JULIE BISHOP TAY­LOR SWIFT

WOMEN IN POWER

GQ (Australia) - - FRONT PAGE - MICHAEL THOMP­SON MIKE CHRIS­TENSEN PHO­TOGRA PH Y WORDS

Be­cause the coun­try-cum-pop princess from Penn­syl­va­nia, she of un­ri­valled global pop­u­lar­ity, makes ev­ery­thing bet­ter. And stood here, 50 me­tres from stage, swamped by a swollen Sydney au­di­ence of 76,000, it’s ev­i­dent many agree. Sell­ing one mil­lion albums in a week can be lucky (ask Lil Wayne or 50 Cent), but achiev­ing this feat three times (2010’s Speak Now, 2012’s Red, 2014’s 1989) – that’s a force. And Tay­lor’s mil­lions don’t stop with al­bum sales. An­nual dol­lars earned? An es­ti­mated $115m. So­cial fol­low­ers? 200 mil­lion, ris­ing seven fgures ev­ery week. She is that rare thing. Crit­i­cally ac­claimed. Tween idol. Global pop star. Coun­try crooner. The soft spot of a cer­tain thir­tysome­thing GQ writer. She also has the unique abil­ity to be fa­mous and suc­cess­ful while keep­ing her clothes on – seem­ingly be­yond reach of per­sonal con­tro­versy. Yet haters gonna hate. Haters and head­line-hun­gry re­porters, that is, their col­lec­tive want be­ing to pick apart her pro­jec­tion of per­fec­tion. Re­cent bad blood with Spo­tify and Ap­ple de­picted Swift as an ag­gres­sor – the selfsh solo artist not will­ing to com­ply with the in­dus­try’s new freemium dig­i­tal di­rec­tion. And yet, by tak­ing on two bil­lion-dol­lar be­he­moths, she was sim­ply cham­pi­oning an even­tual pay­day for artists and song­writ­ers. Sim­i­larly, had she not picked up her pen­cil and picked on Ap­ple’s stream­ing ser­vice in June last year, writ­ing ‘three months is a long time to go un­paid, and it is un­fair to ask any­one to work for noth­ing. I say this with love, rev­er­ence, and ad­mi­ra­tion for ev­ery­thing else Ap­ple has done,’ many artists would have missed out on the dol­lars they de­served. Peo­ple gonna take too. Or at least they’ll try to, as was the case late last year when un­known R’N’B artist Jesse Bra­ham at­tempted to sue Swift for $60m in dam­ages, ac­cus­ing her of steal­ing lyrics, iron­i­cally from a song en­ti­tled ‘Haters Gonna Hate’. No sooner had the case been raised, it was dis­missed in a man­ner no one could have fore­seen – US Dis­trict Court judge Gail Stan­dish para­phras­ing Swift lyrics in her ver­dict: “As cur­rently drafted, the com­plaint has a blank space – one that re­quires Bra­ham to do more than write his name. And, upon con­sid­er­a­tion of the Court’s ex­pla­na­tion… Bra­ham may dis­cover that mere plead­ing Band-aids will not fx the bul­let holes in his case. At least for the mo­ment, de­fen­dants have shaken off this law­suit.” Thank­fully, lovers gonna love. The phrase isn’t as well-versed as its ad­ver­sary, but Swift is one of the great celebrity ad­vo­cates of the emo­tion. On a lyri­cal level, ‘love’ fea­tures 59 times on the al­bum 1989 alone. On a more phys­i­cal plane, her con­certs, as we look around on this Sydney evening, are brim­ming with the stuff. Not only does Swift love to en­ter­tain on stage, she loves to do so col­lab­o­ra­tively. As if more in­cen­tive was nec­es­sary to sell out a gig, there’s the per­pet­ual sur­prise el­e­ment of who else will per­form with her. Not a sup­port­ing act as such, though Aus­tralian Vance Joy’s was charged with that hon­our for her re­cent world tour. With 48 Gram­mys (Swift has seven) and 800 mil­lion al­bum sales (Swift’s sold 40 mil­lion) be­tween them, all of the fol­low­ing have crashed the Swift on-stage party the past six months, each show­ered with love and a mil­lion-plus hearts on Swift’s In­sta­gram feed (it dou­bles as a gallery of trib­utes). They in­clude Justin Tim­ber­lake, El­lie Gould­ing, Mick Jag­ger, Charli XCX, Ricky Martin, Mi­randa Lam­bert, Ala­nis Moris­sette, Steven Tyler, Mary J Blige, Se­lena Gomez, Lorde, Ja­son Derulo, Nick Jonas, The Weeknd, Avril Lav­i­gne, Nelly, Haim, Beck, St Vin­cent and Imag­ine Dragons. Sea­soned and suc­cess­ful in their own right, what’s not to like about th­ese im­promptu acts of mu­si­cal ca­ma­raderie? On that same pitch-per­fect note, how many mu­si­cians would al­low a fel­low artist the free rein to re­pro­duce an al­bum ver­ba­tim and openly spruik it? Maybe ask Ryan Adams, but such trust af­fords only pos­i­tive re­sults – and more fans. Af­ter 120 min­utes of communal, non­stop belt­ing of songs by heart, with heart, the con­cert ends. The lights come up, ex­hausted chat­ter re­ver­ber­ates through the overly worked air, and we again re­alise we’re within the mun­dane walls of an or­di­nary, con­crete sta­dium. Yet just mo­ments be­fore, shak­ing it off to Swift’s fnal song, the place was a magic me­teor shower of epic pop­star pro­por­tions – the crowd wav­ing, danc­ing, sway­ing and fash­ing to her beat, thanks to ev­ery­one wear­ing pro­grammed wrist­bands. If we were Tay­lor, we’d have been chuffed. In­deed, she was: “Sydney, you are one of the cra­zi­est crowds I’ve ever had.” Truth or charm, ev­ery­one loved the in­ter­ac­tion.

