Flashlights in the air, people singing, dancing, and screaming in the theaters—the recently released Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour movie has created a storm not only in Western countries but also in countries like India. This sentiment of excitement and immense fandom has been well reflected in the fact that Taylor Swift has been awarded the Times Person of the Year 2023 (Person of the Year 2023: Taylor Swift | TIME).
But what has led to the rise of the pop icon in India? The new generation, or Gen Z, as we call it, has been thronging to cinemas to see their favourite star perform. But what makes her a favourite? What makes her fans, the Swifties?
Taylor Swift: Reputation
According to Aarushi*, who watched the first-day first show of its release on November 3, Taylor Swift builds a connection with her fans through her songs, which not only convey her journey in romance but also her fight against her inner demons, trolls, hatred, and the quarter-life crisis that almost all of us relate to at some point. Meher*, a long-time Swiftie, attributes her connection with the icon to her ability to express the mundanity and everyday heartbreak of being a woman in her songs. For her and many others, Swift’s music mirrors the point of view of struggling with feminism and breaking out of patriarchy.
Swift highlights her life journey and experiences in her songs, explains Shrey*. The reason Taylor Swift’s music has transcended geographical boundaries is her connection with her fans. In her journey of 17 years, often divided into “eras”, Taylor Swift has emerged as a relatable figure for her fans, with her struggles, sartorial fashion choices, and kindness to her fans, or what many call her marketing genius. She consistently makes efforts to put tickets up for pre-sale and engages with the audience through social media. The themes of her songs are often catchy. She sings about romance, about life, about criticism, and most importantly, she sings about self-love, something that resonates strongly with today’s youth.
A “Love Story” across “Eras”
Many of her fans have not been there since the beginning, but they are “swifties” nonetheless. When Swift started her journey 17 years ago, many of her now fans were teenagers and children, who are now well into adulthood. With the growth of streaming platforms like Spotify and YouTube Music and social media platforms like Instagram, the increase in exposure and curiosity has led to a surge in her popularity, especially in Asian countries like India.
Another quality that attracts fans is her experimentation across various genres, be it pop, country, or indie. Also, her songs don’t only cater to one type of person. They appeal to people irrespective of their gender and sexuality. Ashish*, a 26-year-old corporate professional who identifies as a heterosexual male, reminisces of the time when her song “Love Story” came out. “When the song first came out, we could only watch it on television. I remember when I first saw the video, in awe of the grandeur of the set, the costumes, the videography, and the story”, he says. As a nation that adores good storytelling by an artist, Taylor Swift has managed to tap the exact nerve through her songs, sounding like a page out of her personal diary.
Despite all the fandom that she enjoys, it’s a surprise that Taylor Swift has never been to India. Naturally, her fans were beyond overjoyed when the movie’s release was announced in India. Videos have surfaced of strangers holding hands, dancing together, laughing, and even crying together, seeing their favourite star perform on the big screen. Safe to say, the event hasn’t been any less than a festival for her fans here, who are still hopeful of a future concert after a recent reference to India in her song “‘Seven”, when she sings “Pack your dolls and a sweater/ We’ll move to India forever”. Funny, but true, Taylor Swift has often been compared to Indian celebrities like Salman Khan and Rajnikanth in terms of her popularity.
Now, seeing Swift perform live in India is what her fans are most anticipating. There are rumours that Swift is in negotiations with Indian tour promoters over the unlikely prospect of the Eras Tour making its debut in South Asia. For now, Swifties will just have to treasure the moment they stood there shaking hands while Taylor’s songs were being sung by the enthusiastic fans in the grandstand.