Essay Draft Response
-I need to give a student in my class a review about her essay draft. -In your reply, organize your response according to these four categories. You can copy and paste to structure your entry: (1) Sentence refinement: (2) Paragraph structure: (3) Argumentative clarity: (4) Additional recommendations: -Give the author specific recommendations for each category 1-3, along with any friendly pointers about their title, writing style, use of quotes, MLA format, source reliability, etc. under number The draft: Music is an inherent part of the human experience. While scientists aren’t exactly sure, from an evolutionary perspective, why we love music, they guess it has to do with our love of patterns (Resnick). But, modern day celebrities are far from our musical ancestors that played, performed and wrote music for much more conservative reasons. Angela Davis discusses the excitement African American blues musicians felt in the 1920s when they were finally able to perform music, outside of slavery, that had themes that actually pertained to their lived experiences (Davis 3). She argued the performance of music, during those days, had very little to do with economics or celebrity, since “the former slaves’ economic status had not undergone a radical transformation-they were no less impoverished than they were during slavery,” but “it was the status of their personal relationships that was revolutionized” (Davis 4). In essence, music for most of human history was used not as a means to gain notoriety, but rather as a means to deal with difficult human topics, like economic uncertainty and personal freedom. In a very similar way, country music, like blues music, also deals with topics like economic uncertainty, hard work, and personal freedom. It is why many country music artists are viewed as more “authentic” than other forms of modern day celebrity musicians (Brown). It takes a specific type of celebrity to transition from this “authentic” form of music to a less authentic genre, like pop. Yet, Taylor Swift did it quite seamlessly. Why? What makes her different? What is the importance of authenticity in the music industry today and how did Taylor Swift so flawlessly navigate a genre shift while maintaining this perfect image of herself? Before exploring Taylor Swift’s public persona, it is essential to understand her background in the music industry. Taylor Swift began her musical career at the age of 12 when her family moved to Hendersonville, Tennessee in an effort to land a recording contract. Swift’s first record label, Big Machine Records, signed her as a country music act. Her first single, “Tim McGraw,” came out in 2006 when Swift was 17 years old. It immediately skyrocketed to the Billboard Top Ten list for country music (“Taylor Swift Biography”). Her self-titled album, which was also a country album, also came out in 2006 and sold more than 5 million copies. Swift’s next album, Fearless, came out in 2008. Swift was “the highest-selling country artist” that year (“Taylor Swift Biography”). In 2009, Swift became the first country artist to win a Video Music Award. In 2010, Swift became the youngest artist to ever win a Grammy for Album of the Year. Swift went on to release two more country albums before debuting 1989 in 2014 which officially marked her transition to pop (“Taylor Swift Biography”). Swift’s latest album, Folklore, was released this month and once again marked a transition in genres, but this time from pop to indie. But, throughout her entire music career, Taylor Swift has been seen as one of the most authentic celebrity musicians around. A quick google search will bring up hundreds of blogs dedicated to this very topic. For example, Matthew LaMar, a classically trained musician, created a blog dedicated to this very topic. LaMar said: What makes Swift so good is that she operates within the constrictive pop music box just like everyone else, but her songs still achieve greatness. One reason is that their construction is impeccable, and they can be scaled down to an acoustic level or blasted to arenas and maintain their integrity and meaning. But the second, most important reason is that they come from a sincere place that just can’t be faked, no matter how hard one tries to do so. Millennials are great at sniffing out what is fake and what isn’t, and true originality shines like a bright lighthouse. But, other than the intent of the artist, which is immeasurable, how does authenticity translate to an audience? Moreover, why does it matter if a celebrity is seen as authentic? Gaston Franssen argued in a journal article for Celebrity Studies that authenticity in celebrity culture… (I will fill out this paragraph at a later time, since I jump around while writing) So, if authenticity is integral to the success of celebrities, then what aspects of this measured authenticity does Taylor Swift use to her advantage? The answer to this question is nearly all of them. For starters, Swift got her start in country music, which lent credibility to the star as a teenager. As Wilsinson said, “Rock and country stars are perceived to be more ‘authentic’ than their pop music counterparts, because their image is imbued with a sense of labour” (Wilkinson 441). In essence, country music stars are seen as more authentic because it appears as if they work just the same amount as you or I. Moreover, Wilkinson also mentioned that country music stars are seen as more authentic because “their lyrics are filled with personal tales of working life and hardship” and because their “performances are seemingly rooted in autobiography and intimate confession” (Wilkinson 441). People are automatically drawn to others who participate in self disclosure and Swift’s first country album is filled with lyrics that do just this. For instance, Swift’s first single, “Tim McGraw,” tells the story of a teenage romance from Swift’s perspective. However, as Swift transitioned away from country into pop, she relied more heavily on other aspects of performed authenticity, while still benefiting from her perfect public image as a country starlet.