Now that the American Music Awards, to the shock of the non-country music industry, has anointed Taylor Swift as the voice of American music, what does that mean to the good old folks back home? In winning five AMA awards including artist of the year over Michael Jackson and others, what does that hold for the future.
It was a very good night for country music in spite of the Swift landslide but one wonders how much was because of the Swift coattails which were very much in evidence with the award to Gloriana as breakthrough artist of the year without being well known compared to Lady Gaga who lost to both Swift and Gloriana. Taylor did take Gloriana on tour with her to help introduce the singers.
Still, Swift is the story as she is now known as America's pop queen having demolished the competition in the Country Music and American Music Awards, competition that included all the best performers, male and female in country and pop music including Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, George Straight, Brad Paisley, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, Sugarland, Rascal Flatts, and pop starts Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Eminem, Kings of Leon, Beyonce and Daughtry.
So how does a 19 year old kid dominate the greatest artists of all music genres for the last couple of decades? How has Taylor gained world recognition as the queen of pop music and the best selling artist in the world for all types of music? And what will be the Swift impact on country music?
Just like her friend Miley Cyrus who also came from country roots, Taylor Swift is already facing the many seductions of entertainment fame and fortune as they tend to first become a self contained money machine hungry to dominate every aspect of the entertainment business. Both quickly took control of every aspect of their lives from writing music to television appearances.
The rocket to fame opened doors to performing and recording with other established artists. An avalanche of money allowed them to break new ground with music videos. Their packaging for concerts and special performances was flawless. But each degree of control has a price.
Taylor Swift has shattered record sales in a time when the tough economy has driven down the sale of records. That means a whole bunch of other performers have been squeezed out of the fragile sales market. Her concerts are becoming more rock like all the time leaving less money and fan support for other artists.
By writing her own music she has blocked untold writers from ever being a success. When she co-writes and performs with anyone else it is usually because that person is also successful, note, Miley Cyrus, Kellie Pickler, etc. But those hand picked friends are always successful in their own right thus further closing the doors of opportunity to other struggling artists and writers.
In the record business more than any other money talks. But just like Wall Street, money only feeds on more money as costs escalate, video production becomes more extravagant, concert shows become more complex and expensive, and the price of everything from tickets to records has to go up to make sure the public is bled dry.
You reach a certain point and suddenly risky investments stop while formula ideas, known techniques, or songs or styles whose cost benefit analysis offers the least risk begin to dominate. The industry vultures hover around you at all times. Some kids can handle it. Most don't.
The more commercial the kid, for example, young Miley, the more demands on them to continue making tons of money to feed their own machine. They become an industry in and of themselves and they become a slave to their own success. All the time their creativity, which thrives in the early stages gets worn out in the later stages.
That is when they are forced to compromise everything they stood for when they were young and unknown in the first place. Fame has a horrible price to pay. Just look at the lives of music legends like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. You reach a certain point when you can never again be one of the genre but become the genre. Yesterday Taylor Swift was the hope for country music, today she is the poster girl for pop music.
It will be a miracle if she ever has control of her young life again. As she is seduced by the masters of entrapment in Hollywood, New York and Wall Street through television and movies, then fashion and cosmetics, her world will open up just as her life is becoming more and more isolated. All the time the greed of those using her will keep pushing her while denying other aspiring artists the chance for any hope of success.
The people of the entertainment world now pouring ideas and dreams into this new star are masters at their game and their game is pure and simple, greed. Squeeze every last ounce of profit out of the celebrity because they might break under the pressure at any step along the way and suddenly the gravy train is gone. To them she is the golden goose and when the goose stops producing it is cast aside for the next Taylor Swift waiting in the wings.
Right now young Taylor has the enthusiasm and energy of youth. But her breakneck schedule and the amazing diversity of activity they have her doing cannot be sustained for long. Most likely she has already been lost to the country music industry. The lure of Hollywood and the mega bucks in the genre will take care of that. Others are pushed in that direction, like Carrie Underwood, but they do not stay there and survive. If they are lucky, they get back to their roots before they are broken.
Swift was a talented kid who just happened to break through in country music. There is no evidence that she was grounded in country as her roots were never deep enough to establish that fact. It was only a matter of time and luck before she found her home and most likely that is in the pop culture. Her music is every bit as much pop as country so the genre of the arrangement determines which doors are open to the artist.
Now that she is the best selling female of all music, and the heir apparent as pop queen, her true roots will never be known. Her opportunities may be endless, but the risk reward ratio just took a gigantic leap forward, meaning what you may ask? It means this. When you have reached the pinnacle of your life's endeavor there is no way to go but sideways or down. You go sideways by jumping from country to pop but from either perspective the only way to go is back down.
Let us hope and pray that Taylor Swift is not already a victim trapped in her own success. She needs to find her own way but also needs to understand she never walks alone. As she is faced with untold wealth and opportunity may she never forget that the gifts she has came from a higher source and the success as measured from that perspective is how you use your gifts to help others in need of help, not those already drowning in success.
Compassion and empathy comes from the heart, not from the largess of foundations and tax deductions. Young Taylor is at a crossroads where she can find a solid foundation in life or forever walk on quicksand. The latter comes from a world of glamour and glitz while the first comes from listening to the heart and soul.
Perhaps she should journey to the Hopi Indian reservation in Arizona with no media, no photo ops and no status symbols and see how the most sacred and oldest of cultures has survived with nothing but a bond to Father Creator and Mother Earth and a desire to bring all people together. Honoring God and all God's creations is the highest service possible to the Hopi, the Children of God and People of the Sun. Then Taylor will see what being grounded is all about.