Tay­lor feels con­fi­dent to make a swift po­lit­i­cal shift

The tim­ing may be telling, as the North Amer­i­can leg of the Rep­u­ta­tion Sta­dium Tour ended

Sunday Tribune - - SUNDAY MAGAZINE - EMILY YAHR | RICK SCUTERI/IN­VI­SION AP Post | Wash­ing­ton

HOURS af­ter she walked off stage on Satur­day in Texas, Tay­lor Swift posted a photo to In­sta­gram: an im­age of her joy­ously danc­ing on­stage in a sparkly rain­bow dress.

“We had an in­de­scrib­ably in­cred­i­ble time with you Dal­las. Thanks for mak­ing us the first tour to play back to back nights in AT&T Sta­dium,” she wrote to her

112 mil­lion fol­low­ers, 1 mil­lion of whom “liked” the photo.

Less than 24 hours later, Swift posted an­other In­sta­gram photo, caus­ing an in­ter­net melt­down.

Swift, the mega pop star who launched her ca­reer in Nashville, Ten­nessee, has re­mained silent on her po­lit­i­cal views. That is, un­til Sun­day night, when she pub­lished a nearly 400-word mes­sage in which she en­dorsed Ten­nessee Democrats Phil Bre­desen for the US se­nate and Jim Cooper for the house of rep­re­sen­ta­tives. She also slammed Repub­li­can Mar­sha Black­burn, the GOP can­di­date for se­nate, writ­ing, “Her vot­ing record in con­gress ap­pals and ter­ri­fies me.”

It was a shock­ing shift for a star who has re­fused to share her opin­ion on any­thing po­lit­i­cal, even dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Not to men­tion the crit­i­cism she’s re­ceived for gloss­ing over cur­rent events: last Jan­uary, her tweet dur­ing the Women’s March (“So much love, pride, and re­spect for those who marched. I’m proud to be a woman to­day, and ev­ery day”) re­sulted in back­lash on why a star who made fem­i­nism a sig­nif­i­cant part of her brand, didn’t join fel­low celebri­ties at the march, or elab­o­rate fur­ther. So what led to the turn­around? The tim­ing is telling, as the North Amer­i­can leg of Swift’s Rep­u­ta­tion Sta­dium Tour ended on Satur­day.

(She takes the show to Aus­tralia and Asia later this month.) So not only is there no pres­sure to sell tick­ets or face un­happy fans, but other prob­lems dis­ap­pear as well.

“The dif­fer­ence, I think, is this can’t be­come a news story at one of her events,” said Brian Mans­field, a Nashville-based for­mer mu­sic jour­nal­ist who cov­ered Swift’s early Tay­lor Swift per­forms dur­ing the Rep­u­ta­tion Sta­dium Tour opener at Univer­sity of Phoenix Sta­dium in Glen­dale, Ari­zona.

ca­reer in coun­try mu­sic.

“There’s not go­ing to be pick­et­ing. She’s not put­ting her fans at risk be­cause of some­body that might re­spond in­ap­pro­pri­ately to this.”

The think­ing is that Swift stayed silent for so long as she didn’t want to alien­ate in her coun­try fan base, which may lean to­wards con­ser­va­tive.

In her Nashville days, she de­clined to re­veal who she voted for in the 2008 elec­tion. Coun­try mu­sic pub­li­cists of­ten coun­sel their artists to avoid dis­cussing pol­i­tics, lest they anger coun­try ra­dio.

How­ever, now that Swift is of­fi­cially in the pop world and

sell­ing out sta­di­ums, many feel like a po­lit­i­cal stance is un­likely to spark a huge neg­a­tive re­ac­tion. She may have a song on the coun­try chart these days (Babe, a co-write she gave to Su­gar­land, is in the Top 20), but she’s al­ready proved her­self.

“Is it a risk for Tay­lor to speak out? Will it dam­age her ca­reer? No,” said Bev­erly Keel, pro­fes­sor and chair of Mid­dle Ten­nessee State Univer­sity’s De­part­ment of Record­ing In­dus­try.

“But look at the at­ten­tion it’s re­ceiv­ing – it’s go­ing to be a headache. So it had to be worth it for her and clearly she felt so strongly that she did it.”

Those who fol­low Swift know that she’s long sup­ported var­i­ous causes. She helped pop star Ke­sha pay her le­gal bills in her sex­ual as­sault law­suit. She do­nated money to the stu­dent-led March for Our Lives rally to stop mass shoot­ings. At her con­cert in Chicago in June, she gave a speech about LGBTQ rights for Pride Month.

But this time, Swift tied it all to­gether in a force­ful state­ment.

“In the past I’ve been re­luc­tant to pub­licly voice my po­lit­i­cal opin­ions, but due to sev­eral events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very dif­fer­ently,” she wrote.

“I al­ways have and al­ways will cast my vote based on which can­di­date will pro­tect and fight for the hu­man rights I be­lieve we all de­serve.”

Swift’s post de­tailed her po­si­tions (“I be­lieve in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of dis­crim­i­na­tion based on sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der is WRONG”) and called “sys­temic racism” in this coun­try “ter­ri­fy­ing, sick­en­ing and preva­lent”.

She called out Black­burn’s vot­ing record, in­clud­ing her stances on LGBTQ is­sues and the fact that she voted against equal pay for women and an act that at­tempts to pro­tect women from do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

“These are not MY Ten­nessee val­ues,” Swift wrote.

One clear con­nec­tion to these is­sues is Swift’s sex­ual as­sault law­suit last year – a Colorado coun­try ra­dio DJ sued her af­ter he lost his job when she re­ported that he lifted her skirt and groped her be­fore a con­cert. Swift coun­ter­sued for as­sault and bat­tery for a sym­bolic $1 and won.

As so­cial me­dia dis­sected Swift’s post, she was con­trasted with Kanye West, as they have feuded since the MTV Video Mu­sic Awards in­ci­dent in 2009 when he crashed her ac­cep­tance speech. West is now a Trump sup­porter.

But in her mes­sage, Swift didn’t de­clare a party af­fil­i­a­tion – she en­cour­aged ev­ery­one to vote.

When asked about Swift’s re­marks, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said on Mon­day: “Let’s say that I like Tay­lor’s mu­sic about 25% less now.”

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