Of Swift and Bey: The Rise of Critic-Proof Pop and the Diamond Ceiling
Gaga, Nicki, Ariana, Miley, Christina, Charli… even Madonna at this point. They’re all looking up at the two-headed goddess, the queens of pop that can do no wrong. Beyoncé and Taylor Swift are now releasing critic-proof music, even in this #instanthottakehater environment that others can’t come close to. Call it the Diamond Ceiling. If it weren’t for a few knuckleheads that just mer mer their way through life generally, and the tabloid nonsense, these ladies would be out walking on water. They’re even hanging out together to make themselves even more powerful and to make us feel that more lowly… kind of the Pop Avengers. (Although please stop trying to push poor Haim on us. Unless something catastrophic happens in the universe, Haim is not becoming a thing. Thanks.)
Both put out albums conventionally (Swift) and unconventionally (Beyoncé) in completely different formats 10 months apart and both equally crush the competition. Does it matter that the albums weren’t uniformly well-received critically? Well, no! They’re critic proof!
Even a budding superstar like Bruno Mars, who’s about to launch into a new stratosphere over the next year, can’t get to their level. His wholly excellent Unorthodox Jukebox was widely critically derided as being a paint-by-numbers steal job from Michael, Marvin, James, Prince, and Stevie. Some of that may have nuggets of truth embedded, but most of it is professional jealousy, since the execution was impeccable and the style became his own. Bruno knows what he’s doing. He knows there’s no way for him to get through the Diamond Ceiling right now, but he’s trying his best.
What’s the next thing either could do? Beyoncé has such a pass that she can do high concept soft core porn and/or straight up women empowerment ballads (the latter of which you’ll see as a genre released as a Tidal collation in 2021). She woke up like this!
Taylor doesn’t have the range, the voice, or the support, but she does have the goddamn moxie. If Taylor wanted to release a hip hop album that included (as these albums are wont to do) multiple guest appearances by established artists, you’re telling me that wouldn’t sell like crazy? Target and Best Buy alone would clean up by selling “exclusive content” like an Eminem/Lil Wayne/Young Thug/T-Swizzle bonus track.
If Beyoncé wanted to do an acoustic album of Rage Against the Machine Covers and drop it on us overnight on the Fourth of July, you don’t think people would first urinate on themselves, then, before cleaning the urine off of themselves, immediately download/link the album, then put a Twitter post out about it with a happy emoji, then post an Instagram picture of their urine soaked pants with an emoji that says “what are ya gonna do?”, then listen to the album all the way through, checking Twitter repeatedly, watch any related YouTube videos, and then… and only then, would clean off their urine soaked pants?
When you’re intentionally baiting trolls by either singing about the “haters gonna hate”, or instructing people to “bow down, bitches”, you’ve reached the top of Diamond Ceiling. We’re all just looking up.
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