Like most of America in September 2009, I was harrumphing about what an asshole Kanye West was for interrupting sweet urchin Taylor Swift’s MTV VMA-winning moment. After watching her performance on last night’s Grammy telecast, I now see that West had a point.
I was clued in to Swift’s painful amateurishness a couple of months ago when I first saw that award-winning video for “You Belong With Me.” It was overly packaged and “cute” in the torturous sense of the word. Even studio enhancements couldn’t hide her small, tinny voice. Miley Cyrus sounds like Janis Joplin in comparison.
Fast forward to last night’s Grammys – Taylor’s vocals during the showcase set with Stevie Nicks were loud, flat, and so excruciating even Nicks seemed to flinch. Swift sounded like the Sueleen Gay character in Altman’s “Nashville.” But wait, say the excessively chivalrous – she’s only 20, and needs time to master her musical gifts. Then why the fuck is she winning top honors during the U.S. commercial recording industry’s most important awards night? If songwriting is her primary strength – and the jury is still out on that – then she needs to sweep the ASCAP awards instead.
Last year, an extraordinary 22 year old British singer-songwriter named Adele won Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocals with her sophisticated soul and jazz inflections. Apparently, not all Grammy voters are driven by some combination of hype and misguided sympathy, but those who are long ago made these awards a joke among serious music lovers. As one anti-Taylor Swift blog post noted: “It’s a good thing for her they listen with their eyes instead of their ears.”