Well, that was fast.
Taylor Swift rose to the heights and fell to the bottom all in one night. John Edwards, eat your heart out.
This week should have been glorious for the wispy-voiced pop star and voice of a wispy generation. She won four Grammy Awards last Sunday, including the big one--Album of the Year for Fearless.
But she just had to go and sing.
Her tone-deaf duet with Stevie Nicks, particularly on "Rhiannon," was ready-made for YouTube, where "forks on a glass plate" was posted by a fan. (Forks, Ms. Nicks. Plural.) As a career-ender, the performance was no "Rock Me Tonight," but Scott Borchetta, president of Swift's record label Big Machine, played quick defense nonetheless. So what, he told the Nashville Tennessean, if she isn't "the best technical singer." At least she is "probably the best emotional singer."
Probably, Scott? Might want to let the P.R. staff earn its paycheck. But I get the point. Since when did a pop singer need a perfect voice?
Or a voice, for that matter. In 1980, Marianne Faithfull appeared on Saturday Night Live. Her vocal cords, not so much. A croaked rendition of "Broken English" killed a hoped-for comeback and climaxed a decade-long spiral into drugs and despair. I bought her album that Sunday morning.
I know the difference between dissipated chanteuse and pouty poseur. Billie on one hand, Britney on the other. But really, isn't carrying a tune measly stuff by which to measure a singer? Mention The Supremes and someone is bound to rehash the Dreamgirls wisdom that Florence Ballard was the true musical talent, Diana Ross merely the face.
Just say "Baby Love" and walk away.
If I had to delete all but the "technical singers" from my iPod, I'd be left with a few songs by Ella Fitzgerald, The Best of Rosemary Clooney and "Somethin' Stupid" by Frank and Nancy Sinatra. And I'd have to fast-forward through Nancy.
No more Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Neil Young, Kurt Cobain, Leonard Cohen, Muddy Waters, Pere Ubu, and oh just get me a new iPod already.
I don't listen to Taylor Swift--that breathy, flat-bended, conversational phrasing started grating my nerves somewhere between Jagged Little Pill and Alanis Unplugged. Her pretty-girl-as-dork affectations target two or three demographics far, far removed from my own. To Grammy voters, grow up.
But at least give Taylor credit for not lip-syncing, no small act of rebellion in the Age of Auto-Tune. And if she had to warble off-key, she couldn't have picked a finer mentor than Fleetwood Mac's bleating goddess.
Now that I think about it, "You Belong With Me" is sorta catchy.
Perfect pitch is overrated. Technically speaking.