So I had another dream where I'm BFFs with Taylor Swift again last night. This is the third time that I can remember. My friend Meg says she's had the same dream multiple times. I have not had that dream about any other celeb. One time I did dream I kissed Sean Connery and another time I dreamed Reese Witherspoon and Julia Roberts came to one of my classes, but I'm getting off track...
WHAT IS IT ABOUT TAYLOR SWIFT!?
I teach a pop/rock vocal styles class at Belmont University. In case you've never heard of Belmont University, it has built its reputation on its commercial music program and is one of the best in the nation. Some of its more noteworthy alumni are Brad Paisley, Josh Turner [a former student of mine], Lee Ann Womack, Trisha Yearwood, Melinda Doolittle [American Idol], Steven Curtis Chapman, Chris Young [former student] and many more people who showed up on a list when I searched, who I had no idea were considered famous because they're just people I know and run into from time to time. But hey! That's awesome that they're famous!
Anyway, my point is, when someone ends up in my pop/rock vocal styles class, that means that they are a commercial [not classical] vocal PERFORMANCE emphasis and they are about to graduate. Therefore, based on the demographic of my class, one might deduce that these could be some of the most gifted vocalists in a college commercial music program. That's a pretty safe and easy assumption.
When the name "Taylor Swift" comes up in that class, invariably eyes roll and the oft spoken outburst "she can't sing!" rings through the air. So what is it about Taylor Swift? Isn't she a "singer"? Why is she so famous if she "can't sing"?
How is she competing against such monster voices like Jesse J and Kelly Clarkson and Pink and a huge long list of other super talented singers who have had far less airplay and fewer hits?
It's my theory that if she COULD sing really really well, Taylor Swift would NOT BE AS APPEALING.
What? That's stupid, right? Read on and I'll explain...
When the T-Swift bashing begins in my class, this is the perfect segue for me to share my "good enough" philosophy which goes something like this... In order to be successful or even famous, a person doesn't need to be THE BEST at what they do. They need to be "good enough" at what they do and appealing in several other ways. I've personally known musicians who I've not considered to be amazingly great at their instruments get gigs playing for current Top 40 artists on international headliner tours. Why do they get these gigs if they're not one of the best of the best players? Because they have the right look, they're a pleasant person to tour the world with, they have the physical constitution that can tolerate very odd sleeping and eating patterns in all types of environments, they might be a great back ground vocalist, they want their career badly enough to persist persist persist, and they play their instrument "good enough".
Taylor Swift is a PERFECT example of "good enough". Her image is a beacon of wholesomeness in contrast to the twerking "other" personalities on TV, she's feminine, slender, fashionable, and she seems like someone you could be friends with. She doesn't use her sexuality in a way that is off putting to the ladies, and yet she's still an attractive young woman. Parents want their daughters to turn out like her, they want their sons to bring home girls like her, girls want to be best friends with her, and guys want to marry her. And on top of all that, she SEEMS like you might actually be able to be friends with her. She seems more accessible than most people on the radio. In fact, try to think of one other current artist who seems MORE accessible than T-Swift. [Of course, she DOES have her share of h8ters, but in the words of Miranda, "haters back off."]
And that's just her image we've been talking about. Her song lyrics are so relatable, I challenge you to find one heterosexual female high school student who doesn't resonate with at least 6 of her songs and one heterosexual male high school student who doesn't feel like the star of at least 6 of her songs.
And don't even get me started on the catchy melodies and ear worm vocal hooks.
But... can she sing?
Well... yes. Does she sing as well as most of the other people on the radio? That's a debate that won't ever be settled.
But here's the thing. Imagine that everything about Taylor Swift was exactly the same as it is right now, except she can outsing Jesse J. Go ahead, imagine it.
Does she seem as accessible?
Does she still seem like someone you might actually know?
See, I don't think she does. I think if she outsang Jesse J or Whitney [in the 80's] or Mariah [in the 90's] she would suddenly feel untouchable and all of her "someone you could actually be friends with" appeal would be completely lost. And that's her super power, isn't it?
So, it is my personal opinion that it is exactly Taylor Swifts debatable vocal skills that seal the deal on her being one of the top selling female vocalists in her generation. Because without that, her whole "we could be best friends" super power would be rendered inactive. But as things stand, when I close my eyes at night, she's my BFF, people.
I wonder if I should try to send her a message on Instagram. I bet she'd respond. At least I feel like she might...
Here's a fun video of Jesse J singing "Trouble" by our dream BF.