Greetings and salutations! You have arrived at Swift Notes: the destination for your weekly journey through the continuously growing world of Taylor Swift.

Estimated read time 8 min read

Crafts, capitalism, conspiracies, cultural norms, the climate crisis; football, family relations, fine dining; Argylle, AI, asbestos, academia and museums; the US election, Senate hearings, international relations and the international date line; romance, sexuality and the right way to be successful; gun crime, Grammys and grammar (yes, really): in just the first two months of 2024, the Guardian’s reporting on Taylor Swift has spilled far beyond her natural home in the music section, reflecting a reach that exceeds the pop superstar’s unstoppable ambitions. Last year, one US publication sparked controversy for hiring a dedicated Swift correspondent, but the joke is that anyone in entertainment and culture media – and the rest of it – is essentially a de facto Swift reporter now. Her influence is so vast that writing about her sometimes feels less like documenting a singular pop career than it does reporting on the affairs of a small nation. (The total revenues of just the US leg of the Eras tour have been estimated to be larger than the GDP of 35 countries.)

I must admit, this can be tiring. Despite all the recent attention surrounding her Grammy win and her boyfriend Travis Kelce’s Super Bowl victory, there is still a great deal of Swift-related news to come this year: a new album, titled “The Tortured Poets Department” (without an apostrophe), coming in April; the last two albums in her re-recordings project; and her Eras tour, which won’t even reach Europe until May. And that’s just what the hard-working pop star has shared – there may be more surprises in store. As Swift claims to offset her carbon emissions from using private jets, I occasionally worry that we should also cover artists from the fringes of the music scene instead of constantly focusing on her. (Luckily, our music pages offer plenty of alternatives for those seeking something different.) However, in some cases, the best way to handle an absurd situation is with more absurdity. Therefore, throughout 2024 – or until a suitable conclusion presents itself – instead of being overwhelmed by this relentless current, the Swift Notes newsletter will ride the Swift wave. We will explore her record-breaking success, her impact on societal norms, and the sometimes exasperating but always fascinating aspects of her persona, with both seriousness and playfulness as appropriate.

In September, Shaad D’Souza discussed how Swift was able to regain popularity following a significant backlash in 2017, largely caused by oversaturation. Their idea was that with the rise of personalized social media feeds, it is nearly impossible for one person to become too exposed and for fans or critics to voice their opinions on a large scale. While this may be generally true, Swift’s already immense fame accelerated even further in the following months due to her highly publicized relationship with Kelce, the release of her tour film, and her increasing comfort with being photographed in public after her previously private six-year relationship with Joe Alwyn. This has proven her to be the exception to the idea of monoculture. In January, Billboard named her the top artist on their annual Power 100 list, surpassing even the CEO of her record label group, Lucian Grainge.

Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift embrace after the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl in Las Vegas.View image in fullscreen

Her every movement is well-documented – recently, the media used drones to capture blurry images of her and Kelce visiting a Sydney zoo during her Eras tour; she also confirmed her relationship with Kelce on TikTok – providing ample material for observers to interpret. This can range from harmless fan speculation, such as what Selena Gomez whispered to her at the Golden Globes, to bizarre theories published by the New York Times regarding her sexuality (better suited for Tumblr). In the most extreme cases, right-wing pundits have accused her relationship with Kelce and his team’s Super Bowl win of being a “Biden psyop” to manipulate American voters into re-electing the Democrats – with one poll showing that 18% of Americans believe Swift is involved in such a scheme. Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that Biden’s campaign is desperate for Swift’s endorsement – and in a joke on late-night TV, Biden quipped that the matter was “classified” – and another poll suggested that 18% of voters would be more likely to support a candidate backed by Swift. While Swift is undoubtedly influential, she has also become a target for excessive interpretation. As Kyle Chayka of The New Yorker recently coined it, “the Swiftularity” – where any topic eventually leads back to her, often straining logical boundaries.

