music

REVIEW: Miss Americana (2020)

Documentary about Taylor Swift as she begins work on her seventh studio album, taking a look at her life and career at a transformative time in her life.

I really was not expecting Miss Americana to make me feel so many emotions. I like Taylor Swift’s music but in the sense that I rarely buy albums of any artist I like but I enjoy their music when I hear it on the radio or whatever. In fact, the Taylor Swift albums I had on my iTunes before watching Miss Americana were Fearless, Speak Now and 1989. I had listened to some of her more recent stuff and mostly liked it but wouldn’t have said I was a Taylor Swift fan. Miss Americana may have changed that.

With Miss Americana you still see just as much as what Taylor Swift allows you to see. Some of that is deeply personal stuff like seeing her unfiltered reaction for the album Reputation not being nominated for the main categories at the Grammy’s, but while she mentions finding love and stability, it’s clear after her past experiences of her love life being dissected by the media, she is deeply protective of that part of her life and wants to keeps her relationship private. The whole documentary is definitely a more unfiltered look into Taylor Swift and she’s brutally honest about how she felt (and continues to feel) about both the highs and the lows of her career and fame.

The thing that is so great about Miss Americana is that while obviously the focus is on Taylor Swift, her life, loves and career, but through her experiences you get to see all the misogyny and double standards that all women are put through. It’s just what happened to Taylor Swift is just more well documented and potentially on a larger scale due to her fame.

There’s when she was sued by the radio DJ who groped her, who she countersued, and what the experience in court was like. There are all the criticisms she faced from the press and everyday people on social media, the comments on her relationships, her appearance, her perceived personality, and how they affected her.

It’s all so infuriating and saddening because she may be famous (so many people would see her as fair game) but she is still a person, and a lot of the stuff that happened to her was when she was still pretty young. She was seventeen when the whole Kanye West at the VMAs thing happened. Would he have done that if she was older? Or a man?

While obviously Taylor Swift is super famous, rich and talented, there was something about Miss Americana that made some of her experiences so relatable. The documentary takes place when she’s approaching thirty. The way she talks about that age, how old she feels (sometimes far older than her years and sometimes far younger), how she isn’t ready to have kids or all the adult stuff that is related to that age – now that’s relatable. I’m a similar age to Taylor Swift and I often feel like I have the mentality of a teenager at university rather than an adult that someone in their late twenties is supposed to be and it can be terrifying. It’s almost reassuring that that is a universal feeling, no matter how much money you have or how successful your career is, it can feel like you’re not ticking all the life achievement boxes by the time you reach a certain number.

A key part of Miss Americana is showing how Taylor Swift found her political voice. It’s easy to criticise her for not saying something sooner, but she does a good job of explaining why she didn’t and a main part of it was her inherent need to be a “good girl”. She came from a background in country music where she was always told never to say her political views and the Dixie Chicks (a group who were slated and their career nosedived for one comment against President George Bush) were used as an example of what would happen to her if she ever said anything. Seeing her stand up for what she believed in and be then constantly striving to learn more so she could help people and to shut out all the misogynistic things you pick up from society without realising was wonderful to see.

While naturally fans of Taylor Swift will get a lot from Miss Americana, I feel that anyone can appreciate this documentary. It shows how the media can affect a young woman as she tries to figure out who she is, and it highlights how talented and resilient she is. Miss Americana made me a Taylor Swift fan and I wrote this listening to the album Lover. 5/5.

BOOK BLOGGER HOP: Do you listen to music while you are writing your blog posts?

Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly feature hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, to find bookish blogs and to learn more about the bloggers themselves. You can find more info on the feature here.

This week’s question is: Do you listen to music while you are writing your blog posts? If so, what genre of music do you listen to?

The short answer is sometimes. I like listening to music while I write as it’s sometimes too quiet if I don’t, but I can write without music too. Sometimes it depends on the blog post – if it’s a review when I’ve got a lot to say or the subject is a bit more complicated or sensitive, I might forgo the music to make sure I concentrate.

As I type this post I’m listening to Imagine Dragons latest album (I’m liking it a lot, but I love pretty much all of Imagine Dragons music though so maybe I’m biased) and it’s that sort of music I listen to when I write a blog post. I like to listen music that has guitars and is upbeat but not too catchy because if it is catchy, I’ll end up singing along instead of focusing on what I’m writing. I like listening to music I already know too so it can be a pleasant background noise.

