On Sunday night, Taylor Swift performed her new single, "Shake It Off," for the first time at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs), and sadly, it was a major disappointment. Instead of recreating the song's music video, Swift donned a jazzy sequined two-piece and ran all over the VMA stage, "shaking it off" with a gaggle of handsome, tuxedo-clad dancers. Sounds pretty fun, right? Well, Swift looked fantastic, and I loved the concept, but her live vocals were — and I say this as a big fan — very shaky.
But they didn't have to be!
On Sunday evening, Deadspin posted a video of Swift's VMA performance with her live vocals isolated — and the result isn't pretty. As Bustle's Kadeen Griffiths pointed out on Monday, Swift was doing a lot of moving around during her performance, so in a way, it makes sense that she sounded "out of breath" and "weak" at times — but you have to know your limits as a performer and then adapt to suit your strengths!
Let's face it, there are very few artists in the music industry today who can truly sing and dance at the same time (*cough* Beyoncé *cough*), so no one was expecting perfection, but it was more than a little bizarre to hear Swift confidently sing "Shake It Off's" verses, but then completely drop away during the chorus. She literally just mouthed the words while the backing track and her back-up singers did all of the work for her. That's not cool.
Just because Sunday night was technically Swift's official pop star debut didn't mean that her performance had to be a giant, choreography-filled spectacle. She could've made things much simpler. Namely, she could've left most of the moving around to her back-up dancers and concentrated on singing. I don't think anyone's under the impression that Swift is a good dancer. In fact, she's known for being a bad dancer. She makes fun of her awkward dance moves throughout the entire "Shake It Off" music video! Her fans have embraced it. I thought she had, too.
Once Swift discovered that she couldn't handle the physical demands of the performance, she should've made some changes. After all, sometimes less is more. I think that the audience would've respected her decision to shake it a little less if that meant that she could deliver better vocals.
If Swift's going to perform pop music (and she said that her new album, 1989 , is all pop, so, you know, she's going to be), she needs to perform pop music her way. So, she can't dance. So what? She needs to focus on singing. She needs to focus on finding other ways to make her performances interesting, memorable, and unique. Not every artist can be Beyoncé, hitting every single note with ease while dancing flawlessly for 16 minutes straight with no rest. And that's OK.
"Shake It Off's" lyrics are all about being who you are, so I want to know: Why is Swift trying to be something that she's not?
Image: Getty Images