Yes, this is serious. No, I’m not a teenage girl. Also no, I’m not a “Swiftie”. I do, however, have a great deal of respect for the 28 year old mega-star who has been a constant on the radio waves for the last 12 years. Yes, it’s been 12 years. That, in itself, is insane. I would love to go through the list of artists who have come and gone with their one hit wonders or who hung around in the spotlight for a year or two, but then I’d take up pages and pages of nothing but that. Career longevity aside, let’s take a moment to look at this from my perspective.
You take a 16 year old girl, well, she was actually 14 when she arrived in Nashville, and you have her start exploring the music business via song writing. I don’t know how much you know about the behind the scenes of the music business, but it’s a harsh industry. It chews people up and spits them out on the regular. Garth Brooks went home within 24 hours of being in Nashville on his first attempt to get in to the music business. Chris Stapleton has been doing the grind since 2001, but most people found him because of his duet with Justin Timberlake a couple years ago. Ever hear of The Steeldrivers? If not, look them up, you’ll recognize the voice. Great talent goes unnoticed for a long time in some cases in this industry, too many the most talented never grace the ears of of the masses looking for good music.
The industry is difficult enough for men, it’s 5 times harder for women, and it’s even harder for a teenage girl who wants to sing love songs. Taylor went on to release her hit single “Tim McGraw” in June of 2006. It was her own song, not something that she covered from another artist. That moment, as soon as it hit the airwaves, is when the roller coaster begins. It’s not just her, it’s every artist out there. It must feel like you’re on top of the world when you hear people praising how good your song is, or how cute you are, or how complete strangers can relate to something you created. Then there’s the other side, the side that brings you down, the people screaming how bad you are, the people saying you can’t sing, talking about how unattractive you are, and making it clear you’re going to be a one hit wonder. I remember when Taylor got her first taste of fame and all the repulsive comments that came from adult males about her. It always made me wonder how close her mom was to taking Taylor back home to protect her little girl from the weirdos out there. But she didn’t, Taylor persevered, mom persevered, and that was step one to an amazing career so far.
This actually isn’t about her music. You can tell me how great her music is, you can tell me how terrible her music is, that doesn’t matter to me. This is about what she has done and why it matters. I feel that she is grossly undervalued as a celebrity. Actually, not just as a celebrity, as a female celebrity. People, especially mothers, have shifted their viewpoint on Taylor multiple times. They went from Taylor being a great role model for their daughters, to wondering if she still is because she has had “so many” boyfriends, to knowing she’s not a good role model because she “turned her back” on Country Music and made some sexy music videos. Sorry, Stepford Mom, you’re wrong. You’re wrong on all accounts. Taylor was, is, and providing nothing terribly scandalous happens, will be a good role model for girls for years to come. Let’s explore my reasoning for this.
Taylor starts off in the friendly confines of Country Music. Sure, it’s still the brutal music industry, but Country Music fans embrace artists like none other once they’re in the fold. She quickly established herself as a mainstay in the Country spotlight and people, especially younger girls, flocked to her like nothing we’ve seen in a very long time. Country Music was loving it because teenage girls have more influence than they’re given credit for, and Country desperately needed to tap in to a younger audience. Taylor single handedly built the bridge between mainstream Country Music and teenage girls. Country wasn’t all about rednecks, hicks, backwoods boys and girls, or farm kids anymore, it could be cute and fun, and people who weren’t Country fans were taking notice. She brought hundreds of thousands of girls from other genres in to the Country Music family.
After all that, including skipping out on some prominent awards shows for Country Music, she did something absolutely crazy. She switched to pop. Remember the backlash from her “Red” album? “That’s not Country!”. Yep, you’re 100% correct, it’s not. It wasn’t meant to be. She made it very clear that it wasn’t a Country album no matter how much Country stations still played songs from that album on the radio. Besides, is Country really that wholesome? Tim McGraw sings about having an abortion in one of his songs, there’s plenty of other songs from past and present where they sing about cheating, drinking, doing drugs, and an array of other wholesome things. It’s not the genre that makes the artist. She was changing. Changing genres, changing as an artist, and changing as a young woman. “Red” was her fourth album. She was only 22. She released 4 albums in 6 years even though she still couldn’t sing (public opinion, not mine) and wasn’t that pretty (also public opinion by some). The albums follow along beautifully with her growing up and the changes she’s going through.
Here’s why she’s a role model from my perspective. Now on her sixth album she has done everything in her career her way. She is doing what she wants to do when she wants to do it, and the precise way she wants to do it. She may sing about her relationships, but she doesn’t talk about her personal life in the media. At 14 she was signed to her label and that made her the youngest signed artist in the label’s history. She has 10 Grammy Awards, 1 Emmy, 21 Billboard Music Awards, and 12 CMAs. She’s sold over 40 million albums and has over 130 million single downloads. On top of that she’s appeared in Time’s 100 Most Influential People, twice, Forbes’ top-earning women in music for 4 straight years from 2011-2015, Forbes’ 100 most powerful women, and Forbes’ Celebrity 100 in 2016, making her the youngest woman on the list…and she was number 1. She’s also worth $230 million as of 2017. She fought back with a civil suit, and won, against someone who touched her inappropriately. She doesn’t have a sex tape that made her famous, nor did she need a GoFundMe page set up because she wasted over $50 million (yes, I’ll call out Kimye, too). She has blazed her own trail despite all the negative feedback from people who don’t appreciate her. She’s embraced the personalities of her past, but continues to morph in to an amazing woman while having the brightest spotlights in the world watching her every move. And we all go through personality changes. Hers are magnified because of who she is. She’s never had a significant breakdown where she’s passed out drunk on a sidewalk or chopping off all of her hair. She’s has never tried to deny who she is as a person. She’s quirky, she has relationships, she goes through lots of life changes, she writes about all of it in her songs. Songs that she wrote or co-wrote. All done her way. She’s only 28. Most of us didn’t even know what we wanted to do with our lives at 28. Tell me again. Why wouldn’t you want her as a role model for your daughter? Because of issues with Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry? Please, I bet if you spent enough time around either of those two you’d have issues with them as well.
So, I titled this Thank You, Taylor. I meant that. Thank you, Taylor, for always being you. For never wavering from your dream, the way you saw it, the way you wanted it. Thank you for not doing what you’re told to do as a female artist and for taking the risks you did. Thank you for embracing your fans the way you do and for not leaving them behind as you go on these life changing journeys. Thank you for standing up to other celebrities who want to tear you down and for ignoring those who are keyboard tough guys (and gals). Thank you for embracing the fact that you “can’t sing” and singing your heart out anyway. Thank you for persevering. Mostly, thank you for being fearless.
I always said if I ever happened to meet Taylor Swift I would thank her just like in the last paragraph. I don’t believe I’ll ever meet her, but even if she doesn’t ever hear a ‘thank you’ from me I’m sure she’ll be just fine. If I had a daughter who turned out to be half as successful as Taylor Swift by doing what she loved and doing it her way, I’d be a very proud dad. I’m sure my friends will have plenty to say to me about this post, but that’s alright. I can handle it. I’ll just use my AMI Music App to take over the jukebox and play Taylor Swift songs all night long in return for their comments.