NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The head of Taylor Swift's record label is fired up and defending his superstar against critical comments about her Grammy-night performance.
"She is the voice of this generation. She speaks directly to (her fans), and they speak directly back to her," said Big Machine Records CEO Scott Borchetta in a phone interview. "This is not 'American Idol.' This is not a competition of getting up and seeing who can sing the highest note. This is about a true artist and writer and communicator. It's not about that technically perfect performance."
Borchetta first responded to the backlash in an interview The Tennessean. Asked by The Associated Press why he felt the need to defend Swift, he said because the criticism was "just over the top."
"It's that classic thing that critics do of building something up and then wanting to tear it down," he said.
Swift rehearsed her performance and duet with Stevie Nicks two different times at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in front of a crowd of people. Critics were nicer then. Entertainment Weekly wrote of the rehearsal, "The two women's voices complimented each other nicely on the harmonies of 'Rhiannon ...'"
But on Sunday night's Grammy show, Borchetta said Swift had a technical issue that made her worry about her performance. (Attempts to reach The Recording Academy for comment went unanswered.)
"We had a volume problem in the ear. So, she was concerned that she wasn't able to hear everything in the mix," Borchetta said. "That's just part of live TV. ... So you're going to have difficulties on occasion. Unfortunately, on one of the biggest stages, we did have a technical issue. She couldn't hear herself like she had in rehearsal."
As quickly as you could say "Fearless," bloggers and media outlets pounced on Swift's performance. The Washington Post quipped: "To borrow a phrase from Montgomery Burns, it was more 'off-key caterwauling.'" Entertainment Weekly's Web site EW.com said: "There's no doubt that someone was badly off-key ... I'm afraid my money's on Taylor."
The chatter at times overshadowed the four Grammys she won — including album of the year.
Borchetta said he doesn't need critics to give the 20-year-old the benefit of the doubt: "What we have is so much bigger than that. Am I going to ask them to turn their heads, no, I don't need them to."
It's doubtful her fans will abandon Swift anytime soon, judging by the congratulations and positive comments on her Facebook and MySpace pages, or that those with tickets to the second leg of her sold-out "Fearless" tour will throw them away because she had a bad night.
And with that, Borchetta has a message to all of her critics.
"If you haven't seen her live performance, you're welcome to come out as my guest to a Taylor Swift show and experience the whole thing, because it's amazing. You can see her in her element. There's a reason tickets are selling like they are."
Swift's "Fearless" album has sold over 5 million copies and was last year's top-selling album. She is the youngest artist to ever win the Grammys' top prize of album of the year. She will resume the "Fearless" tour March 4 in Tampa, Fla.