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.