the 1989 pivot
On this, the day after Taylor Swift won a lawsuit against a douchebag who groped her, I was looking at this post I started last April, but apparently I got sidetracked and didn’t finish it. I finished it today!
As my life progresses and I think about what motivates us to do the things we do in our life, the culprit of inaction and stalemate is always fear. Per the usual, I am not unique in this realization, and “fear facing” has become a motivational battle cry for all…until we are onto something else.
I was driving to New Orleans yesterday to look at a possible location for another FRESHJUNKIE. These trips are at once exciting and anxiety filled. Risk drives fear. Fear of failure, fear of change, fear of making wrong decisions.
Just because I am more prone to do the things many people say they want to do, doesn’t mean they don’t cause me just as much misgiving and fear. I also think saying things like “The difference between me and you is I face those fears and go forward anyway. ” is disingenuous and bullshit. It’s naive to think that I am any different.
My daughter loves Taylor Swift. If I am honest, I think she’s pretty great too. I have been a hater of all things “new country” for as long as I can remember, and I am sure I dismissed her from the jump as some sort of “new country Hannah Montana.” As I continued to listen, her mostly feel good pop songs, grew on me as did her live show and seemingly too good to be true persona. Certainly the other shoe would drop, and she’d “Miley Cyrus” out at some point. Hasn’t happened. As the father of a 15 year old girl, this is refreshing and hopeful.
These two lines of thought may seem incongruent. FEAR and Taylor Swift, but stick with me.
On September 21st of 2015, Ryan Adams, critically acclaimed music guy released a song for song cover album of Swifts, pop smash, 1989. I have long had a “I should like Ryan Adams, I dislike Ryan Adams,” relationship. I’ve seen him live, love some of his songs, and think he’s overall pretty great. He’s also a pain in the ass and overrated. Such is his rock dichotomy.
His album got all sorts of good and bad press and reviews. Regardless if I like it or not, it was a brilliant marketing move. I liken his versions of Ms. Swift’s songs to a lot of his music. “It’s not bad.” or “You can clean your house to it.” may have been uttered. This album is the same. What it did do was make me listen to the original further, and that’s when I had a interesting revelation.
Taylor Swift threw away a guaranteed sure thing by going a completely different direction. Yes, her base was likely going to buy anything she put out, but what’s not talked about much is the true strength of the songwriting and production and the vision she and the producers had to go a completely opposite direction. While there was some security in that, pop music is fickle and there had to be some fear that it wouldn’t pan out.
Instead this happened:
“After debuting at number one on the US Billboard 200, 1989 sold 1.287 million copies during the first week of release. The total US sales figure from the debut week of 1989 was the highest since 2002, and made Swift the first artist to sell one million or more copies of an album in a week-long period for three albums. 1989 eventually became the best-selling album of 2014 in the US market and has sold over 6 million as of January 2017, while selling 9.5 million worldwide. Seven singles have been released from the set: “Shake It Off“, “Blank Space“, and “Bad Blood” all reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, while “Style” peaked at number six, “Wildest Dreams” at number five, and “Out of the Woods” peaking at number 18 in 2014. The first five singles have all reached number one on the Adult Top 40 and Mainstream Top 40 and all have received a multi-platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).” Wikipedia
I imagine as they mixed these songs, they knew they had something special, but as with everything, there had to be some trepidation with this 180 degree pivot from her light country history was going to be too much for her fans.
Change is hard and jumping towards the abyss is part of it. I read a quote somewhere that I don’t remember. (sorry to not give credit), but essentially it is this: “Jump, and the bridge will appear.” Fear is always gonna be there, but you got one shot on this here planet. Sometimes a jump into the abyss is exactly what you need.
Originally published at patrickfellows.com on August 15, 2017.