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Tuesday, June 21, 2011


by Fran McDowell

I attended a Taylor Swift concert this weekend with my sister-in-law and her eight year old daughter. I offered my ticket to my husband. It was his sister, after all. And I really needed to visit my father in the hospital.

"Oh, no. Please. " he said. "Let me do the hospital visit. Please."

"What kind of music does she sing?"

"Not a clue."

It was a lovely night, and a nice long walk would be involved from the city, along the river, to the stadium. So I adjusted my attitude and went happily along. People were arriving in throngs. Luckily our plan to walk from the city garage saved us an hour waiting in traffic. The throngs were made of up of girls, primarily. Girls in cowgirl boots. Girls in cowgirl hats. Girls from four to twenty-four. There was, without a doubt, major universal appeal in the air.

Our seats were only a few rows from the moon. The concert was to begin at 7:00. It did, with various other performers. But at 8:15 we were still waiting to see Taylor. At 8:30 I realized why. There were now 10s of thousands of new Taylor Swift tee-shirts adorning the bodies of her fans. My curiosity grew about this person for whom fifty-two thousand people of all ages had bought tickets to see.

When Taylor-time finally arrived, seats filled, lights dimmed, and the audience screamed, incessantly. Two large video screens flanked the stage. We could see her, up close and personal, though she appeared two inches tall to the naked eye. For two hours she performed, skipping while she sang, running from one end of the runway to the other, a veritable bundle of energy. The camera never left her face. All she had to do was shift her eyes and smile. The crowd went wild.

What was it about this singular twenty-one year old individual that effected everyone so profoundly? Yes, she is lovely. But lots of singers are. Yes, she is energetic. "But is that what attracts female fans?" I asked a young lady sitting next to me. She shrugged her shoulders.

"Everyone relates to her," she said.

The girl sitting with her added, "She's real. We get her lyrics."

Really? I thought. It made me think about Harry Potter. I had spent some time asking kids what it was that captured them so completely. The magic put me off. I didn't get it.

"He seems real," they would say.

I heard it over and over. So maybe it isn't the beauty, it isn't the energy, or the voice, or the magic, or the plot. Maybe it's the evasive, undefinable, ever changing quality of relate-ability. It's a hard one to see. It's a hard one to create, intentionally. It just seems to happen. If you hit it perfectly square you can create a phenomenon. And even if all you do shag it, you'll maybe get an audience who will read you or listen to you. And that, after all, is what most of us want who are giving something of ourselves.

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