Entertainment
Entertainment

Taylor Swift, 'Cloud Atlas' and assumption junction

On semi-rare occasions, you absolutely know when something’s going to be good. You judge a book by its cover because you’ve practically already read it. A new Fiona Apple album, good. 3 Doors Down’s greatest hits, bad.

That said, it’s far too easy to let broad assessments determine what entertainment we pursue and decide how much we liked it before watching/listening/reading. This week Taylor Swift, that smiley little pixie who is like, so oh-my-god grateful, y’all about this award and totally did not expect it, released a new album. It would be easy to broadly dismiss as the singing diaries of a teenage girl who doesn’t realize that she’s in her early 20s. Or, at best, the sort of catchy, disposable pop that Hayden Panettiere’s character has already grown sick of writing and performing on “Nashville.”

In fact, Swift’s well-reviewed “Red” deserves the reviews that say it’s not terrible. It’s considerably better than terrible, something I imagine many people would be more willing to consider and perhaps admit were the album not by Taylor Swift, who already seems like she’s been around forever despite not having been born when “The Little Mermaid” came out. Contrary to belief that may have been fostered by some less-than-stellar awards show performances, Swift can sing just fine, and the hooks on “Red” cannot be denied. Will it force you to admit the way the music conjures images of putting the top down (if you had a convertible) and letting your hair fly in the wind? Probably, despite the lyrics possessing a far less carefree spirit. And even if not all of Swift’s words soar with wisdom, 1. She’s 22 2. They're honest and relatable and 3. Unlike Katy Perry's lyrics, they don’t make you gag.

By the way, that’s a mild reference to “Full House,” a show that began two years before Swift was born.

On the flip side, this week also brings “Cloud Atlas,” a movie that might seem guaranteed to be worth your time. It stars Oscar winners in Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Jim Broadbent, and it’s co-directed by Chicago natives Andy and Lana Wachowski (“The Matrix”). It should go without saying, however, that ambition and name recognition doesn’t grant a movie a free pass—“Rock of Ages” should forever stand as proof that huge stars don’t mean a damn with horrible material. The fast-paced “Cloud Atlas” whizzes by pretty quickly for a three-hour epic that makes broad statements about human behavior, but it’s also embarrassing on a writing, acting and thematic level. Anyone who goes in already ready to be wowed may digest the concept of jumping across space and time and casting actors in several different parts as a brilliant experiment; subjectively, I say everything it tries is distracting in the worst way.

Most people, critics included, go into a movie or an album with a somewhat biased opinion. If critics says they anticipate “The Master” with the same excitement as “That’s My Boy,” they're lying. But everyone, whether they write about this stuff or not, should be willing to admit when something is good or isn’t, regardless of if they “want” to like it. Loved the “Twilight” books but shudder at the movies? That’s OK, it doesn’t change how you feel about the book. Heard the Animal Collective record is wonderful but you don't actually hear any songs on there? That's fine; being in the minority doesn't mean you don't get it, you just might have to work harder to defend your perspective.

The thing about opinions is that everyone has one, but in a savvy pop culture world in which many prefer not to go out on a limb and no one wants to be wrong, a discussion of artistic quality isn’t much worth having when minds have been made up in advance.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.

 

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Marrow's 'The Gold Standard' raises the Chicago rock bar

    Marrow's 'The Gold Standard' raises the Chicago rock bar

    The four musicians in Marrow know quite a bit about bringing diverse influences to the table. After all, three of them, singer-guitarist Liam Kazar, singer-keyboardist Macie Stewart and bassist Lane Beckstrom were in Kids These Days, a now-defunct septet that combined jazz, funk, rap and rock in...

  • The Kids These Days family tree

    The Kids These Days family tree

    From its 2009 beginnings to its 2013 demise, Chicago's Kids These Days seemed like one of the most promising acts the city had seen in years. While the band split up at the height of its hype, its members have since gone on to do bigger and better things—seriously impressive considering the hip-hop/rock/jazz...

  • Chicago sues red light camera firm for $300 million

    Chicago sues red light camera firm for $300 million

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has sued Chicago's former red light camera operator, Redflex Traffic Systems, for more than $300 million on grounds the entire program was built on a $2 million bribery scheme at City Hall that has already led to federal corruption convictions.

  • Solid 'Gold': How ex-Kids These Days members came back stronger as Marrow

    Solid 'Gold': How ex-Kids These Days members came back stronger as Marrow

    After the dissolution of Kids These Days, the much-buzzed about Chicago fusion-jazz-rock-rap septet that split in spring 2013 just a few months after releasing its only album, “Traphouse Rock,” some of its members spent what seems like all of 20 minutes bandless. "We were driving back from the...

  • Mr Twin Sister's 'In the House of Yes' is one of last year's hidden treasures

    Mr Twin Sister's 'In the House of Yes' is one of last year's hidden treasures

    Welcome to RedEye's "Song of the Day," an ongoing feature where music reporter Josh Terry or another RedEye staff member highlights something they're listening to. Some days the track will be new, and some days it will be old. No matter what, each offering is something you should check out. Check...

  • GrubHub's weekend customer-support issues made people hangry

    GrubHub's weekend customer-support issues made people hangry

    Technical difficulties at GrubHub and Seamless over the weekend drove hordes of hangry would-be customers to air their grievances on social media. The food ordering and delivery sites, which merged in 2013 and use GrubHub’s back-end technology, errantly accepted payments on Saturday evening without...

Comments
Loading
83°