Is Taylor Swift Making Amends For Her Breakup With Country Music?

Photo: Gustavo Caballero/Getty.
I saw Taylor Swift for the first time when I was 17 years old and she was opening up for George Strait. I’ve attended three of her concerts since and pre-ordered every album. Saying I am a fan would be an understatement — but I was not happy to see Taylor at the Country Music Awards last night.

Two years ago, Rolling Stone published an interview with Taylor stating: "She says she won't be going to country awards shows or promoting the album on country radio." So, when I realized she was using the CMAs as her own comeback vehicle, it felt off for both the country music community and Taylor.

Ever since Kim Kardashian shared all the receipts between Kanye and Taylor, Ms. Swift has been somewhat MIA. Sure, every once in a while, she will post a sweet photo of her cats, but she's mainly avoided the limelight. That is until this past weekend, when she started posting Halloween photos with the squad.

And then, two days ago, Little Big Town’s latest video was released with a surprise announcement that Taylor wrote the song. What does “Better Man” sound like? It sounds like a comeback with just the right amount of twang and heartbreak to remind us of Taylor from 2007-2014.

I knew that meant she would be at the Country Music Awards on November 2. I mean, squad photos reminding us she has friends, a new song reminding us how talented she is, and a surprise appearance reminding us why we fell in love with her in the first place? That’s a perfectly harmonious road to redemption.

Her breakup with country music was gradual, undramatic, and met with worldwide praise. Taylor and country music grew apart. That’s okay. It makes sense that she didn’t feel comfortable having 1989, her first blatantly pop album, nominated for country music awards. It’s a great album, but there wasn’t a single country song. Beyonce’s Lemonade had a better chance of getting a nomination, as "Daddy Lessons" had nods to the banjo-filled, blues-y roots that both soul music and country music share, thanks to the contributions from African diaspora. But 1989? Not a single twang reference.

She was true to her word and didn’t show up for the last two CMAs — even though she was nominated for an award in 2014. She did show up for the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2015, but only because they gave her a tribute award. She used her acceptance speech to give a very touching, but final goodbye to country...again. If country award shows were a man, she would have written an instant hit about their hot and cold relationship.

Now she needs a stage again, she needs a comeback, so she turns to the exact stage that she broke up with. I realize that for the 50th anniversary of the CMAs, they were bringing back all of the people who influenced country music’s past. That definitely includes Taylor. But you couldn't help but feel her sudden appearance is strategic. The whole night, including Beyoncé's performance, felt like a celebration of camaraderie...except when Taylor was on the stage. She seemed, ironically, like an outsider.

I long for the day when Taylor Swift releases a new country album, or a duet featuring Dierks Bentley in between her next pop albums. At that point, Taylor, please take the CMAs stage and every other stage. Until then? The country music awards — and your country-loving fans — are still smarting from that breakup. You might be able to shake it off, but that doesn’t mean you should.

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