Taylor Swift Releases 1989 World Tour Documentary: 5 Things We Learned
Best of 2015 (Behind the Scenes): How Taylor Swift got everyone to guest star on her ‘1989’ tour.
Whether you made it to one of ‘s 85 shows during her world tour or not, we all spent a good portion of 2015 talking about it, awing over the never-ending list of celebrity guests and wondering how in the world she pulled off such a tremendous feat. The “Welcome to New York” singer bent over backwards catering her myriad visitors’ wishes during the recently concluded “1989” tour, giving them free rein over logistics as minute as what color the audience members’ light-up wristbands would glow during the performance. “The first thing that I ask them is, ‘What color do you want the audience to be?'” Swift revealed in a new preview of her “1989 World Tour” documentary, via ABC News. “I didn’t want them to come and donate their time and their energy to be on my stage and not have it feel like I cared enough to give them anything that made it feel like huge,” she continued. “I just wanted us to go all out.” The famous guests, among them Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler, Miranda Lambert and Justin Timberlake, even got to choose which lift would hoist them to the stage and whether pyrotechnics would come into play. Well, thanks to her just-released documentary—which dropped on Apple Music Sunday morning—we get a little glimpse behind-the-scenes of her incredibly successful show and the things that went into planning it. I haven’t spent too much time with the soundtrack itself, but I was fortunate enough to catch a matinee about a week into its Broadway run, and I was blown away—somehow it really is as good and revolutionary as everyone says. The two-hour film directed by Jonas Akerlund (who also worked on Jay Z and Beyoncé’s On the Run Tour film) documents her Nov. 28 show in Sydney, Australia at the AZN Stadium, but also answers so many of our burning questions. 1.
Rehearsal footage interspersed with concert clips shows Swift pantomiming a slap in the face with Alanis Morissette during “You Oughta Know” and “booty-shaking” with Ricky Martin for his “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” “I’d walk the artist along the stage,” she said in the film preview. “I’d say, ‘I think maybe we should go here at this point in the song; maybe we should do this at this point in the song’ … and we would just decide together what the performance should look like.” The “Blank Space” singer wrapped up her grueling seven-month tour — which spanned 53 cities in 11 different countries — in Melbourne, Australia last Saturday, a day before her 26th birthday. And that’s why, as part of our year-end coverage, we’re revisiting our piece from October, which revealed just how those appearances came together. Mad Max will roar back out of the apocalypse while Mad Men rides off into the sunset, rock’s Antichrist Superstar and hip-hop’s Yeezus will rise again. Taylor Swift’s 1989 tour was the toast of the summer, and the production — which has grossed $152.6 million since May, according to Billboard — will continue into December.
Chris is right to point out that the word crossover doesn’t have the meaning it once did on the radio, where every format is a swirl of different genre influences and we barely blink an eye when, say, Kendrick Lamar spits a verse on a Taylor Swift song. In general, the tour was all about having fun with her friends: “I feel like this tour and this album and this phase of my life have been about inclusivity. But it wasn’t just the beloved songs and countless crop tops that kept us talking all season: It was the endless stream of high-profile guests, including such heavyweights as Alanis Morissette, Mick Jagger, and Ellen DeGeneres. “Everyone who has walked the catwalk at one of the shows was already there just to see the show,” Swift recently told the AP. With Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda is bringing hip-hop to a truly unexpected setting, and, through inarguable virtuosity, damn near forcing less open-minded audience members to acknowledge, once and for all, that rapping is an art.
When I saw Hamilton, the audience was almost entirely (pardon my French) very old white people, and I jotted down some great overheard gems in the line to leave the theater. In OMI’s case, it was requested that he sing “Cheerleader.” (“It’s natural because it’s my first single,” he says.) Swift is focused on the show, but she never neglects her guests. “She was very sweet and very aware of [‘Fight Song’],” says Rachel Platten, who sang with the star after playing a preshow concert outside of the tour’s Pittsburgh stop. Songs like “Love Myself” and “Hell Nos and Headphones” (an uninspired introvert anthem ripped very obviously from the playbook of newcomer Alessia Cara, who I’ll get to in a minute) demonstrate the complicated and kinda-depressing fact that self-acceptance, outsiderness, and yes, #feminism, were some of the year’s trendiest and easily sellable pop commodities.
