Move over Kanye West, Taylor Swift and the Millennial generation are taking over music
The 2010 Grammys will probably show that Taylor Swift and her generation are making over American music as triumphantly as they did politics with the election of President Obama.
The first Grammy Awards of the new decade are just around the corner. On Jan. 31, the voting committee may crown a new queen of pop music, crossover country star Taylor Swift, and with it signal the musical coming-of-age of the Millennial Generation.Skip to next paragraph
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Nominated for eight 2010 Grammy Awards, including record and album of the year, Ms. Swift has already beaten out Michael Jackson (Generation X) for the American Music Awards’ top trophy in 2009 and won three more at November’s Country Music Association (CMA) Awards in Nashville. She’s also the youngest person to be named CMA Entertainer of the Year.
Her songs have Millennial-like happy endings. “Fifteen,” for example, gives advice on how to handle the pressures of being a freshman in high school, a message she wrote with her best friend and her younger brother in mind. It’s a change of direction that is speaking to 95 million Millennials, many of whom are already in their 20s.
Millennials were born between 1982 and 2003. In contrast to most baby boomers and Gen-Xers, they love their parents, who are known for boosting the self-esteem of their children and instilling a can-do attitude in each of their special, trophy-winning kids. Swift personifies the Millennial Generation in both her music and her social-networking approach to winning fans.
Tweens and teenage Millennials absorbed the rap and hip-hop music produced by their Gen-X elders during the 1990s, just as the GI Generation during the 1920s initially fell in love with the jazz music so intimately linked to the older Lost Generation. Similarly, boomers first found their rebellious voice in the 1950s in the early rock ’n’ roll that came from the Silent Generation that preceded them.
But in each case, as a new generation came into adulthood, it put its own unique stamp on a musical genre that then retained its popularity for two decades as the musical tastes of both the older and younger members of that generation were united. Swift’s rise to fame is an early signal that a new musical genre is about to take over America’s popular music culture again.
The transition from the Lost Generation’s small combo jazz to the GI Generation’s big band swing music came with a major slowdown in tempo. Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey delivered a sweeter musical sound that their adoring crowds could dance to, rather than the jarring, syncopated rhythms of early jazz greats like Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong.
The Silent Generation fell in love with the brand-new up-tempo backbeat of Elvis Presley’s and Jerry Lee Lewis’s rock ’n’ roll, but baby boomers put their generational stamp on the genre a decade later with the love-drenched lyrics of guitar groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
We will know a Millennial musical genre has arrived when the songs at the top of the charts represent both a fusion of earlier styles and something completely different.