Taylor Swift, Neo-Feminist Keyhole To The Future
Photos by Marco Torres
The waves of the audible bubble bath wash over you as they gurgle their way to the milk veins of your heart, and then your mom tucks you in to the sound of the woosh woosh cherry wind while you dream your little dreams of a smile. Taylor Swift makes us feel like adjectives. Sitting atop the perch of pop music, she turns to her left and sees the uber sexpot Beyonce; turns to her right and sees the uber sexpot Rihanna; looks behind her and sees the uber sex-whaaa? Lady Gaga, all the while remaining perceptively normal and laying claim to the (undoubtedly false) façade of actually worrying about getting asked out on a date by the average-looking second-stringer sitting behind her in social studies. Her inimitability is profound. Because with all great art, perception is all that matters in determining believability, and in these the days of Jonas Brother musical fake-outs, Taylor Swift is unmatched in creating just that, belief. Which means that she's not really a singer so much as the singing manifestation of a phew. We believe in her because she shares confessionals about the anxiety of a prom dress, boys with names not body-parts, BFFs, and the nerdiness of blue-jeans. Taylor Swift is the new neo-feminist. Get used to it.
And get used to it they did, the sardine-packed super-sold out crowd at Toyota Center Tuesday night, equipped with signs and shirts and hope and glow-sticks and cds and dads and joy. It's undeniable that Taylor Swift is easy to love - you try watching a tiny kitten made of gumdrops slide down a rainbow into a pumpkin patch of fairy tales and see what happens to your eyes. She exudes what feels like the perfect measure of easy-to-relate-to stories of "Is it weird to feel kinda-sorta sad because I thought tonight would be the night he asked me to be his girlfriend but he didn't even open the door for me on our way to get cheeseburgers and now my life means nothing. It was readily evident that boys and girls (and men and women - believe it) are touched in some way by Taylor Swift's message, and it's easy to understand why. She transcends irony by living in the saturation of an ironic existence, and she ignores all rules set forth by the female pop stars that came before her; the rules stating that, if one wants to be a success in the male-dominated culture that shapes the way music is made, one must use her sex to show the world that hey, I have something to offer, too. Instead, Swift uses the obvious weapon - a mirror - facing you facing her, and does it to galvanize what she hopes you understand: You're not alone in your hopelessness. What she does better than anyone else is to give (mostly) teenagers the knowledge that there is a certain kind of freedom that comes along with no longer caring about the word rejection.
She sings about the moment after, the moment when you're brushing your teeth alone in your room as you wonder whether or not they're thinking about you. What she doesn't do is give her audience a false sense of hope that maybe just maybe tonight's the night we fall in love because this dress looks like smooching. She sang "You Belong to Me," the one that teaches us that the banality of a Tuesday compares favorably to what it might take to get a boyfriend; and she sang "Teardrops on My Guitar," where she explains that yeah, of course music is better than relationships; and she sang "Hey Stephen," with the bit about wresting control of the chase by not throwing rocks at his bedroom window. She sang "White Horse," an ode to small-town living and what that means about forgiveness; and she sang "Love Story," a song about the trappings of falling fast into a relationship that resembles Meg Ryan; and she sang "Fifteen," making it clear that being naive about the motives of others is perfectly understandable; and she sang "Tim McGraw," the one about, ahem, Tim McGraw. And the entire audience ate it up with aplomb as if it wasn't Taylor Swift in front of us, but rather the keyhole to the future. Because all she's doing is changing what it means to be a young person, providing hope to those cultivated on hopelessness; and doing so with an assurance that makes it impossible to dismiss. No one in music is like her, and for that specific reason she feels exactly like one of us. She lets her audience know that it's okay, even desirable, to face the prospect of social exclusion, because social exclusion teaches kids about kindness. Tuesday night at Toyota Center manifested itself quickly into the answer to the question that goes, "How do I raise a teenager in a world where vices are valued and innocence is stigmatized?" Put on the music and be set free.