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It’s Taylor Swift’s ‘Era’ and we’re just living in it

Taylor Swift’s world-famous Eras Tour arrives at the Wembley Stadium in London tonight. While I am a ‘Swiftie’ (A Taylor Swift fan), I unfortunately wasn’t able to buy tickets, which sold out in a matter of minutes when they were first released, following a protocol whereby only individuals with a pre-sale code were able to purchase tickets. But, I have been following this concert virtually, and for those who, like me want to get the concert experience, I have linked a trailer to the Eras Tour movie, available on Disney+.

Why is the Eras tour such a phenomenon?

Most artists typically go ‘on tour’ when they release an album, performing songs mainly from that album. What sets the Eras tour apart, is that Taylor Swift performs songs from all the albums she’s ever recorded, spanning a career over two decades. It reflects different circumstances in her life, from love (the Lover era), heartbreak (the Tortured Poets Department Era), slander and reputation (the Reputation era) sharing with her fans the evolution of her personal and professional life (you can learn about each Era here). The Eras tour has become such a phenomenon, that in 2023, she was recognised at Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. For context, this title in the past has been held by Popes, Presidents, and now, a Pop Star.

My personal favourite part of the Eras tour is the tradition of the ‘22 Hat’. Part of her ‘Red’ era, she performs her upbeat song 22, wearing a black hat. One special fan is chosen from the audience to personally receive the hat from Taylor during the performance, and most of these fans have been young girls who have dreamt of seeing her perform all their lives. At one of the first shows, that is featured in the Eras tour film, the hat was given to the late basketball legend Kobe Bryant’s daughter, Bianka Bryant. One of the other recipients at one of the Australia eras Tour shows was 9 year old Olivia Scarlett, who bravely fought a brain cancer diagnosis, and unfortunately lost her battle in April 2024 (you can watch this moment here).

Taylor Swift has sung about mental health and societal issues

Taylor Swift has never shied away from talking about mental health.

One of her songs, the ‘Anti-hero’ talks about her low mood and depressive symptoms, with lyrics such as

In her documentary “Miss Americana” on Netflix, she also opened up about her experience with disordered eating habits.

She is not one to shy away from politics and societal issues either. Her song “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” referred to the tumultuous US political climate of 2018. In fact, the song has been heralded the “Great Protest Song of Our Time”.

From the same album, her song “The Man” tackles issue of gender inequality. She talks about how, if she was a man, people wouldn’t question her talents, and success success, nor would they judge her every outfit and action. The central lines of the chorus are:

“You need to calm down” is yet another song  from the Lover era, which essentially claps back at haters who anonymously post rude and hateful comments online. In one of the verses, she promotes LGBTQIA+ rights:

The controversies around the Eras tour

Whilst I have addressed the stardom of Swift and magnitude of the Eras tour, it is important to also talk about issues that have risen ever since the tour was announced.

From an environmental perspective, Taylor Swift has made headlines due to the sheer amount of carbon emissions caused from flying the world over. For example, when she flew in her private jet from Toyko to LA in time for the Superbowl (in which her sportsman boyfriend Travis Kelce was playing), she is likely to have produced more than 50 tons of carbon emissions.

While some argue that her carbon emissions are disastrous for the environment, others defend her, citing that someone’s plane travel is a private matter, and should not be tracked, as this violates the privacy of those in the limelight.

In fact, in 2022, she was reported to be the number one celebrity CO2 polluter, with emissions estimated to be over a 1,000 times those of others. However, in response, her publicist has mentioned that Swift uses carbon offsets, referring to investment in environmental activities to balance her carbon footprint. You can learn more about this here.

One glaring problem is the excruciatingly high prices of tickets, set by Ticketmaster, a ticket sales and distribution company. A number of additional problems were then associated with the platform, such as cancelled sales due to the website crashing, those with presale codes being in virtual queues for hours, and skyrocketing resale prices. In fact, this fiasco has now become a legal matter being heard in the US Senate. 

Some of these controversies have also been discussed in the academic setting. On the 12th of June, ahead of Swift’s performance in Liverpool, the University of Liverpool’s Department of Music hosted Tay Day’, an academic conference dedicated to discussing and debating all things Taylor Swift. They essentially took a balanced stance on this worldwide topic discussing her role as a feminist and LGBTQIA+ rights activist, as well as the problems she has been criticized for, such as her carbon emissions.

To sum, Taylor Swift and her tour have undoubtedly made the headlines for both good reasons as well as some concerns. While I am a fan of her music and applaud her success and concern for social issues, I am also aware of the controversies I have discussed in today’s piece. As with supporting any celebrity or artist, it is important to be aware of both their positive, as well as negative qualities, so that we can apply critical thinking and ensure that we don’t blindly idolise them.

I am now ending with a fun fact for all our readers from within KCL: did you know that Taylor Swift’s first ever show in the UK was held in the Vault at the Strand Campus in 2008?


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