The year 2012 was big for Taylor Swift. Sunday night at the Grammys was not.
In 2012, the country/pop singer released her fourth album, “Red,” which includes singles such as “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” “22” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.” The album sold 1.2 million copies the first week (highest in a decade), got nominated for Album of the Year and Best Country Album Grammys and, according to one critic, is her best album to date.
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Last night, “Red” did not win the coveted Album of the Year award. In fact, even though she was nominated in four categories, Swift did not take home a single “gold sippy cup.” Compared with past awards shows, which have been fruitful for the singer, you could say Sunday night was a bust for Swift. Her surprise “Who? Me?” reaction -- offered up when she presumably thought “Red” had won -- made the loss that much more awkward.
HLN spoke with two music critics to see if Swift has lost her "It" girl status after music’s biggest night. While both agree her days in the limelight are not numbered, one says it’s normal for any artist to reach a popularity low. The other says Swift’s latest album “is greatness and it should have been dubbed greatness.”
HLN: What did you think of Swift’s lack of awards at the Grammys this year?
Nick Catucci, music critic, Entertainment Weekly: Every artist comes to that point where they’re not the newest, most exciting artist. How you present yourself in that moment is important. Swift used the opportunity when she was with Lorde, one of the night’s biggest stories, and tweeted a picture with her. That smells of desperation a little, trying to align herself with the most exciting artist of the night.
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HLN: Is Swift no longer music’s 'It' girl?
Ian Drew, entertainment director & music critic, US Weekly: No! I think she still is. I’ve got to be honest -- I think she hurt herself by winning so much acclaim at the Grammys so early on. Since her album “Fearless,” every record has gotten better and better, but in a way, people might think she’s already got enough awards -- she’s OK for awhile and it’s time to recognize other people. There’s that and the release date of “Red.” It was the oldest album in the category. People had already forgotten how great it was!
NC: She’s not the "It" girl if by "It" girl you mean the young woman people are most fascinated by. People have figured her out; she’s become predictable. But if we compare her to Lorde, who was the "It" girl Sunday night, it’s not guaranteed she’ll be able to hold people’s attention when she has to balance commercial success, which Swift has figured out how to do.
HLN: What did you think of Swift’s reaction to the winner of the Album of the Year award?
NC: She’s so used to winning -- to doing her jaw-drop response whenever she does win something, where she looks surprised but isn’t really -- she didn’t know how to react if she wasn’t winning. As soon as people saw her accept enough awards to know she’s not really surprised when she acts it, it’s become a meme that regenerates itself again and again. She is about optimism. Because her music and personal life overlap so much, it’s hard for her to represent that optimism when she doesn’t win -- when she’s not controlling the story by writing the lyrics.
ID: That reaction was reasonable. Alicia Keys read it slowly, so it kind of sounded like “Red.” She would have been genuinely surprised had she won. Very few people win that award twice -- it’s almost a lifetime achievement award. They usually give it to an old-timer who deserves it after all these years. It’s shocking that she would have won and she would have been shocked had she won. Both albums [Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" and Swift's "Red"] deserved to win, but “Red,” to me, is her best album and one of the best country and pop albums ever. There’s not a bad track on the album.
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HLN: Do you feel people are starting to get annoyed with her? Is she over?
ID: No, absolutely not. Her fans are her greatest support system; they’re going to stand by her. She deserves everything she gets. There’s been no decline in her popularity and you’re not going to see any decline. If anything, her fans are hungering for a new album since “Red” came out over a year and a half ago.
NC: I think the fascination with Swift has always fallen into two camps: Her fans, who will love and defend her until the very end, and people who want to make fun of her. For now, she’s going to become a little bit part of the background in music -- until her next album comes out. If she’s smart about marketing it, she’ll come back.
HLN: What do you think will help Swift stay relevant and popular?
NC: The important thing is that she continues to embrace who she is. If people are bothered by her ubiquity or optimism or how perfect and pretty she is, I think that’s really OK. She is very sure of herself and there’s definitely room for her in pop music to represent that. Not everyone is interested in Lorde or someone who is really hip and represents coming out of nowhere or a darker element in terms of her tone. I think it’s important for younger people to have a big star who embraces what she’s really about.
ID: Remember, lots of old-timers are voting on the Grammys and it’s working against her. They don’t always get it, but her audience just eats it up.
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HLN: What direction do you think her next album will go in?
NC: I think she’ll have to take it in a new direction. She’s never going to go back to doing country. She doesn’t have to pretend to do that. She’s gone as pop as she can go, but it’s a good place for her to be because it gives her flexibility.
ID: It will be something different from the last one and will be even better than “Red.” She keeps honing her craft, as any true artist does. And she is a real artist writing her story. I can’t wait! She’s transformed her genre and music in general. I stand impressed with her constantly.