It would seem these days that the favorite game of the music business is trying to dissect what has made Taylor Swift so amazingly successful so that it can be replicated. But the dissection is pointless. And her success won't be replicated anytime soon – certainly not by copying. The fact is, Taylor has a unique and preternatural combination of talents and abilities. Is she the greatest vocalist in the world? No. But she is far from the pre-packaged Disney-esque commodity that most folks seem intent on labeling her as. Unlike the Miley Cyrus's and Hillary Duff's of the world, it is Taylor herself at the center of her success.
She is a gifted pop songwriter with an uncanny ear for musical and lyrical hooks. She's also a very strategic thinker, understanding that it doesn't just matter what she does and says, but how she does it and in what order – something most people don't get at fifty, much less at twenty. And lastly, not only is she amazingly self-aware and willing to risk sharing her personal life through her songs, but she has the ability to translate those deeply personal feelings and experiences into universal truths that her audience relates to in a hugely personal way.
It's easy to slip into analyzing the music instead of listening to it. I did it. It wasn't until my third or fourth time through the new record, Speak Now, that I really heard it. First time through, when I heard the song Never Grow Up, I thought, "Wow. She nailed the target with that song. Parents and kids will both love it." Then, on listen number four, when she sings about her first night alone in her new apartment, it hit me. "Oh, crap. I remember that night. That feeling." It's been FOREVER ago, but she brought it right back like it was yesterday.
So get the new music. Listen to the lonliness in that song. Or the unvarnished hurt in Dear John. Or the catty fun of Better Than Revenge and you'll start to see the core of what makes Taylor so successful. I'm not saying it's Shakespeare. But I don't think she would say that either. But it's her. And it's real. Good luck to anyone trying to fake that.