flaws in what it means to be pop music these days.

The first tracks that have come out from the album, “Shake It Off” and “Out Of The Woods” fall into the same category; rhythm heavy electronic music that drills and drills the hook into you.

Pop music today is no longer a medium for instruments and melodies.  Instead of having skilled session musicians playing the musical backdrop for a catchy melody, we have entered a phase where ideas have been stripped down so much that they barely exist.  I have issues with the electronic nature of pop music, and how the removal of a human player disconnects the music from our very humanity, but more than that, the focus on rhythm above all else is a decision I can’t get behind.

Rhythms are fine, and I appreciate a good one, but when a beat remains static throughout even a three minute song, it gets too repetitive for its own good.  Hearing it a few times is exciting, whereas hearing it fifty times in a row is not.  That is where pop music is.

More than simply repeating beats, the ideas of the songs follow suit.  In both of her new singles, Taylor repeats lines in the songs so often that they feel like the rough sketches you make before writing the final lyrics.  The fact that these songs have been released, and critically praised, is baffling to me.  A song should say something, and it should do so with more then three words.  Endlessly repeating a line is lazy songwriting, whether you’re Taylor Swift or Iron Maiden.  We should expect more from the music we listen to, but there I go again being old-fashioned.

By all means, I hope Taylor Swift finds all the success she’s looking for with her musical shift.  Taking an artistic chance is a courageous move.  I just wish there was more actual art involved.


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