One would be forgiven in thinking that everyone is obsessed with Taylor Swift these days. She is almost omnipresent – recent coverage of the Grammys spoke of her dancing in the crowd, Snapchat gave her a worldwide masthead for her birthday in January, and her world tour is sure to dominate the gig circuit this summer. One Irish Independent journalist inexplicably wrote an article outlining ten reasons they “unreservedly and unapologetically” loved Taylor Swift, including “she makes mistakes” or “she fangirls”.
I, however, just don’t get it. While many of us look at Taylor Swift and see a relatable millennial, struggling to have it all in New York City while making music for her adoring fans, I see a canny businesswoman, who identified a niche and now dominates the pop music industry. I think one would be very foolish to think that anything Swift does is spontaneous.
Now don’t get me wrong, her songs are excellent, and she is an intelligent song-writer. Her transformation from innocent country-girl to Manhattan’s girl next door, however, has been meticulously planned.
I remember a time when Taylor was everything that was uncool. At the Golden Globes in 2013, Taylor was coming off another failed relationship. She was as famous for her boyfriends as for her music: John Mayer, Jake Gyllenhaal, Taylor Lautner (how cute! The tabloids would gush) and Harry Styles. It had become a source of derision: “I wonder which boyfriend Taylor will write about next?”
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler presented that year, and Taylor was the butt of one of their jokes that evening when they warned her to “stay away from Michael J. Fox’s (teenage) son”, and have some “me time”. The camera panned to Taylor, and she was not impressed. She rolled her eyes, and the Internet reacted by mocking her. She later fuelled the fire, stating, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”.
Fey and Poehler seemed not to care, with Amy stating, “Aw, I feel bad if she was upset. I am a feminist, and she is a young and talented girl. That being said, I do agree I am going to hell. But for other reasons. Mostly boring tax stuff.” The tabloid papers laughed at Swift’s feeble inability to take a joke.
Flash-forward to 2015, and she is a media darling. The construction of this persona should be commended. She has managed to form a group of friends around her that add to her coolness- Lorde defended her on social media when former boyfriend Diplo made fun of her, Lena Dunham has said that she listens to Swift when writing her hit show “Girls”, and you can spot Taylor standing confidently (although a tad awkward) in the background of Instagram photos of the newest tranche of supermodels, like Karlie Kloss. The benefits of these friendships are many- she performed at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, where many of her friends modelled.
Taylor is excellent at managing her online presence. Her fans loved when she paid homage to the tumblr joke by wearing a “no it’s becky” t-shirt. She recently surprised a fan by sending her 1,989 dollars to help her student debt (1989 is the title of her new album, you get it?) I have to admit I laughed when I heard her say in an interview that she herself found the fan, followed her Twitter, and noticed that she complained about student debt.
Am I the only one that finds the idea of the world’s biggest pop star spending hours trawling through her fans’ social media a bit incredulous, especially when she has so much staff? But Swift managed to gain serious traction on social media, come across as sweet and friendly, and promote her album- all for a measly $1989?
Taylor came under criticism from CNN’s Erin Burnett following the Golden Globe feud for expecting preferential treatment because she is a woman. Now, she is keen to stress that she is a feminist. She dislikes the fact that some expect her to write about obsessing over a lover, acting “clingy” and “ desperate”. She complains that people expect her to write about her failed relationships. She seems not to realise that these love songs are what catapulted her to stardom, and that she herself has mocked herself over that persona in the past. Her fans, however, lap it up, and see her as the symbol of empowerment.
Buzzfeed commented last week that Pharrell seemed less than impressed with Taylor’s dancing in the audience at the Grammys. “Why so salty!?”, they asked. Perhaps it is because he sees through the act, and like the writer, is getting a little tired of the schtick.
Blank Space is still a tune, however. Nobody can deny that.