Moguls across showbiz industries have long weighed in differing opinions on the gender imbalance in the entertainment scene but not many expected what Taylor Swift recently revealed.
Swift opened up on how harsh criticism from her male counterparts and other stakeholders in the music scene almost crushed her as a thriving female artiste in her attempt at defying the odds.
The 30-year-old American vocalist, after receiving her Billboard ‘Woman of the Decade’ plaque on Thursday, spoke in-depth on the force behind her successful career as an entertainer, her strategies, and the sour experiences she suffered.
The talented singer, however, surprised the audience after what was supposed to be an expression of gratitude turned out to be a protracted talk that saw her step on toes and criticize what she described as the “toxic male privilege” plaguing the industry.
‘Swift Backlash’ — the reflex that once shaped my music
Narrating how she navigated the irreconcilable preferences of her fans while becoming malleable in the face of heated backlash from her male rivals, Swift said she once resorted to rejigging her lyrics and, subsequently, a genre shift.
According to her, the disapproval later encroached on her social life and relationships such that she was once described as one whose success is hinged on “calculated manipulations” rather than her being a smart showbiz mogul.
“I’ve seen a lot. As a successful female in the industry, some people always have slight reservations about you: whether you deserve to be there, whether your male producer or co-writer is the reason for your success, whether it was a savvy record label,” she began.
“I saw that people loved to explain away women’s success in the industry. And I saw something in me change due to this realization. This was when I started becoming a mirror for my detractors. What they decided I couldn’t do was exactly what I did.
“Whatever they criticized about me became material for musical satires. This reflex dictated more than just my lyrics. I couldn’t understand why this wave of harsh criticism had hit me so hard. And this pattern seemed to repeat itself when women’s success is beyond people’s comfort level.”
Scooter Braun and the ‘toxic male privilege’
Swift has been in a heated war of words with Scooter Braun, a music mogul, who snapped up the rights to her first six albums in June through a private equity deal.
Vowing she’s “not going willingly” on Braun, Swift said she would fight to reclaim her works and end what she described as a dangerous trend where creative works are bought over “like real estate.”
“Lately, there’s been a new shift that has affected me and that I feel it’s a potentially harmful force in our industry. That is the unregulated world of private equity coming in, and buying up our music as if it is real estate, an app, or a shoe line,” she said.
“This just happened to me without my consent. After I was denied the chance to purchase my music outright, my entire catalogue was sold to Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings in a deal that I’m told was funded by the Soros family, 23 Capital, and the Carlyle Group.
“Yet, to this day, none of these investors have bothered to contact me directly, to perform their due diligence, to ask how I might feel about the new owner of my art: the music I wrote, the videos I created, photos of me, my album designs.
“Scooter never contacted me to discuss it prior to the sale, or even when it was announced. The definition of toxic male privilege in our industry is people saying, ‘But he’s always been nice to me!’ when I’m raising valid concerns about artistes and their right to own their music.”
Why female artistes are dominating the music scene
Taylor, while speaking further on the trends with emerging stars, described vocalists like Lizzo, Rosalía, Tayla Parx, Hayley Kiyoko, King Princess, among others, as dominating the scene because they have had to grapple with some of these.
According to her, the higher standards to which female artistes are often held could have crushed them but, instead, it made them into diamonds through adaptation and acceptance.
“Females in music have dominated this decade in growth, streaming, record and ticket sales, and critical acclaim. Why? Because we have to grow fast, work this hard. We have to prove we deserve this, top our past achievements,” she said.
“Women in music are not allowed to coast. We are held at a higher, sometimes impossible-feeling standard. And we have taken this challenge, accepted it. It seems like the pressure that could’ve crushed us made us into diamonds instead.”
Addressing criticisms and the prospects
While she scoffed at her drift from country music to pop in her ‘1989’ album over claims that her music was “changing too much,” Swift said there’s been a paradigm shift which would now see do her choice, not critics’.
“I decided that I would be the only songwriter on my third album, Speak Now, and that I would tour constantly, work on my vocals every day, and perfect my stamina in a live show. I decided I would be what they said I couldn’t be,” she added.
“I didn’t know then that, soon enough, people would decide on something else I wasn’t quite doing right, and then the circle would keep going on, and I would keep accommodating, over-correcting, in an effort to appease critics.
“They said I’m dating too much in my 20s. I stopped. They said my album ‘Red’ contains too many break-up songs. I made one about moving to New York. They’re saying my music is changing too much for country music. Okay, here’s a genre shift called ‘1989’.
“Lately I’ve been focusing less on doing what they say I can’t do and more on doing whatever the hell I want.”
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