Does Taylor Swift Suck?

Outside of the bizarre performances (Lady Gaga! On fire!) and Auto-Tuned hip-hop madness, the next biggest story of the 2010 Grammy Awards was Taylor Swift’s awful duet with Stevie Nicks. Swift limped through Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” sounding mostly flat and at times completely losing the harmony line. She then relegated Nicks to backup vocals while she performed her monster hit “You Belong With Me,” sounding more like someone performing a karaoke version of the song.

I had my doubts about Taylor Swift. Any 15-year-old blonde who takes the country music charts by storm screams marketing ploy. But as I learned more about her, I became more impressed: She actually plays guitar. She writes her own songs, having first started at the age of 10. And the afore-mentioned “You Belong With Me” and its accompanying video was charming and catchy.

So there’s something there. Not much, but something.

Then I saw her perform on “Saturday Night Live” a few months ago and realized that her voice isn’t as strong as it seems on her recordings. But so what? Neither did John Lennon or George Harrison. Bob Dylan and Tom Petty are downright awful. It’s a double standard that’s always existed in popular music: Men can be ugly and have bad singing voices as long as they can write songs or play guitar (I’m looking at you, Mr. Dylan, Mr. Clapton), but the women have to be beautiful and possess a fantastic voice (Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, etc.). Taylor Swift is beautiful, but the record execs wanted a beautiful voice to match, and

After seeing her performance on the Grammy Awards, I’m convinced that what we have here is a very young, very raw, but very talented teenager who got quite a bit of help from her record company. It’s made her a lot of money, but who is the real Taylor Swift?

It’s certainly not the one that appears on her albums. I was shocked to see that Fearless took Album of the Year honors at the Grammys. Most songs on the album sounded eerily like “You Belong With Me”; Swift could have sued herself several times over. The sound, and Swift’s voice was polished – too polished, in fact, and as a result the album sounded manufactured.

I’m hoping that in a few years, Swift will ditch the Nashville producers, take her guitar and a stool into a studio, and give us an earnest, intimate portrait of her. Her songs are heartfelt, but who cares if her voice isn’t as good as Martina McBride’s, or for that matter, Stevie Nicks? Let Taylor Swift be Taylor Swift.

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