So You Like Taylor Swift Now
When I tell people what I do for a living (I write about investing and personal finance), they often ask what piece of writing I am most proud of.
I have the answer before they finish asking the question.
August 21, 2013 — I wrote an article for TheStreet.com entitled, I Have Seen The Next Springsteen And Her Name Is Taylor Swift.
I’m proud of it for several reasons, not the least of which is that my editor gave me the latitude to write beyond the stock market.
I’m also proud of it because shortly after it ran, I received an email from a member of Taylor Swift’s team. This person, who tours with Swift, told me that the person who keeps tabs on media for the musician noticed and circulated it throughout the organization. There’s a chance Swift read it.
I’m also proud of the article’s title.
In 1974, music critic Jon Landau saw Bruce Springsteen perform in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In his review of the show, Landau uttered the now seminal line: “I saw rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” He was right. Landau has been Springsteen’s manager for the last 43 years.
In my 2013 article, I wrote:
If you suspend personal circumstances, I’m not sure how you can watch Swift perform and not walk away claiming you have seen the modern-day iteration of Springsteen, the performer, the show(wo)man, the performer…
When she talks about being a freshman in high school, falling in love, breaking up or the notion that no matter who you are or what you accomplish there’s always someone “bullying” you, her words resonate with her audience as much (as)… Springsteen’s have with his. That’s only sacrilege to Springsteen fans unable or unwilling to step away from themselves and consider how another set relates to the experience of music.
A couple of months later, I asked:
Does Taylor Swift change course and follow in Bruce Springsteen’s footsteps?
Seven years later and it’s safe to say she has.
Part of me cringes when I compare Taylor Swift to Springsteen. I don’t want to offend her or her fans. But it was tough to not make the comparison in 2013 and it’s even tougher now.
I love my hometown as much as Motown, I love SoCal
And you know I love Springsteen, faded blue jeans, Tennessee whiskey
— Taylor Swift, London Boy
I went to see Swift in Los Angeles on the 2013–14 Red Tour. I was so awestruck by what I witnessed the first night that I bought a ticket on StubHub to go a second night. Outside of Springsteen, I have never been hit harder emotionally or more impressed by a live performance.
The similarities between the two from songwriting and stage command standpoints seemed obvious to me. At the time, very few people agreed. For every person who liked my article, at least a dozen ridiculed me.
I could spend all day talking about it, but the turn Swift took with the surprise release of Folklore last week channels Springsteen. Bruce did something similar with 1982’s Nebraska, shifting from the brink of ultimate rock and roll stardom (Born In The USA hit in 1984) to introspective folk singer/songwriter.
More recently, after spending a couple of years playing four-hour, full throttle rock shows Springsteen shifted to Broadway for a couple of years. He followed that with 2019’s Western Stars, which Rolling Stone described as…
a lushly orchestrated set of throwback, country-tinged folk pop that, despite some resemblance to previous works like Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad, sounds like little else in his catalog. Frankly, its sheen is off-putting at first. But once you settle in, the set reveals some of Springsteen’s most beguiling work ever.
Looking back, Swift’s excellent 2019 release, Lover, was the perfect transition between 2017’s all-out pop explosion, Reputation, and 2020’s Folklore.
In reality, Taylor Swift has always been a singer/songwriter. It’s in her blood. It forms her roots. She just has never been bestowed with the sacred title by large segments of obnoxious music snobs. But now, even the most indie types among us are starting to crack. Because Folklore gives them no choice.
Do yourself a favor, go back in Swift’s catalog.
Read the lyrics. The rhetorical economy and vivid imagery. Taking the most complex feelings and emotions and encapsulating them with the perfect choice of words. The ability to make it look and sound so easy.
Swift isn’t just in Springsteen’s class. She right there with the other great songwriters of our generation. In fact, she might be the best.
Taylor Swift embodies what makes each of my favorites great. Springsteen’s storytelling. Tom Petty’s straightforwardness. Elliott Smith’s use of metaphor.
Suddenly, that doesn’t sound so crazy.
And, finally, there are considerably fewer haters who are gonna hate.