Scene Takes On: Taylor Swift
Greg Hadley | Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Taylor Swift is the biggest female pop star on the planet.
There. I said it. It sounds weird to say it aloud, but it’s true. And it’s true because of her insanely large, insanely passionate fan base.
“Swifties,” as Taylor’s fans are known, were once limited to a very strict demographic of younger girls who related to the emotional vulnerability of her songwriting, the catchiness of her country-pop melodies and her relatable persona. Anyone outside of that group who liked Swift was regarded as a loser with poor taste.
I was once a loser with poor taste. But no more.
That’s not because I no longer like Swift. It’s because beginning last year, it became cool to like Taylor Swift. Her latest album, “1989” completed her transition to pop music, received critical acclaim and has sold 5.4 million units to date. It’s spawned three No. 1 Billboard singles, and a world tour that has grossed nearly $210 million in less than a year. Swift has more than 50 million followers on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, each. Her Tumblr notes regularly garner tens of thousands of notes.
But what really makes Swift the pop queen of the moment is the depth of the passion her fans have, a passion rooted in Swift’s easily relatable persona.
Whether it’s taking selfies with concert goers, inviting fans to appear in her music video for “Shake It Off” or giving them money to pay off their student loans, Swift is, or at least appears to be, the most accessible celebrity around.
In a way, Swift is the perfect star for millennials. She’s active on social media, relatively open about her personal life, completely untouched by any scandal, seemingly awkward and down to earth. Despite intense media coverage — CNN once ran a “Breaking News” alert when she got a haircut — Swift has flourished in the spotlight, retaining her charm while also inspiring awe and envy.
Musically speaking, Swift’s recent shift away from country to solely pop put her squarely in competition with other popular female artists such as Katy Perry, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey and Adele. Yet the change hardly felt ill-advised or poorly-timed. Rather, it was a natural evolution, one that her longtime fans were ready for.
As “Swifties” aged and matured, her stories of heartbreak and young love would have become stale and repetitive. Swift was never fully country in the first place, and her fans did not listen to her for her genre. And to be taken seriously as an artist, Swift could not remain static.
Hence, the overwhelming success of “1989.” Swift adapted alongside her fans, which humanized her even more.
The greatest testament to both the depth and breadth of Swift’s popularity came when she single-handedly convinced Apple, Inc., the world’s most profitable company, to pay artists during its three-month free trial period for Apple Music by threatening to pull her discography from the service.
Just the possibility of losing Swift’s music and the millions of listeners that come along with it, forced Apple to back down. But Tim Cook is merely the latest in a long line of celebs who have come out on the wrong end of a feud with Swift. Just like her, Swift’s fans have long memories, and “Bad Blood” tends to linger.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.