One thing’s ir­refutable – a world in­clu­sive of Tay­lor Swift ex­ceeds one with­out her.

For all the outft changes – gold, fuores­cent pink, black leather, dia­mantes and se­quins ga­lore – clunky ‘squad’ video clips reel­ing off pleas­antries about her (think Cara Delev­ingne, Se­lena Gomez, Kar­lie Kloss and Lena Dun­ham) and Oprah-esque pep talks, what Swift really brought to the party was en­ergy. ‘Teardrops on her gui­tar’ were in fact per­fect beads of per­spi­ra­tion. Aus­tralia may have been her fnal stop on a eight-month tour, but there were no signs of fatigue, no signs of go­ing through the mo­tions. In­stead, trade­mark ficks of the hair, left arm oft-point­ing straight out in front, her long legs perma-daz­zling, as lyrics – ac­com­pa­nied by acous­tic gui­tar, by pi­ano, or by rock’n’roll – poured out. Ev­ery song was im­pos­si­ble not to sing along to – faux-groupie or full-on fan, no one can deny her song­writ­ing gift. There’s also her art of pok­ing fun at peo­ple (read: the me­dia and cyn­ics) with­out them re­al­is­ing. “A nu­anced sense of hu­mour does not trans­late on a gen­eral scale,” she said last year – her words loaded with in­tent. Her cats’ – Mered­ith and Oliver – com­i­cal pranks and posts, dress­ing as a Tel­ly­tubby and/or snow­man in pub­lic, goofng around on in­fa­t­able swans, out­ing her­self as a wearer of corn­rows – surely she couldn’t pos­si­bly make jokes at her ex­pense? Yes, Swift sub­ject­ing Swift to mock­ery and folly is a reg­u­larly cap­tured pas­time – her shocked game face does need work, though – and is far more en­dear­ing than the vac­u­ous selfe trend im­posed by the po-faced Kar­dashian clan. As Ste­vie Nicks stated back in 2010, “Hers is an in­no­cence that’s so spe­cial and so rare. The fe­male rock’n’roll-coun­try-pop song­writer is back, and her name is Tay­lor Swift. It’s women like her who are go­ing to save the mu­sic busi­ness.” And the leg­endary Fleet­wood Mac singer is proven right. Daily. Re­duc­ing Sydney’s ANZ Sta­dium to a happy, pop-fu­elled mess and, more specif­cally, se­cur­ing the heart of this writer, isn’t bad for an evening’s work. But it pales in com­par­i­son to Swift’s great­est achieve­ment so far: “To now be in a place where Kanye and I re­spect each other – that’s one of my favourite things that has hap­pened in my ca­reer.” Forc­ing Mr West to eat his own words – who can not ad­mire that? n

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