Live: Taylor Swift @ The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, 4.02.09

As a steadfast follower of cute, guitar-playing singers (boys included!) since my wee days, I’ve seen female-fronted pop/rock hit a bit of a wall over the last few years. After the angsty peak of Lilith Fair and subsequent singers such as Fiona Apple and Aimee Mann, the early 2000s left us with watered-down dreck like Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton. But Taylor Swift, the top-selling artist of 2008 and a girl who’s certainly charming enough to get by with the tween set on looks and love life alone, brings a turn for the better.

[Taylor in Columbus in 2008 / photo by rowelbg]

Like pal Miley Cyrus’ undeniable “7 Things,” which bristles with the punk power of blink-182, if not the Sex Pistols, Taylor’s music has hooks, charisma and passion. Real rocker grrrls won’t mistake her for Paramore (who get even bigger high-fives from me), but as she played a series of decountrified hits to Jay Leno’s audience on the NBC lot on Thursday, the wallflower pop of her recent antecedents seemed to wilt even further. I can’t speak for her records, which I assume are big, bright and compressed beyond recognition, or approve her borderline insufferable teen drama lyrics, but the performance left me a convert — and hopeful. Keep it up, Pop Music.


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