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Jessica is a contributing writer for The Hudsucker. You can usually find her dissecting the latest season of 'Game of Thrones', or singing along to Taylor Swift's '1989' in the car at stop lights. Feel free to say hi. Personal motto: Live every day like you're Glen Coco.

Gossip Killed the Radio Star: An Open Letter to the Media and Music Lovers

“Have you heard her new song? I heard she wrote it about…”

This is one conversation we have all found ourselves engrossed in at one point in time or another. Whether you want to admit it or not, knowing details of the dating scene in Hollywood feels almost as alluring as being a part of it yourself. Music written by artists about dating others in the spotlight has the sensation of being a companion and confidant to music’s biggest pop stars. But is this type of affinity for gossip destructive to artistry? It certainly has the potential to be.

Source: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

As a self-proclaimed entertainment news junkie, one of the things I have always been interested in, is knowing what goes on in the entertainment industry after the cameras stop rolling. I’m just as guilty of being involved in the very conversation I’m about to break apart. However, it wasn’t until recently that I realized how damaging and disrespectful this type of fascination can be to the world of music.

On October 16th, One Direction released their newest single, “Perfect.” Being a Directioner myself, I couldn’t wait until I got my hands on new music from my four favorite guys. After listening to it on repeat, for far longer than I care to admit, I did what most people in fandoms do: I looked to Twitter to see what the overall opinion was. And what I found was incredibly disappointing.

When I pulled up the trending topic, the one (and really, only) thing I kept seeing over and over again, was people talking about their theories on whether or not the single was written about band member Harry Styles’ ex-girlfriend, Taylor Swift. People were even going so far as to suggest the song sounds like Swift’s hit, “Style” (The songs are in the same key, but have different tempos and diction. To say they are the same is a lazy comparison). The more I scrolled, the more I kept seeing people throwing their opinions about the song’s subject around. After a while, I became increasingly agitated, not only with fellow fans, but with the media as a whole.

News outlets continued to refer to the song as one “penned by Styles about Ms. Swift.” The only thing I could think was how unfair it all was. How could people have such strong tunnel-vision when it comes to the love lives of songwriters, that they would rather focus on who these songs are written about rather than how they were created. Didn’t they want to know how long “Perfect” took to write? Or if the guys utilized instruments or soundboards in new ways? What about new producers they worked with? None of that seemed to matter, and it became more apparent than ever that it needed to.

Taylor Swift

Source: Jason Merritt/LP5/Getty Images for TAS

Taylor Swift gets a bad wrap for writing about her personal life. If it’s about an ex, she’s “boy crazy.” If it’s about a former friend, she’s “catty.” But if she celebrates her friends she’s, “over-doing the girl-power thing.” When it’s all said and done, I’m sure she would much rather talk about how she created these songs, rather than who inspired them.

Recently, Swift sat down for an interview about the creation of her album, 1989, with the Grammy offices. In the interview, she went into what recording techniques she used for some of the songs, and how she came to work with her hand-picked producers. She delved into the types of snares she used for her hit “Blank Space” and the perspective in which she wrote it. She talked about writing to the music of her tune, “Out of The Woods”, rather than writing the lyrics first and having the music follow. And while she didn’t mention it in the interview, the 1989 pamphlet shows she used her heartbeat to create the percussion in the song “Wildest Dreams.” Yet, despite these incredible techniques, people primarily care to discuss which song is about which guy.

Treating music the way we do, focusing mainly on the “who” rather than the “how,” has severely impacted the music industry in a negative way. It’s taken one of the most important forms of artistic expression and ground it down into cheap gossip. Imagine: Someone is inspired to write a song about someone they dated. This person spends months on end making sure the lyrics evoke the right emotions, works tirelessly to ensure the sound perfectly reflected the mood of the song, discovers new ways to record a specific sound, and finally releases it once he/she was proud of the work. This person desperately waits to hear whether or not the critics and fans like it. And somehow, the only thing people ask/say about it is, “Oh, this is about so-and-so.” That would be devastating.

We need to change the way we treat music. The way it is now minimizes artistic integrity, and discredits the time and effort someone put into his/her work. No one’s work should be dissected to the point that it becomes tabloid fare.

Looking at our collective attitude towards music now, it doesn’t seem fair. It’s unfair of us to take the work of Taylor Swift, One Direction, Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding, etc. after all the time they spent perfecting it, and belittle it into this high school-esque dramatization of the stories they are trying to tell. Music is art, art deserves to be discussed for what it is, not who it’s about. It’s time we all start appreciating the work.

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