Sunday, August 29, 2010

Katy Perry and Taylor Swift: Betty and Veronica?

Both Autostraddle and Jezebel have discussions running about the latest videos from Taylor Swift and Katy Perry and what they represent:

"The flip side of Swift's forced maturity is Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream," a song celebrating the feeling of first love, something Swift's Fearless album was filled with. But unlike Swift, who wrote that album after a heartbreak in her late teens, Perry is 25 and engaged (we know this because she and fiance Russell Brand won't stop talking about it) and seems to hang her career on appealing to everyone's inner 14-year-old, presenting herself as a cartoon character with a wide-eyed sexuality and an affinity for fart jokes. It seems that both singers are trapped between the past and the future, but neither one is really representing what it's like in the present." (Jezebel)

"The idea is that Swift’s song, “Mine,” deals with a kind of emotionally pure and diamond-jewelry-commercial style long-term commitment, while Perry’s “Teenage Dream” chronicles a sweat-soaked, basically physical relationship where the most you learn about each other is which method of birth control you prefer. He even goes so far as to suggest that these two videos represent different philosophies of feminism, which, HOO BOY, if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that you shouldn’t try to talk to people about Taylor Swift and feminism. You want to put that idea down and back away slowly, boy." (Autostraddle)

I think one thing that separates my generation from those that came after is this whole 'tween culture. Looking back, we didn't really have pop stars separate from the usual pack of 80s icons. I was almost out of high school when New Kids On The Block hit. Before that, most of my friends and I were into the trifecta of Prince, Michael Jackson, and Madonna, but so were our parents. Needless to say, I don't remember having a culture to claim for my own, and as a woman who officially crossed the "late-thirties" threshold this year, I feel like a fraud trying to extrapolate meaning from current pop songs. Still, I'm fascinated by the hold a handful of artists seem to have on the general public, particularly those under thirteen, and why we are obsessed with their every career stumble. It seems as though there's no good way to "age appropriately" in popular music; there are very few role models. Justin Timberlake successfully made the transition from teen pop star to critically acclaimed megastar, but for women, it seems as if there are only two ways to go: stay on script, as Swift has been doing, and keep your "good girl" image for as long as possible, even if it means not advancing as an artist, or sexify your image (Britney, Jessica, Christina in her X-Tina phase) and alienate everyone except for the Maxim crowd.*

*Parts I posted as a comment on the original Jezebel thread.

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