Mistakes You Don't Want to Make or How to Alienate Fans

      I'm a fan of country music, but I've been on the fence about Taylor Swift.

Taylor SwiftOn one hand, she young and she's cute and it's kind of fun watching her live the dream. She wasn't even 20 when she hit the big time, and if the lyrics of the songs she writes reflect her age, you can forgive that because she is, well, young. In spite of her age, her achievements rival artists who've been in the industry for decades. At 20, she was named Artist of the Year and recently it was announced that she's sold over 20 million albums. If that's not living the dream, I don't know what is.

So while I'm not her biggest fan, I was willing to sit back and cheer her on as she matured. That all changed with her newest release called Mean. The song is a rant about how some people are just, well, mean. The verse that really chokes me is:

And I can see you years from now in a bar, talking over a football game
With that same big loud opinion but nobody's listening
Washed up and ranting about the same old bitter things
Drunk and grumbling on about how I can't sing.

The first time I heard those lyrics, my emotional response was the equivalent of  my mouth dropping open in shock and I thought, "What? Artist of the Year isn't enough for you? You're not satisfied that every last person on the planet isn't groveling at your feet?"

Swift admits that her songs are autobiographical and my understanding is that she was a bit of an outsider in school, so I can understand where the song comes from, and if it weren't for the line criticizing her singing, I'd think it was a good song to encourage kids who are subject to bullies, but that one line makes it personal and changes the tone of the song for me. As a writer, I know that all writing is personal, but you have to be careful to make it not look like it's all about you.

Here's the facts, Taylor. You're a very talented song writer, but as a singer, you're at best so-so. Deal with it. If you can't learn to shake it off when someone thinks you're not the best thing since sliced bread, you're never going to be happy. A thick skin is a requirement for survival in any artistic field because there will always be someone who thinks you're not the sun, moon, and stars all rolled into one.

RevolutionSo now I'm going to put on my Miranda Lambert CDs and listen to someone who writes mature lyrics and who can actually sing.

Have you ever run across something from an artist (singer, writer, actor) that seriously alienated you?


  1. I completely agree. That song irritates me too.

  2. Absolutely. I used to be a huge fan of Orson Scott Card's fiction. Even have one of his signed from meeting him at a convention. Then he started to seriously toe the Mormon church religious line and rant in public about how evil homosexuality is. I'm done. He won't see another dime in royalties from my wallet.

    It's a free country, he can think whatever he likes, he can say it at the top of his lungs and I'll respect that right, but from my perspective he's preaching hate and I'm not going to give that even a hint of support.

  3. Great post. I don't really have anything to add other than I completely understand. I'm like that although I can't think of a specific example right now.

  4. Oh, Kathryn, I so agree about OSC. It's so hard to let go of someone whose work you admired. My personal opinion is if you're not elected to a position (like Mayor of Carmel or Governor of California or President of NRA) you should stay off the soapbox.

  5. So, what was the best thing before sliced bread? I've always wondered.
    IMO Taylor goes over the top on needing everyone's love, but I have to agree, mean people do suck.

  6. I had the exact same response to Orson Scott. I loved Ender's Game and other works, but when I heard his pro Mormon anti gay rants I lost that. I would never buy another book by him, or even buy Ender's Game again since I think I lost my copy. Good riddance.

    It's weird, but I always find it more distressing when a science fiction writer shows that level of intolerance. I guess because I want them to reflect a future world that is better than the hate-filled one we live in now.

  7. Excellent post! For country music with me, it depends on the artist as to if I like them. I'm indifferent to Taylor Swift, and if I've heard that song, it made absolutely no impression on me. Still, your points about her turning that lyric into a "hey, pay attention to me!" moment are completely valid.

    And Miranda Lambert's one of the good country acts. You have my compliments on your fine taste.

  8. Yes, a movie we watched last night caused us to lose respect for the two stars.

  9. We don't get a lot of country music down here in New Zealand so I haven't heard this song. I'll have to check it out. I have to admit the recent behavior of a few movie stars has made my eyebrows rise. People in public life do need to watch what they say and do. Maybe that's not always fair but it comes with the territory.

