I have to say, I did not anticipate this development at all … if it in fact is a development, which still remains to be seen. Taylor Swift so clearly was broadcasting signals ahead of her full-blown move to pop with her last album 1989, the only thing that was shocking was how long it took the country media to figure it all out. By the time Swift had her little album announcement about 1989 at the Empire State Building or whatever that was, her pop move was already a forgone conclusion.
The major pop star we should be fully expecting to go country right now is not Taylor Swift, but Justin Timberlake. He’s the one now shacking up on a big plot of land just south of Nashville, headlining Pilgrimage Fest in nearby Franklin this fall, and whose producer Timbaland is out there pretty much saying he’s going country. The only question there is, when?
But when Taylor Swift made her move to pop, all indications were her country career was finished, at least for a good long while. Sure she may show back up in her 40’s after she’s had three kids and wants to reignite her career after a long hiatus by “getting back to her roots.” How many times have we seen that card played, and by artists with even less country cred than Taylor Swift, if you can believe that?
Rumors were swirling a few weeks ago that Taylor Swift was spotted in Nashville, and was in the studio working on a new album. Something we don’t need any unnamed sources or celebrity spottings to verify is that Taylor Swift will be releasing a new record in 2017, and it will likely be in late October, or early November to capitalize off of holiday sales, just like her five previous albums. But just because Taylor Swift is in Nashville doesn’t mean she’s making country music.
Nashville isn’t exclusively a country town, and never has been. It has some of the best studios and session players in the world, and non country artists come to Nashville to record all the time. Besides, Swift still owns a place there, and it’s perfectly normal for her to be seen in town. Not to mention that even when Swift was part of “country,” her music wasn’t very country even then. So adding Nashville in the mix doesn’t really assure anything.
But there continues to be smoke about how Swift’s new project will potentially have a few country, or country-oriented tunes on it. That doesn’t mean she’ll make a full-on country album, release singles to country radio, or will even call the material country herself. But the prospects of Taylor Swift re-emerging in the country space makes for all kinds of subsequent narratives to consider for the genre.
The latest bit of information comes from an unnamed source speaking to Broadway of Country 92.5 in Connecticut. Claiming to be a sound engineer in Nashville, the unnamed source says, “Yeah, I definitely see a lot of music come through, and she has been in the studio, and she has, I want to say it’s at least three [songs]. She’s kind of poppy, you know? And these songs definitely have a lot more country music vibe to them.”
“So you’re saying you’ve heard some of the new stuff, you’ve been in the studio with her while she’s recording, and you’re saying that some of her newer stuff is leaning back into the country direction?” Broadway presses.
“The final mix … nothing has been finalized. But as far as her lyrics, her guitar playing … I mean she knows how to mix stuff up, but I would definitely say this has got a real real country vibe to ’em.”
You can listen to the entire exchange below.
Of course this all begs the question of what is your definition of “country” is. If it’s early Taylor Swift, then perhaps you’re not qualified to make a judgement call on how country the new material is or isn’t. But saying it’s “definitely” got a “real real country vibe” is a very interesting prospect.
Taylor Swift hasn’t been totally absent from country music scene since releasing 1989. Little Big Town just had a little big hit with the Taylor Swift-written tune “Better Man.” It was a #1 on both radio and the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. But of course, it wasn’t really country.
And save all the stuff about “Taylor Swift never was country! So how can she come back?” Yeah yeah, that all goes without saying. But we thought we were rid of that argument when we thought country was rid of Taylor Swift. Love her or hate her, it’s hard to not respect that she finally fessed up and started calling her music pop—something many current mainstream “country” artists could learn from, most notably Sam Hunt, who is starting to finally find his own crossover success after previous failed attempts. Oh what a blessing it would be if Sam Hunt made a similar Swift announcement soon and abandoned country altogether himself.
Ultimately, it’s still too early to tell if there’s any fire behind the “Taylor Swift coming back to country” smoke, or to get ahead of ourselves by trying to hash out just what the ramifications of all that might be. But if Swift does release some country songs, there will be ramifications, that is for sure, and potentially big ones. But at the moment, this might all be part of the Taylor Swift pre-release buzz machine getting up and running. One thing we know for sure is Taylor Swift’s footsteps are paved with non-disclosure contracts. If people are chirping, including about Swift potentially going country, there’s a chance it isn’t in spite of Taylor trying to keep it hush hush, but at her behest.
Yes, it’s all very interesting and stirring the pot quite nicely. We’ll just have to wait and see if anything’s really cooking, and what it tastes like when it’s done.