November 22, 2014

Shake It Off!

Every one has heard it by now, but I'll still say it: "Shake it Off," the first single from Taylor Swift's recent album 1989 is awesome! I don't care how tired people are of this track (I also love Pharrell Williams "Happy" track though the rest of the world seems exhausted by it). The song is beautifully executed. What's more, the "Shake it Off" video proved that Swift is smarter than most of her critics. And it contains a message that I'd be pleased for most teenage girls–and Christian leaders–to take to heart. Swift knows what she's good at and she's not sweating what she's not good at. In fact, she can make light of it. She's not taking herself too seriously. She can be a blockbuster artist and a cookie-baking cat lady all at the same time... because that's who she is!

Yep, it's true. My tastes in music have lightened up a bit with age. If you follow me on Last.fm you'll notice this. These days, I listen to more Radiohead than Fugazi. My two older children are coming to the age where their tastes in music are further from my influence. They each had impeccable musical tastes at 6! But now their friends and interests are weighing on their preferences. In my daughter's case, she is a Taylor Swift fan. When Swift's songs began to be hummed around our house I would simply roll my eyes and sigh. I'm all about letting my kids learn how to consume media thoughtfully, helping them learn how to make their choices. So, I held my tongue for awhile. But to be honest, now I hum along.

Swift hasn't become a "guilty pleasure" for me so much as I've grown to respect her as an artist. Some will give her grief for her abandonment of her country music roots and this, quite frankly, is laughable. To somehow suggest that contemporary country music isn't anything less than pop music with an acoustic guitar is simply naive. It's like saying Blink-182 should go back to their punk rock roots. Punk rock has been pop music for quite some time. In regards to country or punk, genre is less and less definitive. Rather, their is an ethos of both subcultures that one either aligns with or doesn't and that defines whether or not you're country or punk. And, quite frankly, I agree with Drew Thomson from the post-hardcore group Single Mothers: Taylor Swift is punk rock!

To be authentically punk rock has more to do an ethic than musical style. And Swift's recent break with Spotify, while nothing like the financial ethics of say Fugazi, still speaks loudly. And, I'd add she is authentically country as well. Country has long been a subculture of musicians obsessed with the writing of music rather than the performance. Swift has learned how to be a great performer! But she has always written the majority of her well-crafted music–which is not something many top charting pop artists can say.

So, this is me "shaking it off." My wife dared me to document my impressions of Taylor Swift to see if I'd actually say this "out loud." There you have it. I respect Taylor Swift and think every leader should take a lesson from the "Shake it Off video... You might even call me [gasp] a fan.

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