Damon Albarn’s comments about Taylor Swift show Gen X music genre snobbery at its worst
Nothing perplexes indie men in their mid 50s more than successful female pop stars who happen to be talented
Pop music is a funny genre, because all genres can be pop music. In the mid 00s, indie bands filled with shaggy haired white boys in battered Converse were dominating the charts like the Britneys, Christinas and Girls Alouds were doing a couple of years before. Throughout the 2010s, EDM, dubstep, house and grime infiltrated the charts and had commercial crossover. Pop music is the melting pot of the industry, and when you’re clued up on pop music, you’re a voice discussing music that’s worth listening to. Pop music has shaped history and defined decades, and isn’t really something to be cavalier about. When Damon Albarn, a musician well known for his musical talent and genre spanning knowledge, insinuates Taylor Swift, a songwriter deemed to be the greatest of her generation and one of the most successful artists of all time, doesn’t write her own songs – he doesn’t sound like an authority on music. He sounds like an out of touch has-been.
Let’s talk about genre snobbery
There is only one genre that doesn’t sneer at other genres, and it’s pop music. You will always find a home in pop music’s welcoming arms when you feel like everywhere else is looking down their boring, acoustic guitar strumming noses at you. When I saw the comments Damon Albarn had made about Taylor Swift, I thought of my parents. Both of them are into indie rock, and nothing else. At all. I don’t think I’ve ever heard either of them play anything sang by a female vocalist my entire life. Every drive of my childhood was soundtracked by any band that had the word ‘The’ at the start of their quirky name (The Kooks!). Any time I’d play a song sang by a woman my mum would tell me to, and I quote, “turn down that warbling tart.” Nothing they ever played to me had the faintest whiff of an electronic note or a crumb of danceability.
The difference is though, I love rock and indie music. I love guitar led tunes as much as the rest. It’s the indie camp that can’t see past the end of their noses, can’t accept that pop music is as valid as the maudlin songs they churn out. It’s a position that implies that because a song is more commercially viable, it’s lesser. It’s a position that undermines that many female pop stars spend a bloody long time perfecting their craft, writing skills and artistic vision, and one that’s never hit back at the genre artists so quick to criticise the pop world.
Does Damon Albarn actually know who Taylor Swift is?
It’s interesting that the female pop artist Damon Albarn is quick to praise is Billie Eilish, famously known for writing all her songs alongside her brother Finneas. Almost as if, to get his music approval, a man has to have had a hand in it. Because there’s no way Taylor Swift could solidify herself as an artist regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time without other people helping her out! NO CHANCE!
If Damon Albarn had done a crumb of research into Taylor Swift before giving that interview, or perhaps had a listen to her extremely varied and multifaceted records, he might not have emerged from that interview sounding like that family member you do everything in your power to not get stuck talking to at a wedding. Taylor Swift just won the Grammy for Album Of The Year for Folkore in 2021, for god’s sake. An album that has some of the greatest songwriting in a decade permeating through it. Taylor Swift could shit out Parklife, but Damon Albarn couldn’t write All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) if his life depended on it. And on that note, Parklife was written by four people and All Too Well by Taylor and Liz Rose. You do the math, Damon.
Pop music forever
Damon Albarn apologised, saying the journalist made the quote worse than what it was for clickbait – a feat quite impressive, since the article had the transcript right there in black and white detailing Albarn saying exactly what the “clickbait” claimed. Taylor Swift is yet to respond to the apology from Damon Albarn, and nor does she need to, since her well worded annihilation did everything for her already. Almost as if… she’s a great writer! Funny that.
Thankfully, I do feel like Damon Albarn’s clear genre snobbery is a generational gap. All genres are welcome in the charts and in our hearts. Pop punk is back, and we love it! Maybe soon we’ll have a taste for Damon Albarn once again, but it seems unlikely. Until that day, I think I’ll press play on my Taylor Swift playlist again.