The film “The Eras Tour” reveals Taylor Swift's priorities

The film “The Eras Tour” reveals Taylor Swift's priorities

Understanding the Taylor Swift phenomenon fully seems like an impossible mission for those outside of her enormous audience of listeners and adoring fans. You can invoke a lost in translation generational or gender, diametrically opposed musical tastes, a certain allergy to the recurring themes of his discography and his public figure.

In 2024 though Approaching Taylor Swift with a shrug of the shoulders is a lightheartedness that is difficult to condone. For more than 15 years, inside and outside the music industry, this artist has been denying it with facts and numbers how many trying to declassify it with an “I'ma let you finish!”, as Kanye West did in 2009, opening a feud with the then 19-year-old country pop singer that continued with provocative video clips and piqued replies. Considering how the rapper and TIMES' “Person of the Year 2023” is doing today, it can be said that Swift has proven that it is best not to underestimate her. “

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” in numbers

Letting only the numbers speak, the metrics of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” – the film, which finally arrives on the platforms: starting tomorrow it is on Disney+ – they are all titanic, starting from the duration: 3 solid hours, complete with 3 extra songs previously not seen at the cinema. Speaking of box office, since Swift has also become relevant in the film industry for a long time: Grossing $261 million worldwide for the film's release in theaters, 180 million raised are in the United States, over 1 million euros in Italy.
Beyoncé, another artist with a gargantuan impact and following, comes to our aid to better understand the exceptional nature of these numbers.

In fact, even the film based on his last mega concert, .“Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” it was released in theaters in 2023, settling on an almost identical running time to that of Swift. Worldwide gross: 43 million dollars.

It's certainly no mystery how dedicated, passionate, loyal Taylor Swift's fanbase is to her idol, enough to overshadow that of Queen Bey. We ourselves told you when it arrived in theaters in Italy what it means to see a film about Taylor Swift in a cinema full of Swifties, the singer's fans.
The impression is that, however, beyond more or less well-known musical merits and a public persona so cumbersome as to sometimes be annoying, Taylor Swift is approached by those who don't know her and follow her as a sort of mystical mystery of music for women and teenagers. Categories which, already evaluated individually, tend not to inspire such deep and accurate analyses. Let alone when combined in what for many is a deadly combination of elements that make understanding, identification, even just the open-mindedness necessary to try to understand what is behind it impossible.

Because yes, Taylor Swift is undoubtedly the hit artist of the moment, object of such a level of obsession that it can only be temporary and immanent. At the same time, however, she is a singer who has grown in terms of numbers, audience and respect along with her musical career, taking risks and making sometimes courageous choices, shaping a decidedly contemporary meta-narrative approach to musical storytelling. There are already at least two generations who, as adults, will be nostalgic for his music, they will have him as a reference artist of their youth.

In fact, Swift also managed to attract a generation following hers – Gen Z – without losing the previous one, slowly cementing an image as a queer icon that was unsuspected until a few years ago, considering the genre and the context in which she moved his first steps. Taylor Swift unites people, generations and groups who often struggle to communicate with each other, who besides his music have almost no common ground on a cultural and musical level.

The narrative of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” began on social media

What three hours of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” tell us is true how do you keep such a vast, diverse but still targeted audience together. A quick look at the footage makes it clear that inside American arenas there were largely women, girls and girls.

Another interesting aspect is finally see the clean and refined version of the concert last year's event after having somehow immediately narrated in an amateur, bootleg manner. For months, TikTok, Reels and videos of all kinds have bounced around on social media, so much so that it was almost alienating to see the non-grained, non-vertical version, not shot from afar and edited to other music of moments such as: Taylor diving into a trapdoor and the graphics of the enormous stage show her swimming away towards the main stage, the changes of clothes, the daughters of those fathers protagonists of the ironic TikToks who showed them, dozens of them, outside the arenas waiting for their children to accompany them back At home.

After having attended the concert via super zoom of the latest generation mobile phones operated by those who had a seat in the last row of the last ring of giant and packed arenas, after seeing teenagers gathered outside the stadiums to listen to the concert and cry to the songs of the heart heard (but not seen) live, there's already an underlying familiarity with “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.” This time, however, we are sitting in the front row to enjoy the show. There is no other way to define it: it will be interesting to see how such a pharaonic show will be adapted into the European and world stages of the tour, how it will be adapted to San Siro in terms of duration, choreography, special effects.

The first thing you notice when seeing “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is how is an operation of high production level, despite presenting a fairly traditional show. Principal photography took place during the Los Angeles leg of the US tour. The last stage, in the mammoth SoFi Stadium, 70240 seats sold out. An impressive sight (perhaps not as impressive as Metallica, who squeezed 78 thousand people into the same arena), perfect for the film format.

