The Prophet of Pop

Last night the Academy of Country Music Awards happened and Taylor Swift took home the big prize for entertainer of the year.  For anyone who has a radio or a teenage daughter this should be no surprise as Taylor Swift has been dominating radio and television for nearly four years now.  This past year that didn’t change a bit.

What has changed is country music.

If you don’t believe me, pop in a Merle Haggard record or youtube Hank Williams, and then listen to Taylor Swift immediately afterward.  You will likely feel that you are listening to two entirely different genres of music.  The reason for that is simple – you are listening to two different genres of music.  One is country, the other is pop disguised as country in order to sell more records.

You see, Swift’s success is built as much around her tween image as it is an absolute lack of musical clarity.  Any Taylor Swift song can become a pop hit by changing the drum track and throwing just a little more electric guitar on it.  This proved fruitful in her first huge crossover hit “You Belong With Me,” which had at least three different versions.  Since then it has become a consistent part of the young singers rise to superstardom.

The problem isn’t the crossover success – country and pop have merged together since Garth Brooks stormed the music world.  Rather, it is that Taylor Swift’s music and the music of many of her fellow young stars is simply not country music.  They are pop songs with a little violin and – if you are lucky – some steel guitar.  Gone are the country bad boys of yore, gone are the adult ballads backed solely by mournful acoustic guitar and a violin – replaced by the glitz and glam of an Academy awards show that wouldn’t know country music if it stomped them in the face with a cowboy boot.

This is not to say that there aren’t some out there keeping country alive – Trace Adkins, Toby Keith, and even Miranda Lambert are all making country hits that actually sound like country music.  Heck, I even like some Taylor Swift songs and respect that she co-writes several songs each album.  Most country singers haven’t co-written a song in years!

What I do have a problem with is the “country music” machine that Swift is a part of – a machine that removes the depth and soul of country music, replacing it with something that is merely a shadow of its former self.  Country music was never designed to appeal to the masses of pop music fans.  Country music was there to express the hopes, dreams, hurts, and sorrows of a rural population.

That part of country music, much like the rural lifestyle it reflects, is barely hanging on.  Last night’s Award show was just another reminder of that.

Related – Switchfoot Takes Home Their First GRAMMY!

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