In a highly hyped PR move that shocked the music world and left country fans crying their eyes out, one-time country sweetheart Taylor Swift dropped the bombshell this week that she is going pop.
(In case you are the Sheldon Cooper type—that was sarcasm.)
During her Monday evening Yahoo! Live Stream atop the Empire State Building, the songstress announced that her upcoming album 1989 would be her “first documented, official pop album.” She also unveiled the album’s lead single, “Shake It Off,”—and yep, it’s pop.
Shortly after the announcement, the Country Music Association tweeted, “Good luck on your new venture @taylorswift13! We’ve LOVED watching you grow!” The tweet was soon deleted.
The reason for the tongue-in-cheekiness above is that rarely has there been such PR hype around an announcement that turned out to be so anti-climactic. Swift spent the week prior to the event making the talk show rounds to generate buzz about her upcoming big reveal, without giving details. You would have thought she was going to announce she’s really a dude. Then, when the world’s interest is fully piqued (drumroll, please: cue trumpets), she tells us something we’ve known for years.
Taylor Swift is not country; she’s pop.
The grass is green.
Trees are made of wood.
We’ve seen this coming; it was only a matter of time. It’s not about the crossover success, because lots of country artists have that nowadays. It’s that Swift’s style of music has already made the switch. Her last album Red leaned so heavily toward pop that our country music reviewer refused to call it a country album. This is not a major turn of events, nor is it going to turn the music community on its ear. Swift is big time, but she’s not that important. This is something that’s already happened, and Swift is just publicly acknowledging it for the first time.
As to the country music community Swift seems to be abandoning—you know, the people who gave her her start?—there have been subtle signs of tension over the past couple of years, though it’s been more a matter of speculation than anything else. Little has been said outright. But it’s been uncanny how the country artist with the highest album sales and one of the most successful tours in music history was essentially snubbed throughout awards season, particularly by the country organizations. She didn’t get completely left in the cold; she got a few nominations here and there, and she nabbed a few awards for hopping on with Tim McGraw (who is decidedly NOT leaving country music) on “Highway Don’t Care.” The CMA also seemed to throw her a bone by awarding her the un-voted rare “Pinnacle Award” acknowledging her worldwide success (an award only previously given to Garth Brooks). But beyond that, the country industry’s silence toward Red has spoken volumes. Again, it’s pure speculation, but it’s difficult to imagine that there aren’t a few hard feelings somewhere—especially given the now-deleted tweet from the CMA that essentially says goodbye to Taylor Swift.
All that said, Swift’s anti-climatic switch to pop for her upcoming album is not likely to do anything to curb her popularity as an artist—nor should it. In the days following the release of her single, the video for “Shake It Off” has already surpassed 20 million views on YouTube. She might be “officially” changing genres at this point, but there’s a reason the fans keep buying her records and coming out to her shows. Say what you want about Taylor Swift, her attitude, her love life, etc.: the girl can still write a sick hook. Just saying.