Taylor belongs with them

Loyal fans see themselves in Swift's songs

Staff WriterApril 30, 2010 

  • Who: Taylor Swift, Kellie Pickler, Gloriana

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday

    Where: RBC Center, Raleigh

    Tickets: Sold out

    More info: rbccenter.com or 861-2323

Country/pop superstar Taylor Swift is beyond huge right now. Consider what people seem to be willing to do for tickets to her sold-out show in Raleigh.

Local country radio station WQDR/94.7 FM did a contest asking what people would suffer for tickets.

Among the proposals:

Get shot at close range 13 times (in honor of Swift's favorite number) with a paintball gun while wearing nothing but boxers, mask and cup.

Jump out of an airplane - without a parachute.

Legally change name to Taylor Swift.

Live in a car for a week.

Clean WQDR's studio with a toothbrush.

Dress up like Kanye West and get beat up.

Get a butterfly piercing through tongue.

Now that is fan base devotion that any artist would kill to get.

Yet everything is not perfectly rosy in Swift's world. She has seemingly had a charmed career so far, wildly successful on both the country and mainstream pop charts. But Swift suffered a major embarrassment at the Grammy Awards, going dreadfully off-key while singing with Stevie Nicks. Then she was shut out at the recent Academy of Country Music Awards, despite five nominations - providing ammunition for the argument that there is precious little country to her pop.

In some ways, the blows that Swift has endured in recent months endear her to an audience that likes her because she sings from the perspective of a normal, real-life teenager (Swift turned 20 in December). Elizabeth Dize, an 18-year-old college student at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, is enough of a fan to fly back to her old hometown to see Swift's show in Raleigh.

"She basically appeals to me by being an average person," Dize says. "If you listen to her words, they're similar to what people are going through. I don't pay attention to what the news says about her, I just pay attention to her music and what she herself says in interviews."

That sort of loyalty bodes well for Swift's prospects for lingering beyond her initial moment.

"Every generation has its Lisa Lisa, whose job it is to sound like the audience," says Sean Ross, vice president of music and programming for Edison Media research. "I think her audience is pretty forgiving and identifies with her. Maybe they know she sings like they do, which makes her even more identifiable."

Whatever the pundits and critics say, the fan base is still there. Now the question is whether they'll be there next year or whether Swift will turn out to be just this generation's version of New Kids on the Block.

"Taylor perfectly captured a moment for her age group and for those of us who lived through that age," says Lisa McKay, program director for WQDR. "Can she do it again as she grows up? My bet is yes. She is super-grounded, relentlessly disciplined as a songwriter and her fan base is so huge. As she gets older, so will they. Even if she never adds one more fan, she will have a red-hot career."

david.menconi@newsobserver.com or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat or 919-829-4759

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