Taylor Swift’s VMA Performance With The Vocals Isolated Further Proves Singing Live Is Not Her Forte

Taylor Swift VMAs performance August 2014

Last night the VMAs aired on MTV, and the world watched to see who would emerge from a giant teddy bear this year. Our dreams were shattered on that front, but we did get to watch Taylor Swift shimmy in fringe while singing her new single “Shake It Off,” which is all about ignoring the haters. It’s a good thing she’s got that song to console herself, because the haters will be out in full force once they hear her performance with the vocals isolated.

You can watch the voice-only performance over at Deadspin, but I must warn you that it’s pretty rough. Taylor definitely did not lip sync. Her honesty is admirable, but when that’s what your live performances end up sounding like, what’s the point? And before you say, “Well, you only noticed she sounded bad after the music was taken out, so how can you complain?” you should know that I saw her performance as it was happening last night. And as she was singing all my ears could think was, “Hmm, that’s not right.” This just proves how not right it was.

But the best part of watching this particular version of the performance is that the audience reactions are still included. So you can see Gwen Stefani nodding along like, “Isn’t she just so talented,” while Taylor yells shakily into the microphone. And then after she runs down the stairs doing her little comedy sketch and belts out that one long note, it doesn’t exactly have the desired “Whoa, what a voice!” effect. It’s more like, “WHOA, is that her voice? Yikes.”

You might use the fact that she’s literally shaking it off onstage as an excuse for not sounding her best, but it starts out rough before she starts exerting herself and remains rough the whole time. And it’s not the first time Taylor’s been accused of sounding not-so-great live, even when she’s not dancing. For instance, her 2010 Grammys performance with Stevie Nicks was panned. Here’s the video, affectionately titled, “Taylor Swift BUTCHERS THE SHIT out of Rhiannon.”

Taylor writes some very catchy songs and has a bubbly stage presence (so bubbly it runs over the side of the glass), but vocally I’ve never thought she’s much to write home about. It’s okay, though, Taylor. Just shake it off.

(GIF: Tumblr)

You can reach this post's author, Jill O’Rourke, on twitter.
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    • Alexandra Mitchell

      I want to watch the video of her singing Rhiannon, but I’m scared it will traumatize me.

    • keanesian

      Poor Stevie Nicks.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Poor ME, that’s my namesake!!!

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Serious props to her sound-mixer, though. That hero needs a raise.

    • fantasymother

      That’s the first time I’ve heard someone who made Stevie Nicks sound really good.

      Stevie should thank her :-)

      I should explain. Stevie isn’t a singer, she’s sorta a rhythm instrument playing with the band. That’s okay as long as you don’t need the words to the song, she does it well.

      However, she sounds GREAT here, in comparison.

    • gwen

      have you listened to her performances on her concert tours though? it appears that she only has trouble performing at award shows. a lot of her live performances are actually pretty damn impressive

    • Disney-freak

      But it was entertaining, and the parts she sung wasn’t all bad but not good.

    • jfbogdan85

      I’d be seriously interested to see the same style of footage that deadspin did on Taylor Swift on other performers because I am sure there are a LOT of singers that sound awful without the help of heavy sound mixing. It seems like Taylor Swift has just become an easy target but I think a lot of the qualities that make her an easy target for some are exactly what have made her the celebrity that she is. I think people look up to her bring some humility, reality and vulnerability to tinsel town.

      • Sorry

        Thy did do it for other performances, they did one for the VMAs of Beyoncé and nut suppisingly it was 10x better than Taylor’s

      • Yoursorryasss

        Sorry but that is only your opinion and millions and millions of her fans love her voice and are going to buy her albums, and that is what matters. And she is now number one on the Billboard 100 and there is nothing you hater can do about it !! You poor thing! Live with that.

    • https://soundcloud.com/kirsten-ascio Kirsten

      I think a lot of musicians rely heavily on studio equipment to hide a lot of flaws when it comes to the voice. Even great singers today still want to fix all the imperfections, which gives their live performances such high expectations.

      You can also listen to Beyonce’s performance with her vocals isolated
      and hot damn, she can saaaang. 16 minutes of singing, everyone. I’ve heard so many critics of Beyonce say she can’t really sing that well and she’s just a performer. Yes, she dances a lot during her performances, but she’s still singing a lot. And that singing is amazing.

    • A_Nicole

      honestly even before the isolated vocals came out I was cringing watching her performance. She was pitchy the entire song which was really annoying but also proves that she’s not a strong vocalist. Meanwhile Beyonce danced and sang for 15 minutes with a microphone without missing a beat. Pink a few years ago sang with perfect pitch while doing a trapeze act upside down. I don’t have any tolerance for singers who actually cannot sing and I refuse to see them in concert. There’s vocalists who take their job seriously and you know sing.

    • shehlovee

      i wanna listen to ariana grandees opening performance cause i love her but that performance didn’t sound good even with all the music

    • Ria

      Nothing beats all the Vines of Taylor dancing in her seat…those are the best!

    • lol

      Did you hear the one with Beyonce? Always flawless!

    • Rhiannon

      (i know my names Rhiannon) that song wasn’t even sung bad live? think she deserves a bit more credit than she gets at the moment. At least she’s not wearing tight slutty clothes or dancing inappropriately??

    • Marie

      I’ve been to two concerts of hers and I swear she sounds amazing live (her voice sounds exactly the same as in the studio versions) and she’s one of the very few artists who never use autotune. The thing about awards shows is there’s so much pressure as she’s said before, because a) the whole world is watching, b) a lot of her musical heroes are there, and c) a lot of technical problems could go wrong, like for example her in-ear monitors malfunctioning, etc etc. Not being defensive, just saying that it’s incredibly hard to sing when you’re dancing/running/shimmying onstage with a thousand dancers and a live band with the whole world as your audience. Come to think of it, the isolated vocal doesn’t even sound bad, you just make it sound like it really is because you’re all goddamn vocal experts, right? :P

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    • JohnnnyRebel

      My God, Taylor Swift misses the correct “pitch” by a country mile. She is “tone deaf” for sure. She “stinks” big-time!