Taylor Swift poses for a photo at the 2010 Grammy Awards. (Associated Press file photo)
A version of this story appears in Wednesday’s Life section of The Oklahoman.
Gloriana vocalist gives her view of Taylor Swift’s singing
Despite boffo album sales and sold-out shows, superstar Taylor Swift has earned jeers for her live-on-TV performances at music awards shows.
Complaints about her singing skills undoubtedly took the shine off an otherwise triumphant night at January’s Grammy Awards, where she won four prizes, for best female country vocal performance and best country song for “White Horse” and album of the year and best country album for “Fearless.”
Scott Borchetta, CEO of Swift’s label, Big Machine Records, personally came to Swift’s defense after her off-key Grammys duet with Stevie Nicks drew widespread criticism. He blamed the less-than-impressive performance on a technical glitch.
After seeing the 20-year-old singer-songwriter’s live show about a dozen times, singer Rachel Reinert of Gloriana, opening act on Swift’s “Fearless” tour, said the superstar is consistently great in concert. The “Fearless” tour makes its latest stop at 7 tonight at Oklahoma City’s Ford Center.
“The only time that we ever see her perform live is during her concert sets. … She’s awesome, she’s absolutely wonderful, and you know, there’s a reason why she’s selling out all these arenas,” Reinert said in a phone interview from the road in Tampa, Fla.
“She has an incredible relationship with her crowd and she really speaks to them with her music and as a person. And she’s an amazing entertainer, and I think she sounds great.”
Reinert said she has never actually seen one of Swift’s awards show performances, since she and her bandmates generally are backstage or have their own duties during those programs.
“I think that there is definitely a certain amount of pressure, you know, just the fact that you’re on TV in front of millions of people and you’re in front of your peers, all these other artists,” she said.
She added that for top-level stars like Swift, an awards show involves much more activity than people might think, beyond even wardrobe changes, acceptance speeches and live performances.
“There’s a lot going on with all of that, between going out and doing the red carpet and doing all those interviews. And then you’ve gotta change and go and do a performance. And then you’re also worried about ‘Am I going to win this award?’ and then if you don’t, then that’s a bummer,” she said, adding she felt the stress last year when Gloriana was nominated for and won an American Music Award.
“And even when you do win an award, what’s crazy is people don’t realize, and not even we realized, is that … you have to go backstage and do all kinds of press and all kinds of photos and all that stuff. So there’s a lot that definitely goes into all that.”
Reinert’s comments echo those of Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott, who came to Swift’s defense after critics called her performance with the band on “Pour Some Sugar on Me” at the 2009 CMT Music Award “breathless.”
“What a lot of people don’t know, because they’re not supposed to, is, she was up for five awards; two of them with us, and three on her own,” Elliott told Rolling Stone. “She won three of them, and about a minute before we started that song, she had just picked up an award. So, after she accepted the award, she had to run down the stairs, run back to her dressing room, and change her clothes.”
He said the young star was sprinting back towards the stage as the director started counting down to the band’s live performance.
“Literally, she’s running up the ramp, trying to put her in-ear monitoring in and clip the pack to the back of her skirt, so she can try to sing this thing,” Elliott said. “She was really a busy girl that evening. All we had to do was watch, and then wander out and get ready to perform this song. People said she was a bit breathless on the first line, and that’s why she was.”
He praised Swift for her energetic performance, saying “we brought down the house in the building” and adding that the CMT camp told him the show-closing duet was the “most-watched part of the entire evening.”