New music is apparently coming from Taylor Swift and her fans are about to lose it. And it's easy to see why. Swift is arguably the biggest music star of the past five years and she's become the symbol of what it means to be a major music artist in 2017. Everything about her image - from her red carpet look to her Instagram feed - is cultivated to project just the right image. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, millions of people love Beyonce and her image is as carefully managed as the savviest consumer business brand. But it can be easy to forget there is a talented artist buried beneath all of the social media image-building.
I have no doubt Swift's new album will be huge. Sites will crank out hot takes on every single with a frenzy usually reserved for new episodes of "Game of Thrones." The tracks will be catchy pieces of carefully manufactured ear candy that will dominate pop culture for months and the resulting tour will be quickly sold out. Everyone associated with the release will be happy and rich.
I find my favorite Taylor Swift performances are consistently her sporadic acoustic appearances. From her earliest days, Swift has played acoustic guitar and while she's moved away from that as she's transitioned to mega pop star, she'll still surprise fans with the occasional chances to see her music stripped down to just her and a guitar. And those are the times where I see the artist Swift is going to be when her reign as pop music queen inevitably fades a bit. Every musician ages and as they do, their true vision becomes clear. Removed from the need to crank out increasingly impressive hit tunes, performers will start recording music that speaks to their hearts, not the expectations of their fans.
I've never spoken to Taylor Swift and won't claim to have any actual insight about her secret musical heart. But as a casual fan, I have a sense of the music I think she'll gravitate towards in the future. Shorn of all the catchy beats and flashy performances, Swift has an expressive voice that is capable of moving from dismissive snark to sad reflection in just one line. More than anything, I'd like to think at some point Swift will inevitably move towards those subtle performances she was born to deliver.
All of this reflection about an older Taylor Swift comes as the result of running across a song that at one point in my life was my favorite tune in the world. In 1972, 15 years before she had her string of radio hits, Bonnie Raitt recorded the bittersweet Eric Kaz and Libby Titus ballad "Love Has No Pride." It's one of those songs that sneaks up on you. It's nothing much more than a guitar and a voice. But Raitt delivers this heartbreaking performance that makes you feel as if she's opened up her heart and set it there right on top of the table for the world to see.
I've posted a quite live performance of the song below and if you're not familiar with the song, just lean back and listen. Imagine Swift's expressive delivery wrapped around a song this heartbreaking. She doesn't seem to be at the place in her life where she's comfortable being this vulnerable in her live performances. But she is certainly capable of giving Raitt a run for her money on this song and I hope this is where she'll end up a decade or so from now.
Until then....let's dance.