When it comes to what counts—what really counts—in pop, Swift is as pitch-perfect as Beyoncé. She's got the look, hooks and, in the recording studio, the sound that sells.
The truth is, Swift can work at becoming a better live singer, but a Juilliard-trained vocalist cannot work at becoming a better package. You either have been touched by magical fairy dust or you haven't. The talented guy on the cruise ship, the fabulous wedding singer or maybe Carly Smithson could tell you the same.
You're forgiven if you can't I.D. Smithson without the aid of Google. She was a season seven American Idol finalist. Huge voice? Yup. Great voice? Yup. Great product? Well...before Idol, she released a major-label album that went nowhere. On Idol, she topped out in sixth place.
Smithson had the talent. She had the platform. She did not, however, have the Swiftian ability to really, truly connect with the greater audience. (Smithson's day may come yet—she's the lead singer for a new band made up of Evanescence alums. An album's due in the spring.)
Idol is full of singers like Smithson—people with big voices and smallish fan bases. For every Kelly Clarkson or Adam Lambert who becomes an insta-star (through the show, at least), there's a Tamyra Gray or a Kara DioGuardi, for that matter, who kicks around until she (hopefully) kicks some of that magical fairy dust loose on her head. It's not fair or unfair. It's the music business.
It's funny that Big Machine Records CEO Scott Borchetta, in advocating for Swift, made a point to note that Grammy night—the scene of his star's latest vocal crime—was not Idol, and that Swift was not competing to prove who was the better singer. It's funny because (a) Borchetta got bent out of shape over something that everybody's been saying and writing since forever, (b) Borchetta went so over-the-top in his defense (and defensiveness) that he had to be smacked down to earth by Clarkson and, most key, (c) Swift probably would do just fine on Idol. (Did you see Wednesday night's audition by Aaron Kelly? Think Swift as a 16-year-old boy with, albeit, firmer grasp of pitch.)
Swift probably would do just fine on Simon Cowell's new show, too. She may not have much of a voice, but she has plenty of X factor. And that's the stuff the cruise ship guy would kill for.
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