Monday, February 13, 2012

Taylor Swift "Mean"

My favorite two moments of last night's Grammy telecast were not performances (though I enjoyed many of them), nor speeches (though the radio gods answered my prayer and gave Bon Iver a Prime Time speech).

No, my favorite moments had to do with artist/audience reaction.

I can't say that I've ever spent any time listening to Taylor Swift. But I'm not a hater, either (on good advice from a friend).

And while she is frequently teased for her "What? Me?! You're applauding for ME?" thing, it still doesn't ring false to me.

I wasn't familiar with her song "Mean" (yeah, a portion of you think I must live under a rock), but I couldn't help but be struck by her sincerity delivering the song, the audience's full embrace of her at its conclusion, and (what seemed to be) her genuine surprise by the level of reaction.

As I watched the audience give her a thunderous standing ovation, it became immediately apparent that her story (of a hometown/school loud-mouth, demeaning her dreams of being a singer) was one that was most likely very real, to every performer in that room. You don't reach the level of success that it takes to get in that room, without slogging your way though dozens, if not hundreds (and if you count the internet, thousands and thousands) of loudmouths who sit on their barstool and shout that you're not good enough.

That's true whether you're a Beatle in your 7th decade of making music, on down to that singer-songwriter in the back row who's album hasn't come out yet.

The reaction was so personal.

In a different way, I was just bowled over by the reaction to Adele's performance.

I mean, she was awesome. But watch the audience just shower her with affection, and see her be genuinely moved by it.

Her record is well made, and her songs are strong, but I think what people reacted to about "21" and about that specific Grammy performance, was just how much Adele gives of herself.

You can invest a song with a lot of emotion, but there is a certain amount of acting involved to convey those emotions.

With Adele, she just seems to have much more direct access to her emotions, and less of a filter when she tries to project them outwardly.

I don't know if the average non-performer understands the talent involved in that level of expression, or understands that no amount of talent completely accounts of the ability---the ability is simply a function of how that person is made.

And that's what was striking about the applause. It was from a group of people who understand that Adele has a technical proficiency on a level above most people in that room, but who also understood that they were not just applauding for her ability, they were applauding for her.

It was a good night, for sincerity.

Watch the videos to the end for the audience reactions to see what I mean.

See the video on Youtube.

Hear a better quality, studio version on Youtube.

See the video on Youtube.


  1. I wish they had panned to the audience to see who was singing along.

  2. I love the way she is good or bad positive or negative. Taylor rocks. Nice blog by the way!!