The film does not arrive at this moment by chance. Not only have we reached the peak of the artist's popularity (humanly it is difficult to imagine what other peaks he can climb), but “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is the first major recap of her career. She declares it, after a couple of songs: 17 years of career, one era at a time, recovering in a mega concert all the records that the pandemic prevented her from taking on tour. The concept of “musical eras” is not new but in the Swiftian world it is extremely codified: the concert is in fact divided into chapters clearly marked by the graphics, the costumes, the sets set up on stage. There is space for the high school Taylor, for her poisonous snake era in “Reputation”, for the more romantic and contemplative woman of “Folklore” and “Midnights”.

It's impressive here too how much of his discography can be gathered, by osmosis from the surrounding circumstances. I say this without an ounce of snobbery, having musical tastes that are anything but refined or niche. As a non-listener of Taylor Swift (because she simply “doesn't get to me”), my vision of her was a crescendo of vaguely familiar songs, notes, catchphrases, pieces that I could hum following the subtitle.

In short, the repertoire is there, it's even surprising how mix many different shades of influences on a fundamentally pop basis. The staging faithfully reflects the continuous musical recalibration of one's genre.

There are various moments of intimate performance, with only the acoustic guitar or the piano, then a large group of dancers arrives and the singer performs some essential but well-orchestrated choreography, there are the blazes of rock fire and the actual fireworks, platforms that rise from the stage, trap doors from which Swift appears and disappears. There's even a sort of acting performance with Taylor looking across the table at one of the many men sung in her songs, one of the ones who doesn't understand her.

Another interesting aspect of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” that is especially noticeable when keeping an eye on the subtitles with all the song lyrics is how, thematically, is almost monotonous. There are songs about self-affirmation, GLAAD is mentioned in a sort of queer pop anthem “You Need to Calm Down”, but in the vast majority the concert is a very long parade of romantic relationships. They are told from the initial spark, from the desire reciprocated or not with different intensities, up to inevitable breakups, resentments, returns, denials. What “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” does beautifully is don't let this slight monothematic fixation weigh on you, alternating the moods of the songs and the type of performance that accompanies them on stage.

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” deliberately seeks mediocrity

At the level of artistic performance, this film is an operation tailor-made for its recipients. Despite the opulence of the staging, much of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” the camera follows the singer's face, body and gestures closely, sometimes even sacrificing the remarkable visual impact of the sets and dance numbers. Even the public and his reactions rarely appear, in an era like ours in which the popularity of reality and talent shows has made it almost obligatory a continuous cut to the audience's reaction, has now become part of the grammar and emotional manipulation of the filmic narration of music.

There directed by Sam Wrench (one who has already curated concert films for artists such as Lizzo and Billie Eilish) is aimed at visually restore that degree of intimacy desired by the artist's fandom, who is often talked about and commented on as a friend, a confidante, a family member. A depersonalized arena of lights and shadowy figures, the continuous following of Taylor's face gives precisely this sensation: of being there, in the most expensive places, closely sharing a highly prepared, highly choreographed, highly rehearsed and perfectly executed event.

The comparison with “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” makes the purpose of this show clear. Beyoncé has for years been credited and presented as an all-round conceptual artist, with a deep and complex narrative and messages for musical and historical references, primarily to African-American culture, but ranging across the artistic history of various disciplines. Taylor Swift almost looks like a schoolgirl in comparison at the choreographic level, at the props, at Beyoncé's vocal performance, as well as Sam Wrench's direction pales in comparison to the refinement of a film product that Queen Bey also wanted to direct herself.

However, a ranking of value misses the point, as often happens when two successful women as such are pitted against each other, in search of a single queen. Taylor Swift has all the means – economic, musical, artistic, productive – to put on a conceptual, refined, highly elaborate show. Her research, however, is the opposite: “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” has the objective of tell a 34 year old woman to an audience that starts from her peers and reaches up to little girls and must keep the various Taylors together, from the teenage one to the thirty-year-old one. It is a successful product because it fully hits the target, adapting many different types of pop performances (the choreographed one with the dance troupe, the intimate one with the piano, the sexy and self-confident womanizer one) always finding a sort of visual and sound medium, basically accessible and fun, never provocative, unifying.

“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is the celebration of an unattainable diva who however presents herself to her fans as her usual friend, accessible, spontaneous, genuine in her telling of herself. This is no small feat for a show that is quite the opposite: pharaonic and exclusive (in terms of ticket prices and availability), written and rehearsed to the millimetre, constructed in its narrative like a celebratory biopic.

“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” will be available in an extended version on Disney+ starting March 15, 2024.