Last Sunday, I got to live the fantasy of every 12-year-old girl: I went to night two of Taylor Swift’s sold out 1989 World Tour concert at the Pepsi Center in Denver. To be honest, my inner 12-year-old was bursting at the seams with excitement. I finally got the chance to see Swift, one of my favorite music artists, perform live, right in front of my eyes, a dream of mine since I became a fan of hers six years ago.
Going to the concert made me realize that Swift not only was at the top of the world for her music, but her social messages. Sure, a lot of artists sell a message as part of their brand, but Swift’s has been 10 years in the making, ever since she began recording albums and performing in front of audiences. Swift’s messages in particular, focus on empowerment, something crucial for her audience of young adolescent girls.
One of Swift’s most powerful message can be seen with her girl squad, made of her friends, including models Cara Delevingne and Karlie Kloss, actress and musician Selena Gomez, comedienne Lena Dunham, and so many more (you may recognize most of them as the stars of her “Bad Blood” music video). Her squad is made up of diverse women, across all creative industries, not just music. They aren’t only her entourage, but her friends, who convey the message that yes, successful twentysomething women can be friends, supporting each other without cutting each other down.
This message was made clear in a video featuring members of her squad that played on the screens during one of Swift’s many costume changes. Her squad does an amazing job of portraying the idea of “chicks before d***s,” and shows that with a group of friends who is as supportive as Swift is of hers, you can conquer the world. And it shows – Swift has brought her squad with her as her “dates” to several awards shows recently, including the Video Music Awards a few weeks ago.
Swift has also been animate in the media about the right to compensate artists for putting out music and on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. About a year ago, Swift pulled her music from Spotify, and with the release of Apple Music earlier this summer, refused to allow it on Apple Music. She then released an explanation on her personal Tumblr account vouching for music artists (some were her friends) who deserve to receive compensation from Apple during the three-month free trial potential users can access. She argues that a lot goes into creating and producing a song and it is unfair they do not get paid for their efforts, especially for new artists who do not have the capital means to release music for free.
While I am a fan of Swift’s and was disappointed when she took her music off Spotify, she has a valid point. We should not have to go without getting paid for our talents. There comes a point where labor should only be free up until a certain point. I learned this through my summer internships; both were unpaid, and I felt like I paid my dues and got my foot in the door. My talents are valuable and I should be compensated for them.
Swift is indirectly teaching us that our talents are valuable and we should not let anyone take advantage of them. She wants us to see that what we can do is of worth and no one should be able to take that away from us. It’s a powerful message, and one that has not gotten the best response among her fans and critics in the music industry.
Swift has faced criticism for her music videos, especially her most recent, for “Wildest Dreams.” The video shows Swift and her co-star Scott Eastwood in the 1950s filming a movie in the African savannah. Critics of the video say that there were not any Africans in the music video, even though it took place in Africa (I don’t quite get the logic, especially since a movie crew in the 1950s would be predominantly white anyways). Swift and the director of the video stand behind the video and are proud of their creation. I don’t blame them – the video was fantastic.
At the end of the day, Swift stands for empowerment, both as a female and a human being. While it can be considered feminism, it’s something more; it’s self-esteem and confidence, something girls in today’s world need. She encourages to surround ourselves with people who only lift us up, not bring us down, and to take pride in what we create. That’s the Taylor Swift Effect.