Chatting With Lexi: On Taylor Swift

sNDnYYZe_400x400I love riding in the car with Lexi because she’ll often say something unexpected, especially when I don’t think she’s paying attention. I should be used to it by now, but my firstborn still has a habit of surprising me. Last week I bought the new Taylor Swift album, and like a true #swifty I’ve had it on repeat at home and in my car. I knew all the song lyrics by Day 2, so I was singing along on this particular ride. Lexi was in the back, head buried in her book, but apparently she can multi-task because she looked up and said:

“Dad, is Taylor Swift married?”

“No, honey, she isn’t.”

“Oh, good. Because I was thinking all these lyrics would be strange if she was married.”

“What do you mean, Lex?”

“Well, I mean she’s talking about being up in the club talking to boys and stuff, and I was thinking if she was married that wouldn’t be a good thing.”

“You’re right, Lex. But she’s in her 20’s, and many young people these days do what’s called dating around.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means she goes out with a boy on dates, and that’s how they figure out if they want to take their relationship further.”

“So she goes around with him? Is that why it’s called dating around?”

“Um, no. It’s because she’s dated a lot of guys that way, to see if it works out, but it hasn’t, not to this point anyway.”

“That’s why so many of her songs sound like she’s sad?”

“You got that right. Or upset. Think about ‘Shake It Off.'”

“Oh yeah. [Singing] ‘I go on too many dates. But I can’t make ’em stay.'”

“She’s talking about ‘haters’ saying she dates a lot but no one seems to want to settle down with her, to get married or something like that.”

“Dad, do you think she wants to get married?”

“Probably. Someday. But right now I think she’d just like to have a long term relationship and see where it goes from there.”

“It must be hard to be famous. People talk about everything you do, and everywhere you go, and everyone you do stuff with.”

“Absolutely. I wouldn’t want to be famous. Well, not that way anyway. I would want to be ‘book famous.'”

“What does book famous mean?”

“It means I would love for everyone to want and buy my books, so my books would be famous, but I could still go and do things without people trying to take my picture.”

“I don’t like people taking my picture either.”

“I guess I just value my privacy, and when you’re someone like Taylor Swift you really don’t have any privacy.”

“Is that maybe why some of these boys don’t want to date her anymore? Because they want their privacy back?”

“Wow, Lex, that sounds like it might be a reason. I think one of them was a musician and he was jealous of her popularity so he broke up with her. Jealousy is never good.”

“Yeah, I read about it in my books all the time. It never leads to anything good.”

“You got that right. You should be happy for other people and the praise and attention they get, not upset because you don’t have that praise and attention.”

“It must be hard to be Taylor Swift.”

“I imagine it would be. But at least she gets to do what she loves.”

“Date around?”

“No. Well, yes, but that’s not what I meant. I meant she gets to write her music, to sing her songs, and to perform in front of audiences all around the world.”

“That’s cool too. Rainbow Dash can do a Sonic Rainboom.”




That Taylor Swift Narrative

111114-taylor-swift-blank-space-embed-1-480There’s this young woman who just can’t seem to keep a man. Either that or the men she’s attracting just aren’t good enough for her. She’s really great at most everything else in her life, but this one problem seems to keep rearing its ugly head, and I just have to wonder when she’ll find that one man who will be good to her, who she can rely on, and who will understand that all the love songs she writes will be about him from now on. Because she deserves all good things.

And as I thought about her the other day, I realized that she has written many songs about heartbreak, but she has also set forth a blueprint of what not to do for the guy who will eventually win her heart for good. He just needs to listen and take notes. You know, not like a stalker, but like a man determined to win the girl. Okay, so that still sounds like a stalker, but you get my point. Now, on to the lyrics…

“Did you have to ruin what was shining? Now it’s all rusted. Did you have to hit me where I’m weak? Baby, I couldn’t breathe.” ~Bad Blood

“No apologies. He’ll never see you cry. Pretend he doesn’t know that he’s the reason why you’re drowning, you’re drowning, you’re drowning.” ~I Knew You Were Trouble

“All that I know is I don’t know how to be something you missed. Never thought we’d have a last kiss. Never imagined we’d end like this. Your name, forever the name on my lips.” ~Last Kiss

“I’m not a princess, this ain’t a fairy tale, I’m not the one you’ll sweep off her feet, lead her up the stairwell. This ain’t Hollywood, this is a small town, I was a dreamer before you went and let me down. Now it’s too late for you, and your white horse, to come around.” ~White Horse

“So it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames. You can tell me when it’s over if the high was worth the pain. Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane. ‘Cause you know I love the players, and you love the game.” ~Blank Space

“Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street, faster than the wind, passionate as sin, ending so suddenly. Loving him is like trying to change your mind once you’re already flying through the free fall, like the colors in autumn, so bright just before they lose it all.” ~Red

“Well maybe it’s me and my blind optimism to blame. Maybe it’s you and your sick need to give love, then take it away. And you’ll add my name to your long list of traitors who don’t understand, and I’ll look back and regret how I ignored when they said ‘run as fast as you can’.” ~Dear John

taylor-swift-1989-album-polaroids_53And I can’t help but think that beneath all of that scar tissue still lies a tender soul waiting for a love and an acceptance that has been a long time in coming. Maybe it’s all because of the celebrity factor, because being a female in a demanding business where it’s difficult to tell who’s for real and who’s not means having a thicker skin, or at least appearing so. Or perhaps it’s simply that she’s young, and she gets caught up in the whirlwind just like the rest of us did at that age. Regardless, the way she pens the sadness and pain onto paper could be a catharsis of sorts.

Which is the same reason why I think she’s so successful, because we can understand those emotions. They run deeper than anything else could possibly run. Because we’ve all dealt with heartbreak and the difficulties of relationships, while they’re happening and their aftermath. So while the Taylor Swift narrative is one of trying to get past the past, and forge a new future with Mr. Right, maybe it’s even more about understanding what she wants, and more importantly, what she doesn’t want.

And that second list keeps getting longer, but I hear she’s got a blank space just waiting to be filled in.


Essential Albums From 2014

Normally I am not a fan of year-end lists, but for some reason I’m feeling the year-end spirit this year. Maybe it’s because this was the year of my 20th reunion from high school, so I’m just naturally nostalgic anyway. Or perhaps it’s because this year two people in my life shockingly passed on. Or it might simply be the number of candles that will be on my birthday cake in less than a month. Regardless of the reasons, I’m feeling all verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. The topic: Music released in the year 2014 that didn’t suck. Go.

  • love-marriage-divorce-coverCasting Crowns – Thrive. This is contemporary Christian music at its best, even though they continue to use the same exact formula that they’ve always used. I liken them to Bon Jovi in the secular world. You always know what you’re going to get, but that’s okay because you liked it the first time you heard it and it hasn’t gotten old. Yet.
  • Toni Braxton & Babyface – Love, Marriage & Divorce. Sure, it was 22 years of waiting for these two to follow up on the promise of “Give You My Heart,” and “Love Shoulda Brought You Home Last Night,” but it was well worth the wait as we got entire album of a relationship gone right, then wrong, then right again. The album traces the pattern of a couple who have major issues, like most couples, and we hear about it through song. Perfect picture.
  • Pharrell Williams – G I R L. I didn’t know whether to separate the letters like that or to put period between them, but it doesn’t really matter. The album is “sick.” Seriously, Pharrell knows just what beats to marry and which ones to eschew in favor of others. He’s the consummate professional, and once I get past “Happy” I can truly enjoy this masterpiece of an album.sarah-mclachlan-shine-on-in-your-shoes-400x400
  • Jason Derulo – Talk Dirty. I tried not to like Jason Derulo because he sounds so much like Ne-Yo and Usher (a conundrum in and of itself), but I just can’t help myself with this record. There’s just something about his music that makes me want to move my feet to the rhythm, and this collection of songs is no different. Slick production and sexual undertones help to drive this album and keep it playing on my iPod.
  • Sarah McLachlan – Shine On. You know I’m a huge Sarah McLachlan fan but I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this one. It seems like her best songwriting comes out of heartbreak (like so many others), and it was universally panned by critics, but I enjoyed the atmosphere of a record that was a hopeful look forward instead of a depressing look inward and backward. Shine on indeed.

Continue reading “Essential Albums From 2014”

Sam’s Friday Top 5: Popular Albums of 2012

I want to preface this by acknowledging the glory of many albums released this year that were not commercially successful, and to also say that these are obviously my opinions, so we can agree to disagree if your list is different. (Oh, and #6 on my list would have to be Keyshia Cole’s Woman to Woman. It is such a wonderful album and falls to #6 merely because there happened to be five that were better than it this year, but only five.) Some also-rans include Pink’s The Truth About Love, Mumford & Son’s Babel, and Linkin Park’s Living Things. I also suggest listening to them. Now, on with the Top 5!

