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Why It’s Time to Stop Bashing on Taylor Swift For Going Across Genres

Image Source: Getty / John Shearer

As Taylor Swift released her new album, Reputation, we were privy to the same conversation we’ve been hearing since Red and the full-pop album 1989: “What happened to the country girl, the artist that Taylor Swift used to be?” As if the country genre is something magical that lives outside the timeframe of music. As if, when she was country, Taylor Swift was something more special. Maybe she was, but that’s not the point here. Taylor Swift feels the need to say, “the old Taylor is dead,” but I don’t think the line should be that simple. Actually, I don’t think this conversation is about Taylor Swift at all.

When The Band Perry started releasing pop songs, they too were met with criticism. Another sellout band – that’s what they’ve been labelled as. Nobody seems to be listening to the lyrics of their song “Stay in the Dark.” Instead, they are quick to criticise the band for reaching out to something else as though all artists should stick to their lane, never branch out, and always toe the line of their “brand.” It’s a safe bet, but it’s not very challenging.

On the one hand, we have Ed Sheeran being championed for his seamless transition between genre lines. Going from Gaelic folk to a rock vibe to pop to an alternative sound – Ed seamlessly blurs the line of genres. There’s something there for everybody; his essence and creative prowess is able to shine, and god, does it shine. Ed Sheeran is Ed Sheeran because he does what he loves and he does it well. He doesn’t conform to one style or another; his style is whatever he’s doing, and it’s great.

When we put artists into a genre box, we may be keeping people from songs and artistry that they may otherwise love. If I told you that Kesha could sing with Dolly Parton and sound amazing, you might be surprised. On her latest album, Rainbow, Kesha effortlessly moves from rock to pop to country and then a fun boogie number that plays with an Elvis vibe. Instead of only club beats, Kesha shows that when you ignore genre limits, you can end up with a great album.

Fall Out Boy is another group that has been mercilessly criticised for moving away from their older sound as though the band members haven’t grown up, had kids, lived their lives, and evolved. You can enjoy their older music and their newer music without equating one with the other. Or, you could prefer one over the other. That doesn’t mean that Fall Out Boy has sold out; it simply means that they have changed, and that’s OK. Artists are human beings, and their inspirations, their feelings, and their musical careers change. This criticism of musicians has gone further than simply expressing distaste for an album.

After Fall Out Boy’s hiatus, Patrick Stump made a solo album. It wasn’t Fall Out Boy’s style, and fans responded by bullying him. Stump became depressed and penned a blog piece titled, “We Liked You Better Fat: Confessions of a Pariah.” He explained the situation and detailed the onslaught of bullying he faced:

“What I wasn’t prepared for was the fervour of the hate from people who were ostensibly my own supporters (or at least supporters of something I had been part of). The barrage of ‘We liked you better fat,’ the threatening letters to my home, the kids that paid for tickets to my solo shows to tell me how much I sucked without Fall Out Boy, that wasn’t something I suppose I was or ever will be ready for. That’s dedication. That’s real palpable anger.”

Stump’s post goes on to say, “There’s no amount of money that makes you feel better when people think of you as a joke or a hack or a failure or ugly or stupid or morally empty.”

Image Source: Getty / Evan Agostini

It’s OK not to like somebody’s music and it’s OK to like certain genres, but blatantly bullying artists, shaming them, and questioning their every decision simply because it’s not “your taste” is not only reprehensible, but it stops artists from creative growth. It’s important that we remember that artists aren’t simply writing and performing for our benefit; artists are usually in the craft because it is their passion. If we don’t like a painting, we usually fake a smile and tell the artist that we’re glad that they’re following their own passion, because it’s a known fact that art is subjective – unless you’re a musician. Then it’s just subject to massive scrutiny.

Perhaps the problem is that people refer to it not just as music, but the music industry. Labels are conveniently scraped into boxes; artists are signed to their niche. Listeners are privy to a system telling them which artist groups belong together. In a world of MTV VMAs, Grammys, and CMAs, we are told who is what and where each artist or band conveniently belongs. Like pieces on the production chain, music has become industry, and industry is a sales machine. Some might say that genre isn’t as important nowadays as millennials continue to shy away from the genre culture.

A survey by Ypulse concluded that, “While millennials are passionate about music . . . 79% of 13- to 32-year-olds said their tastes didn’t fall into one specific music genre. Just 11% said that they only listened to one genre of music.”

So, if millennials are less concerned about genre, why are we bullying The Band Perrys, the Taylor Swifts, the Miley Cyruses, and the Fall Out Boys of the world? Surely most, if not all, of these acts are millennial era. I say we celebrate music in a song-by-song, artist-by-artist basis. In my idealistic world, music would be consumed by personal taste and inspiration. As the world of streaming continues to amass, I look forward to trying on all kinds of flavours in a limitless world.

This post is from POPSUGAR Celebrity. Click here to read the full text

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