10 Days of Taylor: Why Taylor Swift should go back to country
(Welcome to 10 Days of Taylor, our epic countdown to the epic finale of the most epic pop tour of all time: Taylor Swift’s 1989 Tour, stopping Halloween Night at Raymond James Stadium. For all of our Taylor Swift coverage, click here.)
“I think I should take some time off,” Taylor Swift said in a recent interview. “People might need a break from me.”
Cool. Great. Neat. I don’t know about you, but I am very ready for Tay Tay to take a break. It’s time for someone else to claim the pop throne for a bit. It’s time for another celebrity to constantly assault my social media feeds. It’s time to stop being personally victimized by Taylor Swift.
Our relationship wasn’t always like this. Up until this time last year, my feelings on Taylor had been pretty stable. And then Taylor released 1989, and it’s all my friends were talking about. I’d been listening to Taylor for years, and now every #basic girl was a superfan. Grumble.
Before 1989, Taylor rocked the country music world like no artist had in a long time. As a curly-headed teen, she was named Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music (ACM) and the Country Music Association (CMA) a handful of times. The Grammys gave her multiple country awards. In a genre dominated by the boys (Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney and Blake Shelton), she became a household name and country music gathered many more fans. And I, shamefully, was one of them.
I grew up not allowed to listen to country music. My parents wanted to raise me with a good mix of alternative and classic rock. They weren’t country fans, so neither was I. I played a copy of Shania Twain’s Come On Over, but the side-eyes from my parents became too intense.
My high school and college years were spent finding the most obscure bands I could. I Napster’d and KaZaa’d, killing a few computers in the process. I was as pretentious as they came. I thought of myself as a hipster, even before that was a thing. But deep down, I loved country music. Loved it.
Taylor made it okay to like country music. She was the popular girl who made fetch happen. Her lyrics were relatable, authentic and a mature voice for adolescent feelings. Yeah, she was mostly singing about waiting for boys to call. But there was something in her lyrics that gave a voice to the vulnerable, to the unnoticed, to the real girls.
In her 2006 debut single Tim McGraw, she sings: “He said the way my blue eyes shined / put those Georgia stars to shame that night / I said, “That’s a lie” / Just a boy in a Chevy truck / That had a tendency of gettin’ stuck / On backroads at night / And I was right there beside him all summer long / And then the time we woke up to find that summer gone.” This tender track perfectly describes young love and loss. She writes about specific memories from her own high school years, and yet we can all connect with her sweet voice.
But with each new album, the songs had less twang, and more pop. She was no longer waiting for the boys because they were never, ever getting back together. Taylor was trying too hard to mature with some edge. Yeah, her new sound was catchy, but the originality and authenticity had disappeared, and she just seemed a little bratty.
We didn’t need more pop artists. And why abandon the genre that opened the door for her? Country music is the perfect place to mature your sound and image.
But from what I can tell, 20-something Taylor doesn’t want to grow up. She wants to hang out with her squad and show off her rich lifestyle on Instagram. She’s the epitome of millennial DGAF and seems happy.
Meanwhile, country queen bee Carrie Underwood is having babies, besties Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe are taking fabulous low-key vacations together and Kacey Musgraves is country’s new princess.
So as I come to terms with a country music world without Taylor, I’ve found so many country women I love. This year I’ve been to concerts by Twain, Musgraves and Lady Antebellum. My bucket list includes Lambert, Monroe and Holly Williams. So I’ve made a playlist below that includes some of the greats and the newbies. I’m really excited for Mickey Guyton, who toured with Paisley this summer.
If Taylor ever wants to come back to country music, I’d welcome her with open arms, forever and always. This hater won’t always hate.
-- Brittany Volk