Let me just put it out there. I don’t “get” Taylor Swift. She’s cute, she’s blond, she makes catchy music that still sells like hotcakes despite the state of music industry, she’s nice. But aside from that I don’t “get” why folks seem to prostrate at her feet.
Kanye did it at this year’s VMAs, as did Nicki Minaj. She’s hung out with Snoop Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar (wtf?) rapped on one of her songs. Even Apple got punked by Swift after she called them out for not paying artists during their three-month trial for Apple Music.
While I’ve quietly watched her popularity skyrocket from the sidelines, I recently began to wonder when Taylor Swift became the Good Witch of the Music Biz that everybody has to suck up to and hang out with, or risk being banished.
Recently, Pop Matters joined the fray of Swift ring-kissers when it wondered, if Taylor Swift is the new Michael Jackson.
I think Mike’s face says it all for me, but here was Pop Matters’ rationale:
There are many similarities. Both superstars released these landmark albums at age 24. “Thriller,” delivered in November 1982, was Jackson’s sixth solo effort. “1989,” which dropped last October, is Swift’s fifth.
Imagination, smarts and hard work have made Swift successful, she told “Entertainment Tonight” in 2014 — qualities that also applied to Jackson.
Both were savvy enough to pull in unexpected collaborators — rock guitar god Eddie Van Halen on Jackson’s “Beat It” and hip rapper Kendrick Lamar on Swift’s “Bad Blood” — to help cross over to different audiences.
While Swift’s album sales are indeed impressive, they’re dwarfed by the sheer magnitude of Jackson’s (Thriller sold 29 million copies in the U.S. alone).
But numbers aren’t all that’s important here. While John Bream concludes Swift is “no thriller” because Jackson “was a dazzling dancer and a terrific singer” while Swift is “an unformed (but improving) dancer and a serviceable singer,” his attempt to make a case for the comparison between the two by elevating Swift’s videos–which is where Jackson’s genius completely out shined EVERYBODY–is problematic at best.
With such videos as “Billie Jean,” “Beat It” and “Thriller,” Jackson not only tore down racial barriers at rock-oriented MTV but set new artistic standards, transforming videos from glorified commercials into big-budget, meticulously crafted pieces of art.
For her part, Swift has certainly made a dramatic impact with the videos from “1989.”
The dance-happy “Shake It Off,” with its retro ‘80s new-wave vibe, felt like her “Billie Jean.” With its opulent, combustible pas de deux, “Blank Space” is her “Beat It.” And “Bad Blood” is her “Thriller,” with its noirish takeoff on “Robocop” movies.
No. Just no.
Jackson’s videos were game-changing and iconic. They not only set the standard for what videos could be in the 1980s and 1990s, but they’ve remained in a class of their own to this day. Because of this Swift, and any other artist, is following in Jackson’s footsteps–not making their own.
Moreover, Jackson was a global phenomenon. His audience cut across racial, gender, class, age, and geographical lines–something Swift’s ultra white, ultra young fan base has yet to do.
So is Taylor Swift the cultural, once-in-a-lifetime entertainer Michael Jackson was? Not even close.
I could wax poetic about why there will never be another Michael Jackson in any of our lifetimes, but Twitter wasn’t feeling Pop Matters’ comparison either.
@PopMatters lol, wow. Is this a serious question?
— Desmond McKinson (@DMcKinson) September 14, 2015
Taylor Swifts white mediocrity will never compare to the iconic Michael Jackson @PopMatters
— ELIEL CRUZ (@elielcruz) September 14, 2015
— _ (@aphrodeetie) September 14, 2015
— kp4 be ready ! (@katyslaymichael) September 14, 2015
— nigga you trippin (@TeejayCosta) September 14, 2015
As one Twitter user put it, “Taylor is the first Taylor,” not the next Jackson. And nobody can–or will–fill the shoes of the King.