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Making sense of Taylor Swift

  • 26 February 2024
  The wall hanging read ‘Happy Birth-Tay’ in glossy sparkling pink. It was my sister’s birthday, and her apartment was bejewelled with Taylor Swift-themed birthday memorabilia and iconography. She was heading out to the Eras concert later that evening and wanted us all to be a part of the pre-game. My sister distributed pairs of pink heart-shaped sunglasses at the door which we were instructed to wear for reasons unknown. On TV, the Eras tour played on repeat while the hi-fi system ploughed through Swift’s back catalogue. And for several hours, the group nibbled hors d’oeuvres, drank champagne and talked of nothing but Taylor Swift. There’s something about celebrity devotion that makes me a little uncomfortable, but hey, it wasn’t my birthday.  

My sister joined some 96,000 other people to see Taylor Swift's Eras tour at Melbourne’s MCG. She bought tickets above market value to catch the Friday night show and then again on the Sunday. And it begs the question: why did my sister – who tends to stay above pop cultural events – dive so deeply into this one?

I don’t know. Until the other day, I thought Taylor Swift was a successful pop star. Only this last week did I realise that, previously unbeknownst to me, Taylor Swift has attained omnipresence. She’s like the human equivalent of a Netflix binge that the whole world has guiltily, gleefully engorged themselves on.

For those just tuning in, Taylor Swift is demigod of Gens X, Y and Z. And she’s the reason why everyone seems to be taking saccharine pop music very, very seriously these days. She’s the girl next door who just happens to sell out stadiums and date heartthrobs, but still writes songs that sound like high school journal entries. And therein lies the Swift paradox: a megastar who’s managed to maintain an air of relatability amidst a sea of unattainable celebrity.

Big deal, you may well say. Another pop star. And you’re right. Yet she does something transformative to people like my sister that other pop stars don’t. Other musicians have fans, Taylor has disciples.

Swift has become the first performer to gross more than $1 billion with a concert tour, and she’s only halfway done. This current ‘Eras’ tour began in March 2023. By the time it wraps in December 2024, it’s expected to be the highest grossing tour of all time, with 150 performances raking in somewhere around $2 billion. The