It’s easy to be sceptical about pop. You rarely hear people questioning Dave Grohl’s authenticity. The pains of anguish heard when Kanye West was announced as a Glastonbury headliner would barely be a whimper if the most ridiculous and I-can’t-believe-people-still-
As soon as we arrived, we were handed free LED bracelets that would change colours and flash to the beats of different songs and it was obvious that no expenses were spared on this tour. Taylor’s carefully-constructed image, even when beads of sweat appear on her brow due to the 27-degree heat and lack of air conditioning in the 3Arena, never stammers. I spent most of the concert looking for a fault, looking for the slip up. Alas, there is none. Everything is rehearsed down to the tee, from the poses and posturing that make up for her lack of dance skills to the chatter between songs encouraging self-confidence and the strength of female friends. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before, especially those of us from the Girl Power generation, and as the faces of Swift’s friends; HAIM, Lena Dunham, Cara Delevingne – who got the biggest cheer – and Selena Gomez, appear on screen praising her baking skills, her love of cats and general awesomeness, you understand why the parents of the many six-year-olds were happy to tag along to this concert. Is Taylor the first pop act that parents are happy with? It’s quite possible.
All across the pop board, the ‘I’m real, just like you’ approach is a big marketing tool. Beyoncé, poor delusional Beyoncé, tries this schtick and, girl, no one is buying it but with Taylor it actually works. All the parents in the 3Arena are content with their young ‘uns singing along to ‘Style’, ‘Shake It Off’, ‘Love Story’ and a reworked and roughened up version of ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’. This would suggest that Swift is harmless, which is not true; she is probably the most powerful person in music right now, if her questionable role as advocate for struggling artists or PR whizz kid relationship with Apple is anything to go by.
As Taylor winks and grins at the audience, I was reminded of the ultimate Showgirl Kylie Minogue. Kylie is all-knowing, camp and tongue-in-cheek but where she is in on the joke, Taylor’s performance is so sincere, it can be difficult to digest. Kylie has been one of the greatest pop stars since 1987, two years before Taylor was born and the namesake of her latest album 1989. Her Kiss Me Once Tour (2014/15) and the incredible Aphrodite Tour (2011) are masterclasses in how to put on a jaw dropping or, in the case of Sile Seoige, orgasm-inducing show. The fact that Taylor has reached the massive production levels of Minogue in the space of five albums over the course of eight years is incredible. She is a safe bet. And that’s a compliment in the most fickle music industry.
The image of Swift that is projected and perceived is that she is perfect. In interviews, she will deny this and say how dorky or clumsy she is but anyone who has seen a rom-com knows that that’s the basic genetics of Hollywood’s Perfect Girl. This Perfect Girl is smart though. She knows how the media works and is never caught “walking up the street with boys” or “stumbling out of clubs drunk”. Pop stars of yesteryear were edited to perfection on MTV’s Diary Of… or Making The Video (man, I miss Making The Video) but in recent years, this has been reeled in massively unless they are desperate and land a haphazard reality show. Today, our pop icons choose what they reveal on Twitter or Instagram and can crop and filter however they like. Taylor, the mad bean, has even invited people into her home for cookies and private listening parties before she released 1989. There’s a feeling that she could come across your Twitter account and ask you out for tea. Most stars today are too big for the outdated MTV but Taylor, the everyday homebody, the lovely girl in the nice dress is too big for Apple and Spotify. Who else – other than Prince – can claim that?
In one of her many heartfelt speeches during the show, Taylor tells us that she is least insecure when she is onstage and performing for us. Her teary eyes and earnest smile make me believe her. My scepticism levels were flashing red, similar to the flashing red on my LED bracelet during her dramatic performance of ‘Trouble’. All the while, I’m wondering, what is the bloody catch? Maybe there is none. Maybe she is just too good to be true. Damn.