Columns, Opinion

RENNER: Taylor Swift flexes celebrity muscle in Apple Music ad

On the splendid holiday April Fools’ Day, Taylor Swift graced the Internet with a comically tragic video of her falling off of a treadmill. Unfortunately, this was not a joke.

As part of her relatively recent partnership with Apple Music, Swift released the clip, which shows the perfectly beautified Swift putting on her Apple subsidiary Beats Electronics Powerbeats2 Wireless earphones, clicking on the Apple Music app on her iPhone and playing the Drake and Future song “Jumpman.”

Besides the full face of makeup and a blown-out bob, there is another uncomfortable, underlying aspect of this video. The last time Swift made headlines with Apple Music was June 2015, during an epic public battle between the two dynamos. For those of us who missed what happened between then and now, this video feels weird. There’s a large jump from criticizing a company to endorsing its products. But Swift made it.

With the launch of Apple’s music-streaming service a year ago came a three-month free trial for all i-product users. This was followed by an open letter of contempt Swift posted via Tumblr. Pleasantly, she wrote of the injustice Apple was doing to performers, bands, songwriters and producers by not paying them during this quarter-of-a-year span. She wrote:

“These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call.”

The letter got more than 100,000 notes on Swift’s Tumblr page and tirelessly swirled around the entertainment world and social media. A few days later, Apple changed its tune. The streaming service agreed to pay artists during customers’ free-trial period — a huge win for Swift, who in a matter of days signed off her best-selling album “1989” to Apple Music, followed by the exclusive rights to her 1989 World Tour film in December.

It’s clear that the dramatic “break-up-make-up” style of Swift is to be expected not only in her songs and personal life, but also in her business practices. The contrast between her stance on Apple Music less than a year ago and her stance today is stark and confusing. However, Swift is now using her power for good, if you consider good to be promoting the products of a company she once criticized.

Each move the artist makes is calculated to bring her maximum return in good publicity, fan support and, above all, adding to her powerful-yet-spunky cool girl persona. The letter Swift wrote to Apple in June showed the entire world that she was a doer, one who spoke for those who could not and tweeted for those who lacked her strong social media following.

The fact that Apple listened was huge. Not only is Swift a doer, but she is immensely powerful. Now, to balance this, she is shown as a somewhat relatable, clumsy girl falling on the treadmill. And the scale tips back to spunky-cool.

Swift has become an icon in just about every industry she can tap her manicured nails into, and this ad is just another step in that world-dominating direction. Did Swift see this coming as she, or her publicist, angrily typed that infamous Tumblr post last year? Could she and Apple have been in cahoots? Did her stunt double have to get the same terrible bob haircut? These are the important questions we as media consumers must always keep in mind.

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