With the abundance of different stories surrounding her, Swift Notes will uncover the carefully crafted narratives seen in Swift’s songs and her own self-mythologizing, as well as those told about her by others. I became a dedicated fan about 12 years ago, shifting from being casually aware of her. Despite struggling with retaining useful information, I could probably ace an episode of Mastermind about her without any studying. I have interviewed her at her home in Nashville and have attended six of her live shows, including an Eras show in Los Angeles last year. I even have a friendship bracelet in my room that reads “1-2-3 let’s go bitch!” In June, I will be going to see her tour in Edinburgh with nine friends, enduring the difficult Ticketmaster sale process which Swift compared to being attacked by bears (we even made spreadsheets!). While we both share similar qualities of being 1989-born type-A personalities with a hint of vindictiveness, I am perplexed by her constant need to win. Although I find her project of re-recording her first six albums to regain ownership over them to be incredibly unique and enjoyable, the multiple physical editions with exclusive songs that later become readily available seem to exploit her loyal fans. And despite my reservations, I am sure my opinion will change once the bonus tracks on the upcoming Reputation (Taylor’s Version), which is arguably her best album, are released.

I have always used music as a way to understand the world, therefore having the opportunity to write weekly essays, Q&As, and conduct analysis on this multicolored pop star is like a dream come true. Join me and other writers from The Guardian as we embark on this journey (which may lead us to insanity). Any questions, ideas, or thoughts? You can email me at [email protected] and let me know if you would like your comments to be shared in future newsletters.

Reworded: The tale of our time together: the Guardian’s week in Swift.

Is Taylor Swift involved in a conspiracy to undermine Donald Trump?

The Victoria & Albert Museum is looking for a Taylor Swift fan who can provide insight on Swiftie culture.

Review of Taylor Swift’s Melbourne concert for The Eras tour – impressive performance by a generous artist.

“Taylor joined our family”: Parents and children who are Swifties share how her music united them.

“I have a fear that I may never experience that same level of joy again”: how to cope with the aftermath of listening to Taylor Swift.

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Please remove it from my desk: the most comprehensive coverage of Swift can be found elsewhere.

Swift fans at the Tokyo stop of the Eras tour.View image in fullscreen
  • Hello Taylor Swift fans in Japan. Please stay seated while you show your excitement (article from the New York Times, February 9th). An interesting article about the Tokyo performance of Swift’s tour and the challenges faced by the typically polite Japanese fans with the more enthusiastic international fans who traveled to see the show.

  • Taylor Swift recently achieved a historical moment at the Grammy awards but also made a significant error. Canadian critic Carl Wilson commented on Swift’s surprising mishandling of the awards, specifically her apparent dismissal of Céline Dion, who made a rare public appearance after being diagnosed with stiff-person syndrome. This syndrome is also the subject of Wilson’s acclaimed book on “bad” taste. Wilson also critiqued Swift’s behavior during her acceptance speech for Album of the Year, where she seemed more focused on announcing her new album as if she was at a corporate meeting rather than celebrating her win.

  • The individuals speculating about Taylor Swift are misinterpreting the concept of psyops (psychological operations), as explained in a critical analysis from Wired (published on 1 February). The author explains why these conspiracy creators are completely mistaken in their understanding of what a psyop truly entails.

  • Taylor Swift and the unbearable whiteness of girlhood (NPR Code Switch, 31 January) A smart podcast episode on why whiteness gives Swift the privilege of being associated with girlhood, even at age 34, and the presenters’ perception that she has not adequately used her very safe platform to advocate for others. (Transcription here.)

Feels amazing: a playlist that is not made in Swift

Mdou Moctar.

Mdou Moctar – Funeral for Justice From a new album addressing colonial violence against Niger and the Tuareg people, the Nigerien guitarist and his band issue a rallying cry for African leaders to “retake control of your countries, rich in resources / Build them and quit sleeping” that seems to frenetically dismantle the past and tessellate a new future. (Follow the weekly Hits Different playlist on Spotify.)


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