Saturday, July 12, 2014

Taylor Swift: "albums are arrows through the heart" in the Wall Street Journal

by Melissa Scott, Writing Intern

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
“Country” crossover megastar Taylor Swift recently wrote a controversial op-ed for the Wall Street Journal.  She emphasized confidence in a thriving future for the music industry, in spite of current trends, numbers, and technologies.

At first glance, the idea of Swift writing an editorial for the WSJ is innately amusing.

At least for me, and my late-teen and nearing the end of college group of friends, Swift’s opinions typically promote mockery. The overemotional “pity me” and “boys suck” themes ran their course in high school. Now, when Taylor Swift-related news crosses my path, my eyes roll.

I was surprised to find her op-ed fairly impressive and well-written. Despite her usual carping and petty standpoints, Taylor took an optimistic and intelligent view in the article. She wrote about the progressive direction of the music industry.  She filled her writing with LSAT-worthy arguments.

The article made it clear that Taylor isn't quite “legally blonde.”  Taylor reached her conclusions a little too quickly, and the errors in her reasoning were too broad to be ignored. Predictably, she introduced a typical Taylor Swift melodramatic feature to the argument, and thus rendered her claims inadequate.

Taylor started her op-ed by warning the reader to beware of her eager, positive view: “Before I tell you my thoughts on the matter, you should know that you're reading the opinion of an enthusiastic optimist: one of the few living souls in the music industry who still believes that the music industry is not dying…it's just coming alive.”

Well, at least for me, this is the first time I've ever seen the phrase “enthusiastic optimist” anywhere near a reference to Taylor Swift. Her past opinions centered on relationship cynicism; she detoured radically here. The article was dripping with irony mid-first sentence.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Taylor tried to take a businesslike and level-headed approach to lead off her article. She claimed, “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.”

Her stance was fairly straightforward. As I train for law school, I've learned that “if a, then b, if b then c, therefore if a then c.” Taylor’s argument is logically sound.

 But her argument quickly lost its sure footing.

In mentioning album sales, she wrote, “I'd like to point out that people are still buying albums, but now they're buying just a few of them. They are buying only the ones that hit them like an arrow through the heart or have made them feel strong or allowed them to feel like they really aren't alone in feeling so alone.”

Now there’s the Taylor Swift every young teenage girl knows too well! She wouldn't be her notoriously sappy, love stricken self without vivid imagery like “arrow through the heart.”

As a newly minted future future lawyer, I’ll point out what makes this so “flawed.” First of all, too extreme fits her flying arrow metaphor almost perfectly. Sure, I've purchased a few albums that really meant something to me. But, I've also thrown a CD or two into my shopping cart out of sheer spontaneity.

Overlooked possibilities could also discredit Taylor’s claim. I’m not sure if I'd ever think of my newly-acquired Frozen soundtrack as overwhelmingly “arrow-piercing,” and I feel quite confident vouching for my roommate that her new NOW 50 CD doesn't go much deeper than providing a variety of enjoyable car jams. These possibilities certainly don’t align with “feel[ing] like they really aren't alone in feeling so alone.”

It’s not wrong to label all music poetic and artistic, like Taylor does. After all, she’s writing an op-ed here, and is perfectly entitled to her own opinion. But just because the music itself might be meaningful and profound, that doesn't make the consumer’s reason for buying the music meaningful and profound. It’s a clear case of mismatched concepts, and an obvious wrong answer on the LSAT.


  1. I think its a case of artistic Impressionism or I write music therefore I am. Music is available for all reasons


Social Compare