Is Taylor Swift Our Greatest Living Poet?

That, ladies and gentlemen, was the jaw-dropping title of a recent BBC podcast.

There is a species of pop-cultural revisionism, put about by arrogant white millennial women who are very lightly-informed about pop and rock before they were born, that “strong women in pop” started in the 1990s with so-called “girl-power” bands etc.  (Big Mama Thornton, Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, now all spinning in their graves.)

Destiny’s Child and the Spice Girls were bands that were selected, validated and directed by blokes.  Destiny’s Child were pushed into stardom by Beyoncé Knowles’ father.  The Spice Girls were created by two dull blokes, Chris and Bob Herbert from Heart Management, who ran the auditions and selected the band members.  “Independence”, my foot. To compare those empty-headed, Thatcher-ite (avowedly, in the case of the Spice Girls) mediocrities with the genuinely-independent women artists of the 1970s and 1980s is a shocking dereliction of critical duty.

And we’re now also meant to believe (unless we’re sexist) that bland, conservative women such as Swift are exceptional artists.  Seriously?

Swift, like Madonna, primarily is talented at selling.  Her music has never even been interesting enough to be offensive.  It’s bland chyme – pleasant, artistically unambitious and completely forgettable.  I lost half an hour of my life trying not to fall asleep, ploughing through this sugary, phoney, dross. Bland country to blander, formulaic pop ballads and formulaic shakers – Swift’s entire career is built on a careful avoidance of anything that might offend the average pop fan. Would Swift sell as much if she wasn’t a white American blonde?  Doubtful.

By contrast, the 1970s and the 1980s were full of great, genuinely-independent women artists; artists who have pride of place in my collection; artists who aren’t good “because they’re women”; rather, artists who are good because they’re good: Suzi Quatro, Lydia Lunch, Blondie, Joni Mitchell, Selecter, Siouxsie Sioux, Bjork, Cocteau Twins, Patti Smith, Bananarama, Joan Jett, Go Gos, Slits, Marine Girls, Raincoats, Dolly Mixtures, Girlschool, Xmal Deutschland, Pretenders, Roxette, Eurythmics, X-Ray Spex, Toyah, Lisa Gerrard, Grace Jones, Tracey Thorn, etc.

And here’s another relatively-unsung gem – Rhiannon Giddens. This is her rendition of the old US folk song, Wayfaring Stranger (believed to be a development of an earlier Scottish folk song, The Dowie Dens of Yarrow). I’ve never heard a better version. No woke quotas needed here folks:

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