Less than a week ago, Ms Taylor Swift released her 10th album. What’s it like, you ask? Amazingly, I thought you might ask, so you can read my review of Midnights. There’s a bit of history there.
Speaking of which, just over 10 years ago she was showing how much and how little chaps mattered (while she may have started as a country singer, we’re not talking leather pants-protectors here) but how much they could pay if they did wrong. All this while lifting the 20somethings, thrilling the tweens and not doing too badly with the old folks.
Wind Back Wednesday catches her on the last arena tour in 2012, which was in three years time to become a stadium tour, as the ramp of success went only one way. And fast.
TAYLOR SWIFT Allphones Arena, Sydney, March 8, 2012
ALTHOUGH I WAS ACCOMPANIED by a 17-year-old who sang it all, and the late teens/early 20s set was heavily represented in similar states of happiness, since Taylor Swift’s 2010 tour there’s apparently been an explosion of pre-teen and even pre-tween fans.
It is only a year or two out of the Hi-5 cohort for many of the screamers, high on a combination of the slick and brutally professional concert and the overwhelming aroma of Wonderstruck, Ms Swift’s signature perfume.
Yet even during the two-song country bracket (you know it was country because they dressed in dungarees and the fiddle was pushed forward) and the two-song junior Andre Rieu bracket (the dancers dressed in penguin suits and mimed playing violins while she sat at the baby grand) they hung on and repeated every word.
Which makes for a fascinating discussion about what the takeaway message is from this show. Note for examples that Swift’s songs are about boys but they aren't dependent on boys. Those desired/despised creatures are not the most important person in this discussion, because it’s the girl who matters
Thankfully, that's not so rare in contemporary female pop but it is still relatively uncommon in teen pop where idealised romance still comes wrapped in a kind of junior version of that Bettina Arndt/The Rules theory that succumbing to a man wins you the man and that winning the man is all that matters. (Or the Beyonce /Nicky Minaj theory that you can win whatever you want and stay in charge if you are prepared to flash or shake your arse.)
The "I/she" in Swift's songs don't need the approval of the "you/him”: she makes the demands, sets the agenda and almost all the time remains in control. And when she loses control, or the argument or the boy, she takes revenge.
And as she sang in one song “there is nothing I do better than revenge”.
Actually, that song offers up another interesting aspect to the 22-year-old Ms Swift: for all her seeming identification with her audience, sharing their pain and boosting their confidence, solidarity with the sisterhood is not high on the agenda. In Better Than Revenge she described a rival with "she's not a saint and she’s not what you think/she's an actress/she’s better known for the things that she does/on the mattress". Ouch.
The next song in the show, Speak Now, made that you’re-on-your-own philosophy even clearer as she turned up at a wedding and snaffled the groom.
Ruthless, efficient and winning. Like her show.