What are we to make of the ongoing controversy over 20-year-old country singer Taylor Swift’s off-key performance at the Grammys last week? The Web world is abuzz with fans and detractors defending or denigrating the singer. MTV News even published an article titled “Why You Shouldn’t Hate On Taylor Swift” in response to the backlash.
We’ll cut her some slack; everyone has a bad night. What’s so troublesome is not her weak performance but what her record label’s response says about the music industry.
According to her label, Swift had a technical issue that made her worry about her performance with Stevie Nicks. “We had a volume problem in the ear. So, she was concerned that she wasn’t able to hear everything in the mix,” Big Machine Records CEO Scott Borchetta said. “That’s just part of live TV. … So you’re going to have difficulties on occasion. Unfortunately, on one of the biggest stages, we did have a technical issue. She couldn’t hear herself like she had in rehearsal.”
In other words, Swift can’t perform unless the electronics are up to snuff? We don’t buy it. Whatever happened to just getting up and performing before a live audience sans earpieces, electronic mixes, etc.? This kind of reminds us of the heyday of manufactured singers in the 1950s and 60s, when the record labels were turning every pretty face or young TV star into a singer — with the aid of echo, reverb, and a host of wonderful studio electronics to improve their voices. Remember Fabian, Paul Peterson, Tommy Sands, Johnny Crawford, Shelley Fabares?
It’s a sad state of affairs when a big star can’t perform live because her electronics are malfunctioning.