By Hans Ebert
You really don’t want to get drawn into the soap opera surrounding the characters involved, but there’s no escaping any of it. None of it has anything to do with music, but social media has sadly made the most stupid of things become news- and in a roundabout instance, this has become music news. In a nutshell, Taylor Swift, personally speaking, a very average songwriter and singer, has parlayed her serial love life into a USP. Is there anyone she hasn’t been with? And when eventually dumped, she puts pen to paper and writes her Dear John, Tom, Dick or Harry Styles one-dimensional songs.
It might have worked when a teenaged singer-songwriter, but now at twentysomething, her songs and constant updates of her relationships seem contrived and ring hollow. It’s like the girl who cried wolf and squat to do with making music.
There’s a creepy touch of bunny boiler “Alex Forrest” in Miss Twirler, a seemingly calculating young woman, who has an army of minders on her side who will stomp on anyone in her way and spin everything to ensure the image that here is a tough independent artist in total control of all aspects of her life and the perfect role model for every girl with dreams to become the next, well, Taylor Swift.
Having total control of one’s life and career, and being a control freak with her goon Squad of Mean Girls in tow who live by the credo that one is judged by the company they keep, and being in the company of Taylor Swift can fast track their careers, are two very different things. But often those blurred lines distort the picture. And just maybe, everything to do with this high profile, high maintenance celebrity has become more and more distorted. After all, power corrupts.
A few weeks ago, came the earth-shattering news, well, at least to serial overgrown groupie Perez Hilton, that she and fairly longtime boyfriend, at least in Swiftworld, Calvin Harris had broken up. For a while, I somehow thought she was dating Calvin Klein. But no, Calvin Harris is a Scottish DJ whose previous girlfriend was singer Rita Ora, said to be “Becky with the good hair”, the subject matter in Beyoncé’s recent “Lemonade” record that dealt with infidelity. Still following all this?
A few days later, the Swift one was photographed snogging British actor Tom Hiddlestone, who’s tipped to play the new James Bond. A trifle contrived?
A peeved Calvin Harris was reported- by Perez Hilton- to have deleted all photos of him and his ex, whereas all I could think about is just how similar the love lives of Taylor Swift and Tom Cruise are starting to look. There’s just something fake about the public fawning of both. It’s like Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s sofa and telling the world about his Big Love for Katie Holmes. Well, we know how that ended: Katie Holmes escaped with her daughter from the clutches of Cruise and control of the Church of Scientology.
As for Taylor Swift, while she was showing the world she had moved on, and the Calvin bloke was behaving like a big woos, Kim Kardashian was standing up for her man Kanye West, and all that nastiness about his song, “Famous” and those infamous lyrics, “I feel that Taylor and I might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous”. And, so now, Kim Kardashian is involved in music through a song written by her husband, and the world listens.
In the midst of all this, legendary record producer Tony Visconti was issuing an unapologetic apology to Adele for his comments that much of today’s music is heavily homogenised and manufactured in the studio- including the recordings of Sony Music’s Billion Dollar Baby.
The singer, who’s now well-known for turning vulgarity into being her I’m A Common London Girl Next Door shtick by swearing like a sweet and sour Fanny Adams, came out swinging.
Having worked with everyone from Bowie and T.Rex to Morrisey and The Moody Blues, Tony Visconti knows his way around a studio. In fact, anyone who has spent time working in a recording studio can hear all clicks, the punch-ins, the punch-outs and “voice modulations” rampant on most recordings today. One has to wonder if Adele has any idea what happens to her recordings after she has laid her vocals down? There’s a huge difference in hearing her warble her way through her hits in a ‘live’ environment, and the pristine, almost robotic pathos of her recorded works. Remember her totally off-key performance at this year’s Grammy awards?
While all this was and is still going on, Jimmy Page is in court trying to prove that he had not copied “Stairway To Heaven” from the track “Taurus” by the now-defunct American band Spirit. It’s such a convoluted case that happened almost fifty years ago and has surfaced in only the last two years that one has to wonder what the case is really about- copyright infringement, and, if so, why it’s become something to pursue only now, or whether this has nothing to do with a song and everything to do with money and more money.
Sadly, what has had everything to do about music was another death in the family last week. When “Prince Be” passed away, we lost another artist, of course, not an icon like Bowie or Prince. But going back and listening to the PM Dawn catalogue, especially the cracking creativity of “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss”, showed two extremely underrated musicians- brothers Attrell and Jarrett Cordes- who knew their music, and which was why they so cleverly incorporated samples of other people’s hits into their own original work, and even had the audacity to turn Prince’s “1999″ into something else.
In a world where less and less supposed music makers don’t make the time to create and produce new music, preferring to put things on hold, and maybe only decide to strike when the iron is lukewarm, and when opportunities have come and gone, going back and listening to a record like “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss” reignites the creative fire.
It forces one to revisit all the other great music that has got lost in the clutter of today’s information overload with way too many waiting for things to happen, but unwilling to make the time to actually DO something different than just sitting there being busy doing nothing. Other than, of course, “sharing” the banalities of life on Facebook thinking that everyone cares what you watched on telly over the weekend.
Follow Hans Ebert on Twitter @HansEbertHK