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From the Grammys to the Super Bowl, via Tokyo: inside Taylor Swift’s whirlwind week

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LOS ANGELES-

She is everywhere and the world is just her backup group.

It’s Taylor Swift week. It’s hard to remember a star of Swift’s stature straddling so many roles, spanning so much of the world, covering so many corners of culture, and doing as much in the spotlight as she will between the Grammys Awards on Sunday and those of next Sunday. Super Bowl – with four concerts in Tokyo in between.

It represents a rich moment in pop culture – a sort of perfect storm of fame, visibility, artistry and excellence for a woman who has become one of the most recognizable names on the planet. And every moment will be dissected – with adulation and criticism.

“This week is truly the best kind of chaos,” Swift posted Wednesday on Instagram.

Is this the pinnacle of modern multimedia stardom? Perhaps it is more of a throwback, to a time of less segmented and less subcultured society, when a star could be a household name across continents and generations, participating in events that people followed together as they performed.

“She’s at the center of these moments that we don’t get very often anymore,” said Shilpa Dave, a media studies professor at the University of Virginia.

How This Taylor Swift Moment Is A Throwback

You have to look far into the past, and well beyond music, to find someone with Swift’s cultural power. Perhaps we should look to a time when media wasn’t so fragmented, when the feeds to people’s eyes and ears were fewer and slower.

“Her name is Walter Cronkite. She is the most trusted name, the most trusted voice in America,” said John Baick, a history professor at Western New England University who studies the intersection of popular culture and of society at large. “I just can’t think of anyone in our politics, in our culture, in our society that we know through more generations. Maybe Oprah, but I think Oprah had less appeal in some ways .”

For many younger generations divided by social media, “Taylor Swift offers a vocabulary, a shared language,” Baick said.

Swift’s whirlwind week began with a record fourth win for album of the year at the Grammys in Los Angeles, where she made perhaps even bigger waves with her surprise announcement that her next album would be ready for release in April. Nearly 17 million people watched it, a huge number and rising sharply for a modern awards show that undoubtedly owes a lot to it.

Next, it’s off to Asia for four concerts at the Tokyo Dome, echoing his seismic stadium concerts in North and South America last year.

If all goes according to plan, she’ll move back time zones and return to the United States to play fan-in-chief for her Kansas City boyfriend Travis Kelce at the Super Bowl in Las Vegas, and will likely be seen in a suite with Kelce’s family and friends during the game by a much bigger crowd than the Grammys.

Don’t worry, she will do it everywhere

Fans concerned about the plausibility of her tight itinerary were reassured by the Japanese embassy in Washington, which said in a statement that “if she leaves Tokyo the evening after her concert, she should arrive comfortably in Las Vegas before the start of the Super Bowl. “.

Swift seems to be embracing the whole storm, if her Album of the Year acceptance speech is anything to go by.

“I would love to tell you that this is the best time of my life. But I feel so happy when I finish a song, or when I crack the code to a bridge I love, or when I preview a music video video, or when I’m rehearsing with my dancers, or my band, or getting ready to go to Tokyo to play a show,” she said from the stage. “For me, the prize is the work. All I want is to continue to be able to do it.”

Although she speaks little publicly about her relationship with Kelce (he was not thanked during her two Grammy speeches and was not present at the ceremony), she is clearly aware of the visual history she tell.

“She obviously didn’t have to go to the games. She could have watched the games from home,” Baick said. “She didn’t have to go to these dressing rooms where she would be perfectly supervised by family members and friends. But her career matters. And she is someone who makes no apologies for it. In this meaning, she’s also like Madonna. Everything she does is in the public eye. And why not?

Part of Swift’s appeal is the cultural moment we find ourselves in

Kelce addressed the phenomenon Monday from Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, saying she’s “rewriting the history books herself” and “definitely brought a lot of new faces to the game.”

The secret to her culture-defying appeal, which may reach its peak this week, comes in part from the particular burst of positivity she is capable of bringing — a positivity for which the pandemic, political unrest and erosion social have created a thirst.

“We don’t have a lot of big moments where we’re just celebrating the joy of music and culture,” Dave said. “She brings that with her. … And I think we need that right now, too.”

Baick agrees. “I don’t think we, as a country, have ever needed someone more. With the sole exception of the death of John F. Kennedy. I mean, Beatlemania was partly due to this terrible void , to this terrible feeling of loss. and this desire of young people to abandon themselves, to go wild. And like that, it was led by women.

This moment was also made possible because of the unparalleled connection she is able to make with her followers and her dedication to serving and centering them. Part of that connection might be her willingness to be a big fan herself, a vital role at the beginning and end of her big week.

At the Grammys, as she often does at awards shows, she unabashedly stood up and sang with everyone from Tracy Chapman to Olivia Rodrigo. And she’ll play the role of fan at the Super Bowl as she did for much of Kelce and the Chiefs’ season, a role she seems comfortable in, without fear that her own job or identity will be compromised. be eclipsed.

But the adulation came with criticism

There will never be unanimity around such an important person, and these appearances have brought out detractors. Some soccer fans have complained about the attention he gets during games, even though his actual screen time can be counted in seconds. She was also criticized for the private jets she is expected to use liberally all week.

And she’s been the subject of completely unfounded rumors, from claims that she’s part of the Pentagon’s psychological operations to the idea that she and Kelce are assets in a plot to help President Joe Biden get re-elected.

“There is real fear about what she and the tens of millions of people who follow her might do in what is likely to be a close election,” Baick said.

Of course, many simply aren’t interested in her or her music. And its appeal runs deeper in some communities than others.

“This is essentially a white, middle-class phenomenon,” Baick said. “But it goes deeper than that. It’s more than that. It’s not monochrome. And it’s geographically vast. The world – who may not like our politics, who may not like- be not our foreign policy – still loves our pop culture. . And she is a proud ambassador.”

It will be a week that she will have difficulty living. Yet she transcended what seemed like previous highs.

“In her victory lap, I’m curious to see where this takes her,” Dave said. “Because these things don’t last and so how does she become this big commercial success, or does she leave a legacy?”

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