I wouldn’t call myself a Swiftie. As an entertainment journalist, I have mad respect for Taylor Swift, the career she’s built, and the catchy bops and intimate lyrics that have won the singer 12 Grammys and dozens of other awards. I listen to Taylor’s Versions in solidarity with her fight to own her own masters. I appreciate she’s given a reported $55 million in bonuses to her tour workers, including $100,000 to each truck driver. I’m impressed that the Federal Reserve says her Eras Tour has boosted the US economy.
But I’ve never subscribed to Swiftie culture. I don’t know any fan chants and still can’t fully recall whether “Love Story” was on Fearless or Speak Now. So when I was invited by mission-driven food brand Daily Harvest, which celebrated its launch into Kroger grocery stores in the United States and its new fruit and veggie era by hosting a ticket giveaway, to the final leg of Swift’s record-breaking tour, I hesitated. Understanding the fervour and fandom of Swifties, I wasn’t sure if I, a non-Swiftie, would be accepted. Would they see the scarlet NS emblazoned on my meagre attempt at a Taylor Swift-inspired fit? Would I get side eyes for knowing just the words to the radio hits and only nodding along to the lower billed tunes?
As the countdown clock hits zero and the first piercing screams from the 100,000 diehards gathered for the penultimate show of Swift’s six-day stand at SoFi Stadium erupts, I can tell, though, this will be a different kind of concert experience.
The three-and-a-half-hour show spans nearly four dozen songs, 10 albums, and 17 years. As we run through the massive setlist, I tell myself, yes, I know the words to staples like “You Belong To Me,” “Shake It Off,” and “Blank Space.” Things get a little fuzzy and the polite nods come out during the Folklore and Evermore eras. But I surprise myself, and my plus-one and fellow non-Swiftie boyfriend, with how much of Swift’s discography — from “Cruel Summer” and “Lavender Haze” to “Delicate” and “August” — I actually know.
Still, are you really a Swiftie if you don’t pour hours into memorising the lyrics by heart? I doubt myself — until I chat with a few of the Swifties around me. “A Swiftie is someone who’s unapologetically themselves and just has a lust for life,” says Nic Klein, a 27-year-old from Los Angeles who scored coveted seats alongside his boyfriend Alex Hopp after submitting a TikTok for Daily Harvest’s contest. “A Swiftie is somebody who is very loyal and is always down to have fun and have a party,” Hopp adds. “Be yourself, have fun, and listen to what makes you happy.”
I ask Reagan Russo, a bonafide Swiftie known for her viral signs, what makes this tour particularly special for fans. “I’m the generation that grew up with her,” the 36-year-old from New Jersey says. “As she’s going through things in her life, like breakups and stuff that we go through as women and teenagers, I’ve been a part of that as she has been doing it.”
It’s halfway through the concert that Russo’s words really hit me, and I realise how Swift’s music has punctuated key moments in my life. Fearless was me at 19 dealing with bambi-eyed ideals around young love and soulmates. Like Swift, I was born in 1989, and her fifth studio album, named aptly after the artist’s birth year to signify her rebirth as a pop artist, was the soundtrack to me adulting for real, graduating from journalism school, and starting my first full-time job as a reporter. Reputation’s tougher bangers captured my stress around working graveyard shifts — 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. — as an overnight editor. I played Midnights on repeat during late nights mulling around the condo I bought as a first-time homeowner.
Swift came through the other side of her struggles to the roar and adoration of her fans who have been on this journey with her, and I’ve been right there with them all along. My eras include writing short stories as a kid to compensate for an overwhelming shyness, a symptom of being one of two Asian girls at a predominantly white school. (The other was my sister.) I’ve been a young teen with a vision of what my life could be but no idea on how to make it happen. As an adult, I’ve struggled to find my place in an ever increasingly challenging industry, pivoting from one role to another and wondering if I’m making a mistake with every choice. I’ve broken hearts and been heartbroken.
Maybe I am a Swiftie. Maybe not. What I do know though is that I’m now firmly in my Taylor Swift era. It just took 17 years.