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In defense of Taylor Swift

We can only imagine what was going through Stevie Nicks’ mind during this performance.

Photos by Getty Images

We can only imagine what was going through Stevie Nicks’ mind during this performance.

It was bound to happen. It's the American Way. We love, love, love our singers, our athletes, our pseudo-celebs as they invade magazines and movie screens, as they dominate billboards and bus ads. We help 'em sell billions of records, win shiny awards, sign big fat endorsement deals. We ask these stars, these neo-gods, to shine bright day and night in our pop-culture-cluttered lives.

Until, that is, we don't.

Taylor Swift, meet backlash.

Backlash, Taylor Swift.

In January, at the Grammy Awards, the 20-year-old country singer — quickly becoming the bestselling female star of the 21st century — won album of the year for her sophomore effort, Fearless, which has spent more time at No. 1 on Billboard's Top 200 chart than any other album this decade. She became the youngest artist to win the award.

And yet, Swift's live duet with Stevie Nicks on Fleetwood Mac's Rhiannon was a caterwauled disaster, a mess of missed notes and ear-achy pitch problems. The headlines trumpeted her wins, but the buzz was lethal:

How did Taylor Swift win a Grammy if the girl can't sing?

As she embarks on a massive U.S. tour, which kicks off tonight at a very sold-out St. Pete Times Forum, Swift is just now encountering a new facet of her career: boobirds.

And yet, in the case of Swift, I think it's all happening a little too early. So herewith, a rousing defense of this poor lil' multimillionaire with prodigious talent and really pretty hair:

5 reasons it's too early to hate Taylor Swift

1. Her voice is thin, but at least it's hers. I'm almost as tired of hearing pop singers Auto-Tuned and digitally spiffed as I am hearing people complain about it. But the truth is that pop voices really aren't allowed to have character anymore. Yes, Swift doesn't have the strongest chops, but you know what? At least she's trying to express herself as naturally as possible. Besides, Auto-Tune is for sissies.

2. She has the best diary in the whole ninth grade. Kudos to Big Machine Records for letting Swift ride her true talent: songwriting. In this day and age of committee-penned pop songs — it took four people to write Beyonce's Single Ladies — Tay-Tay's tracks tend to begin and end with her. It'll be interesting to see if she can evolve as a songwriter, especially on her third album, due this fall.

3. She's the music biz's brightest hope for a comeback. Although she's very much a "new" pop star, she has allowed a beleaguered music industry — which saw sales plummet another 12 percent last year — to enjoy some throwback success. Swift is evidence that the problem with the marketplace is not a lack of interest in music but in the pap and pabulum being played.

4. She gives rock stardom a good name. I think it's entirely acceptable for little girls to want to grow up to be rock stars. However, it's not cool for kids — especially my kids — to want to be Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan. Swift, on the other hand, manages rock-star panache without the coke habit. My daughters can dream about being the next Taylor Swift all they want.

5. Her songs are really bleepin' catchy. You can bluster about how a Swift song has never earwormed its way into your melonhead, but you'd be lying. Superstars become superstars because at some point they succeed at staggering, exaggerated levels, over and over again. Swift is only two albums old, but she could already release a greatest-hits disc — and it would be good.

Taylor Swift

Tonight's show at 7 at the St. Pete Times Forum has been sold out for months. Too bad for you.

In defense of Taylor Swift 03/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 6:09pm]
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