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TheStreet Open House

Taylor Swift's 'Transformation' Could Begin Sunday at The Grammys

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In August 2013, I published I Have Seen The Next Bruce Springsteen And Her Name Is Taylor Swift.

As anticipated, society's hallmark ensued -- negativity for negativity's sake, fueled largely by ignorance, bias and insecurity.

How dare you even think about "comparing" Taylor Swift to Bruce Springsteen, let alone imply she's following, to some extent, in his footsteps?

Forget context. To hell with nuance. That I was actually arguing Swift would blaze her own trail.

Just flame away.

That's how we roll in what my friend, Dallas media personality Gordon Keith, recently referred to as "the world of outrage."

But others took more thoughtful note, including, from what I understand, people deep inside Taylor Swift's camp. From last year's article, which was triggered by my attendance at two of four LA stops on the Red Tour, here's what appears to have resonated most with them (and, quite possibly, Swift herself):

There's a reason why music critics and serious popular culture doesn't mention Swift's name alongside Springsteen's (and will likely chide me for doing so). Actually several reasons.
First, a reason or two I can get with.
I didn't realize Swift was so "commercial." She's selling everything from Diet Coke to Keds to perfume at her shows. Legend has it that Bruce turned down millions from Chevy for the rights to "Born in the USA." At the same time, the spectacle of Swift's show (the costumes, the dancing, the pomp and circumstance) undermines her musical talents.
If she stripped everything down to bare bones -- using the nondescript black and drab set The E Street Band uses -- Swift would instantly trigger comparisons to Bruce's hard-driving, no-nonsense, four-hour rock shows.
She could and, I believe, eventually will dedicate herself to the sweaty marathon sessions The Boss has become known for. She'll drop much of the pizazz and bring the power.
The same elements that make Bruce's show tick provide what will be the lasting foundation for a Taylor Swift performance -- "part circus, dance party, political rally (maybe not so much) and big tent revival." That's how Springsteen described his show to "60 Minutes" several years ago.

After Swift's Red Tour pulled out all the theatrical stops, it was clear her camp had a decision to make: Do we try to top the spectacle of Red or do we trace a path that showcases Swift's raw emotion and musicianship?

(I was going to also refer to her "otherworldly talent" alongside "raw emotion and musicianship," but I scratched that. Swift and her team put a lot of work into the "theatrics" that are part of her show, particularly dance. And it shows. The product of that work is incredible. And requires remarkable "talent." However, for reasons I explain here and elsewhere, there's considerable upside to shifting focus to Swift's even stronger talent as a musician). 

Anyhow, it appears, if the hint Swift lobbed to her Twitter (TWTR) and Instagram followers Thursday night results in what they're predicting for her performance at Sunday night's Grammy Awards, that the decision has been made.

But what does it all mean? And, more importantly, why does it matter to music fans (who may not even be fans of Swift) and an industry struggling to remain relevant in an age of dwindling downloads, streaming music and the emergence of DIY at all levels of the craft? 

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