Not surprisingly, this journey has led us to the first really big album success from Taylor Swift, her second record overall, “Fearless”. I have always respected Taylor Swift for her creative control and integrity as a songwriter and performer, and unexpectedly, that’s where this blog is going to ultimately take me. When she originally recorded this album, she was a young artist with some creative control, but not unlimited ownership of her own music, which became a landmark issue for her and many other artists. This is understandable when you realize this was the #1 selling album of 2009.
My first reaction when listening was the consistent hook that every single song held on this record. Not every song that was recorded came out as a single, but I think almost every song on this album could have been a hit single if marketed as such by the label. At this point in her career, Taylor was in the midst of crossing over from country to pop, and there is plenty of both to be found on “Fearless”. I did naturally gravitate to the two songs I most clearly recognized, “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me”. And maybe it is just me, but do those two songs have a very similar melody at the chorus? Maybe I was just melting in the Florida sun as I listened to this on my morning run, but those two songs had a lot in common, which isn’t a bad thing. Other songs that stood out for me were “Fifteen”, which was almost 40 years ago for me, and “Breathe”, which was her collaboration with Colbie Caillat. I will acknowledge that none of this material is highly complex or serious, but it is what it is, very well performed pop music.
I was almost ready to put a wrap on this record when I vaguely recalled that Taylor Swift was re-recording some of her own material for the purposes of taking a larger ownership stake in her music the second time around. As I researched it, “Fearless” was in fact on this list, so I listened to “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” the second time around. She did a very credible job of re-recording these songs in a nearly identical manner, although there are some subtle differences in production quality and the maturity of her voice. I respect her intent here greatly, and from this point forward, I will be sure to tag her current version of any song I can into any of my streaming playlists.
This brings me to a topic I haven’t really taken on yet, the business of musical streaming. I do think it is pretty sad what a fractional amount of revenue the artist gets for the widespread distribution of their music, and here is my proposed solution. It is somewhat ridiculous that I and several family members can listen to an unlimited number of songs for a relatively low monthly fee. I would add tiers of access, with a higher monthly fee. For example, last year I was in the 95th percentile of users on my streaming service. Clearly, I listen to a LOT of music. Frankly, I would pay a lot more than I do for this purely unlimited access. For those who don’t have the same interest I do, and either don’t want to pay a higher fee or can’t afford to, yet they still want to avoid those annoyingly repetitive commercials on the free service, set their monthly fees equal to usage. One to one-hundred songs a month is $X.95, one-hundred to one-thousand songs is $Y.95, and so on. These artists deserve more than they are getting paid, and we are still getting a major bargain in comparison to what we would pay to own all the music on CD or vinyl that we listen to each month.
OK… that’s enough problem-solving for today. Cheers to Taylor Swift for her music and her independent drive, they are both worthy of respect and admiration.