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On the Taylor Swift defensive


Taylor Swift's Grammy appearance continues to provoke debate, this time with her label manager chiming in to defend the vocal talents of the young star. "Maybe she's not the best technical singer, but she's probably the best emotional singer," Big Machine head Scott Borchetta told the Tennessean late Wednesday night.

Pop & Hiss was especially critical of Swift's duet with Stevie Nicks, noting in our live blog that pairing Swift's good-natured charm with the distinct Nicks wasn't the best showcase for the young star. Times critic Ann Powers went further, writing that "Swift gave a strikingly bad vocal performance at Staples Center on Sunday, sounding tinny and rhythmically flat-footed."

The Tennessean asked Borchetta to respond to such criticisms. He told the paper, "The biggest message is (the critics) are not getting it. Because the facts say she is the undisputed best communicator that we've got. When she says something, when she sings something, when she feels something, it affects more people than anybody else." 

Borchetta's Taylor-as-punk-rock defense would hold a little more weight if she didn't sound relatively perfect on record. Yet anyone who was surprised hasn't been paying attention. In hindsight, Swift's Grammy appearance wasn't all that different from all her other live television performances, as the video below should prove.

Yet when Grammy voters gave her the gift of album of the year, Swift was no longer just a genial country-pop star with a penchant for crafting arena hooks. Overnight, the star now represents the highest class of the industry.

Swift has torn down the boys club that has been mainstream country the last few years, and become the genre's biggest female star since Shania Twain, if not the biggest female pop star in the universe. At such a young age, and with only two albums of teenage tales of heartbreak under her belt, Swift may now have the misfortune of having to defend the trophy, and the artistry it supposedly represents.

-- Todd Martens. 

Read the Tennessean: Taylor Swift's label chief responds to Grammy criticism

Photo: Taylor Swift and  Stevie Nicks. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (80)

The fact that illiterates like "angelia " like her music says it all.

I would like to know if any one of the people saying how bad her perfomrance was, have actually taken the time to go to one of her shows? I've been to one, August 29th, during the first leg of the Fearless tour... it was AMAZING. She can sing, trust me, if you people would take the time to go to one of her concerts and watch, then maybe you would know it too. I'm sick of people constantly having something to say about her singing live. It's ridiculous. She sold almost 5 million albums because she CAN sing. She doesn't "fake" it on her cds. It's not something that has to be faked, because it's already there. Go to a concert and then let the world know what you think, BUT good luck actually getting tickets because her shows sell out in minutes... why you ask? Because people KNOW she can sing and go watch her. She's 20 years old and she's living her dream, why isn't that ever enough for people? Bash on someone who is your own age.

I love you Taylor! Can't wait to see you again on March 19th!

Honestly, if she was an unknown, and had walked in front of the american idol judges, do you really think they would have liked her? I think not

I'm sorry, but Taylor Swift has to be THE most over-rated American Idol alumni that's made a fortune milking the teenage, consumer-driven, bubblegum pop music market...

Not to say that she's completely talentless- because that wouldn't be entirely fair either.

But, clearly Taylor's level of musicianship, singing, songwriting, and performing skills come nowhere close to the realm of most of the veteran artists she shared the stage with for the Grammy's. And, it's actually quite sad how the Grammy's have turned into this commercialized, popularity contest...

There are countless musicians far more talented and far more deserving of the Academy's recognition than Swift and her ankle-deep, sugar-coated, teenage pop sap.

So, so sad...

"highest class of the industry"? You must be kidding. Todd, get a clue. Ever heard of the Dixie Chicks? Seriously bad article.

Taylor Swift is cute as button, but she can't sing. But this doesn't matter she is very marketable and will make the record company money.

I do like Taylor, but I do feel she has a long way to go. Shania Twain has a stronger voice that Taylor Swift. Shania is such a pretty lady that sometimes people say, "she can't sing."

Had to change the TV as Taylor and Stevie performed. Horrid noise, really awful. She is another plastic mass produced product of the industry based on her youth and looks. All this wholesomeness makes me want to puke, so boring. I'm sure she will continue to fascinate America.

