Last evening, at the behest of this organization, and with a chorus of vociferous protests, I sacrificed an evening on the couch to attend a Taylor Swift show. We are striving to engage with our culture and what is American culture if not teenagers with guitars? Also, it was free (compliments of the most corrupt mayor in the Western World).
I went expecting very little and received even less. Well, that’s not entirely true. It was a gorgeous night in mid-October, and downtown Chicago on a gorgeous night in mid-October is as rare as it is beautiful. I went with a couple buddies and we enjoyed each others’ company as well as the jean skirt, cowboy hat clad scenery beneath the shadow of venerable Soldier Field. In fact, now that I think about it, the only negative thing about the Taylor Swift concert was Taylor Swift herself.
Lets begin with a few concert stats:
- Video montages of her life: 1
- Mentioned the awesomeness of Chicago, specifically regarding how much she loooooves Chicago: 15 times
- Hair Flips: 37 – 40
- Wardrobe Changes: 0 ????
- References to high school: 12
- Trash can drum battles doubling as metaphors for infidelity: 1
Now I’m not trying to be too hard on the girl. Of all the concerts I’ve been to featuring teenage girls in sequin dresses, this one was probably the best. At least top five. And lets face it, she’s done more with her eighteen years on this earth than I’ve done with my twenty-three. To her credit, she played all my favorite songs, and she usually stumbled upon the right key by midway through the second verse.
The problems began when she stopped playing. Now I’m aware that inter-song banter is a difficult skill to master, but she displayed a level of ineptitude rivaling that of most middle school talent show MCs. Worse still, she committed the “cardinal sin of concert performers.” She engaged in shameless and repeated acts of what I will call “audience response manipulation.” This egregious abuse of power occurs whenever a performance artist oversteps their bounds by instructing, or coercing you to cheer, whistle, soil yourself or otherwise shower them with adulation that has not been earned.
Allow me to cite a few of the innumerable examples. First, her aforementioned Chicago-philia. No one, not even the Mafia, loves Chicago as much as Taylor Swift professed to. Very likely, she hates Chicago. But she knew that every time she said “Chicago” the crowd would be thrown into seizures of cheering and clapping. So she said it every five minutes. Manipulative and evil.
Next, she thanked us for “making all of her dreams come true.” This was met with raucous cheers, but I could only wonder, “what has Taylor Swift ever done for my dreams?” The answer, as you may have guessed, is “not a damn thing.” My dreams sit empty and unrealized, and yet I have somehow found the time to help Taylor fulfill all of hers. The depression of this realization was such that I almost missed her soulful cover of Rihanna’s epic ballad Take a Bow. Mean-spirited and evil.
Thirdly, and most grievously (seriously, I hate her for this), she told us when to hold up our cell phones. She actually said these words, “During this next song, I’m going to cue you and I want everyone to hold up their cell phones and we’re going to light this place up!” Where does she get off saying that?! The raising of lighters/cell phones at concerts has been, and should forever remain a spontaneous act born from an audience’s emotional response to a particular song. It is a privilege to be earned, not a right to be expected. For a musician to simply request this honor is not only lazy, it is greedy and misanthropic to boot.
Concerts are simple economic exchanges wherein the performer entertains the attendees for several hours in return for the attendees money and affection. They already have our money. That leaves us only with our affection which we give to them via applause, cheers, and the throwing of undergarments on stage. To force us to give these things to them whenever they see fit is akin to a waiter telling us what and when we’ll be eating. It’s deplorable. What’s worse, is that the unthinking mob so often goes along with it! We have so little to give, and yet even that we give freely without so much as a second encore. Do our cheers mean nothing? Have we no dignity? No, we have not. For even that has been taken by the puppet master on stage.
It was in this way that Taylor Swift transformed herself from a marginally talented country-pop princess into a circus master crying, “Dance monkeys! Dance!” And it was then that I realized we would never be together.