Taylor Swift rewrites history with her story — and a little help from her Swifties

Who’s Taylor Swift, anyway . . . ew?

If you think that’s a real question, you haven’t been paying attention.

Swift is nothing short of a 21st-century trailblazer and undoubtedly one of the biggest recording artists of all time, propelled by a global army of devoted fans.

The 33-year-old released her self-titled debut album at 16 and has pumped out on average of one album every two years, plus two bonus pandemic records. Her mostly autobiographical songwriting is renowned for its intimate and intricate storytelling and her ability to seamlessly transition through genres including country, pop and folk.

Her long list of records broken, achievements and awards has put her in the upper echelon of recording artists past and present, and she often surpasses records set by the likes of The Beatles, Madonna, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley.

Swift recently snared The Beatles’ long-held record for having the fastest run of three No. 1 albums.. She is the highest streamed female artist of all time and, despite experiencing most of her success in the digital era, has still managed to sell 114 million albums worldwide.

Swift is nothing short of a 21st-century trailblazer and undoubtedly one of the biggest recording artists of all time, propelled by a global army of devoted fans.
Camera IconSwift is nothing short of a 21st-century trailblazer and undoubtedly one of the biggest recording artists of all time, propelled by a global army of devoted fans. Credit: John Shearer/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

Taylor Swift is making history, but really it’s more fitting to call it herstory.

And now, when it seems the whole world knows her name, she proudly wears that memorable lyric from her hit song 22 emblazoned across a sparkly T-shirt as she performs on her Eras tour — who is Taylor Swift anyway? The joke is on anyone who needs to ask.

When it was announced Swift was bringing the Eras tour to Australia — playing three shows at Melbourne’s MCG and four at Sydney’s Accor Stadium in February — all hell broke loose.

Those in Victoria and New South Wales rejoiced, while Swifties (as her fans are known) in every other State let out a collective howl of frustration.

Even Roger Cook and Rita Saffioti got in on the act, publicly urging the pop sensation to reconsider leaving WA off her touring schedule. Meanwhile, WA-based Swifties got to scheming, registering for presale tickets and crossing every digit in the hope they might be one of the lucky thousands to get their hands on tickets to the show the New Yorker has called “mind-boggling”.

But Frontier Touring called demand for tickets “unprecedented” and thousands have been left disappointed.

Rolling Stone proclaimed the Eras tour was in a league of its own: “There’s nothing in history to compare. This is (Swift’s) best tour ever, by an absurd margin.” Variety said the show proved “the person who has come up with the single greatest body of pop songwriting in the 21st century is also its most popular performer”.

When it was announced Swift was bringing the Eras tour to Australia — playing three shows at Melbourne’s MCG and four at Sydney’s Accor Stadium in February — all hell broke loose. 
Camera IconWhen it was announced Swift was bringing the Eras tour to Australia — playing three shows at Melbourne’s MCG and four at Sydney’s Accor Stadium in February — all hell broke loose.  Credit: Octavio Jones/TAS23/Getty Images for for TAS Rights Management

Right now, Swift is nearing the end of the 52-date North American opening leg of Eras, and smashing stadium attendance records along the way. The show, which is almost three and a half hours, features 42 songs from her last nine studio albums (only her self-titled debut doesn’t get an airing in the main set) plus two surprise songs that change nightly.

Such is the demand for tickets that in the US, thousands of fans without tickets have gathered outside stadiums to be part of the concert experience, a phenomenon now being referred to as Taylor-gating. When the South American leg of the tour was announced, fans in Brazil reported online ticketing queues of two million, while those who chose to queue up estimated the crowds were around one million.

It’s no understatement to say Eras is the hottest ticket in the world right now. It is also expected to be the largest concert tour in history and expected to bring in a record-breaking $US 1 billion.

While Swift’s prodigious talent, savvy business sense and sheer hard work are at the root of her success, there’s no denying her passionate Swifties play a huge part, too.

While Swift’s prodigious talent, savvy business sense and sheer hard work are at the root of her success, there’s no denying her passionate Swifties play a huge part, too. 
Camera IconWhile Swift’s prodigious talent, savvy business sense and sheer hard work are at the root of her success, there’s no denying her passionate Swifties play a huge part, too.  Credit: Kevin Mazur/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

At the Grammys in 2023 Swift said, “there’s really nothing that they can’t accomplish” in reference to the Swifties taking industry giant Ticketmaster to court over their alleged mishandling of Eras ticketing.

While the words were meant as praise, there is also a darker side to some sectors of the fandom.

Over the course of her career, Swift has been deeply invested in her fans. She has been known to host intimate listening parties for long-time fans at her own home, where they feast on cookies the pop star has baked herself. She’s helped fund fans through college and helped some in financial crisis.

She litters her work with “Easter eggs”, coded clues or hints that fans try to decipher to work out when new songs, albums or videos will be released and what they might be called, when new tour dates will be announced or the meaning of lyrics.

The Swifties communicate on TikTok channel “SwifTok” and Stan Twitter as they trawl Swift’s social media posts, analysing her album art, her music videos and even her clothing and nail polish colour looking for Easter eggs.

Swift has purposely cultivated this sense of intimacy and camaraderie within her fandom but the unfortunate flipside is that some fans have developed an intense parasocial bond with the star — a phenomenon exacerbated by social media which gives some fans a false sense of involvement in Swift’s personal life.

At the Grammys in 2023 Swift said, ‘there’s really nothing that they can’t accomplish’ in reference to the Swifties taking industry giant Ticketmaster to court over their alleged mishandling of Eras ticketing.
Camera IconAt the Grammys in 2023 Swift said, ‘there’s really nothing that they can’t accomplish’ in reference to the Swifties taking industry giant Ticketmaster to court over their alleged mishandling of Eras ticketing. Credit: Natasha Moustache/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

She is by no means the only celebrity to experience the downside of fame, but few experience it at a level comparable to Swift.

And in the digital era, where fans can share her real-time locations online, enabling swarms of fans to assemble within minutes, the threat posed to her safety is unprecedented. Fans gather outside her home or the New York recording studio where she works with Jack Antonoff. They chase her car from the studio to her garage. This intrusion into her private life is something Swift struggles with. In The Lakes she sings about being hounded and her desire to disappear:

I’m not cut out for all these cynical clones

These hunters with cell phones

It also sparks heated debate among the Swiftie community, with the majority reprimanding the overzealous for behaviour that borders on stalking and fixation.

In her revealing 2020 documentary Miss Americana, Swift was filmed leaving her New York home and jumping into a waiting car parked out the front, while swarms of fans screamed her name.

“So this is my front yard and I’m highly aware of the fact that this is not normal,” she said, as she turned to survey the crowd while the car pulled away.

In a video posted to her Instagram page to promote the song Anti-Hero from her most recent album Midnights, Swift delves further into her feelings around fame.

“I struggle a lot with the idea that my life has become unmanageably sized. And not to sound too dark I just struggle with the idea of not feeling like a person.”

The lyrics to the song reflect the sense that her life sometimes feels out of control and Taylor Swift the person, as opposed to the brand, is the casualty.

Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby,

And I’m a monster on the hill,

Too big to hang out, slowly lurching toward your favourite city,

Pierced through the heart but never killed.

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