Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Taylor and Ryan Adams

There's been a bunch of articles in the wake of Ryan Adam's cover album of Taylor Swift's 1989 about male indie artists and female pop artists and sexism and how we take mopey music more seriously. The Mary Sue sums it up and adds their own perspective. 

Let me say a few things.

#1. Taylor Swift is a good songwriter. I'm not a fan of her production, I think her lyrics and her poor little girl next door schtick aren't my bag, but I don't think she's a crappy songwriter. I think most of the critical establishment, even those who dislike her music, will give her that.
#2. Fuck sad sack male indie rockers. I listened to ten seconds of the Ryan Adams album. It's some boring shit. Fuck Travis covering "Baby One More Time." Fuck white folk singers covering gangster rap songs. Fuck it all to hell.
#3. Pop music is often fluffy, mass-produced shite. Sometimes it is appealing mass-produced shite, in the same way that I'll get a fast food soda when I'm in the mood. Especially if they have that machine that let's you make all sorts of crazy coke zero combinations. I'm all about it. Doesn't mean it's good for you or that there aren't better things to put in your body tho.
#4. Fuck critics. Taylor may not get critical acclaim (spoiler: she gets critical acclaim), but she also sells gajillions of albums, has billions of views for her videos, and millions of fans. If the mean old critics are mad at her for not sounding like the National, she can console herself in her mountains and mountains of money. Other spoiler alert: Middle aged men and millennial hipsters are not Taylor's target demo. If they don't find her album as pleasing as Max Richter's 8-hour symphony, whatever.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

What's wrong with pop music production

I love "Shake It Off." I think it is catchy, fun, and the lyrics are lightly empowering. I'm an unironic fan. The only problem: I don't really like Taylor Swift's version. It's almost an amazing song, but the pop production fucks it all up. It's a poster child for all that is wrong with pop music these days.

#1. Robo-vocals. Swift's voice has the metallic twinge of auto-tune. This is standard pop production - singer can't sing? Who cares, we'll fix it in post-production! The problem is it creates an uncanny valley effect where it is oddly inhuman. It lacks the warmth of an actual, unadulterated voice. It's a little like how women will get implants and plastic surgery to look like some idealized version of femininity, when in fact they just end up looking like someone who has had plastic surgery.

#2. Too much is never enough. What sustains the song in the beginning is its relative simplicity. It's mostly a beat with robo-Taylor singing over it. But then they gotta add all sorts of shit to it - can we get some high notes? What about a rap in the middle?

#3. It's too perfect. This relates to #1, but it sounds too clean, too perfect. Real life isn't like that. Real life has pimples and imperfections and cracks. And these are good things. This is like a supermarket apple, waxed to an artificial shine until it is flavorless.

Compare it to the Screaming Female's cover:

Like all things mass-produced, the Taylor Swift version loses a lot of its heart and soul in the over-production. It's like a Chef Boyardee of music. AKA not my thing.

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