Why Taylor Swift's Next Album Should Be Country, Especially After Her CMAs Appearance
While she may not have made many appearances in 2016, Taylor Swift showing up to the 50th Country Music Association Awards was a major moment. Swift's kept as low a profile as possible this year, although it hasn't been easy. Now as 2016 wanes, she's been back on fans' radars in fine form. After seeing her onstage at this year's CMAs, I was reminded — as odd as it may sound — that Swift began her music career as a country artist. While she hasn't publicly confirmed that she will be releasing new music (she recently wrote for other artists, though), I've been thinking that it would be wholly interesting to see Swift return to her country roots. Her appearances at the Grand Prix and the CMAs are spaces of pure Americana. I know that Swift is meticulous and meaningful about her creative choices. Why not continue with this All-American theme and release a new album full of country music?
The country-fied images fans carry of the 26-year-old are deeply embedded into the pop culture identification of her, while the genre itself lends a kind of homey familiarity to whatever is being sung about. One of Swift's first hit singles, "Teardrops On My Guitar," practically set the pace for the kind of diaristic explorations of heartbreak she has become known for. Swift's readiness to bare her soul has become a staple of her music. Country has been a prime avenue for her form of expression up until she made the switch to pop with 1989.
While it's not entirely relevant to conflate her inner life with her public one, it's hard not to notice that Swift has undergone some very major events that have affected her public perception since 1989's release. Relationships, feuds, friendships, and career highs have culminated in a quietly turbulent 2016 for Swift, as far as fans can tell. This sense of big change and loss of tangible things that was sung about fictionally in the beginning of her career now seems very real in Swift's public life. If only for the therapeutic qualities country music has given Swift's music, it might be time that she re-explore the genre that helped make her famous.
Apart from country-music adjacent public appearances, she has re-entered the country music sphere in another way. Swift collaborated with Little Big Town, writing their recent hit "Better Man." This happened after she penned Calvin Harris' "This Is What You Came For" earlier this year. While there have been confirmations that she is back in the studio and recording, fans still don't know what exactly is being recorded. If anything, missing her "album every two years" deadline is an omen that whatever Swift is working on must be too big or important for her to release just for the sake of an anniversary. That's not to say it's a country album. Instead, what it tells me is that Swift is deep into her music, and perhaps even a bit introspective.
Swift deserves to tell her side of the story. Better still, she should tell it through country music. While her activity on social media has kept fans in touch with any major life events, there's very little sense of her emotional state of mind at the moment — something her music offers a very clear window into. The marriage of Swift's music and lyrics at this time in her life should be channeled into a genre so natural and foundational that it would be a homecoming in every way: professionally, personally, musically, and so forth.
I, for one, miss the twang in Swift's voice that was so present in her eponymous debut album. It's a twang that indicates so much about her and her roots, a place she shouldn't exclude when considering her next step.