By all accounts, all the best r/TaylorSwift accounts, Taylor is coming home to country music.
All the signs are there. There’s the obvious: Babe, a Red B-side that Taylor gave to Atlanta duo Sugarland, recently ranked in the top ten of Billboard’s country charts; she won a CMA for ‘Better Man’, a song she wrote for the Nashville band Little Big Town, last year; the lone piano ballad on Reputation, ‘New Year’s Day’, was widely circulated on country radio. The world is so desperate for Taylor to return to her roots that Spotify has optimistically categorised ‘Delicate’ as ‘hot country’.
And then there’s the less obvious hints: the moments when you hear the old Taylor squeal through the gaffer tape, moments where she comes through on Reputation, moments like, “And here’s to my maaamaaaaa” on ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’.
It’s a smart career move. Everyone knows that Taylor’s best songs are stories with cute details, which let you pretend that you’re dancing ‘round the kitchen in the refrigerator light with your lover, rather than eating cold pasta out of the fridge with one hand and holding your laptop with the other, so you don’t have to stop watching Netflix to have a midnight snack. Going country would also reduce her workload, relieving her of the responsibility to educate herself about cultural appropriation. Plus, Taylor needs to keep up with her contemporaries; Miley Cyrus has retreated into the arms of her godmother, and even Lady Gaga has started singing about worn out leather.
But that doesn’t mean that Taylor can curl her hair, wear a white dress and be done with it. The old Taylor wasn’t country enough – Taylor Swift Taylor wasn’t enough of a small town girl, Fearless Taylor wasn’t enough of a pumpkin patch kid, Red Taylor didn’t have enough James Taylor records. No, if she is doing to do this, she needs to become a real ol’ good-Lord-lovin’ country girl.
So what should Taylor’s transition look like?
Well, she goes on tour this week, and she doesn’t exactly have time to create her achy-breaky seventh album before Tuesday, so here are a few ways that she could countrify her current image and material.
Like I said, it doesn’t take much to bring out the twang in Taylor’s latest tracks…
- Ready For It?… …and by ‘it’ we mean 55 minutes of honky-tonk jammin’
- Wholesome Reputation (feat. Mama Swift)
- I Did Something Bad Down in Nashville, Tennessee
- Me Lord Save Me
- Delicate (heart of a horse girl)
- Look What You Made Me Do (*10 minute banjo solo*)
- So it Goes ‘Yodel-ay-heee-hoooo’ at the Grand Ole Opry
- Whiskey on Ice
- Getaway Truck
- King of Walmart (an ode to Mason Ramsey)
- (Barn) Dancing With Our Hands Tied
- Dress(ed in personalised cowboy boots)
- This Is Why We Can’t Fire Caitlin Evanson
- Call It What You Want But I Call It Sweet Lovin’ With The Rancher’s Boy
- New Years Neigh (feat. the white horse from White Horse)
Politics … and publicity
If Taylor is going to settle down in Tennessee, pandering to the political sympathies of the Republican state is a priority. Thus far, Taylor’s pointed silence on political matters has been taken as a sign of Republican leanings. Perhaps Taylor should learn from Kanye and take it one step further: venture into MAGA territory, announcing that she, too, doesn’t disagree with Trump. Imagine that: Taylor, Kanye and Trump, all tweeting in harmony – a country rap project, which would #breaktheinternet once and for all.
FOX American Idol is dead, but the new and (barely) improved ABC American Idol is back with a vengeance. In its 16 storied seasons, it has paved the way for many up-and-coming country musicians. To mark her return to country, Taylor will need to replace Luke Bryan as the ‘country judge’, and shepherd a new generation of country musos towards greener pastures.
In this game, Taylor’s boyfriend is part of her public persona and narrative, so she’ll have to find a new beau to go with Reputation, Revised. Ordinary folk can’t relate to fit like a daydream. Hell, bring back the redneck heartbreaks!
Taylor has a long, wistful highway drive ahead of her, but she’ll be home in no time.