Being the mother of a teenaged girl, I have been indoctrinated into a world of music that I would normally ignore if I were childless; pop music. My general opinion is that commercial radio has created a world where it’s all business, no art and it’s no longer about the music but about profit. Radio stations don’t care about the songs, but they do care about the quest for money, so there has become an overindulgence of a few popular songs that are shoved down our throats every ten minutes because that's what sells. Although I was less annoyed by the music of Taylor Swift as I was with vapid artists such as Ke$sha or Arianna Grande, because of the continuous rotation of the same songs over and over again on the radio, I became annoyed with Taylor Swift.
But then an opportunity arrived to see Miss Swift live in a 68,000 capacity venue and I had a hard time saying “Good lord, no way! Give those free tickets to someone else!” So with two teenaged “Swiftees” in tow, I reluctantly packed up the car and drove 3 hours in Friday rush hour traffic. The end of the drive found us entangled in the hellish parking scenario of Levi Stadium in San Jose, which, I might state, is placed in a sleepy residential and office park neighborhood not set up with the infrastructure to support 68,000 fans and their 20,000 cars.
By the time we arrived at the arena, we were two hours late. All three of us were angry, cranky and frustrated but hell bent on getting to our seats. Within 5 minutes of exiting the car and walking a mile to the venue, the two sullen teenagers and the exhausted single mom began to feel a lighter state of being, as if the 4 hours of chaos we had just encountered in our travels was being lifted. “Taylor, we are on our way, wait for us!” we scream in mock agony towards the looming venue of Levi Stadium. And with a giddy weirdness, we added ourselves to the throngs of fans heading toward the Mecca of all things Taylor Swift.
Now, this will be a good place in this story to explain a few things. I am no longer a fan of huge concerts, I do not like large crowds and my social anxiety can peak when I feel crushed among humanity. My usual state of musical adventures consist of small music venues, bands that know me by name and music that has a bit of bite and crunchy grit. That stated, I found myself once again overwhelmed by my current reality and my negativity of pop music culture kicked back in. “What? $40 T-shirts? $10 Waters? A 15 minute wait for the bathroom? This SUCKS!” But there I was, stuck with thousands of other human beings and no choice but to be committed to the evening at hand, I put on my big girl panties and dealt with things like a grown up. As I sat in my seat staring at the hugeness of the arena, I did allow myself one more moment of as “hating” by giving myself a pat on the back that I was correct that I would only see the show on a large monitor. “This better be worth it!” I think to myself.
The lights dim, the crowd squeals in ecstasy and I glance at my daughter’s face that is as bright with anticipation as a lighthouse in a storm. “WOW! I never realized how much this music means to my kid. I’m about to share an incredible experience with my daughter! I know what she is feeling inside and right this moment, because of the music we are connected in a new way!”
I feel a shift within myself, an energy and magic that can only be described as electric. Then is a blink of an eye, Taylor Swift appears on the stage alone in a plume of smoke, her beauty, grace and poise apparent from my first view of her. Her dancers arrive, the band begins to play real music and I break out in the biggest grin my face could hold. My body becomes alive with music I know well but have never truly respected, until now. Here she is, Taylor Swift, pop star, bazillionaire, one of the most famous women in the world, yet I felt she was my friend from the moment she smiled at the audience, stared at us in amazement and gave us words of gratitude and love for what we meant to her. The epicness of what this young woman stands for hit me full force, the first tears came into my eyes, a lump formed in my throat and I fell completely in love with her.
Most of this tour Taylor Swift is promoting her new “Reputation” album, but her show was littered with old favorites, even songs I really loved. With multiple stages strewn throughout the venue floor, Taylor was transported via gondola to each stage, literally visiting each section of the arena, bringing herself to us and stating “How are things with everyone over here? I am glad to see you all!” At one point she stands alone, acoustic guitar in hand and sings a song about losing a boyfriend and falling in love, that’s when the second and third waves of tears hit me. Her ability to be vulnerable in the midst of 55,000 fans as she sings about heartbreak and finding her voice only shows how strong she really is. The capacity crowd mostly consisted of females from 3 years old to moms like me in their 40’s or 50’s but we were all mesmerized into a state of frenzy with the music, singing along to Taylor’s songs like they were our own, and in a sense, they were our songs.
One of the things I have discovered about Taylor Swift is that she is a true craftsman of song and lyric. Her personal stories are our personal stories and we cannot do anything but feel our feelings as we connect to her music. She is willing to share what life has given her, the good and the bad, but she wraps up her experience in words and melodies that hit our hearts where is counts. She is brave to stand there, the full brunt of the world’s judgment on her sleeve and sing about her life, no fear, and no hesitation.
I could talk of what songs she played, the firework and pyrotechnic displays, but I won’t. I could speak excitedly of the stage props or the massive and talented troupe of dancers she has on staff, but that’s not important either, although the dramatic visuals were a true and epic experience that only added to the incredible performance I was witnessing. My experience was about hearing Taylor Swift’s music live, direct from her body to mine. Live music is an energetic force that can affect me in the most profound way that bypasses any and all forms of pre-recorded music I might hear on the radio. My experience was about her lyrics, how she somehow understood me and put into words all my heartbreaks, sadness and joy. I entered into this night a cranky old woman but left with a renewed sense of myself, an inspiration that my work in the music business is important and a feeling of pure joy in my heart and soul.