The misconception that Toby Keith helped launch Taylor Swift’s career comes from a now viral clip taken from a Channel 4 WSMV news story shot in 2005 that features a 15-year-old Taylor Swift singing and talking about her career.
‘Speak Now’ is the real Taylor Swift, and always will be. It’s Taylor Swift after she had matured into her true self, and before the denizens of commercial pop got a hold of her. It’s not perfect, and it’s definitely not country. But it’s sincere human sentiments set to organic music.
In 2015, when Mickey Guyton released her debut single “Better Than You Left Me,” she symbolized hope in the mainstream of country music for a host of reasons. Similar to how we regard artists such as Lainey Wilson and Carly Pearce today, Mickey Guyton was a bright spot.
This new song Rita Wilson just released called “Where’s My Country Song?” hits at the heart of something really important. Well-written aside from maybe the bouncy and somewhat list-like chorus, it’s the perspective forwarded in the song that makes it such an interesting specimen and discussion point.
But what Kalie Shorr has also done in Open Book is what every true artist wishes to do whenever the make a record, which is capture raw emotions in bold strokes that resonate deeply with an audience and connect us with our shared humanity. But just like the career of Kalie Shorr, the question is, “Who is the audience?”
“The Driver” is Charles Kelley’s version of Theodore Roosevelt buying a $700 cowboy shirt and heading for the Dakota badlands, or Rose from Titanic choosing to attend the dance in the boiler room instead of the ballroom because the help knows how to party better. It’s this strange, striving for everything Charles Kelley and Lady Antebellum isn’t that defines this solo album.
“Better Than You Left Me” gets most all of the textures right—the steel guitar, the waltz beat, the swaying back and forth that jars loose the emotions from the heart and sends them racing through the blood stream. It’s pop country, but like Patsy Cline was pop country. Sure I’d love a little bit more dirt thrown on it or for her vocal performance to be a bit more subdued, but it’s more than a start.
“This site’s called savingcountrymusic.com. Why are you talking about Taylor Swift? She’s not country. She never was. Now she’s even saying she isn’t.” Well guess what, tough titty. This is my damn website, and if I want to talk about Taylor Swift, I will. And guess what, you’ll probably read about it.
Welp, that’s that. Gauging from the comments made in Rolling Stone’s current country music special edition by the CEO of Big Machine Records aka the Country Music Antichrist Scott Borchetta, we can now put a period at the end of Taylor Swift’s pop country career. Finito. Done. End of story. Taylor Swift’s country run is in the books, and she’s now a pop star exclusively.
Nathan Chapman is a session musician, songwriter, and record producer. If you wanted to point to one individual behind the sonic success of Taylor Swift, it would be him. The first record Chapman ever produced was Taylor Swift’s first, self-titled release in 2006. If you hear a Taylor Swift song, you’re hearing just as much of Nathan Chapman as you are Taylor Swift….except to when it comes to Taylor’s last album “Red.”
Alright. So when I first listened to Taylor Swift’s new album Speak Now over two weeks ago, and heard for the first time the song “Mean,” I have to admit that it crossed my mind that the song might be about me. And not me as one Taylor Swift critic among many, but me, The Triggerman, the benevolent dictator of Saving Country Music, specifically.
But then I laughed off the idea and let it die. To think a song on Taylor’s album specifically targeted me seemed the utmost of conceit, and I was a little embarrassed for even letting my brain go there. And moreover, the thought of asserting this idea publicly seemed like the mother of all ego strokes.