Sunday, April 14, 2024

A Blank Space: Guys, I Just Don’t Get Why Everyone Absolutely Loves Taylor Swift

Kelly Bertrand feels like she’s missing a trick when it comes to the global phenomenon that is Taylor Swift. Can she get to the bottom of it?

I’m sitting here REALLY trying to *get* Taylor Swift right now. All the ingredients are here for immaculate vibes – a candle is softly flickering, rain is pouring down outside, I’m cosy in big fluffy socks with a coffee in my hand and folklore is playing in the background.

Everything is lovely. Everything is pleasant. But while I’m enjoying the music and the feels, I haven’t been sent into a frenzied, passionate love affair with Taylor. What am I missing?

Why do people not only like – but are OBSESSED with – Taylor Swift?

I watched on with incredulity and bemusement as Kiwi Swifties lost their collective mind with the announcement Taylor would be coming Down Under (not even NZ! Australia!) for her wildly successful Eras tour, with almost every second person in my feeds ad urgently booking flights to Sydney and Melbourne, despite the fact NO ONE had tickets. (I bet Air New Zealand were ruing the fact they had really good Grabaseat offers going.)

It feels like you can’t escape Taylor at the moment, whether that’s the radio absolutely frothing her Australian tour dates, news articles about her breakups and hook-ups or, in my case, receiving multiple emails from the Taylor Swift merch people on behalf of Capsule’s Emma Clifton because she’s on maternity leave and the emails bounce to me (hope you’re enjoying your sweatshirt Em).

I’ve just never been that passionate about, well, ANYTHING in my life. Sure, maybe if Freddie Mercury was still alive I’d be selling a kidney to go to a Queen concert but we’ll never know will we.

To be clear I get that the woman can produce, in her words, a ‘sick beat’ (see I know some things). But what I DON’T get is the way she’s managed to cultivate an almost cult-like admiration and following that’s seen her ascend past your normal, everyday pop star – instead, she’s the millennial whisperer, a kind of musical, mythical modern-day philosopher whose followers hang on her every word, note and heartbreak.

Jack Antonoff Disney GIF by Taylor Swift

Through savvy marketing, easter eggs that make fans feel special and *seen*, a not-perfect but totally relatable social media and of course, her uber-relatable lyrics, Taylor’s managed to cultivate a personal relationship with her millions of fans. It’s almost… religious?

I’m starting to feel like I’m really missing something during this era (lol) of Taylor – like we, the non-Swifties of the world, have been forced to pay attention to something we just don’t get.  

There’s absolutely no doubt that she’s an incredible songwriter but let’s be honest, there are far better singers in the world (and that’s absolutely fine). Seven years ago, she was on the absolute precipice of being cancelled following the fallout with Kanye West and yet here she is today, more popular than ever following the success of subsequent albums Reputation, Lover, folklore, evermore and her biggest album to date, Midnights.

I know plenty of people who like her just fine, and even people who I’d call ‘Taylor Swift adjacent’ who can bop to Look What You Made Me Do just as enthusiastically as the next person.

Why does everyone love Taylor Swift?

So, what is it?! Why do people love Taylor Swift so much – and should I, too?

I put the question to the most scientific of information-gathering methods (jk it was Instagram) and asked my friends what they loved about T-Swizzle (do we still call her that!?).

They of course responded in passionate droves (more on that in a second) but I also found PLENTY of people who, like me, feel they’ve missed a trick:

“I’m also in the 1%… I can’t escape it. Even the podcasts I think are Swift-free zones can’t stop talking about her!”

“I don’t get it either!”

“I’m so confused about her – she’s all good, but like why are we supposed to love her?”

“F***ING SAME”

But then, of course, enter the Swifties:

“She’s perfectly captured every feeling I’ve ever had, and although the situations themselves are hugely different there’s such relatability in her songs – being hurt, being bullied, feeling alone. I first heard her when I was 12 and now I’m 27. She’s like the big sister I never had.”

“Speaking solely for women in their 30s, we feel like we’ve grown up with her.. Over the years the music she released hit at the exact right time for a lot of what we were going through in our lives… it means we can look back and remember what was going on in our lives at the time and see how far we’ve come. It also helps the gal writes a hell of a bridge – having that many songs that basic bitches can scream at each other is an absolute recipe for success.”

I used to despise her and now I’m obsessed… this tour has really tipped me over the edge. She’s just such a boss and her performance is out the gate. I think if I had to put it down to one thing I think I’m just in my emotional girl era and scream-singing the lyrics is a helpful outlet”.

Taylor Swift Hair Flip GIF by MOODMAN

While most people who replied mentioned that they’d been fans since they were tweens, others say they’ve simply connected with one of Taylor’s ‘eras’ with their different themes and motivations. Their pain, their emotion, their happiness seems to be perfectly mesh with Taylor, which, if you think about it is an absolute wild thought – how can the average Kiwi millennial POSSIBLY relate to an uber-rich American popstar? But of course everyone is vulnerable at some point in their lives – and sharing personal vulnerability, insecurity and fear seems to be the secret to her success. Stars – they’re just like us (but can afford lamb and eggs when they go to the supermarket).

And if little girls can reclaim power within their vulnerability – and have a role model that never claims to be perfect – then hell, all power to her.

Taylor Swift fans have this innate ability to chart their lives through Taylor Swift albums. First love? Fearless. First love ends? Red. Finding yourself as you navigate your early 20s? 1989. Going through the hell of a Saturn Return and a quarter-life crisis? Reputation. Sure, I get it.

Now she’s in her 30s, Taylor is also moving into a powerful era that is nostalgia – which is probably why the Eras tour is such a success. There is NOTHING a millennial woman loves more than a bit of nostalgia and now her early songs fall perfectly in that time of our lives we’re so wistful for – being young and free with no responsibilities and no f**ks to give.

Almost separate from the music though, there are most definitely plenty of things to admire Taylor for – her remarkable business savvy; the way she didn’t take the sale of her master recordings lying down and simply re-recorded them as Taylor’s versions (honestly, this is bloody amazing and full props to her for standing up for herself and her music – she truly has led the way for representation of female musicians).

So while I might not have the *feels* of a Swiftie, I have to admit, the woman is bloody impressive, and she deserves the floods of support she enjoys from her fans who, by the sounds of it see her as more than their favourite musician – she’s part of them.

Am I little jealous of not being part of this club where, even I can see, so many people find joy and acceptance and a safe space where they can just *be*? Do I want to be THAT passionate about something? Probably. (Does rosé count?) And far from this being a T-Swift hit piece, I think it’s wonderful so many people find so much comfort in something, and that her music helps so many to be seen, which in this day and age, is something you can’t place enough value upon.

And who knows, maybe there just hasn’t been a Taylor era for me yet?

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