Taylor Swift…Too Much Swearing?

One of the first uses of an expletive in a hit song was by Taylor Swift’s namesake, James Taylor, singing “Go away then damn ya” in “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” in 1972.

A year later, Chicago had a #4 hit with “Just You ‘N’ Me” with the line “Loving you girl is so damn easy”…done in perfect harmony.  In 1976, the Eagles took it one step further by adding God to damn in “Life In The Fast Lane”.

Then when Rap took over, the floodgates of expletives opened.

Using expletives is neither right nor wrong.  It’s not a morality problem, because swearing is a part of life, and most of us do it.

The question being posed here is…do the expletives being used by the current biggest star in the world really serve the songs or not?

Taylor Swift’s Folklore is a great album, and the best part is the trilogy of  “Betty”, “Cardigan”, & “August”.  “Betty” is so strong melodically and lyrically, but there was a problem with it for some listeners.  James saying to Betty…”Would you tell me to go f-myself” (using the full word) was too harsh for the story, and the only part of the trilogy with an expletive..

The radio version used “Would you tell me to go straight to hell”.  That was enough to convey the story without distracting the listener away from it.  That “clean” version allowed it to go to #2 on the Country chart, and let Swift perform it at the CMA awards show.

Using expletives in a song might limit recordings of it by other artists, and possibly reduce its chances of being well thought of by future generations.  It takes away a song’s universal appeal.

Swearing is normal in some situations, but the f-word is wasted when it’s used casually.  Take Swift’s “Snow On The Beach”.  It’s a beautiful duet with Lana Del Rey, and the radio version should have been the official one.  The beauty is lost on the album track with the supposed casual-cool of using f-in’.  Completely unnecessary.  The same goes for “The Tortured Poets Department”.  It’s a really good song, and the f-word is so not needed that no one would miss it if it wasn’t there.

To Taylor Swift’s credit, she makes “clean” radio versions of her songs available.  On her best songs, she takes the time to record both versions equally well, with lyric substitutions that make sense.  Many of her songs with expletives are fine the way they are, but from personal preference I chose to also buy the radio versions of “Ivy”, “Maroon”, “Hits Different”, “Florida!!!”, “I Can Do It With A Broken Heart”, and “Down Bad”.  Those last two songs have major hit potential.

Before Folklore in 2020, Taylor Swift hadn’t used expletives in her songs.  Certainly some of her songs warrant the impact expletives can provide, but she may want to consider whether she’s overusing them, and that some of her songs would be better without them.

Topic change:  It was a little weird how quickly some people jumped on a few negative reviews of The Tortured Poets Department.  You’d have thought Swift’s career was tanking.  In reality, the problem was that the 31 songs required a lot more listening.  People had to get to know the songs before they could evaluate them.  The reviewer for CNN initially gave TTPD a poor review.  Then he listened to the album more, and wrote a new review saying it’s one her best albums.

Taylor Swift can rest easy.  The public has embraced the album.  Not only has it set records, it remained at #1 for twelve weeks (7/14/24).  If it was a poor album, it would have faded fast.

We’ve always needed time to get to know albums.  When The Beatles released the White Album with 30 tracks, we honestly didn’t know how good it was the first time we heard it.  In time, we picked out the songs we liked.  They weren’t all good, but there certainly were enough good songs to make it a great purchase…just like The Tortured Poets Department.

Now we’re left with the question… How in the world did Taylor Swift have time to write and record a 31 song album with how amazingly busy she’s been?

Bonus:  Here’s the trilogy of Betty/Cardigan/August segued together.

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