Taylor Swift: still touring at age 75
I have a secret I must confess. Although my similarities with her end at sharing a first name and a love for New England beaches and the performing arts, I am one of the most enthusiastic contributors to the hype, lore, and ‘Swiftonomics’ of the summer’s most frenzied concert events - Taylor Swift’s Eras summer tour.
My close friend Carmen and I survived the ‘Great Ticketmaster War’ and scored seats for the Atlanta leg of the tour. Adorned in a sequined red blazer (IYKYK) that I had searched for and bought months before this show, I would stand in impractical shoes at Mercedes Benz stadium, shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Swifties, clutching a lavender haze cocktail, screaming every lyric of every song for the 3-plus hour show.
In many ways, the Eras tour, which has brought out thousands of female Swift fanatics willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for a coveted concert ticket, has been part of a summer that has reminded us of the power of the female consumer, a #BillionGirlSummer. Besides Swift, we have Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, the first movie directed by a woman to gross $1 billion, and Beyonce’s Renaissance tour, which has been so commercially successful that it has literally altered the local economies of the cities she has performed in. These phenomena are all reminders of a truism that AgeLab director Dr. Joe Coughlin loves to emphasize: “the future [and let’s add, the present] is female.”
But women are not the only demographic group having a moment in our pop culture zeitgeist. Two months later, after the Swift concert, I found myself in the Phillies baseball stadium with a very different crowd. I had joined my aunt and uncle, members of the Baby Boomer generation, at a Dead and Company show on their final tour. In between stories from my relatives about their first Grateful Dead concerts as teens in the 1970s, and swaying shoulder to shoulder with my concert-going peers (though this time in much more practical footwear) soaking up Bob Weir jams, I had an absurd thought: “Are Swifties the Deadheads of the future?”
The indefatigable Dead are just one example of aging stars staying in the limelight. Martha Stewart took over the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 81. Parrotheads around the globe are mourning in local meetups as singer-songwriter (and entertainment billionaire) Jimmy Buffet died just days ago. Bachelor Nation announced the fall premiere of The Golden Bachelor, featuring 71-year-old widow Gerry Turner as the lead. Slowly but surely, longevity is changing who we see represented on our screens, in our magazines, and in our algorithms.
People are living longer, which is both shifting the audience that consumes entertainment and the average age of the entertainers who provide it. For an industry historically known to be youth-obsessed and deeply ageist, I’m curious how our conversations about aging will change as more of our favorite entertainers and celebrities stay active into their 70s and beyond. Just the other day, I listened to a podcast of young twenty-somethings eagerly discuss their anticipation of ‘senior Bachelor,’ and whether it would augur a new era of ‘wholesomeness’ in romance reality television or lack the necessary drama to keep viewers watching. Hopefully, the initial reviews of the series will cling onto something more original than stereotypes about wise, cute old people – it’s likely that the older ladies vying for Gerry’s affections will be as cunning as their youthful counterparts. I’m even more hopeful that more entertainment featuring older leads will spark more multigenerational conversations about modern-day aging – what successful aging looks like, and whether Hollywood is doing a good job of depicting it accurately and humanely.
A lot of this might be just a reflection of my own aging – and what I hope for my older self. There will be other successful young artists to succeed Taylor, serving as cultural guideposts for successive generations. My 30-something self was the target market for the Eras Tour of today, but I suspect my cohort will keep following Swift well into our later lives.
I imagine what it would be like to see Taylor Swift touring as a 75-year-old woman (with myself, the audience member, also a 75-year-old woman). How would our expectations of her change? Our conversations about her? What we think she’s supposed to dance like, look like, act like, sing about? I’ll report back in forty years to let you know how she is re-shaping the narrative and our expectations. One thing I know for sure? Sparkles will never go out of style.