Out with the old, in with the new: The metamorphosis of TayTay
“To tell the truth, I am rather tired of hearing myself described as the author of Sherlock Holmes.”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
“Of course, they give me that ‘John Wayne’ stuff so much, critics claim I always play the same role.”
“To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is pathetic.”
The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a time for reflection and reinvention something those in the creative arts seem to feed on for their careers to flourish as much as they need oxygen, and awards shows.
We see it across the full spectrum of media. Comedians stretch themselves with dramatic roles in films. Authors adopt nom de plumes to change genres. Actors well, what actors really want to do is direct.
Which, of course, leads us to Taylor Swift.
During the pandemic, Swift — the phenomenally popular and gifted singer-songwriter who previously morphed from her humble beginnings as a country girl who sang songs about doomed love affairs to a pop-tart princess who sang songs about doomed love affairs — released (or “dropped,” for those of you in the cultural cognescenti) a pair of albums “Folklore” and “Evermore” — that appear to point the way toward the next phase of her evolution.
The music is spare, introspective, leaning toward alternative and (dare we say) adult. There are catchy moments here and there, but Swift — even while staying in the old-flame lane — seems to be acknowledging and addressing her own aging, and that of her fanbase, through lyrics that don’t exist either to become earworms or Top 40 mainstays.
And when I felt like
I was an old cardigan
Under someone’s bed
You put me on
I was your favorite
Of course, I credit her desire to do something fresh and new, and during the holiday season she stars in a TV commercial for Capital One showing us not what’s in her wallet, but in her closest — a collection of matching sweaters as “Cardigan” plays in the background.
So, OK, baby steps?
Should this isolation-inspired change not last, she still has the time despite dominating social media for ages, she’s just 31 and the talent to try on sweaters of many different styles before she retires — or, worse in pop-culture terms, becomes irrelevant.
I mean, she’s not Madonna whose obsession with reinventing herself in decreasingly interesting ways led The Onion to craft the classic headline about The Material Girl losing the inability to appear fresh, not to mention new:
“MADONNA SHOCKS SEVEN.”
Despite the new albums, however, it’s been a difficult professional year for The Cardigan Girl, even without the seemingly annual interruption from Kanye West who was clearly too busy running for president (he lost, by the way, but he got 66,641 votes).
Swift’s catalogue of original song masters was sold in a deal to one her arch enemies — which one, I haven’t a clue do I look like a member of the cognescenti? — a move she countered by going into the studio and re-recording all her old tracks.
Now, fans can rally behind their beloved TayTay by swearing that her new original cuts are the genuine article and the old, original masters are no longer canon.
If this helps, think of it as the pop-music take on “Han Shot First.”
Meanwhile in Nashville, where Swift first staked her claim to fame, her image has been removed from a mural on the outside wall of Legends Corner bar — after complaints of betrayal from country music fans, some of whom took to spitting on the depiction of her sitting on a stool between Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash.
Her likeness was replaced on the mural by that of Brad Paisley who folks that don’t follow country music would recognize (or not) as the guy in the cowboy hat playing second fiddle to Peyton Manning in those Nationwide commercials.
Swift’s removal from the mural caused (what else?) a social media uprising — in part defending her place in the genre’s history, in part pointing out that now only three of the 14 “legends” depicted are women ... Loretta, Dolly and Reba.
(If you have to ask their last names, I commend you for making it this far.)
These professional hubbubs wind their way back to the central point. Namely, just who is Taylor Swift and, while we’re at it, who gets to decide who is Taylor Swift?
Watching the HBO documentary “How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?” the other night, I was struck by how many times during a half-century career, the Brothers Gibb reflected on who they were at that point in time and reinvented themselves into a “current” version of the Bee Gees.
Musicians do this all the time, of course.
David Bowie channeled Ziggy Stardust, Garth Brooks did an entire album as Chris Gaines, Tchaikovsky wrote film scores, and the artist formerly known as Hootie became a country music star.
(He’s not on the mural, either.)
Then, of course there’s Dylan (if you have to ask his first name ) who was the next Woody Guthrie before he went electric, found religion, did a Christmas album and a Victoria Secret commercial, and changed his persona so many times it took six actors to handle the “Dylan” stuff in the film “I’m Not There.”
So, Taylor, you go ahead and be you. Reinvent yourself any which way you want even if, as you lament in the song “Happiness” from “Evermore,” you can’t face reinvention because you haven’t met the new you yet.
It won’t matter because, in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas (after all the name-dropping in here to this point, why the hell not?): “To one who has Faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without Faith, no explanation is possible.”
Just one request: Don’t do a Korbel commercial using “Champagne Problems” as the background music OK?
TTFN, TTYL, TAYTAY.
The staff at firstname.lastname@example.org wonders why Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin has to be so mean.