How Not to Write About Taylor Swift

Categories: Commentary

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Photo by Groovehouse in Houston last week.
Taylor Swift is doing just fine, thanks for asking.

Taylor Swift is playing Cowboys Stadium on Saturday. Here are some important facts about Taylor Swift:

1. She made $57 million from May 2011 to May 2012, making her the highest-paid musician under 30 in that time period.

2. Her latest album, Red, has sold over 5 million copies since its October 2012 release, and the New York Times called it the second best album of the year.

3. She has 28 million followers on Twitter.

Those all make her one of the most powerful people in America. So I'm guessing she doesn't really need a lot of help with anything from anyone. And I'm positive she doesn't need either dating or career advice from the Dallas Morning News. That did not stop Rand Duren, however, from writing a blog post that is not only patronizing and dumb but also mind-bogglingly sexist. It's called "Taylor Swift is coming to Dallas; Here are 8 D-FW guys she could date, then write heartbreak songs about."

See also:
-How Not To Write About Female Musicians, Part 7,081

There's nothing inherently wrong about discussing a celebrity's love life -- we enjoy few things as a culture more than celebrities and love stories. But there is a tremendous and critical difference between caring about a famous person's love life and reducing that person to nothing but his or her love life. It's fine to laugh about some of the goofballs Taylor Swift has dated. It's not fine to give them credit for her success, partly because it's completely incorrect and partly because the people making that mistake would never do it to a male artist.

Kenny Chesney played Cowboys Stadium a couple weeks ago. There are break-up songs on his new album, too. Where's my "Kenny Chesney is coming to Dallas; Here are 8 D-FW gals he could date, then write heartbreak songs about" blog post?

Plenty of people have made this general ugly mistake with Taylor Swift over the last year, but few have done so with as much ham-fisted gusto as Duren. Let's start with the first two sentences of the blog post:

The Internet loves making fun of Taylor Swift's dating history. This is in most cases fueled by Swift's infamous songs about the guys she dates.

True, the Internet does love that. But the Internet does not have a great track record with reality-based chains of cause and effect. When you have to use the words "reportedly," "suspected" and "rumored" (twice) in one paragraph to support your claim, as Duren does immediately thereafter, your claim does not make any sense.


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18 comments
bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

This isn't journalism or even editorializing.  It's just the venting of an unhealthy association with a pop culture icon.

Idolizing pop culture icons is fine for fun - but when you get outraged over how badly you think they're being treated - you're entering the mental illness arena.

But then when you focus that outrage on one specific person and write a column about that outrage - you've crossed a line.

mattchappel
mattchappel

People don't attribute Taylor's success to the men she sings about because of sexism.

People attribute her success to the men she sings about because they honestly wonder how a woman with so very little actual musical talent can rise to the level of fame and adulation that Taylor has.

In other words, when someone is enormously famous in a field where they have no ability and no talent, people start looking for other reasons to explain why said person is famous. I think this is logical and natural... At least to those of us who actually care to (and know how to) recognize musical talent versus those of us who think being a "role model" means you deserve more grammys than, say, Carrie Underwood, George Straight and Garth Brooks (for example).

Can anyone say with a straight face that they believe Swift is more musically or vocally gifted (or more deserving) than these artists I mentioned who actually have fewer Grammys than Swift? ...Not to say that the Grammys are a fair indicator of musical talent... Just an example.

My perspective:
Taylor Swift is famous because she sings about famous men.
Taylor Swift is famous because parents believe her to be a better role model than, say, Rihanna.
Taylor Swift is famous because teenage girls look up to her (not musicians or vocalists).
Taylor Swift is famous because she can "write" songs along side a professional song writer coaching her.

Taylor Swift is NOT famous because she can sing on pitch. She's NOT famous because she can play an instrument well or possesses musical/vocal chops. And I can only hope she's not famous because someone out there actually believes her to be physically attractive. I may be wrong on that front though.

I would expect a MUSIC blog to write an article centering around music... Not perceived, "sexism" being unevenly or unfairly displayed toward Taylor Swift... As though ANY artist (male or female) who gets on stage isn't volunteering to be a sex symbol.

How about an honest assessment of her skills (or complete lack thereof) instead of blind worship? Is that too much to expect?

paigeskinner
paigeskinner

i love this article so much. i only hate the part that i didn't write it first. 

genrox
genrox

SO this article wasn't satire??? Wow.. 

NiteRider
NiteRider

Most of the comments about her dating and love life I've noticed have come from her. She puts it out there, so of course people will talk. If you can't seem to maintain a relationship for any longer than it takes you to write a song about it, maybe it isn't all the guys who are at fault.....

"Those all make her one of the most powerful people in America."

Yeah, just like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and the Jonas Brothers, or which ever flavor of the month that powerful group of pubescent teenage girls has latched on to as the next 'big thing'.

To paraphrase H.L. Mencken - no one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.


alteredjustice
alteredjustice

It's a joke article. Do you get pissed off when The Onion writes about Swift dating Jim Davis and James Holmes?

"snickering about Taylor Swift's love life is not just another day of good times distraction on the Internet" Yes, yes it is.

ChangingF8
ChangingF8

How not to act like Taylor Swift is relevant just because she writes music for the masses. There are a ton of artists out there who sell records and make money but that doesn't mean they are musically all that talented, nor does it keep them from ridicule.

Taylor Swift's love life break up songs are real, and they are really about her ex's. She is making millions off of it too, selling to little girls and Dallas Observer Music Editors. Could she have wrote break up songs if she dated women? Sure. Probably would have sold millions of those copies too. So does that make it sexist then? Or is it just because she writes them about men and then a man points it out? If you pointed it out about a man writing a song about breaking up with a woman, I wouldn't cry foul over that. Truth is truth.

And SOMEONE needs to help the girl with her Match.com profile because she's not exactly running up the long-term relationship flag. 

Susie Geissler
Susie Geissler

Unlike you, she was writing in jest. As your facts state in the onset of your post, she doesn't need defending. The public clearly enjoys her, in spite of many finding her personal life entertaining. John Mayer and many other male artists share the same situation so I hardly see it as being sexist. She doesn't seem like a damsel in distress, so she doesn't need to be saved from opinion pieces written with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Jason Clark
Jason Clark

I can't tell which is dumber, the original article or this one. The Observer's self righteous indignation is hilarious, if nothing. Can you believe a publication that has such an intimate connection with the sex industry would have the chutzpah to call another publication "sexist" for mocking the love life of a celebrity?

Tiney Ricciardi
Tiney Ricciardi

i'm sure you would have written that article if you had thought of it first

Nairb Retseik
Nairb Retseik

Wasted time about wasted time. And if you read this article, you've just wasted time, people.

JustSaying
JustSaying

The music editor is defending Taylor Swift. That screeching sound we all just heard was the last bit of the Observers music credibility jumping in a car and flooring it.

amy.ero
amy.ero

using the phrase "she will be able to find her Prince Charming." is not only sexist, it's antiquated and completely freaking ridiculous. 

joereform
joereform

 "One of the most powerful people in America"? Blowing things out of proportion a bit, aren't you?

Taylor Swift has made a career of not only writing "breakup songs," but writing them specifically about very famous and easily-identifiable individuals. She is the one who puts her dating history out there for the world to scrutinize. It may be very "TMZ" for the DMN to major on it in an article, but it is hardly sexist.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@mattchappel 

If fame in the music/entertainment business had even one thing to do with talent, I'd be right there with you on this post.

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

@JustSaying pretty funny but i'm not taking it that far. DC9's still putting up good posts about our local music scene.

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