Miss Americana

In many ways, this Taylor Swift documentary is like all the other musician documentaries recently released. It’s a flare shot urgently if shakily to fans that says: I’m human. And perhaps more than that: I’m a human who has recently done some growing up.

Specifically, Swift’s revelations seem to orbit around 1. untangling her self-worth from the “good girl” public persona 2. a political awakening 3. her own lawsuit over a groping case and how it inspired her to stand up for human rights more generally. All good and noble things.

There’s not a lot of dirt. Nothing about feuds, no Katy Perry, only a little about Kanye. Not much about love. Nothing about the Scooter Braun fiasco, and that feels like a big one to have left out. Basically, the label Swift signed to as a 15 year old owned the rights to all the masters of her recordings. They sold the label to Braun without offering her the chance to buy her own music back and so now all her old albums are owned by Braun, who manages Kanye and Justin Bieber among others, and who, according to Swift, was responsible for bullying and an attempt to dismantle her career. She severed ties with that label, but when she walked, she had to leave all her old music behind for someone else’s profit, painful I’m sure. So it’s strange to have left it out entirely.

Personally, though, the only part of these documentaries that I’m ever interested in is in the creation of the music. And we do get some great takes of her with various collaborators trying to turn something she’s been humming to herself into a song with notes and words and instruments. It’s cool to watch it all come together, and as Swift is actually a very accomplished musician, playing piano and guitar, her fingerprints are all over the creative process.

I’m not sure if this documentary is really meant to appeal to anyone but her fans, but there are enough of those to make this film successful on their own. It’s backstage access to a major star during some formative years of self-discovery and transformation. The Swifties will be proud.

10 thoughts on “Miss Americana

  1. Rosaliene Bacchus

    I’m not a fan. She’s a teen idol, and I’m well passed that age 🙂 Nevertheless, I decided to watch this documentary on Saturday evening to gain insight into her appeal and influence on our youth. I found it interesting and revealing of the pressures placed on our idols by their adoring fans. I was pleased to watch her growth as a woman and awareness of the important role she could play in the lives of her female fans. Whatever her flaws–and we humans all have them–she’s doing the best she can to juggle her personal and public personas. The documentary makes clear to me that this can be quite complex and harmful as you rise in popularity and attain the ultimate success for your profession.

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  2. bookbeachbunny

    Her writing process has always fascinated me so I love the music stuff. It is weird that they left out the Braun stuff now that I think about it. I’d say she had a ton of control over this documentary… I wonder if there was a business reason? But as a fan I enjoyed it!

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  3. cheekymonkeyswriting

    The documentary was very revealing even though it wasn’t revealing at all. She seems very clever but she also seems to live in a world of her own. She is very dramatic in the way she reacts to things and how she deals with them. The album reputation or whatever is called is a big evidence of that. She acts like the world stopped just to be against her but for the exception of a few teens and some unemployed people without nothing better to do, no one gives a moment of their time to think about their feelings towards Taylor. I think her problem is to think she is that important. She isn’t. Like when she decided to make some political statements… Did she really think she would have that much impact? She is a singer and I think she can write some great songs but that’s that. Her influence only goes so far and honestly, it shouldn’t be any other way.

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  4. Robyn

    My daughter is a Swiftie, and since my husband has been the one to take her to all her shows – he’s a proud Swiftie too. I watched this with them. I liked it – I didn’t know why she started talking politics and when I heard about her groping case her political standpoints made more sense and good to hear. That is weird about Braun.

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  5. Orca Flotta

    I’ve always thought she’s just one of those ex-mousekateers like Britney and (forgetting the names but you know who I’m talking about) until I stumbled over this little gem:

    Still don’t like her music but she can play guitar well enough to sing her self-composed little songs to. So she rose in opinion. I don’t think and of the Britneys have even spent a second learning the guitar or composing a song or at least coming up with lyrics. Taylor is the real deal.

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  6. J.

    That whole Braun thing is fascinating. I think I read about it in the Guardian – the alleged attempts to block the use of her songs in the documentary and on some show or some such… naturally he denied it. She re-recorded them? Or was planning to?

    I don’t think the documentary is for me, but I tip my hat to her for doing her thing and writing her songs. I keep telling folk she’s gonna write a great contemporary or alternative country record at some point.

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