Do you listen to music when you write blog posts? Or when you do any writing in general?

Z is for Zero to Hero from Hercules

Hercules isn’t my favourite Disney film, in fact it’s one I didn’t really watch that much when I was younger, but it’s got some great songs.

Zero to Hero is my favourite from Hercules and one of my favourite Disney songs in general. I love how up beat it is and the voices of the Muses – Lillias White, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Cheryl Freeman and Vanéese Y. Thomas – are phenomenal. I’ve always had a soft spot for gospel music and having a gospel style song in a Disney film is inspired.

I love the lyrics in Zero to Hero too. They’re really fun and have a lot of jokes and references that I definitely didn’t get when I was a kid. The lyrics and the big energy choir phrases, combined with a fast-paced tempo and a rhythm you just want to clap your hands to, makes Zero to Hero a great and memorable song.

This is a song I can never get tired of listening to – I’ve even learnt all the words!

Y is for You Are Unstoppable by Conchita Wurst

I am a big fan of Eurovision (and Graham Norton’s commentary of it) and Conchita Wurst winning for Austria in 2014 was one of my favourite moments of the past few years.

I love her voice and how unique she was, especially in a competition that’s so big and bold and out there.

I bought Conchita’s debut album as soon as it was released and it’s an album I listened to on repeat for quite a few months. You Are Unstoppable is my favourite song from that album and definitely the one song of hers I’ve listened to the most. It’s an empowering song, about not letting people get in your way and just being yourself. I love how it combines orchestral elements to more pop, upbeat music and it makes this big, powerful ballad.

I’d definitely recommend checking out Conchita Wurst’s music. She’s a brilliant artist.

X is for X-Training by Henry Jackman

X is always the hardest letter when it comes to the A-Z Challenge but luckily, I had a couple of songs on my iTunes that began with the letter X. I’m pretty sure the majority of X posts over the year for this challenge have been X-Men related and who am I to break that tradition!

X-Training is from X-Men: First Class and is featured in this sequence, where Xavier attempts to train the young mutants how to use their powers.

X-Training is my favourite piece of music from the film. It’s upbeat and builds through the song but at it’s heart is these strings which sound amazing. I think I like this piece of music the most from the entire score is because it’s more of a fun, light piece than the rest of the soundtrack, but it’s still got echoes of the main theme from X-Men: First Class.

W is for Wakka Wakka (This Time for Africa) by Shakira ft. Freshlyground

Wakka Wakka (This Time for Africa) was the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cupp and featured Afro-Colombian rhythms and instrumentation with South African guitars. It’s a celebration of going for your dreams and it’s a great World Cup song. In fact, it’s my favourite World Cup song.

I have such found memories of the 2010 World Cup, I was in a bar in Span watching the final when Spain won, so the atmosphere was electric, and this song is wrapped up in those memories. It was everywhere both in Spain and when I was in Malta shortly before the World Cup final.

Maybe it’s because it’s a World Cup song, but Wakka Wakka (This Time for Africa) just feels like a happy summer song. It’s a song that’s been played at friends’ BBQ’s and it makes me feel warm and happy every time I hear it.

It’s also seriously catchy, perhaps almost annoyingly so? It’s definitely an ear-worm but as it makes me feel upbeat and joyful every time I hear it, I can’t get mad if it lingers in my head for a while.

V is for Val Kilmer by Bowling for Soup

Bowling for Soup is an artist I discovered through a potentially unusual route – fan videos, specifically Harry Potter and Teen Titans ones. I remember liking the music that went really well with these fan videos so went and downloaded a couple of their albums and they’ve been sitting on my iPod ever since.

I love the vast majority of Bowling for Soup’s music, but Val Kilmer is one of my favourites. It’s a love song, or rather a song about a guy with a broken heart, but it’s told with a lot of movie references which makes it a lot of fun and different to your typical love song. I’m a cinephile so spotting the different references to actors and films (some of them I still haven’t seen) puts a smile on my face.

I saw Bowling for Soup live in London about eight years ago with friends and it was one of the most fun concerts I’ve ever been to. It was a great atmosphere, and everyone was jumping around and singing along.

Val Kilmer is a fun and catchy song and I love it.