5. The Idler Wheel is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do – Fiona Apple.

Product DetailsFiona Apple is the queen of taking extended breaks from album recording, ostensibly to enjoy her cabin in the woods far, far away from civilization. She does, however, continue to write music and lyrics, honing her songwriting craft, as is evidenced on this, her fourth official studio album, and first since 2005’s Extraordinary Machine. I can honestly say I didn’t know what to expect because of the wait. Miss Apple seems to get less commercial as she ages, which is just fine with me, but on Extraordinary Machine it was rather hit-and-miss whether or not she succeeded in getting across her point. It was also rather a quieter, folksier affair, and I prefer Fiona’s grit and vinegar approach to songwriting. Well, I needn’t have been worried because The Idler Wheel… (title shortened to protect my sanity) is definitely a return to those hard, harsh lyrics and spot-on musical progression that made me a fan in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, though, if you haven’t heard it yet. It is in no ways a Tidal 2. In fact, it is probably as far different sonically that you can get from that initial record, but it maintains the same integrity. And when she releases another album, probably in 2020, I won’t be worried.

4. Not Your Kind of People – Garbage.

Product DetailsGarbage has never disappointed me since their first album back in 1995, the aptly titled Garbage record. It was aptly titled not because it sounds like a mess, but because, just like garbage, it is filled with so many disparate sounds and ideas that you wouldn’t think go together, but they do. And Garbage has maintained its integrity throughout the years. Amazingly enough, they actually snuck up on me with this album, releasing it a full week before I realized it was even out. In fact, I thought they had broken up, but they had been recording instead, and what a recording it is! Now, if you’ve never heard Garbage before, you have to adjust your listening ears because it is quite unlike anything you’ve heard before. It can be loud and soft at the same time, and the sounds are not sounds you would hear from any other bands out there. They’re unique, and that uniqueness is what makes Not Your Kind of People a spectacular record. They also tend to use voice modifiers with Shirley Manson’s (their lead singer) vocals so that sometimes you can’t even tell it is her. But somehow they remain Garbage, because of that cutting edge quality that cements them as the number four album of 2012.

3. Overexposed – Maroon 5.

Product DetailsAs the album title suggests, in the past few years, Maroon 5 has indeed been overexposed. From lead man Adam Levine’s stint as one of the coaches of The Voice, to the release and backlash associated with their previous studio album, Hands All Over, the band was intent on getting back to what made them popular in the first place, which was lush hooks, funky rhythms, and smooth singing. They do just that on this, their fourth studio release. Overexposed is just the right combination of swagger and style without being overly wrought with layered lyrics (like Hands All Over) or too-slick production, both previous knocks on the group. It plays like an old-school record in that from start to finish it moves with a groove that is central to each song, but also to the record as a whole. It is a great response to those who believed the band was indeed overexposed.

2. Red – Taylor Swift.

I really didn’t want to like Taylor Swift. I mean, she was this twangy, young twig of a girl who wrote songs that twangy, young girls were supposed to listen to and enjoy, but they weren’t for big, strong men who listen to Metallica and Snoop Dogg. And yet, Taylor Swift just crosses boundaries. Her lyrics hit me from the start, and they weren’t just about twangy, young girls. They were about everyone. Everyone has fears, doubts, joys, and surprises, and Miss Swift infuses her songs with those commonalities. And she never disappointed. I was ready to dislike Red, as the critics had said she was trying to grow up with this album, and to an extent they were right. However, I like what she has done to merge that young girl with the woman she is becoming, while staying true to her roots and musical vision. I like Red because it’s cool and cheesy at the same time, because of its emotional resonance, and its “everygirl” flavor. I like it because it’s Taylor Swift, and it was oh so close to being my number one for the year, but here is where it settles, in second place.

1. Battle Born– The Killers.

Product DetailsComing into 2012, I liked every single song The Killers had ever released, and you could say I was biased, but they had also set a pretty high bar they were going to have to reach with the new album for me to call it a success. Not only did they reach that bar, they set an entirely new one with the best album of their career to date, Battle Born. From the opening anthemic beat of “Flesh and Bone,” to the U2-esque “Runaways,” to the soaring, stadium inspired “The Rising of the Tide,” the album rocks and rolls like rarely an album has done in the past five years. It is this completeness of the album form, while maintaining its integrity as a collection of individual songs as well, that sets it apart from all other albums released this year. That’s what makes it my number one record, and it wasn’t even close between it and any other rock albums released this year. If it wasn’t for Taylor Swift, a completely different type of artist, it wouldn’t even have had competition for that number one spot. I suggest you listen to it when you get a chance, whether or not you like The Killers. If you like rock music, it was the quintessential one released in 2012.


Sam’s Friday Top 5: The Archive

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