Updated: Jun 17, 2019
"The old Taylor can't come to the phone right now.... Why? Oh ... Cause she's dead."
SPOILER: She's actually not dead and is alive, kicking and writing songs about some silly controversy as we speak.
It's the name that sends snakes everywhere hissing, males all over the world ducking for cover and women, who have been screwed over by a lover, reaching for the volume button.
The reigning queen of the relatable. The captain of the comeback ship. The boss of the bitchy ... okay you get the point. Love her or hate her you have to admit she has the whole industry down to a T and has been throwing out some massive 'bops' to the world along the way!
FULL DISCLOSURE - All the musicians and musical examples I use in this blog, including Miss Swift herself, are examples of music I adore and listen to everyday. So before anyone comes at me, I love the music! I am not speaking negatively of it and I am making a point not to mention music I don't like in this blog! I am not trying to bring anyone down, simply just opening a conversation! Ok? Ok.
(Oh my God I need to read "The Fault in Our Stars" again).
So it is no lie that Taylor Swift has been a huge inspiration of mine in both a positive and a negative way. From the moment I heard 'Love Story' I was in! I was buying the albums, learning about Taylor and her life on the Christmas Tree Farm and the back stories behind all the songs. She was it for me! I even called my infamous red guitar Taylor, in her honor. The first time I ever saw a Taylor Swift interview was when she was on 'Ellen'. Taylor was firmly in her 'Fearless' era. I played the guitar at the time but writing short stories was more to my liking ... which I was failing miserable at, may I add. She was talking about her inspirations when it came to song writing. She spoke of a situation where her friends had thrown a party and she wasn't invited. She confessed that it really hurt her feelings but to deal with this she wrote a song about it, very mundane in comparison to what she's writing now but how and ever.
From that moment, I saw songwriting could be used as a therapy. I could use my thoughts and feelings and create a product, so to speak, that could be shared with others to help them come to terms with their experience. Yes, the short stories could do the same but something just seemed to click when she was talking about the therapy of songwriting. This turned into a norm for me; if I was in a moment of happiness, I wrote it into a song and then I would continue to play it, to bring me back to that happy place. Same goes for other topics. I remember once I was totally enchanted (no Taylor pun intended - only real fans will know!) by a boy when I was in third year of secondary school. I wrote a song called 'Failed Tries'. So every time this particular gentleman would text and draw me back in (totally innocent may I say, he was never unkind) I pulled out the guitar and this was the song I would play to remind myself that this direction was not one to take. The same can be said even now, for example, I listen to 'Get Your Story Straight' (from the album) whenever I'm feeling weak and need a small confidence boost.
Writing 'December' (also going to be on the debut album in September) helped me to gather my thoughts on my own anxiety and worries and although it did not solve the problem I used it to explain to people how I felt, without actually having to say the words... for some reason it just was easier for me to sing some of these thoughts instead of saying them.
And please note that I am only talking about my songs that are in relation to the theme at the moment - I don't just write about relationships, contrary to popular belief, I also write about media stories and human rights events etc., for example my song 'Borders', inspired by my time singing for one of the refugee groups in the Hazel Hotel at Christmas of 2017, was the winner of the 2018 Tipperary International Song of Peace. This form of songwriting helps to educate me on certain topics too and that in itself is a really positive thing.
So in a sense, I will always be grateful for the Pennsylvanian native for teaching me this lesson, as a lot of young songwriters are.
We have to talk about the elephant in the room... Or snake, whatever tickles your fancy. The Tay Tay effect has taken the world by storm. Writing songs about the boy you were with, was the stuff that memes were made of. Interviews were, and still are, flooded with questions dominated by the relationship status of the cat loving songstress, which overrule the questions about the music itself! I'm all for writing songs about your experiences, whether they are good or bad, but, Taylor my dear, you took it all a step further by making the cutting comments calling Joe Jonas out on Ellen, shaming Harry Styles on the stage as you accept yet another award and pretty much igniting a flame on everyone you've had a controversy with in the secret messages you sneak into your music videos (now like I said, I'm a fan and I live for that craic).
Is she really bothered though?
No probably not.
Is anyone actually going to care about this blog?
Most definitively not!
Does Taylor know what she's doing?
You can bet your last cent she does!
But lets look at the ripple effect this has had on young female singer-songwriters in the world.
There has become a culture or naming and shaming our exs (lovers and friends) through our music and then following that, the outside world, naming and shaming the musicians for expressing themselves. This fear of backlash, in my own songwriting, has almost silenced me from talking about what my songs are about. I felt somewhat safer to say that the songs aren't about me but about a friend who confided in me or a situation I witnessed on the bus. Sometimes, this was the case but other times not so much. It is only now with a bit more experience, that I am able to talk about situations in a, hopefully, respectful yet honest way
because let me make one thing clear - being honest about songs is not always the most respectful,
as we sometimes see with the lady in question.
It seemed that the moment Taylor Swift made her career on love songs and break up songs, and promoting them as such, the world decided that this was not okay - EVEN THOUGH IT HAS BEEN HAPPENING SINCE MUSIC WAS CREATED!!!
Look as far back as Hector Berlioz (the music teacher in me is coming out now), his Symphonie Fantastique was all based around an ideé fixe ABOUT A WOMAN WHO DID NOT WANT HIM! And now we celebrate it in the music classroom and study it for those all important State Exams.
We look at the modern day Ed Sheeran, where is the similar backlash for him, since all he seems to write is songs about love?
Eminem wrote a song called "So Much Better" where the chorus says:
"My life would be so much better if you just drop dead"
I wonder what message he's trying to convey in that? Hmmmmm.... And yet, not an eyelid was bat - imagine the backlash Taylor would get if she sang that!
(okay I realize this is not the best example because this album is and will always be the greatest album of all time)
...was completely about her relationship with Jay Z and the speculation of his infidelity - which we still don't actually know happened or not and this album was celebrated! This continued onto Jay Z's album and then came to the conclusion of 'Everything is Love'. Again, no one knows if the cheating actually happened or not! But is it not worse to create a situation and make so much music about it when it isn't true? Because let me tell you I was invested in that album and when I found out it could be all fake, it didn't stop me from listening to the music because it was amazing and relatable and spoke to me but it really pissed me off that this could be a lie and that I BOUGHT INTO IT! At least I knew with Taylor the stories were true... in her head at least.
(Please BeyHive don't come for me I am one of you and I love Beyoncé with all my heart! I'm just asking!)
So why is it that being compared to Taylor Swift can be taken as a death sentence for the musical career of some people? Perhaps it is not the songs but the manner in which the musicians speak about it. Beyoncé let the music speak for herself and that's why there is such mystery around her music. Ed Sheeran never mentions names and is always really respectful and never bitchy in his lyrics, Eminem will never change and Berlioz ... well you should have been listening in your Leaving Cert Music class for that.
It's definitely a conversation we should start having. We need to teach our young musicians and in fact our young people in general that the behaviour that some musicians and celebrities display is not always right. It's not always okay to name and shame, to take part in the 'cancel culture' but it is okay to express your emotions through your talents in a respectful way!
The Tay Tay Effect has evoked three rules in my songwriting
Never name names.
Speak respectfully always.
Don't let anyone tell you what you are feeling is not right. If you want to write a song,a poem, a story, paint a picture, perform a dance, about your experience - do that. It is your experience!
So know if you'll excuse me I am going to listen to Tay Tay at full blast!
Stay Stunning Little Magpies x
Searching for Magpies, the debut album out on the 26th of September, 2019.