Things I Learned At Taylor Swift’s RED Tour

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I’ve been to a lot of shows in my day. Sometimes, they’ve been in tiny little local venues with not ten other people in the crowd. Sometimes, they’ve been in stadiums—like the Taylor Swift concert I went to on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium. Okay, I’ll give you a few minutes to judge me, musical elitists. But yes, I paid an obscene amount of money to dance and sing along in the pit at the show of America’s most beloved serial dater and I don’t regret it for a second.

A lot of people have a lot of opinions on Taylor Swift. Some of them are violently negative, some of them are violently… positive (actually, though—there are people out there doling out death threats to those that don’t like her, aren’t there?). There are some indisputable facts behind these opinions, like that her album Fearless is the most-awarded album in the history of country music, or that—if you’re into dudes—she’s probably dated your celebrity crush (and you kind of hate her for it #Haylor2012NeverForget). As someone who—reluctantly at first, and then wholeheartedly—enjoys Taylor Swift’s music but enjoys her as a person a bit less enthusiastically, I would like to go on record stating that Taylor Swift is the absolute best at what she does.

Now, I had thought I’d seen it all in terms of teenage hysteria when I saw One Direction at Jones Beach last month. But this was my first Taylor Swift concert, and I don’t know if it was because there was a much larger crowd, or Taylor’s been around a bit longer, but this was a whole different monster. In one group of girls, each had a cardboard letter around her neck and when they stood in order they spelled “T SWIFT,” and they walked in circles around Patriot Place for a solid hour before the stadium began admitting people, just screaming nonsense. There was one girl in a red semi-formal dress who took it upon herself to entertain us with karaoke versions of Taylor’s songs on the stairs next to CBS Scene. One girl literally painted her entire body red. There were parents, there were teenagers, there were young kids, there were girls dressed up as KISS (???), there were bros decked out in homemade TaySwift gear and there was even one creepy middle aged guy dressed as a king at the show alone (you bet we all kept an eye on him). I learned a lot about Taylor and her fans that evening. Here are some of those things:

1. Love of Taylor Swift is universal. She appeals to all audiences and age groups. There’s the young adult crowd like my sister and I (18 and 22) who relate to her as a peer. There are the high school girls and boys who also relate to her as a peer (because let’s face it, something about her songs is just very… high school-y). There are the moms whose homemade TaySwift t-shirts match those of their daughters and like her as a role model for their children. Even dads can’t escape the magical pull of Taylor—I stood next to one with his two ~15-year-old daughters and he knew every word to every song.  To be honest, I was expecting a crowd of mostly girls, mostly around age 16 to 18 and maybe some in their 20s. I was really surprised at how diverse it was, but I guess Taylor just kind of gets all of us.

2. Taylor’s been criticized in the past for live vocals that are tenuous at best, and those critiques are definitely not unfounded. If we’re being honest, any one of us probably sounds about as good when we’re belting along to “I Knew You Were Trouble” in our cars or showers or bedrooms. But tenuous-at-best don’t really matter when you have a stadium of 55,000 people screaming the words along with you.

3. Girl is a professional, and she knows how to work a crowd. I think this is what probably endears people to Taylor the most. There might be 54,999 other people besides you at the show, but when she talks to the audience she makes that number feel so much smaller. She’s also gotten much better at being grateful without being over-the-top annoying about it.

4. Arguably, it doesn’t seem like she’s matured emotionally since age sixteen, but she’s definitely evolved as an artist. And the girl can put on a show. There were a lot of super theatrical elements, a lot of costume changes, and Taylor probably spent more time executing choreographed routines with her troupe of dancers than she did playing her guitar. She’s definitely made the cross from country-pop to straight pop music, but it’s working for her.

5. Who cares if she hasn’t matured emotionally since age sixteen? Don’t we all have a little bit of that left over in us? I dare you not to relate to “You Belong With Me.”  We’ve all felt that, guys! And even if she hasn’t matured, she deserves some credit for literally never taking a break. This girl has been recording and touring (and dating) nonstop since she released her first album, and that’s pretty admirable.

I won’t apologize for listening to Taylor Swift. There are people who will judge me for saying that, but I think that they’re the ones missing out. I may have a love-hate relationship with the girl, but they’re the ones who’ll never get to know the catharsis of screaming “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” along with Taylor and a stadium full of her fans. And sometimes, you just need that release. So here’s to you Taylor: congrats on knowing what works and keep doing you. (Just don’t try to get back with Harry Styles or we’re gonna have problems.)

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