Photo by Carrie Davenport/TAS/Getty Images for TAS
Taylor Swift is the most famous musician in the world, and the year 2015 is the biggest moment of her career. She is bigger than Jesus Christ. She is bigger than The Beatles. She is bigger than the Migos. And Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour—which spent the weekend in the New York City area—is her parade across planet earth, declaring it as her own, celebrating life and all the joys that comes with it, and inviting you along for the ride. There is no question that we will, indeed, remember her, standing in a nice dress, staring at the sunset, red lips and rosy cheeks—Taylor Swift is our wildest dream.
Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour. Those words, which truly mean exactly what they say—world fucking tour—are emblazoned across the three gigantic screens before which the pop star performs. The lettering is a soft pink neon, the kind of color of lettering you’ve seen in a hundred familiar clips of TV about some lovable dive bar or disco. It’s cool, iconic, and legendary, because everything about Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour is an absolute statement. It’s Taylor looking out at the world and saying, “This is who I am now, and I do not care what you think about it.” It also explains why she spent much of the time in between performances of songs—oh yeah by the way, this concert was nearly two and a half hours long—giving pep talks to the crowd. “I know what it’s like to not have that person text you back.” Same, girl. “You’re strong, smart, and beautiful. When you look in the mirror, make sure you remind yourself of that.” Fuck, you really do get me, Tay! Hell, it’s even hard to call this a “concert.” At times, the 1989 World Tour was more like a self-help conference, or even a full on religious experience. This moment will be remembered by our culture forever—and in 40 years, you’ll probably be able to buy the tour T-shirt at Hot Topic.
When you walk into the 1989 World Tour, immediately you’re given a glowing wristband. “Here’s a gift from Taylor,” the guest services worker will tell you. And even though you probably have never spoken a word to Taylor Swift and will probably never speak a word to Taylor Swift, you say “thank you” and feel good and satisfied, because you know she’d be happy that you said thank you, and if she was there handing you the wristband, she would probably chipperly respond, “You’re welcome! Thank you for coming!” Later, during “Welcome to New York,” the blistering summer anthem that opens the show, your wrist will light up in various wonderful colors. You get a rush. Butterflies. You can’t believe it’s happening, because you’re connecting with Taylor Swift. It’s real! She’s real! She is an actual human being! Midway through the concert, she will stand stoically on the edge of the runway that jets out into the middle of the stadium, smiling, glowing, telling you and 59,999 other people that she loves you, and she wanted every person to have a wristband so she could see you.
So she could see you. You know what she means? She’s not talking about the casual “oh, hey I saw you down the block yesterday but couldn’t catch up to you!” kind of see you. She sees you, Avatar-style. She connects with you. You feel it. You stand in awe of her on one of the humongous screens, and you think about the twinkle in her eye. You know it’s stupid and absurd because she’s just a 25-year-old who wrote some songs that you like to listen to, but who cares. You let go, and it gives you joy. Throughout the show, we get documentary-style confessionals from other famous people who are friends with Taylor Swift. Each person—which includes Selena Gomez and Lena Dunham—will individually tell you how awesome it is to be friends with Taylor Swift. Obviously, it sounds incredible, because being friends with Taylor Swift must be awesome. It has to be! Taylor Swift rarely shows up during the confessionals, but when she does, she’s usually holding her cats in funny ways. At one point, she almost drops Dr. Meredith Gray (the fat one). Everyone laughs. It rules.
How she walks this line of being cool as hell while doing everything that would normally be perceived corny is kind of an anomaly of our modern times. It’s a bit like Drake—this bizarre politician masquerading as a rapper/pop star—except she’s way more fucking famous than Drake can ever dream of being. MetLife Stadium seats 60,000 people. It was sold out for two nights on an 84-date tour lasting seven months that’s already raked in $32.1 million in the U.S. alone (there are five months left). She is, on every single level, the pinnacle of American Culture as it exists today. The 1989 World Tour is the perfect pop spectacle, sponsored by various brands such as Diet Coke, Subway, and American Express who don’t even bother putting up any real advertising inside the stadium. Because, honestly, who cares? I imagine corporate execs understand Taylor Swift is the most influential person in the world, so there’s no need to have her eat a meatball sub. Yet it’s a bit strange, because the glamour of the 1989 World Tour is massive and assertive, yes, but is off the path that got her to this moment, standing before an outdoor stadium full of people multiple nights in a row. She’s abandoned the “thank you for coming; you’re all so lovely” girl next-door attitude (although she still does say “thank you for coming; you’re all so lovely”) for something more empowering. That’s why 1989 is so important. She knows who the fuck she is. She no longer is asking for permission. She controls her image. She’s here. The moment is hers. And she is not going anywhere anytime soon.
