Benjamin Quinn: It’s time for our popular segment called Headlines, in which we look at some aspect of the headlines from a Christian perspective. In today’s headlines, Dr. Keathley, but we’re going to talk about your favorite — Taylor Swift.
Ken Keathley: Are you a Swiftie?
BQ: I appreciate Taylor Swift. I can’t say that I’m exactly a Swiftie. But here to talk to us about Taylor Swift is a good friend, Faith Steele. Faith is married to Patrick, and they attend Imago Dei Church here in Raleigh. She also works as a faculty support specialist here at Southeastern and is a current MA in Old Testament student, getting ready to graduate. But she’s also a self-proclaimed Swiftie. So, Faith, tell us about Taylor Swift.
Faith Steele: So Taylor Swift is a singer and songwriter. It would be pretty awkward at this point if people don’t really know who she is.
BQ: So were you a fan still when she was still a country singer?
FS: I started liking Taylor Swift in 2010, back when only two albums were out. I mean, for me it was elementary school. She got discovered at the place that everybody in country music gets discovered, the Bluebird Café. She met an aspiring label producer, and he said she was the person he wanted to start out his career with.
KK: She was how old at the time?
FS: I think like 16. And she was writing her own music, which no doubt was part of the attraction there.
BQ: So you’re going to tell us a little bit about the economic impact of her tour. So obviously, when we do podcasts here, we’re talking about faith and culture issues. Taylor Swift is a big part of culture, especially pop culture. But there’s something even deeper that takes place when she shows up for a concert. It makes quite the impact. Talk to us about that.
FS: Taylor just finished her first North American leg of her tour. This is her first big tour since the Pandemic. She was supposed tour during 2020 for a previous album, and she’s had like four albums come out since that time. So this is her Eras Tour, where she’s performing across her discography, but especially these four albums that she hasn’t toured before. She’s only been doing stadium tours, which means that you have to have like 70,000 seats in your stadium for Taylor to come and play at your arena.
BQ: Garth Brooks level. We’re talking Garth Brooks level work. (I just had to mention that in there. You can go ahead.)
FS: Absolutely. It’s also like Super Bowl level, too. So she’s only been going to these bigger cities with these huge stadiums. In order to go see Taylor, you have to travel, especially if you live in smaller states like North Carolina, where she’s not come. So people have traveled hours to go see her across the country. And it’s been a big economic boost in tourism. A lot of people are coming in, they’re staying in hotels and Airbnbs, and seeing the city in preparation for seeing Taylor Swift and her sold-out 70,000 seat stadium tour.
BQ: So the Swiftonomics are pretty deep, right? It’s not only the cost of the ticket, which I’m sure is pretty high, but even hotels, restaurants, all these things are benefiting from this. And so when Taylor comes to town, it’s not as simple as Taylor showed up. Everybody benefited. So the Swiftonomics are good?
BQ: You think she’d come to Bunn, North Carolina? I don’t have a 70,000 stadium.
FS: Yeah, probably not for the tour.
BQ: Okay, so how do we think Christianly about Taylor Swift, her work, her economic impact, and all the rest of it? How do we think about that from a Christian perspective?
FS: I think something that stands out about Taylor in comparison with other celebrities is Taylor has a focus on generosity. One of the things that’s come out after her finishing this North American leg is that she gave $100,000 bonuses to some of her staff. Think about the people who drove the buses carrying all of her equipment and other crew, the people who are setting up and tearing down. She wrote them handwritten thank you notes to give to them at the end of this as a thank you for taking 24 weeks out of their year to work on this tour.
BQ: Yeah, that’s fantastic. We need to hear more of those stories. I’m sure that there are more of them, but that’s encouraging to hear that somebody like Taylor would take the time to write handwritten notes, to be so generous to people who no doubt have been away from their families for quite a long time. I’m curious. I want to ask you another question in just a second, but what was it that attracted you to Taylor’s music early on in the first place?
FS: I think Taylor’s a fantastic lyric writer. She tells stories with her songs. She has beautiful metaphors. It’s just very engaging to listen to. So I’ve just always liked that about Taylor, that she’s telling stories with her songs.
BQ: So one might describe — I’m just going to keep making up words like Swiftonomics here — one might describe her discography, her body of work, as one large polemic against, I don’t know, variety of relationships that she’s had over the years. Could you call her word poplemics of some sort? Kind of pop and polemics blended in there? Would you say that really is the theme or the heartbeat of her work?
KK: Here on the Christ and Culture podcast Is the very first time you heard that word, poplemics.
FS: Well, I would say that Taylor does write more than just polemically. She writes about a variety of relationships. Definitely a lot of them are about romantic relationships, whether those are positive or negative. But she also writes about her family and about the pop industry. So she does have some variety there.
BQ: Will she go back to country at some point?
FS: I really hope so, because she hasn’t re-recorded her debut album yet.
BQ: She really needs to dig back in there for it. Faith, this has been fun. Thank you so much for your thoughts and for your help.