The Lefsetz Letter: Taylor/Kanye/Kim Brouhaha


What kind of crazy fucked-up world do we live in where the dust-up eclipses the song?

People don’t have time to check out a track. That’s the dirty little secret the music industry doesn’t want to admit, that so many have tuned out new music because it’s overwhelming, and the plethora of playlists isn’t helping.

But that Kanye track, you know, the one off the album only on Tidal, the collection more famous for its penumbra than its bona fides, talked shit about Taylor Swift.


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

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If you ask me, it was over the line. But there is no line anymore, when you can Google porn and the only people against sex and dope work for the government. So, in an attention overload society, even the biggest of stars must resort to stunts for mindshare. Believe me, Kanye was thinking about the controversy and the attendant ink when he wrote the words.

Which would have meant nothing if it weren’t for the flames fanned by the media.

And today popular culture is a sport. We’ve all got the celebrities we root for, whether they be Michael Moore or Donald Trump, Kanye West or Taylor Swift. You don’t want to get on the bad side of either, I’ve got the e-mail and tweets to prove it. Offend someone with acolytes and you’re gonna be buried in hatred.

But just when you thought the story was dead, Kim K. drops a bomb on her TV show. This was completely unforeseen. Kinda like Gretchen Carlson attacking Roger Ailes. Carlson wanted to catch Ailes and his team unawares, Carlson played to the media, because we all know the court…is the court of last resort. People think Woody Allen is guilty, we keep reading about it in the paper, even though the court said he was innocent!

And Taylor Swift seems to have forgotten the first rule of social media, which is you do your best not to pour gasoline on a fire. If Taylor hadn’t barked back, this story would have faded away. Kim K. might be rich, but the ratings for her show are minimal.

But Taylor responded.

And now she’s losing.

I get her point, it’s hard to cogitate and give the right answer on the spot. And always playing nice except when she writes lyrics, Taylor didn’t call Kanye out in the phone call.

And recording phone calls is illegal in most states. But come on, the government’s gonna crack down on Kanye? When? After it eradicates crime in the inner city? Stops illegal drug use? Gets rid of gangs?

Kanye and Kim may not have the right to record and distribute, but they certainly have the power. And if you think every time you break a law you get arrested…

But the more interesting thing is how Taylor Swift is losing control of her own narrative. Which evolved from vindictive boy crazy nut to girl-bonding everywoman. But she’s not, everywoman, that is. She’s a superstar living in a bubble who’s lost touch of how she’s perceived. And the media was on her side because she sold ads and played ball, reporters love access, but now Swiftie’s shenanigans are on repeat, there’s no news there, just endless boyfriends, girlfriends and staged do-gooding.

So the media has turned and piled on and Taylor Swift’s carefully managed image has taken a hit.

Let’s be real folks. America is so starved for stars, the music landscape is so incomprehensible, that he or she who works with the biggest superstar in the world, Max Martin, will continue to dominate. It’s kinda like country, where writers want their songs sung by hitmakers, Taylor Swift has access to the best songwriters in the land, so she’ll continue to dominate.

Unless music changes.

Which it hasn’t in fifteen years.

But the truth is no one’s that big anymore. We’ve got a thin layer of superstars playing to a small vertical of fans. This ain’t the Beatles versus the Stones, Kanye versus Taylor is more like Herman’s Hermits versus Gerry and the Pacemakers. Then again, those two British Invasion acts had much more musical penetration.

Used to be about the music. Used to be a great track was known by everybody. Used to be your image was secondary to your tunes.

Not anymore!

P.S. It was not only E!, Kim also took to Snapchat, the social media site du jour, to spread the word. Today’s celebs might have little talent but they’re media-savvy, they know how to use the tools to get their message across.