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Karma is a Cat, Taylor is a Phenomenon

How 2023 became the era of Taylor Swift and her beloved Swifties.

By Entertainment, Featured

A drawing of Taylor Swift performing in her pink "Lover" body suit. Music notes surround her and to the left are two large friendship bracelets.

Illustration by Aditi Singh.

Whether you love her or hate her, Taylor Swift is all anyone seems to be able to talk about. In the past year, Taylor Swift released a studio album with an extended cut, went on a 146-date (so far), record-breaking tour, re-recorded one (soon-to-be two) of her
previous albums, and, most recently, is set to release a tour documentary in theaters. Coverage of Swift has nonstop on social media since last October; all this just might cement 2023 as The Year of Taylor Swift.

Throughout the year, Swifties (the nickname for Swift’s fan base) have been by her side, adding to the media frenzy around her. Swifties may have even changed the culture between fans and musical artists forever.

It Started at ‘Midnight’

Last October, Swift released “Midnights,” her 10th studio album, including four music videos. In the weeks leading up to Oct. 21, Swifties ran rampant on every social media platform to spread the news of the upcoming album. This craze, called “Midnights’ Mayhem,” was largely fueled by the singer herself posting teasers to her own social media about the tracks of the upcoming album. Swift has a long history of putting Easter eggs in her songs, music videos, and social media posts.

Turning the clock to midnight, the album’s lead single “Anti-Hero” spent eight weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the best-selling song of 2022. “Midnights” started the Taylor Swift craze, but it was merely the first stop on the road for Swifites.

She’s in Her Tour ‘Era’

The “Eras” tour became a snapshot of modern-day American girlhood. Initially, Swift announced 56 dates across the U.S. which later became 146 dates across five continents. The “Eras” tour was record-smashing, grossing $1 billion in March of 2024 and there were an estimated 72,459 people at each show. Swift made headlines for paying her truck drivers $56 million in total bonuses, with some members of her crew getting $100,000 individual bonuses.

She also made headlines when the Swifites set the record for most hotel rooms ever booked in Chicago. Swift’s show in Seattle caused the seismic activity of a 2.3 magnitude earthquake during “Shake It Off,” and Santa Clara officially renamed themselves Swiftie Clara for two days during Swift’s “Eras” tour dates in the city.

Swifties flocked to social media to show off their elaborate outfits that they spent weeks — and in some cases months — making. Her fans also showed off their collections of friendship bracelets that they made to swap with other concert-goers at their “Eras”
tour date in honor of the lyric, “Make the friendship bracelets’’ from one of the songs off of “Midnights.” On top of the bracelets and outfits, Swifties created a number of chants to yell during certain songs in the “Eras” setlist.

During the “Eras” tour, Swift played two songs each night that weren’t part of the regular setlist. Fans made color-coded charts, dresses, blankets, and more to track these songs, marking off which ones she played each night.

The “Eras” tour was (and still is) its own moment in time

And They Said ‘Speak Now’

On July 7, in the midst of the “Eras” Tour, Swift released her re-recorded album “Speak Now” (first released in 2010) as a part of her project of re-recording her first six albums. (She’s doing this because she was unable to purchase the masters to her records, and is now re-recording these first six albums to fully own them herself.)

“Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” is her third re-recording, which didn’t surprise Swifties: they guessed as much based on Easter eggs Swift left on social media and elsewhere. The album came with six ‘“From the Vault”, previously unreleased tracks written
during the time of the original album’s release. These “Vault” tracks included two musical features: Fall Out Boy on “Electric Touch” and Hayley Williams on “Castles Crumbling.”

On the day of the release of “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version),” musician and ex of Swift, John Mayer posted a message to Instagram saying, “Please be kind” during his show in Boulder, Colorado — likely in reference to Swift’s song “Dear John,” which was about
their relationship. The album re-recordings have a history of bringing up Swift’s previous relationships, both good and bad. For example, “All Too Well (Ten Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version),” off the “Red” re-recording led to a long period of Swifties harassing Jake Gyllenhaal.

“Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” being released during the “Eras” Tour led to the album having a few special moments on the tour itself, including Swift live-debuting the music video for “I Can See You” in the middle of the set, as well as the live debut of multiple new “Vault” tracks during the tour. “Speak Now” has not only managed to stay relevant (despite being 13 years old) but also managed to have the biggest first week of 2023 of any pop album. “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” held its weight as a re-recording and set the bar high for those to follow.

Take the Moment and Taste it

Following the end of the first leg of the “Eras” Tour, there’s still nothing but content for the Swifties. During her last night at SoFi Stadium in California, Swift announced the re-recording of her fifth album, “1989” (also heavily theorized by Swifties). The album, including new “Vault” tracks, will be released on Oct. 27, 2023.

Swift is also releasing a concert documentary of the “Eras” Tour, on Oct. 13. The concert film will be released directly from Swift’s team to AMC Theaters, and the film has already set an AMC record with $65 million in first day ticket sales. The “Eras” Tour concert film is on track to become the highest-grossing concert film of all time.

She Can Still Make the Whole Place Shimmer

Outside of everything she released this year, Swift was the biggest topic across social media. She tops the chart as the number one most searched person of 2023. There’s even a reporter at Gannett, the U.S.’s largest newspaper chain, whose entire job is to report on Taylor Swift and to “identify why the pop star’s influence only expands, and what her fan base stands
for in pop culture.”

At the most recent MTV Video Music Awards, Swift won nine awards — almost every single award she was nominated for. The VMAs are based on fan votes, which means the Swifties were responsible for the sweep. The VMAs even had a cameraman devoted solely to filming Swift during the show.

This constant surveillance also extends to the singer’s real life, which can be a double-edged sword, as all fan bases can have issues with the “bad,” or even “crazy” fans. At the end of August, Swifties swarmed a New Jersey bar where Swift was spotted.

The Swifites have changed the modern concert. At non-Taylor Swift concerts, people are making and swapping artist related bracelets, making elaborate outfits specifically for the one concert, and creating many tour-specific chants. The Swifites seem to have as much influence over fandoms as the singer has in real life.

No fan base is a monolith, there will always be the obsessive, sometimes overly intense fan that takes it too far, but for every one of those fans there is another who shows their admiration for the singer in less harmful ways. Swifties and Taylor Swift have a complicated relationship, but at the end of it all, the fuel for the Swifties fire seems to be their love for the singer, and it (mostly) shows in their actions.


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