Keeping up with Taylor Swift
I’m not a Swiftie. Never have been and don’t expect to become one. Were I to go around singing Taylor Swift music or paying a king’s ransom to attend one of her concerts, my grandchildren would say, “Act your age, old man.”
Still, I did read the recent cover story on her in Time magazine. Actually, I didn’t intend to, but once I started, found it so well-written and full of depth and color that I kept going to the end.
Time named her its “Person of the Year” for 2023. Since that honor often goes to presidents, world leaders, popes and cyberspace titans, it’s rarefied air indeed.
Aside from the celebrity hysteria that surrounds Swift, there were several notable aspects of Time’s coverage, written by the magazine’s West Coast editor, Sam Lansky:
- How hard she works.
The story describes how Swift performs for three hours, or twice as long as many bands I witnessed in my younger days. Those shows include tunes from nine albums and 16 costume changes.
For her most recent tour, she began training six months beforehand, hitting the treadmill while singing the entire set list. She also did three months of dance training to “get it in my bones.”
“I wanted to be so over-rehearsed that I could be silly with the fans and not lose my train of thought,” she told Lansky.
- The enormous impact she makes worldwide.
When her Eras tour launched in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, she generated more revenue for its businesses than the 2023 Super Bowl—held in the same stadium.
Time’s feature included a chart about her tour earnings expected to hit $4.1 billion, totaling more than the economic output of 42 different nations.
It’s also estimated to mean a $5.7 billion boost to the U.S. economy because of the money fans spend at or around her concerts. A six-day stop in Los Angeles was expected to create 3,000 jobs. Jobs I imagine are filled by folks on the lower end of the economic spectrum.
- The challenges of fame.
I don’t think the average person appreciates the blissful peace of anonymity. Swift exists in a world where everyone feels free to pick you apart, like the former classmates who once sniped that she wasn’t that popular in high school.
That is small change compared to the ongoing analysis of her every move and speculation about her love life, song lyrics, and anything else you care to name. As she puts it: “I’ve been raised up and down the flagpole of public opinion so many times in the last 20 years. I’ve been given a tiara, then had it taken away.”
- Would-be writers should read Lansky’s story.
It’s one I would put in the class of masterpiece.
From purely an eyeball estimate, I would gauge the story runs 4,000 words.
I used to write features for a national magazine that often ran 2,000 to 2,500 words. The one time I wrote a 3,500-word article, I found it quite challenging to hold everything together in weaving a coherent narrative.
Lansky succeeds. I could tell from his descriptions that he either did a lengthy interview lasting several hours or more than one talk with her.
I also suspect it was all written on a tight time schedule, the kind that leaves the author happiest when the story is finished. As with Taylor Swift’s tour preparations, good writing is hard work.