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I Saw Taylor Swift and Tori Amos in One Week, And I Have Some Thoughts.
This jaded Gen X-er is an unapologetic Swiftie. Here's why.
I didn’t think I would survive the return to reality after my amazing breadcrumb trail explorations in Milwaukee and Iowa. But immediately upon my return, I had two epic concerts to sustain me, and they effectively served as the maternal hedonism vines that I’ve come to rely on this summer. You know, those vines of pleasure or self-care to grab onto when you’re swinging over a bog of stress and despair?
Whenever I talk about the shows, especially The Eras Tour, I non-facetiously report that I was “changed on a cellular level.” Every time we encounter people sporting Eras merch, they solemnly concur: attending that concert transformed them, as well, and it was worth every penny.
I feel like people may be taken aback by my unabashed adoration for Taylor Swift and her music. I get it; I’m sort of a mouthy, counterculture, feminist mom in her forties, which may seem like an unlikely fit. After all, I came of age weeping to the Indigo Girls, seething with silent rage to Fiona Apple, and dreamy-dancing to Phish in crappy apartments. Maybe I’m not your average Swiftie. I’ve always enjoyed a secret solo dance party to “Love Story” or “Shake it Off,” in the kitchen while cooking dinner, but it wasn’t until the back-to-back releases of Folklore and Evermore during the pandemic that I became an irreversible, hard core fan. Those albums changed me.
At almost-seventeen and almost-twelve, my girls may be more traditional fans, but the fact is, the three of us are equally obsessed with her—perhaps for different reasons—and her music has alchemized our mother-daughter relationship. I know, that seems a little “out there,” but I’ve already been fairly transparent with my woo tendencies.
It’s difficult for me to put into words what it was like to go to this concert with my daughters. All three of us have referred to it as “the best night of our lives,” with only a tinge of hyperbole. I’ve been around a hell of a lot longer than they have, but I’d say it was easily a Top Ten life experience. When she came on stage, my oldest and I wept for a solid ten minutes. I can’t explain why, but I just couldn’t stop crying.
As I subtly disclosed (read: buried at the very end) in last week’s column, we are going through a major family transition right now. (Are you guys cool with me saying “column” instead of blog post or newsletter? It feels like it has way more street cred.) Something about our daily Taylor playlist has felt like a comforting and familiar soundtrack during a difficult period in our lives; we feel soothed by her music, inspired by her ambition and integrity, moved by her artistry. Through her lyrics, we feel seen and—to drop an overused word—empowered.
Going to that concert at the apex of a disorienting and dysregulating summer felt like a gift, a catharsis, a renewal. I know, I know, I’m going overboard with the waxing poetic here, but it was true.
To top it off, we went with one of my college best friends and her teenage daughter. We were a pack of mothers and daughters, each dressed like our favorite Era (two Folklore (me!), two Reputation, and one Lover), arms laden with friendship bracelets for trading.
We waited two hours in the merch line while the girls ran around exchanging bracelets and making new friends. We sang our hearts out and danced and cried and screamed when we heard the first strains of our favorite songs. After we left the show, well after 11:30 pm, we got lost trying to find our car, one of the girls was shoeless (don’t ask), and some of our more, um, intense personalities traits came out during the stress. But it didn’t matter; nothing could dampen the fact that we were utterly transformed by seeing our actual favorite musician put on the best show I have ever seen.
And then a short three days later, I got to see Tori Amos at Red Rocks with a good friend and two total strangers. On the heels of a trip back in time to visit my 1990s self, seeing Tori live was pretty perfect timing. Did she do the thing where she plays two pianos at once? She sure the fuck did. Was she more adorable and ethereal than I ever even knew? Mmmmhmmm. Did I transcend my physical body while she sang “Crucify” and “Silent All These Years?” You guys know the answer.
Now stick with me; here’s where I want to build a bridge between these two incredible artists. My teenage daughter was babysitting for a couple who were also at the Red Rocks Tori show that night. They came home gushing about how incredible the show was, what a powerful artist she is, how much her music means to them, and my daughter chimed in with, “That’s totally how I felt about the Taylor Swift concert Friday.”
The mom immediately dismissed her connection with, “Taylor Swift is nothing like Tori Amos.” The parents—roughly my age—went on and on while my daughter silently fumed. First of all, she hadn’t been trying to paint a musical parallel between the artists; she was merely trying to say, “Hey, Taylor is to me what Tori is to you!” But second of all, as a music elitist who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I think it’s short-sighted to dismiss Taylor Swift’s contribution to music when contrasted to Tori Amos.
Yes, Taylor is more mainstream. Tori’s music has typically attracted a more angsty, deep-thinking, revolutionary, anti-establishment sort of crowd. But I think it’s a mistake to discount a) the nuanced and subversive impact Taylor Swift has had politically in addition to her influence as a strong female artist within the patriarchal microcosm of the music industry; b) her incredible gift as a songwriter and lyricist; and c) her advocacy and feminism in general.
Both Taylor Swift and Tori Amos are brilliant performers, thoughtful songwriters, and talented musicians. Both have evolved musically and personally throughout their careers when perhaps fans would rather they stay the same.
The Eras tour was a brilliantly unapologetic and transparent nod to celebrating our own reinvention and transformation over time. So many women feel pulled to keep themselves in a box, remain the same, dim their lights, and stay the course, generally in order to maintain the status quo, keep those around them comfortable, and preserve their people-pleasing status.
Taylor Swift’s choice to weave all incarnations of herself as a person and artist into one masterful evening is perhaps the main reason I was so in love with the Eras tour.
So yes, I will defend the value of her music and my status as a Swiftie forever and ever, even when contrasted with a musical great like Tori Amos. But also? I was pisssed off that someone tried to undervalue my daughter’s adoration of her favorite musician; please, let’s not do that to one another. As a music therapist, I feel uniquely qualified to say that music is a deeply personal, extraordinarily powerful medium in which to find meaning, better understand ourselves, and transcend our current situations. So let’s not trash each other’s heroes. I mean, unless they are really, really terrible. Like Blink 182. There, I said it. Fight me. 😉
I’ll leave you with a video from the show, in which Taylor recites the lyrics to my absolute favorite song of hers, Seven, from Folklore, during a set change. This song has become the anthem to the reclamation of my own wildness, a memorial to forgotten parts being remembered, and hearing her read it as poetry that night brought me to tears.
I’ll have an addendum to this post (I mean, column. 😂) for my paid subscribers later this week, so stay tuned; I mean, just think: my favorite T Swift songs, and why, more photos and videos. . . it’s not to be missed! As I said last week, I am unbelievably grateful for ALL my free and paid subscribers; I am beginning to use Substack as an avenue to support myself and my daughters while I work on my memoir, and the paid Substack subscriptions have been greatly appreciated. Many thanks for considering a paid subscription, however small, if you have the means! I’m paddling under the surface to bring you fun bonuses to make it worth your while! 😉 And stick around below for more updates on what I’ve got going on these days…
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P.S. Other fun things in the works!
Catch our latest episode of the Mother Plus Podcast here, where we talk about what we think women *really* need right now. Spoiler alerts: It’s *not* more self-improvement and information overload!
You can also listen to my super short solo mini-episode where I read my Breadcrumbs Across the Midwest chronicles from July. Sometimes listening is easier than reading, amiright? 12 minute episode here.
Don’t miss our FIRST EVER in-person event, a 4-hour mini retreat filled with grounding, sound healing, spa treatments, delicious food, and a healthy dose of creativity and connection! Coming September 23rd, learn all about it and sign up here!
Space is limited, and we have a steep early bird discount for the next ten days only.