JULIE BISHOP TAYLOR SWIFT
WOMEN IN POWER
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