Singers don’t usually attract a following of swooning, crying, and screaming fans who willingly join something politicians are labeling a “cult,” do they? Frank Sinatra was probably the first to have young female fans paid to faint at his performances, and Elvis Presley received more tossed undergarments on the stage than anyone has ever counted.
And then, of course, there are the “Deadheads” who never gave up. But who has had the incredible continuing success of Taylor Swift, the young singer who glided so easily from country to today’s chart-busting albums and billion-dollar tours? No one, and that’s why she’s a target.
The fans don’t seem to mind that she’s now being viewed, wrongly, as some kind of election-grabbing tool of the opposition. Her fans, many of whom are too young to vote in any election except for the class president, don’t seem to give any thought to the dust-up by the political parties (or is it “party?) and continue to attend her concerts and buy her albums.
And there’s something new they can buy — special friendship bracelets. Swift is a young woman who many people look up to, and her willingness to file a lawsuit against someone for sexual harassment may have enhanced that image.
As Time magazine’s “People of the Year” in 2017, Swift was one of hundreds of women named “Silence Breakers.” These women were the faces behind the #MeToo movement, which led to a national outcry against sexual harassment. Swift had already won a lawsuit against the DJ she said groped her earlier that year. Did that mean she was going to turn into a political tool to sway elections? Popularity can do many things, but sway elections by tweens or teen girls?
Swift was once again chosen by Time magazine in 2023, but this time, she was their Person of the Year. Losers were not pleased, but her ability to move the music industry to new heights and front a billion-dollar-grossing world tour all led to that designation, as did, of course, her persona and songwriting ability, plus her facility for performing and playing several musical instruments.
Perhaps heroes are needed more than ever today, and they are no longer only of the male gender. Music aficionados will remember the song that cried out for a hero years before Swift came onto the scene. The video may be a bit dated, but we still need heroes.
Women had begun to assume starring roles in action-adventure films like Angelina Jolie in “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Salt,” Michelle Pfeiffer in “Batman Returns,” and Halle Berry in “Catwoman.” How about Bandidas starring Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz?
Now the film industry is following music’s advances, and women directors are not the singular Oscar winners (Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker”) of years past. But we mustn’t forget Thelma & Louise which is still seen as an important film in the acceptance of female heroes. So, the move has been quite gradual, and Taylor Swift can assume a role for young women.
The impact Swift has had is now being appreciated by educational institutions. Harvard and University of Florida students will be able to take classes starting in the spring of 2024 that look at how Taylor Swift has changed society. New York University awarded her an honorary doctorate in fine arts in 2022.
Does she deserve her fame? Unquestionably, she does, and there is solid evidence via fans, not paid fans, as Sinatra used. Furthermore, she is responsible for introducing younger people around the world to country music by becoming the youngest person to win Album of the Year at the 2010 Grammy Awards for Fearless. Not simply country music, but music that began to feature young women and not solely men in the lyrics she wrote.
The lengths they will go to to obtain a ticket to one of her shows demonstrates fan loyalty. Rumors on the internet have indicated that some scalpers have sold tickets for upwards of $100K. Is that believable? Yes, it happens, and other regular ticket sellers use scheduling clout to keep prices high. Swift has always been there for her fans, and she is now seeking more equitable ways to offer tickets.
She is also re-recording her albums because she couldn’t buy the original masters back. And, no, she’s not in danger of copyright infringement because she wrote the music and lyrics to all the songs and is creating a new master for the albums. Fans can decide which version they want to buy; there will be differences in the songs.
Are Taylor Swift and her Swifties a cult? No more than Lady Gaga and her Little Monsters. If Amy Winehouse had lived, would she have a “cult?” There’s nothing nefarious about these “cults,” only that they have a strong attachment to these singers who return the love.