So, here begins another year on Planet Earth. As for the last one, it was in many ways a great and significant year from a personal perspective, but it ended with me under something of a cloud. The ills and incomprehensible evils of the world, coupled with a degree of uncertainty concerning various areas of my life, left me feeling kind of glum and introspective as we headed into the festive season. I continue to work through it, as ever supported by my astonishing wife and soul mate, and will get there soon, but sometimes a little boost to cheer me up can come from the most unexpected of sources: Taylor Swift, for example.
I couldn't care less for Swift's music, either when she was a country megastar or, having this year made a seamless transition to the current undisputed Queen of Pop, now she rules the airwaves and hearts of teenagers everywhere. I appreciate that she writes all her own material and possesses a degree of vocal and dancing talent, but that slick pop sound is just not for me. Nonetheless, I do have huge admiration for the girl, especially as she seems very determined to do things her way, come what may.
For starters, her brave stance over Spotify was amazing and startling for such a huge star, yet rather than provoke a backlash it appears to have propelled her to even greater heights. But yesterday I watched two videos on YouTube that served to not only move me, but further enhance her reputation in my opinion as one of the most valid, grounded, genuine and human pop stars to emerge in decades. Her care for her fans, and focused determination to remain as closely connected to them as possible, is quite extraordinary. When viewing the first video below, in which she goes out of her way to bring such personalized joy to some of her millions of fans this Christmas, could easily be cynically viewed as a genius marketing exercise, but I see it very differently. I see Swift's gestures as simply the actions of a level-headed, sweet and kind young woman doing what she can, within the parameters of power she retains in a totally abnormal life, in order to pay back some of those who have supported her hard work to achieve a position of great wealth and privilege. It would be so easy to rest on her laurels in a metaphorical ivory tower, but not this young lady. Just watch, and try to hold back the tears of joy; Susan and I couldn't.
She doesn't have to do this. We imagine that no one told her to, or advised it as a great idea to win over yet more people, as that could only happen if one enjoys Swift's music, which we certainly do not. She did it because she wants to, because it's important to her. There doesn't seem anything remotely cynical, calculated or manufactured about Swift: she's just a lovely girl doing her best to keep her feet on the ground, always remembering those who put her where she is. As a red-blooded male I obviously find her stunningly pretty and sexy, but her personality is even more attractive than her physical attributes. It shines through in this second video, in which she is interviewed by craggy ol' Barbara Walters.
Wow. What a babe. She seems so totally in control of her life and career in an industry still dominated by men, to the extent that I cannot imagine any record company executive even trying to suggest following a path other than the one she has mapped out for herself. That's awesome, isn't it?
There's something else about Swift I personally relate to very strongly, and that's the importance of reinvention. In 2014 she relocated to New York City (probably a career-driven move, but why stay in Nashville if she's leaving country music behind?), and drastically overhauled her sound. The result? The biggest selling album of the year! I, too, in some perhaps subtler ways, underwent both an organic and partially self-motivated reinvention last year. "Change is as good as a rest," my dear old grandmother used to say, and it's one of her many little wisdoms that has stayed lodged in my head since childhood.
I didn't begin 2014 with any great plans in mind as to what I wanted from the year; everything that happened simply happened, but I'm glad it all did. In the wake of this period of change, embarking upon 2015 I now have plans and desires in mind, things I would like to have achieved and done by the time 2016 dawns, so we'll see where it goes and I'll evaluate the situation in twelve months time. Perhaps Taylor Swift followed a grand plan she had for her own 2014, or perhaps she didn't, but the fact remains she is a giving human being and truly valid role model for young folks of both sexes, wherever they may be. In a world currently experiencing such pain and suffering, that's something to hold onto as a glint of light in the darkness.