Taylor Swift makes us all eternal teens says Hannah Betts

Friday, 7 February 2014 - 10:26am IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
Musically gifted, witty, charming and philanthropic, Taylor Swift is the perfect role model for young girls. No wonder everyone loves her, says Hannah Betts.

Musically gifted, witty, charming and philanthropic, Taylor Swift is the perfect role model for young girls. No wonder everyone loves her, says Hannah Betts.

A few years ago, I made a vow never to attend the O2 Arena again, so monstrous did I find the experience of seeing Prince there. I say "seeing": I'm told he was there, a minuscule purple dot somewhere on the horizon, but had no proof of it. After that, I vowed not to even think about the place. And, yet, I have found myself at the O2 Arena twice in the past 72 hours.

Why, you ask? Because of the deity that is Taylor Swift.

If you are yet to be initiated into the Swift cult, then shame on you. Also, where have you been? Swift, 24, has been hard at it since she was 14, when she persuaded her parents to move to Nashville so she could pursue a country music career.

Now, being more pop/power ballad/soft rock-esque, she has sold 26 million albums and had 75 million digital single downloads worldwide. Forbes magazine estimates she is worth $220 million (pounds 135 million), making her their third-richest celebrity under 30.

That's not all. She is a seven-times Grammy winner and the reigning Billboard and American Music Awards Artist of the Year. Her current RED tour is a global phenomenon. She is the first female artist to sell out Sydney's Allianz Stadium, kicking off the Australian leg of her tour to more than 40,900 screaming enthusiasts.

Here in Britain, the RED tour amounts to five nights of 15,000-strong O2 audiences, rendering London Taylortown. Those nippers you see walking about covered in flashing Christmas lights, wearing cat's-ear hairbands, scarlet ballet skirts and brandishing sparkly "I Love You" signs? Swiftians, every one.

I, like, totally love Taylor. As do millions of others. Not only is this superstarlet a talented, witty, lithe-limbed, golden-haired goddess, she is also an established philanthropist, supporting sick children, literacy, arts education, disaster relief and anti-discrimination efforts. Meanwhile, she remains fundamentally clothed and is emphatically not Miley Cyrus.

In a world of spoilt celebrities, she is famously charming, too, from her salutation of, "Well, good evening, London" to the tips of her ruby-red brogues. She even forgave the yobbish Kanye West for storming on stage during the 2009 MTV Awards and attempting to prevent her being presented with a trophy - a faux pas that saw Barack Obama labelling the rapper a "jackass". Taylor has a photograph of the incident on the wall of her Nashville home, bearing the legend: "Life is full of little interruptions."

Taylor is a positive polymath compared with X-Factor dolts: writing, singing, playing guitar, banjo, piano and dancing as if she actually enjoys it, rather than in the manner of someone who wants dollar bills stuffed into her hot pants. Musician fans include Def Leppard, Neil Young, James Taylor, Stevie Nicks, Jon Bon Jovi, not to mention almost every young person, and Lena Dunham, the creator and star of youthful TV hit Girls, who describes Swift as her "artistic kindred spirit".

Taylor's songs chart the "messy" (her word) universals of love, pain, more pain, the coolness of hanging with one's friends, the uncoolness of being bullied, and what it's like to be the unpopular kid before said kid drops the glasses, hits the peroxide, and acquires teeth so white they go invisible under stage lights.

She knows she's still not necessarily cool, opining: "It's not my job to make people like me if they don't want to." But, we do, Taylor, we do, because the girl so wholesome she grew up on a Christmas tree farm can even handle self-parody, teaming up with R&B star T-Pain for the song Thug Story, in which she refers to herself as K-Swizzle and raps about baking cookies.

Meanwhile, our heroine gets to step out with heartthrobs Harry Styles, John Meyer, Jake Gyllenhaal and their ilk, then croon about what a disaster it was (in a financially rewarding fashion). As romantic revenge goes, having a crowd of 50,000 ecstatically fist-pumping to the line: "We are never, ever, ever, ever getting back together / Like, ever" (rumoured to be inspired by Gyllenhaal) is presumably as good as it gets.

If I sound adoring, well, reader, I am. There is a lamentable paucity of young female role models who are not somehow embroiled in the promotion of soft porn. In this context, Swift markets genuine girl power: listening to and reflecting their woes, celebrating their fluffy-haired awesomeness, and literally reaching out to them from her O2 stage in a way guaranteed to cure the scrofula of adolescence.

As such, she appeals to the eternal teen in us all. My friend Dog, a Telegraph reader and heavy-metal fan who turns 50 in September, wanted AC/DC to perform at his birthday. Now it's Swift. My eight-year-old niece's life ambition is simply to be in the same room as her.

As for me, I just know we'd be friends, not least if I were sporting my gig rig-out of Taylor T-shirt, leopard-skin faux fur, gold heels and rhinestone tiara. Mutton dressed as Han? Yes - and proud to be a Swiftie.


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