On Tuesday, the Recording Academy released a commercial to promote the upcoming Grammy Awards on Feb. 12. In the clip, young female performers recite Taylor Swift’s Album of the Year speech from last year’s ceremony, turning it into “their own mantra of inspiration, hard work and hope.”
At face value, the ad is powerful. Watching young girls achieve the goals they work hard to reach is always a welcome sight. But underneath the veil of female empowerment, there’s a lot to unpack.
Interestingly, the commercial was released the same day BuzzFeed published an article titled “How Taylor Swift Played The Victim For A Decade And Made Her Entire Career.” It’s just one of the many stories written about Swift’s brand of feminism in the past few years, outlining how the pop star uses it in ways that are advantageous to her career.
In a sense, the Recording Academy has done the same thing with this ad, and using Swift as the backdrop was definitely a smart move from a business standpoint. Various outlets covered the commercial, calling it “goosebump-inducing” and “a girl-power Grammy ad.” It even brought Swift’s BFF and squad member Gigi Hadid to tears.
The message, though, doesn’t quite hit the mark. Not only because the attempt at using girl power as a business tool seems too obvious, but because Swift’s speech seemed more like a well-orchestrated PR move than a genuine moment.
You may recall that the songstress delivered last year’s speech just after rapper Kanye West released his song “Famous,” in which he called Swift a “bitch” and claimed they would likely have sex. At the time, it was unclear whether Swift was in on the joke ― West said she was, she denied it ― but her speech seemed like a direct response to him. We would later learn (through a series of leaked videos on Kim Kardashian’s Snapchat) the singer at least knew about a few of the lyrics. Some argued that Swift’s speech was another attempt to place herself firmly as a victim of controversy, not the orchestrator of it.
What’s more, the commercial ends with the statement, “Believe in music,” which seems to undermine its entire message. Swift’s words lend themselves better to a statement like “Believe in yourself.” At the end of the day, though, the Recording Academy represents the music industry and its job is to recognize and promote artists in said industry, Swift included.
It’s a business. The Academy’s ad, no matter how touching, is an ad. Over time, it’s become harder to trust the girl power Swift is selling, much like it’s hard to trust the girl power the Academy is selling, too.