She is not genuine. She looks so fake. She can't sing. She tweaks. She's just teen-pop.

Can America get more conservative and brainless at the same time?

The pairing of Swift and Nicks was a mess and Taylor would never win American Idol. That said, who cares? When did the only viable measure of artistry become a singing contest? Has Simon Cowell -- the man who said he "can't stand Bob Dylan"-- really become the voice of who we should listen to?

There have been pure "studio bands" who almost never performed live, they just churned out great records, and nobody got in their face when records like "Boston" and "Aja" won awards. Even the Beatles stopped performing live -- did that lessen anyone's respect for them and albums like "Sgt. Pepper" and "Abby Road"? Real musical creativity is about the compositions and the way they touch the hearts and souls of the listeners -- Scott B. is absolutely correct. What artist has given us a better debut and follow-up than Taylor?

OH shocking news.

A country singer that doesn't have good vocals. Next your going to tell me a bear doesn't poop in the woods.

As with most country fans, it isn't about the music, but about the person. No one isn't saying she isn't a good person, just not a singer.

It is all about the package, as American Idol has proven over and over. With the right money and promotion, almost anyone can have a career. Examples, Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, 98 Degrees, Jonas Brothers, New Kids on the Block, Milli Valini, I could go on forever. Most country music and Pop music appeals to an image, not the music. Again, shocking news.

The duet WAS pretty bad, but even Stevie Nicks couldn't belt that song out like she used to.

People complaining about Taylor Swift are coming from the American idol perspective where singers use amazing pipes to project perfectly pitched voices singing words they usually don't even understand, let alone are capable of writing. I've never heard anyone talk about how great Bob Dylan's voice is. I doubt Taylor Swift is the next Bob Dylan, but I think she does bring to the table an ability to speak to her audience that transcends the strict evaluation of her vocal abilities.

anyone who doesn't think she lip-sinchs need only freeze the frame at 50..Thje shame is if she didn't attempt to sing over it she would sound good.
studio musician same as ashley simpson..only prettier

I meant to say that Shania Twain has a stronger voice than Taylor Swift. Shania does have great singing talent otherwise she wouldn't be one of the best selling artists ever. Maybe Taylor will get better when it come performing on TV later on. I think a lot people are just being to hard on Taylor. Like it or not, Taylor Swift had the best selling album of 2009 in the US.

I sit here and cringe as I read this sentence in the last paragraph, "the genre's biggest female star since Shania Twain, if not the biggest female pop star in the universe". NO...NO...NO....I'd love to have someone as talented with hits of songs they wrote themselves, like like Shania Twain & Stevie Nicks! Taylor Swift does not come close to these super talented artists.

Taylor Swift is okay for a tweeny booper, with her self-proclaimed tweeny booper songs. I'm in a state of trauma as to how she won. I like Taylor Swift as a person, just not as a sensational artist.

Where's DUFFY? I love Duffy....Mercy!

Taylor Smith is Milli Vanilli for the 2010 generation.

She's not even "country", she's just disco with a pair of cowboy boots on.

... And the grammies aren't really an award show, they're more like a two hour long commercial for the latest crop of mannequins that the corporate music machine wants to pass off as "artists."

WOW. The biggest female pop star in the universe? Mariah Carrey, Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain, Beyonce, Celine Dion, Miley Cyrus, Madonna, Britney Spears; ever hear of those female pop stars because they sold a few records too. I'm sure she's a sweet, young girl who everyone loves, but don't try to distort reality.

P.S.: Did you notice Taylor Swift is lip syncing at the CMA Awards and not to well? It was an out of tune recording and she was out of sync with it.

