[Ed. Note: We sent two reviewers to Taylor Swift Tuesday and flipped a coin to determine which to publish first. The next one will be up at 10:30 a.m. Boys.]
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It's not easy being a teen girl... Aftermath presumes. You are engaged in what feels like romantic combat with male foes who are somehow so stupid that they actually can hurt you (and really badly, at that) with their ineptness. Such is the milieu of country superstar Taylor Swift, and she didn't leave the stage at Toyota Center on Tuesday night without dosing either side of the gender aisle with a bit of empowerment.
When you are a teenager of either gender and staring at the monolith of what could possibly be the next eight decades of existence, you end up forgetting that heartache is only temporary. Swift knows how hard it is being a female of the species, and her music speaks to those women out there of all ages who sit confounded in the wreckage of the evil that little men can do. Speaking as a member of the group holding both X and Y chromosomes, we realize we sometimes "do bad things," echoing the words flashing on Swift's background screen during her show. Her entire catalog thus is based on the slight evils perpetrated by young males: The thoughtless actions ("Tell Me Why"), the absentminded slights ("Fifteen"), the times we let the wrong girls into our cars behind your back ("Should've Said No"), or the way we just up and leave for no apparent or explainable reason ("White Horse"). From song one on Tuesday night, we felt bad for everything that we have done wrong in our lives to girls we have encountered up until the very moment we walked inside the venue. Sometimes it's the most seemingly inane pop songs that slap us back to reality. Opener "You Belong With Me" has a yearning girl-group twang to it that sticks in your head, even when you can't imagine anyone passing over Swift for another girl. The thing about Swift is that she transcends her looks. She may be this junior Amazon wonder in cowboy boots and sparkly dresses, but she is very much a group counselor for millions of girls younger and maybe even older than her. She's the girl in every '80s movie that hands the ugly duckling a tissue when she cries, flashing that understanding smile. All the theatrical sets during and between her songs - the television interview, the classroom swooning, the Victorian ball, the drum battle with the nasty redhead who lured her boy back to the cab of her truck - all drove this home. She's everything to everyone, and she inhabits them all with ease. It's a chick concert, so there have to be some costume changes, right? Swift doesn't need to talk about the world at large or social issues, because to every girl in the crowd a breakup is just as bad as any military coup or international incident. If you can put yourself back in those shoes, Swift makes way more sense and you let go of whatever preconceived notions you have of her being some flash in the pan in bright red lipstick. She's Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Reba McEntire rolled into one for a new generation of females. (She reminds us more of the latter with every passing single as well.) But coupled with all that is the spunk she carries over from every woman who has graced the stage before in the name of empowerment. Pat Benatar comes to mind. In a more superficial way, so does Shania Twain. What Swift is doing is slapping away romantic defeat and replacing it with perseverance and strength. That's a whole sight better than Britney, Ke$ha and now Miley are spitting back at them. Swift teaches you life skills, and the rest are cautionary tales.