MetLife Stadium converted some of the men's restrooms to women's restrooms.
Taylor Swift has gotten here by building a career on making moments. That’s why she hands out wristbands so she can see us. That’s why she lights off fireworks to both open and close the show. That’s why the runway lifts off and flies around the stadium while she sings “Wildest Dreams,” one of the most emotionally titanic songs of the last five years. That’s why she brings out an artist like The Weeknd and duets with him and it will be looked at in the future as one of the most important moments of his career. That’s why she brings out the U.S. women’s soccer team on their victory lap for winning the World Cup (the trophy for which Taylor holds twice, because she’s Taylor Swift and she can just hold the World Cup if she wants to).
Everything about the tour is beautifully glamorous—the swath of male backing dancers bouncing around her as she does that Taylor head nod in which she tosses her hair to the side, winking at the crowd, smiling, acting as if she’s in awe of us just as much as we’re in awe with her. There are, to my count, at least seven costume changes. She’s ditched the sparkling red microphone from the Red tour and picked up a shimmery black microphone . She strictly performs songs from 1989—except for “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and “Love Story” which she molds to fit her new pop style. “Trouble” features her lying on her back, belting notes at the top of her lungs, feeling a bit like her Yeezus-moment. For “Never Ever,” she grabs an electric guitar, takes a power stance, and does her best St. Vincent. “Love Story” drops the acoustic guitar and is reworked as synth pop, but it fits perfectly, of course: It's maybe even easier to sing along to.
Throughout the night, she high steps down both sides of the stage before making her way up the runway (which she does on heels that appear to be at least 20 feet tall). She pauses her strut at all the right times, and she is always smiling or laughing. Even though you know it’s a performance, everything about her feels flawless, which makes you feel good, too. She has built a career on making music that’s suited for the fabric of our lives, so it makes sense that her show is engineered to be the best night of your life. It’s why every single one of her songs feels like it could perfectly soundtrack nearly every moment of our lives, from the smallest to the biggest: the first kiss, graduating college, getting a job, walking through the park on a sunny afternoon, #squadgoals, getting married, breaking up, a thunderstorm, crying for any reason at all, partying, smoking weed, getting hugged, making a new friend, holding hands, jumping into the ocean. Life is one long narrative, full of the ups and downs we sometimes choose and other times don’t. This is how we get by and try to make sense of the bullshit frustrations we feel every day. She’s When Harry Met Sally; she’s a song on the jukebox; she’s Romeo and Juliet—endlessly charming and enjoyable because it’s simple, understandable, and hopeful, even when it’s heartbreaking.
Not one person I told I was going to a Taylor Swift concert responded negatively. Every single person—lump them into genderless categories like hipsters or goths or punks or hypebeats—responded with a simple “holy shit” or something like it. Because, again, who doesn’t love her? Here’s a list of some of the signs you’ll see at a Taylor Swift stadium concert: “Tay Is Bae,” “Starbucks Lovers” (in Starbucks font), multiple forms of the numbers “1-9-8-9,” “Are We Out of the Woods?!,” a giant cutout polaroid, a “Now Showing” marquee, “It’s My Birthday!,” “I know places we can hide,” “U Belong W Me,” neon in various forms, just the color red, cutouts of her head, and, of course, “I <3 taylor!”.<="" p="">
By the way, that <3 is="" a="" heart="" emoji.="" it’s="" extra="" pink.<="" p="">
Eric Sundermann knows nothing lasts forever but this is getting good now. Follow him on Twitter.