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Taylor Swift can't sing

Country Standard Time Editorial, December 2008

Taylor Swift can't sing live. That is the unfortunate truth after seeing her perform on the Country Music Association awards in November and again at the Grammys concert this week. She offered by far the worst performance at the CMAs with her take on her hit single Love Story. And at the Grammys, she butchered Brenda Lee's I'm Sorry, which morphed into her own better sounding White Horse.

This is not meant as any sort of personal bash against Swift. For non believers, check out the positive review given "Fearless", although that review makes clear that her biggest liability by far was her singing. Swift does well on the CD when the pace is more uptempo. Her writing is of quality whether with others or solo. She deserves a lot of credit for that.

But like the awards show and Grammy concert, when she sticks to ballads, she exposes herself badly as someone who is not a top notch singer. It really is amazing how poor the live televised performances were given how popular a singer she has become. And while we have not seen her live in concert, the reports are about the same from those who have.

Swift, whose not exactly hard core country in a pop world, certainly is talented - she writes good songs as evidenced by "Fearless." She sticks to themes she knows something about - teen love. (although she is soon going to get beyond her teen years and have to figure out how to gracefully age while keeping/expanding her fan base.) And that is why she attracts a young, female audience.

What may have propelled her career is a big marketing campaign and her reaching out to fans on the internet as a key component of the strategy (myspace.com for those living on another planet with regard to Swift). Remember, it's not always the best songs or movies or books that do the best at the cash register. Sometimes other forces are at play.

Maybe that's the case here as well with Swift. Nice, friendly, clean girl persona (well, she did slightly veer into a he said/she said spat with brother Jonas about the end of their relationship) and songs that are commercially appealing and resonate with her fans.

But it sure would be nice if the girl could sing.