Taylor Swift’s label head gives critics a swift kick

02.04.10 8 years ago 6 Comments

AP Photo

Poor Taylor Swift. She may have snared four Grammys Sunday night, including the highly coveted album of the year for “Fearless,” but any subsequent kudos have been drowned out in the media by the deafening roar of how awful her performance was.

The drumbeat of criticism has grown so loud that Scott Borchetta, the head of Swift”s label, Big Machine, released a letter to the media defending his label”s meal ticket,  biggest star.
Here are his comments as printed in Nashville”s “The Tennessean”:

“The biggest message is (the critics) are not getting it,” Borchetta said. “Because the facts say she is the undisputed best communicator that we’ve got. When she says something, when she sings something, when she feels something, it affects more people than anybody else.

“Maybe she’s not the best technical singer, but she’s probably the best emotional singer because everybody else who gets up there and is technically perfect, people don’t seem to want more of it. … I think (the critics) are missing the whole voice of a generation that is happening right in front of them. … She’s an extraordinary songwriter and her vocal performances are getting better. Everybody is not perfect on any given day. If you pick any of those artists that performed (on the Grammy Awards) I’m sure you can go online and find something where you go, ‘ew.’ Maybe in that moment we didn’t have the best night. But in the same breath, maybe we did. And nobody is arguing with the awards.

“The critics are missing the bigger picture. This is what always happens and is the unfortunate part of the American dream, that we build these people up to watch the critics tear them down. Well, you better have more than what you’ve got now if you think you’re going to get in the ring and fight with us. So, get in the ring.”

First off, he protests too much. The simple fact is that Taylor Swift has a tremendously difficult time staying on key. It isn”t as if the Grammys were the first performance where she hit clam after clam, it was just the highest-profile appearance and the one in closest proximity to winning the biggest prize in the land, album of the year.

Plus, Borchetta decides to take aim at critics, many of whom have helped Swift get where she is. In addition to being a commercial success, she has been lauded in both the New York Times and the New Yorker, so he might want to go easy on biting the media hand that has helped make her the superstar that she is. This is not the start of some well-orchestrated Swift backlash that has no basis in fact other than her success. It has to do with people finally saying what no one wanted to say for a very long time (although we”ve said it quite a few times in this blog over the past year): there are many, many things to admire about Swift: her songwriting ability, her on-stage charisma, her close connection to her audience, her phenomenal drive, her tremendous worth ethic and much more, but her singing ability is average at best.

Borchetta-and Swift-would have been much better served by either issuing a swift no comment, or simply saying something like “Swift wants to thank her millions of fans for their support” or “Swift”s enthusiasm of performing with her idol Stevie Nicks more than made up for any nerves she may have exhibited…” There are myriad ways to have handled this situation, but instead Borchetta decided to attack her critics and then, in a very strange way, agree with them by saying, “maybe she”s not the best technical singer.” You think?

Swift has not commented on the controversy. Her Australian tour starts tonight in Brisbane. Her U.S. tour begins March 4.

How do you think Borchetta should have responded?


Scott Borchetta also went on to tell the Associated Press, in a phonecall, “This is not American Idol. This is not a competition of getting up and seeing who can sing the highest note. She is the voice of this generation. She speaks directly to (her fans), and they speak directly back to her.”

At least one American Idol was listening. Superstar Kelly Clarkson has taken to her blog to respond to Borchetta in an open letter:

Wow …..Dear Scott Borchetta,

I understand defending your artist obviously because I have done the same in the past for artists I like, including Taylor, so you might see why its upsetting to read you attacking American Idol for producing simply vocalists that hit ‘the high notes”. Thank you for that ‘Captain Obvious” sense of humor because you know what, we not only hit the high notes, you forgot to mention we generally hit the ‘right” notes as well. Every artist has a bad performance or two and that is understandable, but throwing blame will not make the situation at hand any better. I have been criticized left and right for having shaky performances before (and they were shaky) and what my manager or label executives say to me and the public is “I”ll kick butt next time” or “every performance isn”t going to be perfect” ……I bring this up because you should take a lesson from these people and instead of lashing out at other artists (that in your ‘humble” opinion lack true artistry), you should simply take a breath and realize that sometimes things won”t go according to plan or work out and that”s okay.


One of those contestants from American Idol who only made it because of her high notes

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