DVD REVIEW: Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (2009)

TAYLOR SWIFT & DEF LEPPARD – CMT Crossroads (2009 Walmart exclusive DVD)

“Of course that country cop out track (“Nine Lives”) is brutal…Leppard has no place for CMT! I remember hearing about the Swift deal…I had zero interest. I was like, ‘How can a band that put out stellar product (basically the first four albums) go and cross over!??’ I mean right out of the Sixx play book entitled Following Trends!”Deke from Metal Shatz

“There’s always a first day when you discover a band, be it the Beatles or Taylor Swift, when you hear the name for the first time and then you go and check it out. So we just Googled her, iTuned her, listened to it all and said, ‘Wow’!” — Joe Elliott

“I like to write songs about what’s going on in my life.” — Taylor Swift, stating the obvious

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Before the Swifties come and tear us apart for what you’re about to read, let’s be perfectly clear. Taylow Swift is very talented and has a genuine love for Def Leppard’s music. She is also an incredibly bright individual, and she has written more hits than Def Leppard in a fraction of the time. Both of them started in their teens, and are guilty of using outside writers. In the included interview footage, she and Def Lep seem like a mutual admiration society. We have nothing against Taylor Swift here, though her brand of pop music is never heard around LeBrain HQ…save this Walmart exclusive DVD release.

How did they hook up? Taylor was on tour with “Tim and Faith” (McGraw and Hill) who’s tour manager was Rick Allen’s brother. She expressed interest in doing an episode of CMT Crossroads with them, and then the phone rang.

Leppard and the Swift’s band share the stage, dual drummers, umpteen guitar players, and fiddle…but on a heavier track like “Photograph” you can’t really hear her group. Taylor gets the first line (she says she felt like a kid in a candy store to do so); then she and Joe swap. It’s clear that she doesn’t have the power nor the control that Joe Elliot has. Her voice is whispy by comparison. It’s also weird to see a girl in a gold mini-dress and cowboy boots fronting Def Leppard, but talk about dreams come true! I’m sure Def Leppard didn’t mind the national exposure either.

“Picture to Burn” is the kind of candy-coated pop country that irritates so many fans of the old fashioned stuff. Taylor is more at home on her own songs, but Joe has never sounded more awkward. Taylor’s band dominates on this song, with only a few Phil Collen guitar squeals to remind you he’s there. Tellingly, Joe Elliot says of her music, “You take the banjos and fiddles off, and you’ve got pop.” The next Taylor number, “Love Story” is one I’ve heard on pop radio many times, but it’s hard to suffer through. It brings back bad memories of Leppard’s pop disaster, X.

Taylor butchers my favourite Def Leppard ballad, “Hysteria”. The song successfully absorbs the twang, but again, Swift just lacks the vocal power to blast it the way Joe can. Her own ballad “Teardrops on my Guitar” is so laid back that most of the Leppard guys are sitting down for it. The bands mesh well and the song is pretty good, although she has a guitar player who kind of looks like a goth country emo Russell Brand. She’s at home on Leppard’s “When Love and Hate Collide”. Once again the meshing of the two bands works well here. There’s a full string section, plus backing vocalists crowding the already overloaded stage, but that’s what the song calls for and it’s genuinely great version of the well-worn hit. “Should’ve Said No” is a Swift song I don’t know, but it’s one of those pop tracks that just feels like it was written by a computer. It transforms directly into the show closer “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, but…damn. Taylor’s out of breath. She is audibly gasping (a big no-no) between lines and unable to deliver the goods. With the fiddle and extra accouterments added, this one’s a write-off.

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There are three bonus tracks that weren’t broadcast as part of the show: One Swift, two Leppard. Taylor says she wrote “Our Song” in ninth grade (“three years ago, actually”). That’s exactly what it sounds like, ninth grade pop, but obviously there is a need in the world for that kind of kid-friendly music. Leppard fans won’t find any appeal here. They will however appreciate “Love”, the only new Leppard song in the set. Interestingly it starts with only Taylor and two of her guitarists on stage, then Leppard emerge from the shadows. As a duet, it’s enjoyable, and it’s overall probably the heaviest thing all night. The much-overplayed “Two Steps Behind” is the final bonus track. The fun thing here is trying to count the number of people playing guitar on stage. (Eight plus fiddle and Rick Savage on acoustic five-string.)

Phil Collen gets bonus points for wearing a jacket on stage, dressing up a bit for the television, but he sticks to tradition by having no shirt on underneath.

2.5/5 stars

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30 comments

  1. Wow. Taylor Swift sings Two Steps Behind. I need that. Don’t say it too loud, but I own one Swifty album (Red). Can’t exactly remember how it got in the collection, to tell the truth. I was tempted to pick up 1989 after hearing Ryan Adams’ version of the album. Stripped right back of the slick pop decoration there’s some sincere songs there.

    I wouldn’t at all be surprised if she ditches the mainstream country thing down the line and creates a stellar ‘country’ album. In a way, doing this and hearing her own songs interpreted by Adams is likely a positive in that respect. She gets to hear how she could sound if she went down the ‘alternative’ path.

    Much like Miley Cyrus and The Flaming Lips, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OK well I admire your bravery for admitted that J! Now the Swifties can’t come and tear us apart because you provide the credibility of one who has owned Swift.

      I am certain that I would like Ryan Adams’ interpretation, however I’ve heard enough singles of the original 1989 to know it’s not for me. I’m not a hater gonna hate hate hate. I can hear she has good songs — it’s just not my style.

      I think it would be great if Taylor strapped on a guitar, stopped dancing for a bit, and played some country again. But, I think she’s also having a blast being America’s favourite pop princess. Who wouldn’t? Dreams coming true.

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      1. I think I’ve listened to Red once or twice and can’t imagine it’ll be one I listen to again. Musically it’s just not my thing, but I admire the fact that she pens her own songs and seems to have a liking for proper music.

        If her singing Def Leppard songs badly results in her putting out some good roots music further down the line I reckon it’s a good thing!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m trying to think of which songs are on Red. Is that the one with We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together?

          The thing that bugs me about her songs is that often have some great hooks in them. But then something else turns me off in the same song.

          And yes good on her for being an actual song WRITER. That will always give her the edge.

          Like

        2. Yup. That’s on there (had to check!) Completely agree with you that the hooks are often tripped up by something. Often the generic rhyming, auto-melody, or over produced Katy Perry type pop leanings.

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  2. Ha! Thanks! Nice to see my quote High N Dry above Joe and Taylors! Impressive U made it through this and man great comment about Collens stage attire! Haha….
    Leppard does these country duets and it does zippo for a career boost! Zippo! Get the hint fella’s and Rock Until You Drop!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dude, when I was writing this, I said, “I know Deke had something to say about it…I need to find his comment.” It was in the comments for my review for Sparkle Lounge. I saw that line about “the Sixx book titled Following Trends” and was like, “Yup, that’s the quote I need!”

      Jon Bon and Joe Elliott have copies of that book at home…

      Liked by 2 people

        1. I even used your “Following Trends” quote this week on Scott’s site. A good quote is a good quote is a good quote. I think Lars also owns a copy of that book that he hides under his pillow.

          Liked by 1 person

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