January 2019

Taylor Made

Ten Years Into Her Record-Breaking Career, the 29-Year Old Pop Superstar Keeps Evolving.

National Standards: 7-9, 11

Prepare

Have the class read Taylor Made (page 34 of the student edition). The article discusses the evolution of Taylor Swift, from a young girl with an acoustic guitar, to one of the world’s biggest pop sensations of all time.

Key points in the article:

    • At age 16, Swift was confident with her guitar and her voice, signing with Big Machine Records and had her first song on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
    • The superstar has embraced her “girl-next-store” image. “Even now, when she’s super popular, she still makes fun of herself.”
    • Her awards include 10 GRAMMYs, 23 American Music awards, 12 Country Music Association Awards, eight Academy of Country Music Awards and a Creative Arts Emmy.
    • Her latest tour, the Reputation Stadium Tour, is the highest grossing tour in U.S. history.
    • Her appeal does not come from her lyrical genius, performance tactics or booming vocals, but rather from her distinctively “like-able” songwriting.
    • Ryan Adams is a super-fan of Swift, recording a track-by-track cover of her album, 1989.
    • Swift has recently been very open about her political stance, backing Democrats actively against Trump.

Begin

Review vocabulary words from the article below:

  • MOXIE: force of character, determination, or nerve
  • DAUNTLESS: showing fearlessness and determination
  • COMMANDEER: officially take possession or control (of something)
  • CLOUT: influence or power
  • POTENT: having great power, influence, or effect
  • FRAUGHT: caused or affected by great anxiety or stress
  • LITANY: a tedious recital or repetitive series
  • DISILLUSIONMENT: a feeling of disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be
  • ACUMEN: the ability to make good judgements and quick decisions
  • BURGEON: begin to grow or increase rapidly
  • ESPOUSE: adopt or support
  • GUILE: sly or cunning intelligence
  • BRAVADO: a bold manner or a show of boldness intended to impress or intimidate
  • RANSACK: go hurriedly through (a place) stealing things and causing damage

Discuss

  • Swift has gone from an innocent, acoustic country girl to an intense and strong pop icon. Discuss the reasons why you think she was successful in this transition and why it has benefitted her career.
  • Talking points could be:
          • Youth is often synonymous with innocence
          • Her songs were originally mostly country, and the videos were soft and pretty
          • Now, because of the drama that has followed her around, she is forced to be more dynamic with her sound and with her messages
          • Despite some backlash, she continues to show her perseverance and self-confidence, releasing hit after hit and voicing her opinion about equality and independence

Play the video of Taylor Swift’s “Tim McGraw” (2006)

Ask

  • How would you characterize Taylor’s image in this video? What type of message does she most likely aim to send with her look and sound?
  • What genre of music would you classify this song as?

Now play the video of Taylor Swift’s “…Ready For It?” (2017)

Ask

  • How is this image different from her original one? What type of message does she most likely aim to send with her look and sound?
  • What genre of music would you classify this song as?
  • Which image and song was more successful in portraying its message? If she were to re-release a song like “Tim McGraw” would it have the same impact? Would it be received the same way? Or is her image changed forever?

Expand

Play the audio for Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off”

  • How does this song make you feel? Why?
  • What do you think Taylor wanted to make her listeners think about with this song?

Play the audio for Ryan Adams’ cover of “Shake it Off”

  • Does Adams’ version change the overall message?
  • How does this version (the different instruments, tempo, chords, melody) change the way we listen and connect to the song?
  • Which version do you prefer? Why?