I want to learn how to, like, make a good drink,” she says as the credits roll. “Maybe I’ll just eat carbs and nothing else for the next couple of months. Even for pros, the experience is surreal: “Sixty thousand is my biggest crowd,” says Andy Grammer. “I’ll remember sold-out Soldier Field forever.” Count Nelly, who has performed with Swift on her last three tours, among her squad. “Taylor’s like a little sister, I’ve known her almost her whole career,” he says. “It was my pleasure. They also demonstrate the fact that if you know the right people (*cough* Taylor Swift *cough*), it is not that hard to launch an entire pop career out of nowhere and get a single to Top 40 radio. When Swift learned that LeBlanc and his 11-year-old daughter — a huge fan — were in attendance at her Aug. 22 Staples Center performance in Los Angeles, she invited him on stage, according to his rep.
It is, heaven help us, #squad-pop. 2015 was the year that feminism went from a defiant, niche political stance to an ideological product to be packaged, trademarked, SEO-tagged, clicked, and sold. Model Andreja Pejíc made history this year as the first transgender model to be profiled in Vogue — and Swift is among her many admirers. “We have a mutual friend, and Taylor found out I was coming to the show with him in Chicago,” Pejíc says. “She called him, and her team also contacted my agency, publicist, and my mother to see if I would be down to walk the runway for ‘Style.’ I was in the shower when I got the news and almost slipped and broke my neck!” I wish that Merriam-Webster also picked a word of the year to be banished from the language forever, because I do not think I am the only one who would have voted for squad. Now officially scrubbed of its hip-hop connotations, in 2015 “squad” came to be synonymous with Taylor Swift’s social circle of famous and conventionally gorgeous women, as well as a certain type of performative friendship and a watered-down strain of vague, fourth-wave feminism that seems to have something to do with … knowing a lot of models. If I sound mad, trust that I don’t hate it as much as Camille Paglia, who recently called Swift a “Nazi Barbie” in a truly inane and confusingly argued Hollywood Reporter essay.
On the one hand, it’s great that the year’s most high-profile tour gave such a humungous platform to woman-on-woman friendship and female achievement. Carl, I’m not quite sure we’ve yet seen the “backlash” to last year’s female-dominant year, but we’re perhaps seeing the moment right before it, when trendy but hollow expressions of “female empowerment” have become the status quo. In John Seabrook’s book The Song Machine, he talks about the former radio programmer Guy Zapoleon’s theory that pop musical trends move in three stages: “pure pop,” which gives way to “the doldrums,” which are then shaken up by “the extremes” of direct backlash.
From “Love Myself” to Taylor Swift’s ridiculous, model-studded “Bad Blood” video, I’m afraid to say this year felt like the moment when pop-feminism started inching toward the doldrums. “Do girl squads signal the blossoming of an idealistic new feminism,” Paglia asked in one of her essay’s rare moments of lucidity, “where empowering solidarity will replace mean-girl competitiveness?” Perhaps, but they also bring about their own kind of trouble and inclusiveness—does being in a #squad mean always being camera-ready, or feeling inferior if you don’t share your squadmates’ body type? (Lena Dunham seemed visibly uncomfortable on the 1989 stage, and said afterward, “I don’t think standing next to, like, three supermodels or so is anything even the most confident woman needs to do.”) This is not to say that genuine expressions of female strength were absent from music this year—not at all. I just think they were lurking somewhere beneath the hashtags, in the songs that explored the messy complexities of women’s experiences more than empty, soulless sloganeering.
I found this in Alessia Cara’s wonderful and terrifically self-possessed single “Here,” a soulful screed against sham friends that values the quality of companions over quantity. “But really I would rather be at home all by myself,” she sings, “Not in this room with people who don’t even care about my wellbeing.” It’s the anti-squad anthem, in a way (even if Cara did make an inevitable appearance on Taylor Swift’s stage). Norwegian experimentalist Jenny Hval dealt with this directly on her corrosive and brilliant Apocalypse, Girl, especially on a song in which she sings with an unconvinced sneer, “You say I’m free now, the battle is over/ And feminism’s over, and socialism’s over, yeah/ I can consume what I want now.” And back in the mainstream, one of my favorite pop albums this year was made by a woman who’s fine admitting she isn’t exactly tight with some of Taylor’s besties anymore, Demi Lovato, whose fiery Confident swung on a pendulum between candid moments of weakness and triumphant rebounds. Lovato is a fearless vocalist because she’s not afraid to let you hear her work—there’s a struggle in her voice that makes her songs so emotionally affecting. Sexual curiosity and body-positivity aren’t fads or trends in a song like the slick beach-jam “Cool for the Summer,” they’re convincingly felt states of mind. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé’s super-collabo “Feelin’ Myself,” (which technically came out on Minaj’s Pinkprint last year but was released as a single in 2015).
It’s a female empowerment anthem with enough personality and precision to transcend the trope (and, unlike Hailee Steinfeld, it owns up to its masturbation jokes).
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