Taylor Swift took a break from performing duties this month to defend the ailing music industry in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal.
"Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.”
It’s the kind of bland syllogism that’s so innocuous, you’d have to ply even the most intolerant music fan with a couple of drinks just to be able to pick a fight over it.
And yet, coming from Taylor Swift, who wrote that sentence as part of a widely read — and, more importantly for her audience, widely shared — op-ed in, of all places, The Wall Street Journal, it feels like the kind of sentiment that ought to be met with a cantankerous response, perhaps some line of dialogue you can imagine being uttered in pretty much any movie starring Jimmy Stewart. (“Now wait just a minute” would do.)
Leaving aside the trivial issue of how one goes about defining “art,” we’d suggest that anybody who’s ever had to endure two Pitbull songs in a row (or one, for that matter) would cackle hysterically at the notion that all music is art.
As one of the dozens of commentators on the Journal article tactfully pointed out, “there’s a lot of bad art out there and the bad art is neither important nor, unfortunately, rare.”
In some ways, the contention that music is rare is even more problematic than the notion that it’s art. In the era of YouTube, SoundCloud, iTunes, smartphones and more streaming services than any sane consumer would want or need, it takes more effort to avoid music than find it.
Actually, the most interesting observation Swift makes in her Journal op-ed has to do with the abrupt change in the way fandom manifests itself.
“There are a few things I have witnessed becoming obsolete in the past few years,” writes Swift (who, we’ll remind you, is all of 24), “the first being autographs. I haven’t been asked for an autograph since the invention of the iPhone with a front-facing camera. The only memento ‘kids these days’ want is a selfie.”
And, she hopes, another Taylor Swift album!
Saving Country Music, a website devoted to, as it says on its About page, “REAL country music,” seems naturally predisposed against what Swift does, which means it can be counted on to be unstintingly clear in its skepticism.
Acknowledging that it’s “refreshing to see an artist attempt to take some leadership in music,” it then barrels straight toward the point.
“What we are seeing here with this op-ed, and the bevy of Taylor Swift bathing suit pics that surfaced over the 4th of July weekend, is the opening salvo in Taylor Swift’s next album-release cycle. Swift is getting ready to release her fifth studio album, and she will likely make an announcement . . . either later in July or possibly in August about a release date likely in October or November.”
Regardless of which camp you find yourself in, it’s worth reading what Swift has to say (at on.wsj.com/TZe1iB). It’ll probably infuriate you.