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I took a crash course in Taylor Swift studies… but nothing could have prepared me for her brilliance

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I took a crash course in Taylor Swift studies… but nothing could have prepared me for her brilliance

 

A recent inclusion on Taylor Swift’s Eras tour setlist has the singer reimagining a brief love affair as an alien abduction. She is beamed up in ‘a cloud of sparkling dust’ and, on some spaceship never described, is smitten by her captor.

 

I took a crash course in Taylor Swift studies… but nothing could have prepared me for her brilliance

Then, all too soon, she lands back on Earth with a bump with no option but to carry on with her old life.

This Monday morning, the city of Edinburgh can surely relate to the song Down Bad.

For three nights the world’s biggest music star played the abductress and some 220,000 of us were duly captured and placed under her spell.

Now her spaceship is moving on and we are staying put. Edinburgh is returning to type. ‘You’ll have had your Taylor Swift,’ it tells us.

Some of us, myself included, may struggle for months to make sense of what happened to us over a 46-song, three-and-a-half-hour musical travelogue which still seemed to be over too quickly.

I am a man in my 50s. In front of me stood an 11-year-old girl in a sparkly jacket who spent much of the show swapping friendship bracelets with children even younger than her.

What was I doing here? And if primary school kids were loving it, why was I, a fellow who likes to consider his musical tastes refined, loving it too?

The answer to the first question is I was there because I had attended a Taylor Swift night class in Glasgow a month ago to sit among fellow newbies to her 11-album oeuvre and learn what all the fuss was about.

And there was such a lot of fuss, wasn’t there, over a Pennsylvania-born songstress who started out as a teenage country singer then gravitated to mainstream pop a couple of albums in?

Like so many with fixed ideas on the music which appeals to them, I was aware of the hysteria but not terribly interested in it.

But when Glasgow Clyde College offered a crash course for beginners ahead of the Eras tour arriving at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium, I signed up to be educated along with other mums and dads of a certain age who would escort the bona fide Swifties in their family to the show.

We were given a guided tour of the ex-boyfriends – key, we were told, to understanding Taylor.

Among them was the actor Jake Gyllenhaal who, we learned, never returned the scarf she left at his place, and worse, was a no-show at her 21st birthday party.

A song called All Too Well, which I’d never heard, documents this and other grievances. Seriously? I thought at the time. Does this trivia really qualify for the ‘need-to-know’ column?

There’s a song called Fearless (another new one on me) where, at the appropriate juncture, we were meant to make a heart with our hands when Swift does it on stage. The whole stadium would do it, we were told. Be ready for the moment.

I figured I’d keep my hands in my pockets.

We were given instruction on Taylor-themed costumes. What would yours be? The sparkly crop tops and skater skirts of the 1989 album era, perhaps?

Or maybe the vampish look of the Reputation era – leather body-suit picked out with snakes, undertaker eyeliner and the reddest lipstick ever?

On reflection, I decided jeans and a shirt would do it for me.

And we were given the likely set-list – the songs to bone up on in the month remaining before Swift arrived in Scotland. Obediently, I jotted down the ones I should be listening to.

In truth, I already knew a few –almost everyone, surely, has heard Shake It Off. I’d long had a soft spot for We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, a song whose spoken line after the chorus – ‘like … ever!’ – cannot fail to raise a smile.

And I knew Swift’s pandemic period album Folklore well. Adult-themed and introspective, it established her, in my mind at least, as that rarest of creatures – a commercial pop star with substance.

But there was much homework still to do and I dutifully applied myself to it, starting with her 2022 Midnights era. And there, I am afraid, is where the wheels came off my study plan. I couldn’t stop listening to Midnights.

So many eras to explore, yet this one held me prisoner – the songs Anti-Hero and Midnight Rain on repeat on almost every car journey for weeks. Something utterly bizarre was happening to me. I was becoming a Swiftie.

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