An alien listening to Taylor Swift might presume break-ups are the most horrific tragedy in human history, scoring over genocide, famine and Instagram influencers. ‘Swifties’, as Taylor Swift fans are known (duh!), must have been over the moon on the star’s 33rd birthday. A chat with a colleague reminded me of how old we’ve become when she commented, “Dude! Taylor Swift has been around since forever. And she just turned 33?” As I cried a little in my head over the relentless harshness of age (something a Taylor Swift song could heal), I remarked, “A lot like Sachin Tendulkar in the fact that she started rather early.” Me, on the other hand, am still answering questions about why my shirts don’t match at the age of 39.
Highs and lows
The singer has been riding high on the phenomenal success of Anti Hero, the lead single from her latest album Midnights, which has been topping Billboard’s top 100 charts for weeks. I read that Taylor Swift has become the first artist in Spotify history to have nine albums each with over 2 billion streams. This is in contrast to my podcast on Spotify with nine episodes having 0.00000000000002 billion views each (six zeroes were removed by the editor out of sympathy).
On the other hand, a time traveller who saw Kanye in 2009 interrupting her award acceptance speech and Ye in 2022 dressed like a Nazi Ninja would presume the human race has been progressing backwards. While Ye has been wearing more than his emotions on the screen, Taylor Swift is known to wear them through her lyrics, and even more through her music videos. A glance at You belong with me has the classic nerd girl trying to tell the cute guy next door to stop chasing the breezy cheerleader and pick her instead. One feels shades of Betty Cooper wistfully singing this for Archie Andrews.
It’s all in the lyrics
Her pandemic release, Willow, hits differently in lines like, “The one prize I would cheat for.” Today, that prize could well be the tickets to her concert, given the fiasco over ticketmaster pricing. Her ticket prices have fluctuated more than bitcoin and would probably go down in financial market history along with the tulip craze and the dotcom boom.
A line in Willow that personally hit me is, “I come back stronger than a 90’s trend.” As a 39-year-old, it’s a little hard to accept that your time is now being described as a comeback trend. You want to shout. “Fool! I’ve been here the whole time, long before Taylor Swift. Why aren’t you dying to buy tickets for my comedy show?” In the lyrics, “Show me the places where the others gave you scars,” any Indian child brought up in this society is likely to emotionally respond with the meme that says, “Aao kabhi Haveli pe.” Perhaps that’s what makes them act out and scream “Look what you made me do!” Lyrics in this song that go, “I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams,” make me also want to respond “Aao kabhi meri past relationships ki haveli pe, cause baby now we got bad blood, you know it used to be mad love”.
The art, the artist and more
Beyond the artist and the hype, is always the age-old question of art, artist, person and public/PR/social media persona. Where do they merge, where are they different, what is real, what is carefully curated (if manufactured is too cruel a word). But perhaps one gets some glimpses in her speech for the outgoing batch of 2022 at NYU (New York University). She spoke about not being taken seriously because of her extremely young age, the overload of advice from others ending with a bittersweet note of “I have some terrifying news. It’s totally up to you” and “I have some good news. It’s totally up to you”. Okay, in her speech the sequence was the other way around. But whether you ignore this article or you like, share and follow that’s totally up to you.
The author is a Marwari investment banker turned corporate comedian. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.