MUSICAL MUSINGS: To see the evolution of country music, just listen to the songs of Taylor Swift

There are many things in this world that can only be described as “atrocious.”

Among the items on that list is the #cutforbeiber movement (if you don’t know what that is, trust me, you’re better off not knowing), foie gras (forget the controversy about animal rights, it just tastes bad), and the ear-bleeding sound of Katy Perry singing live.

This list used to include the distasteful music that is commonly called “country.”

However, my mind has been changed.

I used to think of country as an unfortunate product of vast countryside, ample amounts of alcohol, and banjos.

Now I actually enjoy country. I still don’t enjoy the hard-core country artists, such as Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline, but I consider country to have been redeemed by artists like Taylor Swift, The Band Perry, and Carrie Underwood.

I do realize that what these artists have in common is that they all blur the boundaries between country and pop, but that’s exactly why I like them.

The old country songs are too bland. I find the singular banjo or guitar melodies of such songs monotonous when compared to the relatively intricate melodic schemes of today’s popular music, let alone the pure genius of the Classical and Romantic periods.

Similar to the history of classical music is the evolution of country music.

The different historical ages of classical music can be split into seven main groups: Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th-century, and Modern.

The evolution of country music, on the other hand, can be shown by the career of Taylor Swift.

Anyone familiar with her work over the years can easily see how much her style has changed in the time between her first album, Taylor Swift, and her most recent album, Red.

Take, for instance, one of my favorite songs on Taylor Swift, “Picture To Burn” or “Should’ve Said No.” Both show the prominence of guitar and what I like to call “raw” singing (meaning that it sounds like Swift is the one singing instead of an auto-tuned microphone).

Next comes Swift’s second album, Fearless. Some of my favorites on this installment are “Love Song,” “You Belong With Me,” and “Forever & Always.” All of these exhibit increased use of other instrumentation (both electronic and tactile) and the more smoothed-over sound of the vocals.

Swift’s second-to-last album, Speak Now, includes an even greater use of instrumentation (especially the computerized category).

My best-loved songs on this album are “Mine” and “Ours.” However, this album does contain a small flashback to the likes of her first album: Grammy award-winning song “Mean.”

Lastly comes Swift’s most recent album, Red. My preferences on this album include “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “Red,” and “Starlight.” I even sometimes enjoy “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” if I’m in the right mood.

But the most comment-worthy aspect of this album is the increased use of pop-style instrumentation and singing.

To really see and appreciate the difference between Taylor Swift and Red, I suggest first listening to “Teardrops On My Guitar” (from Taylor Swift) and then “22” (from Red).

Personally, I am internally split on which Taylor Swift I like, the original more country-style Swift, or the more modern and poppy Swift.

I must say that I do lean a little more towards the more contemporary Taylor Swift, even if it is mainly for the chance to dissect her songs, looking for the references to her numerous relationships.

All I can say about that little sentiment is that I’m happy I’ve never dated her!


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