‘Taylor Swift is proof that how we critique music is broken’: Is Bloomberg right?


Fact Box

  • Born in West Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1989, Taylor Alison Swift first started working in the music industry when she and her family moved to the Nashville, Tennessee area. At age 14, was contracted by Sony/ATV to be a songwriter. 
  • Swift released her 11th studio album entitled The Tortured Poet’s Department (TTPD) on April 19, 2024. The album, which was soon after its initial drop was unveiled to be a “secret DOUBLE album,” consists of 31 songs total and is two hours long.
  • Averaging 23 media critic scores, Medacritic rates Swift’s album with a metascore of 76/100. Rolling Stone, Variety, and The Guardian are among the 16 outlets who gave TTPD high scores and glowing reviews.  
  • According to a Bloomberg review by columnist Jessica Karl, music reviewing processes need to change. In her op-ed “Taylor Swift Is Proof That How We Critique Music Is Broken,” she claims initial TTPD reviews are “garbage” and “a disservice to the artist” due to hasty critiques.
  • As of April 25, Taylor Swift has 107,704,241 monthly Spotify listeners with her most popular songs being “Cruel Summer,” “Fortnight (feat. Post Malone),” “Down Bad,” and “The Tortured Poets Department.”

Mark (No)

Professional critics are able to speedily offer critiques of an album after a single listen. After years of doing it, we can assume these critics have trained their ears and eyes to evaluate art efficiently in its entirety and in the time needed. Due to Taylor's media domination in recent years, fans and spectators expect a timely review of her work. 

Even though many of these initial critiques were positive, others have followed that are not as glowing and just as relevant to those interested in assessing her art. For instance, Taylor Swift's recent album has been deemed 'self-indulgent.' At 31 tracks, some see Swift continuing to repackage her failed romances as contemporary 'art,' which she's been doing for years as an artist. Even some of Taylor's supporters were quick to dismiss her recent effort, describing it as 'bland, artificial, soulless' and overall 'fake-sounding.' Reviewing an album, even with 31 tracks, is not a task that requires meticulous dissection when her lyrics are hardly complex or even stylistically/grammatically correct, as some argue

Likewise, it's not the critiques of Swift's recent release that were shortsighted or hasty. Rather, the rabid fan base's reaction to their favorite creator putting out another album has made objectively critiquing her album seemingly impossible. If The Killers or some other esteemed artist were to release a lengthy album tomorrow and critics were quick to respond, it's unlikely that such tribalism would occur. Taylor's fame now rivals Michael Jackson. Because of this, she is afforded exceptions regarding rushing reviews and reverence. It's important to remember that a review is only one person's opinion. A critic's opinion is as valid as anyone else's, regardless of how quickly it's given. People will love or hate the album independently, with or without professional critiques.

Dougie (Yes)

While Bloomberg's article initially implies something is lacking with Taylor Swift's latest album, the author is actually arguing for an improved critical landscape in which debuts can be thoroughly received to be properly reviewed. It’s critiquing music critics, particularly the rushed turnarounds that govern them. 

Many find it difficult to understand how critics could possibly take the time to properly and thoroughly analyze an album like Swift's most recent release, which takes at least two hours to listen to without stopping to take notes and compose a thoughtful review. Yet, somehow, reviewers across the web reviewed Swift’s whopping 31 tracks at rapid-fire speed, with some claiming up to 10 repeat listens. However, the robust album offers far too much material for one to feasibly form any sound judgment practically overnight. 

With film, critics are offered early screenings to process new releases fully, yet music reviews tend not to be afforded that luxury, being limited to commercial release dates. As a result, reviewers race to pump out their opinions, undermining the capacity needed to do so. With adequate time to absorb highly anticipated albums before release, critical praise or rejection could bear more credible weight, having been formed without the pressure of unrealistic time constraints or fan pressure. 

Swift's massive fan base is active 27/4, so reviewers are pressured to publish even quicker. But considering the countless inside references strewn throughout her tracks, it's unrealistic to imagine gaining full comprehension upon a first—or even a fifth—listen. In fact, there's an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to Taylor Swift's cultural impact, listing numerous accredited higher education courses that focus on her artistry and lyricism. This Bloomberg column is making waves because it highlights some questionably quick critiques and calls for the industry to shift its focus back to the true evaluation of the quality of artistic content.

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