  10. I think it's more than fair, Shelley, to hold people in the public eye to a higher standard. In most cases, they actively pursued the careers that put them where they are. They make a lot of money for what they do and, like it or not, they're role models. Fame has privileges but it also has a price and being aware of what you put out there and how it will be perceived is one of them.

  11. I have to agree with all of you about OSC. OTOH, Stephen King won my love forever with his comments to a conservative naysayer. (Not that he had to try very hard, because he's one of my writing heroes.)

    However, I have to say I have only sympathy for Swift, or anyone else who's in the public eye by virtue of talent, and here's why.

    Like Swift, I was in a public profession when I was about her age. Now, don't get me wrong. I was a complete, total and utter nobody. I've never had any illusions about how much of a celebrity I WASN'T.

    Which is why the level of sheer nastiness I encountered devastated me.

    My profession was a very, very tough one to crack, I'll admit that. I also was lucky enough to have a kind of talent that *could* be developed. Not everyone does. I achieved my own small measure of success because I worked insanely hard and gave up a lot that most other people weren't willing to do. None of it would have happened without the work and sacrifice.

    Stupid me, I expected people would be happy for me. Yet they weren't. Quite the opposite.

    The nastiness wasn't the main reason I ended up leaving that profession...but it is one reason why I never returned, despite offers to do so. It's a terrible shock when people stop responding to *who* you are, and only to what you do. It's an even worse shock when you find people you once thought were friends are willing to assassinate your character and sell you down the river to try to discredit you, in hopes that if they can't earn what you have, they can at least take what you have from you and feel better about themselves.

    In our own profession, I've also seen the unfortunate edge of jealousy being disguised as the price of fame as well. I have a lovely friend who sold her first book to a major publisher. She did so because she works hard, is savvy, and developed an opportunity where none existed. She's sold several times since then. And she earns every single sale.

    You'd *think* that everyone in the local chapter would be supportive, right? Wrong. She ended up dropping out of the chapter and nearly stopped writing after the first book because of the snide comments about 'beginner's luck' and catty comments about her book.

    Her true friends stuck with her, but they were few.

    Re: the higher standard - people don't go into these professions to be role models. I know I don't write because I want to someday be someone's writing goddess. I write because I love to write, just as I did what I did before because I loved the work (which also involved writing.) Is it irrational to believe that people have just done what they've loved to do, be it acting or music...and not done so for any other reason than because it was what they loved to do?

    Yes, fame has a price. But how many people use that excuse as a rationale to exercise their own jealousy upon someone who's done well? How many people stop to think how deeply what they say can cut?

    Just because someone's in the public eye doesn't make them less than human. Just because someone's gotten success early doesn't mean they're still not young underneath. Everyone tells us that failure has a price...but nobody ever tells you that success can have a greater one.

    So I think I can understand where Smith's lyrics come from. Maybe it was unwise to use them in a song...but then again, maybe not. But then, she is young and hurting, as I once was myself. I can't bring myself to condemn her for it.

    Very thought provoking blog topic, though. Thank you!

  12. The following link turned me off to an author forever. And the saddest thing? I wanted so badly to read this post (which a writer friend had briefly described as "the other side of self-pub") and find someone who had worked hard, needed sales, and written a moving monologue about it. I WANTED to want to buy her books.

    Instead, she came off as a spoiled, whiney little ingrate with an affinity for using the f-word as an adjective. I don't think an author, who has an entire world of words in her palette, should resort to telling complete strangers to, as she so inelegantly put it, "f--- off."

    I wanted to like her. But now, I wouldn't read her books if they were the last piece of reading material in the waiting room of hell.


  13. Anon - You have my curiosity up about the post you mention, but you didn't include it. (I know it's not on my blog coz I've never posted about self-publishing or used the f-word here.) If you should stop by again, please consider letting me know where this is.

  14. Anon 1 - You raise good points and I'm sorry you had such a bad experience. I agree that when you're young you don't really know what you're getting in to and I'm inclined to think that being wildly successful at a young age is not a blessing.

    Were I a big fan of Taylor's, I would overlook this stumble, but she won't suffer from losing record sales to me because the rest of the world seems to think she can do no wrong. Still, it remains a lesson that we can all learn from about being careful about what we do and say in the public arena.