Sarah Jarosz vs. Taylor Swift – industry is obviously tone deaf

I first saw young country bluegrass singer Sarah Jarosz perform at the Old Settlers Music Festival in Driftwood, outside of Austin. She couldn’t have been more than about 12 or so, but she was already a whiz on the banjo and mandolin and had a gorgeous voice. I knew she was going to wind up huge and sure enough, she’s already been nominated for a Grammy and she’s only 18. I was blown away by her first album, Song Up In Her Head. Especially her cover of the Decemberists’ “Shankill Butchers.” Very impressive. I predict her upward trajectory will continue. Who knows how high she will go?

My only question is, why isn’t she even bigger right now? Why do I constantly have to hear about Taylor Swift, a nice enough girl, but far, far less talented?

There’s no use posting the video of Taylor Swift singing that embarrassing off key duet with Stevie Nicks at the Grammys because folks from the Grammys and Swift’s record company keep sending take-down notices to YouTube. It pops up again for a while and promptly gets removed again. You can probably find it yourself if you care to look, but trust me it’s awful. I don’t know why Stevie put up with it. I didn’t watch it live myself – I have  better things to do. But it points out a painfully obvious problem with the music industry. Swift, who apparently cannot sing on key and has to be using auto-tune in the studio, somehow got four Grammy awards. Sure, she’s young and cute, but there are a million cute young things out there.

Why did the supremely talented Sarah Jarosz, also young and cute, come home with no Grammys?  She was nominated for her song, “Mansinneedof,” which is still an honor – but it was an instrumental. Why did a girl who knows how to sing get beat out by someone who obviously can’t? I almost wonder if the industry favors people who have less talent, because they are easier to control. They want music to be a commodity that they can sell like rice or flour. They don’t want artists out there listening to muses and creating. That’s way too unpredictable. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that she’s on Sugar Hill Records, which is an independent label.

Play this and tell me I’m wrong:

If you’re as charmed as I was when I first heard Jarosz sing, check out her MySpace page (her wide-ranging list of influences is quite telling) and her homepage, and consider buying her album.



Filed under country, Uncategorized

8 responses to “Sarah Jarosz vs. Taylor Swift – industry is obviously tone deaf

  1. woodjean

    Oh come on. You can’t compare apples and oranges or Taylor and Sarah. I think Sarah Jarosz will make it to the top just fine. In my “at home” music she already has.

    But don’t run up and grab Taylor’s award. That’s not nice!

  2. Thank you for introducing me to Sarah Jarosz! …and shame on you doing this at the expense of another artist!

    I love to discover new music and new artists, that’s why I appreciate your article but you spent far too much space for battering Taylor Swift.

  3. seth

    When does knowing how to sing become a talent? yes it is just a vocal talent but not a talent as a whole. Why are you bringing taylor down? Taylor wrote/co-wrote every songs on her album, that to me is talent…..You can praise an artiste without bringing another down.

    • This is one of those arguments you can’t win. Swift definitely has her fans. I’m not even that down on her. I’m just not very impressed. She’s like a country music version of Avril Lavigne to me.

      And I do think being able to sing on key is the absolute minimum a singer should be able to do. You can even have a “bad” singing voice. Tom Waits and Robyn Hitchcock are my heroes. But they still know how to use their voices to express their ideas. If Swift can write, but can’t sing, maybe she can stay behind the scenes and write for other people.

      • woodjean

        Huh? You seem to be basing your views on one performance of Taylor Swift’s. I heard that some of the Grammy numbers were quick moment step-ins due to some artists not showing up (a whole other topic). NOW! You leave Taylor alone. Maybe you need to really listen to some of her stuff without pre-judgement.

        Sarah deserves to be praised for her great music and talent. Give her some more space in your blog she deserves it!

  4. Well, I wouldn’t worry too much folks. Maybe after a few more Grammys, I’ll come around on Swift. And even if I don’t, I don’t think I’m gonna hurt her career too much.

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