Dissecting Fandom: After Taylor Swift

Two years ago, I loved the Taylor Swift concert.

I proudly bragged about her incredible show, the amazing lyrics to her songs, the way she captivated a huge sold-out audience at Ford Field. My daughter and I danced our way through the night, leaving the arena on a definite high that lasted for years … until her concert this weekend in Detroit.

It was another great show, I’ll grant her that. Fantastic wardrobe changes, impressive light show, incredible LED wrist bands at every seat so the audience of 51,000 lit up in unison to the music, in a variety of colors.


Except, there were moments when we wondered if she were lip-syncing – when, say, the microphone went down and her lips didn’t move but we heard her voice anyway. It might have been the refrain pre-recorded for a fuller sound. Or it might not have been.

A friend said, “I don’t even want to put that idea in my daughter’s head.” I understand. When we identify an icon, we don’t want them to fall from grace in our eyes.

Another friend who sat in the front row said, “If I couldn’t tell, how could you? And my 9-year-old niece was on cloud 9 the whole time.”

Maybe I’m wrong. And if the young people there are on cloud 9, well, let’s leave them there!

Except, isn’t that misleading? To let our young people glorify another human being for the illusion of what she is instead of the real person deep inside?

The only time I know for sure she was authentic was in a duet with Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds, for an incredible rendition of “Radioactive.” That was the best part of the show for me.

This question of authenticity begs me to dig deeper and dissect this thing we call being a fan.

Taylor Nation is the fan club for Taylor Swift. Bright, beautiful, smart, she’s got it all. Around the world, mostly tweens and teens adore her and think of her as a role model.

At least, what they know of her.

Because anytime you put someone on an pedestal and identify them as an icon, you cease to know the real person.

None of us know Taylor Swift. And she wants it that way.

It’s incredibly lonely at the top. You never know who likes you for you, and who likes you for your celebrity. To tell others they know you. To bask in the glow of your stardom for just a little while, as if they too are something special.

Two years ago, I admired Taylor Swift. I loved her show, loved her songs, loved her rise to fame as the quintessential young woman looking for love and learning about herself through stumbling.

Now, I don’t really admire her. She’s just a young kid trying to figure out the world. Bragging about the 1980s, which she didn’t even live through, as she was born in 1989, just seemed silly to me.

Do you really know anything about that decade, I wanted to ask. When she said she learned about love from ’80s hit films like The Breakfast Club and 16 Candles and Say Anything, I had to wonder – really? She wouldn’t have been of an age to watch them until at least 2005! My kids think they’re hilarious, bad movies.

When her fist pumps in the air to get the crowd to roar, isn’t that just a bit self-gratifying? Like saying, hey everyone, glorify me please! I need your adoration!

And the crowd gives it to her. And she goes home lonely.

A girl like Taylor Swift can’t really date, with People magazine photographers clipping at her heels. There’s no such thing as getting to know a guy gradually and privately, in her world. And if she does, will she ever know if that person really loves her, or perhaps a bit of who she is and what she represents instead?

When we claim we are fans of something, we ride that high of illusion. What we think she is. What we think we know. From afar, we celebrate the notion of something so great and wonderful and we wish that could be us.


Can’t we just glow in the glory of who we really are, right this moment? Humility and all.

Ultimately, when you realize that the person or people you adored aren’t totally perfect, being a fan diminishes. You’re no longer interested. We can only scream about something so perfect, so wonderful, so indescribable that when they become, well, describable, there’s no more screaming to do. They’re just like me and you. And that’s not scream-worthy.

Or is it?

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