Taylor Swift

Who am I to Taylor Swift? A fan reflection

Aidan Bernales

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Who am I to Taylor Swift? A fan reflection

David Castuciano/Rappler

'The Eras Tour has proven time and time again it is a game of economics. Most relationships with these celebrities are. It is purely transactional, trading good music for silver coins.'

I felt a unique dread when I realized that I was not going to Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour.

If you are my friend, you know all too well how Taylor Swift has a trademark on my life. I remember the very moment I first saw her face. I was seven years old, waking up to the sound of the Windows login, and my tita started playing “Love Story” on YouTube. 

Ever since then, I’ve been curating a soundtrack of my life with her music. I know all her songs, even the ones she’s discarded. I’ve been present in every album announcement since Red (stolen version). I’ve even won trivia nights for knowing everything about her childhood, her cryptic liner notes, and the people she wrote her songs about. You know those friendship bracelets with those obscure lyric acronyms? Not only can I decode what they are, but I can tell you the very minute of the song in which the line was said. 

She has always been a superstar in my mind, but now she has reached a level of fame previously unimaginable. I go as far as to suggest that she is the most famous musical celebrity ever recorded in the history of the world, given that technology and media are within virtually everyone’s reach now. I feel like no music-listening person has ever seriously uttered the sentence, “Who’s Taylor Swift, anyway?”

But it wasn’t like that back then. At least, not for me. 

I remember singing “Love Story” for a talent show in the first grade and being laughed at for not changing the pronouns while I sang. (Sue me, I wanted to be the princess.) I remember jumping to each elongated “we” in her song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” at my fourth grade Christmas party, and the boys in the class looked at me with pure, unbridled disgust. When everyone turned against her in 2017, I was one of the few people who defended her honor to my friends when they were proud to say she was “over.” Even in college, a few months before the Eras Tour started, I remember scrolling through my Twitter in public and someone came up to me and said, “Your whole life is really about Taylor Swift? That’s so sad.”

It just hurts that those same people who would have mocked me — maybe even did — are the very ones going to the concert celebrating her discography.

There’s this warped idea in my head that there are degrees of fandom that have to be met before going to the Eras Tour. You should have liked Taylor Swift since you were a child, had her as your top artist on Spotify since 2017, written poems based on her songs, and made a TikTok account analyzing her literary brilliance before any of the universities did.

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If it was based on that, sure, I would be front row receiving the “22” hat. But it’s not. The Eras Tour has proven time and time again it is a game of economics. Most relationships with these celebrities are. It is purely transactional, trading good music for silver coins.

I had to take in that harsh realization when an acquaintance of mine begrudgingly told me she was going to the tour. Her friend bought too many tickets and decided to give some away. 

“I told my friend, ‘Why would I go to watch that white woman?’” she said.

She made it seem like she was only going out of obligation. She even offered to give me the friendship bracelets she’d receive on the tour, calling them “dirty.”

When I watched the Eras Tour movie in the cinema, a stranger gave me a friendship bracelet. I’ve kept it with me ever since, daydreaming about someday making my own bracelets and giving it to excited fans on the tour.

Ever since that conversation, I got to thinking: Are these people more important to Taylor Swift than me? People who spend almost P100,000 on her concert tickets, tour outfits, flights, and accommodations — do they hold a special place in Taylor’s heart?

Then, it made me wonder: Who am I to Taylor Swift?

The answer: Nobody. I am nothing to Taylor Swift. I’m not even stardust in her orbit. Just one contributor to the 26 billion Spotify streams she got last year. 

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In this digital day and age, there’s this craving to be part of something bigger. If you are someone big, you are going to have people who kiss the ground you walk on. It’s even more dangerous when your empire is built on relatability — feelings of love, friendship, heartbreak, jealousy, and distrust. 

When you’ve woven a tapestry so universal that it becomes a mirror for some people, you’re bound to be seen as their friend, sometimes their only one. I’ve always found it miraculous that music can do that, but it also creates an illusory tie. Invisible strings that some people, myself included, mistake as real. 

The more important question I then venture to ask is not who am I to Taylor Swift but who is Taylor Swift to me?

Yes, I’m not her friend, but her music has made me gain new friends. The first conversations I’ve had with the best people I’ve ever met started with, “Do you like Taylor Swift?” I’ve dedicated her songs to my friends, my enemies, my crushes, and my partners. During the pandemic, folklore and evermore were my lifeboats. I used her songs to both escape and confront my deepest, darkest feelings. 

Taylor Swift even helped me discover my passion for writing. I remember my first poetry journal had my favorite lyrics of hers on the first page. I was only 10 years old.

Taylor Swift has been my mentor, my guide, my siren, and my inspiration for 14 years now. One spectacular concert in a foreign country will never mean as much to me as how her music has made my life what it is today.

Now when people ask me if I’m going to the tour, I don’t call fouls or say I deserve to be there. I just tell them I’ll go to her next one. And if I can’t, I’ll go to the one after that. 

I tell them that I’m willing to wait until all the hype of the Eras Tour, all the quirky TikToks, and all my friends’ Instagram posts are long gone. 

I’m willing to wait for when she’s 60 years old and I can finally afford to attend her show. I imagine she’ll be on stage, the same girl with her guitar that I fell in love with when I was seven, and I’ll have the time of my life with her. – Rappler.com

Aidan Bernales is a junior communications student at the Ateneo de Manila University.

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