Well I feel 50/50 about this whole hoopla of Taylor Swift...I can say to you As a professional musician myself that not everyone is a Mariah Carey or Christina Aquilera...But I have heard Taylor on the TV and I have been to her live concerts...I have heard several performances not exactly in tune on TV from Taylor...but in concert...she sounded great...I think poeple miss the point on these award shows...These shows are not perfect performing areas...They are trying to cram as many stars as they can into a 3 hour segment...Stars presenting, stage backgrounds moving, rush to get on stage...sometimes even more than one stage is used...while it is true that there are rehearsals... a rooms sound changes from being empty to filled...The Staples Center is a huge venue...I have heard other stars including major acts such as George Strait, Rodney Atkins, Leann Rimes and Rascal Flatts, Kelly Clarkson, and many other artists perform flat...Alot of this problem IS because and artist cannot hear... They have monitors on stage and they may not be positioned right or not loud enough or worse they are using ear bud monitors...(those are the hearing aid looking things in an artists ear).
If you cannot hear on stage its for sure anyone can be thrown off key...
While Taylor has become a huge star in a short few years she is still very green and new to the business...Many of todays artists do not sing extremely well...It has become a circus with American Idol...for singers to push the limit with a Climatic performance...
Singers have also been made to sound great in the studio...do to pitch correction software....Everyone is only human...not every show will be the best performance.
But to writers of this article at least get all the facts straight... We do not know the behind the scene issues she may have been having on stage...we only know what we hear up front...it is known that Taylor Swift is not a steller singer vocally...but a song writer who can "when she performs live" connect to her audience and make them feel good with the heartfelt songs that she has written.

I'm sure Ms. Swift is a wonderful person and probably doesn't deserve the barrage of negativity directed toward her now that she's a Grammy winner. Although I must admit, her talents are marginal at best.

But as a [long-retired] musician myself, it makes me very sad remembering the phenomenal and immensely talented musicians, songwriters, and singers I encountered during my "gigging" years -- knowing that they never achieved this type of recognition, fame or fortune.

Mark Conlin,
You are an idiot!!! First of all, Stevie Nicks is a rock icon. How dare you refer to her as "over the hill". If that were the case, then Taylor Swift is UNDER the hill, okay? I mean, I like Taylor Swift. But you don't have to put down Stevie to build up a 20 year-old who is still cutting her teeth in the music industry, and so evidently. Stevie Nicks is an inspiration to many artists and her songs have been used numerously in pop and hip-hop and country music, either as snippets in hip-hop beats or remakes, such as the Dixie Chicks in Landslide. She is also a very well-respected former member of a fantabulous group, Fleetwood Mac. Her albums are still playing to this very day and selling well. Let's see how Ms. Swift's are even doing in five years. Second of all, yes, Taylor did a fair job up there with her guitar and no tricks or choreography, as you mentioned. Okay. But again, you don't need to diss the others because they ventured out and were more dynamic and creative in their presentations. They're called ENTERTAINERS, dummy. Get a clue and grow up and read your modern music history books so that you will appreciate genuine talent that is classic and well-preserved and honored. The crowd LOVED Stevie. Eat your heart out!!!!! What are, you like 14??? Oh, okay, everybody's old when you're that age. You're forgiven.

After watching a clip on YouTube of Taylor performing at her concert, I understand why all of her devoted followers think she can sing. The audience sings so loud that they basically drown out Taylor's voice, so her singing doesn't really matter.

I will give her credit for her songwriting connecting with the young girls, but she does not sing well. All you have to do is YouTube her many off-key performances on awards shows.

Also Scott Borchetta is doing her no favors by dissing other singers in his defense of Taylor.

Why is anyone suprised by this? It should be common knowlage by now that record companies over produce the artist that they want to sell. Everybody fell for it again. Who cares if she sounded awaful at the Grammys? She is still marketable and will continue to record platnium records. If you don't like it don't buy her albums. If you like her albums don't see her live. It's that easy. The Grammys are a joke anyways.

Say what you want about her celebrity - the facts are in the telecast. She would not have made it through through first round of American Idol. She has talent as a writer; she is beautiful and a great personality and role model. She is 17!

For all you people that say Taylor can't sing, can you say two words? GRAMMY AWARD. I think she won album of the year. You must be right. She can't sing.

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