“When my Dad lost the farm to public auction and he went into real estate, he couldn’t believe what he discovered. It was all just numbers. Just numbers. People worrying about their property values going up and down. I’ll tell you, we got a little farm in Canada now, and the best day of our lives was when we started thinking about it not as a piece of real estate but as a home. That’s what matters. A place to go home to. A place to eat dinner with your family. We stopped mowing the lawn that day, and the neighbors got mad at us. I said, ‘What’re you mad about? We’re lowering your taxes!’ They don’t understand. That farm, some days it’s worth a million dollars, some days it’s worth $250,000—I don’t care. It’s our home, that’s what it’s worth to me. I can guarantee you right now that I’m the wealthiest man in this room. Of all the people in this room, no one’s wealthier than me. Do you know why? Because I have enough. I have enough. And once you have enough, no one else can have more enough than you.”
Dad: “Maybe when you have time you can explain to me why Taylor Swift wins Grammy Awards.”
Me: “Yes, I can do that. As long as you explain to me why she still makes that patently fake ‘surprised’ look every time she wins, after a solid year of winning every award in sight.”
The short version is that the Grammys are run by horny old white men. Mostly.
The longer version involves some dissection of her appeal, which starts with the basics (pretty) and trickles down to the more esoteric (girl actually writes her own songs). No viewer alien to the nominees context last night would have heard Taylor’s flat singing and predicted her to win over Lady Gaga, who stole the show, but I’ll bet there’s a substantial handful of Grammy voters who know she writes her own tunes.
It’s a big deal in country music, writing your own songs. Country music is the last popular music in America that relies heavily on a concentrated Brill-Building-style stable of songwriters, which is why much of it is predictable and sounds like “hit” material. (I sometimes wish rappers used songwriters, just as an experiment. I also wish rappers did covers of other rapper’s songs. Will explore this sometime in the future.) So for Taylor Swift to come out and write her own songs rocks that tradition and brings it back to a purer, more authentic Nashville that the average Grammy voter wishes once existed.
“Authenticity” is big up on Taylor Swift’s requirements—check the reaction again: the blank stare, the open mouth, the cupping palm—and she makes sure that all the hella fake-ass things about her don’t overshadow it. Plus, universal appeal, duh. Her songs are the kinds of songs that old people wish their kids would write, and that kinds of songs that make young people think, I could have written that. They are not shitty songs, keep in mind.
Does that explain it?
I can get behind Taylor Swift and all—there’s far worse role models for teenage girls to have, and far lousier pop music—but my vision is always stained by the Young Girls in Nashville Who Write Their Own Songs War of 2006. Pretty much it was Taylor Swift vs. Miranda Lambert, and Taylor won because she’s skinnier and younger and skinnier and blonder and skinnier and writes pop-country songs instead of country-country songs. (“Famous in a Small Town.” Watch that shit!) With silver medal in tow, Miranda Lambert has laid low, opening for Kenny Chesney and recording John Prine and friggin’ Fred Eaglesmith songs. (“Time to Get a Gun.” Watch that shit!) Still regret missing her headline the small indoor theater at Konocti.