Why is Taylor Swift so big? She ‘wants it more than anyone’

Mark Savage,Music correspondent

Getty Images Taylor Swift in LyonGetty Images

Taylor Swift will play the 98th, 99th and 100th shows of the Eras Tour in Scotland this weekend

The most lucrative concert tour in music history lands in the UK on Friday, when Taylor Swift plays the first of three nights at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium.

The star will take to the stage shortly after 19:00 BST, playing to almost 73,000 fans, who’ve come from all over the world to see her career-spanning, three-hour show.

It will be the first of 17 UK dates, culminating in a record-breaking eight-night run at London’s Wembley Stadium.

By then, she will have played to almost 1.2 million UK fans, with an average ticket price of £206.

grey placeholderGetty Images Taylor Swift in LyonGetty Images

The singer’s last show was in rain-soaked Lyon, France, on Monday night

Swift arrives in Scotland as the biggest musical phenomenon of her era, achieving a cultural weight not seen since the heyday of Madonna and Michael Jackson in the 1980s.

Her 152-date stadium tour is on pace to make more than $2 billion (£1.5 billion) by the time it wraps up in Canada this December. And that’s not including merchandise sales, or the $261 million (£204 million) her tour film made at the box office last year.

Local economies say they’ve received a “Taylor boost” of tens of millions of pounds when her show rolls into town; and one show in Seattle was said to have generated seismic activity equivalent to a 2.3 magnitude earthquake,

To mark her arrival in Edinburgh, trams have been decorated with her picture, and Loch Tay has been renamed “Loch Tay Tay” for the weekend.

With all the excitement, it’s easy to forget that the last time she played in the UK, on 2018’s Reputation tour, stadiums failed to sell out. According to one report, the opening night in Manchester had 18,000 empty seats.

So what’s changed?

grey placeholderTaylor Swift facts graphic - 152 dates across 22 countries and 11 million tickets sold

Her pandemic era albums Folklore and Evermore were a significant turning point – with the subtle, indie-folk arrangements winning over critics and fans who had previously been unimpressed by her country and pop hits.

The rise of TikTok introduced her to a new audience, while the on-going project of re-recording her first six albums rejuvenated her older hits.

“She is just one of those rare timeless artists who gets it right every time,” says fellow pop star Raye. “She’s an absolute powerhouse.”

“She’s such a fantastic role model,” adds Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall.

“She’s got the resilience and the chutzpah to be the boss of an enormous machine, employing thousands of people. To be able to handle that and handle what’s coming at her publicly, you’ve just got to be a one-off.”

Lana Del Rey, who duetted with Swift on the 2022 song Snow On The Beach, has another theory about the star’s dominance.

“She wants it,” the singer told BBC News.

“She’s told me so many times that she wants it more than anyone. And how amazing – she’s getting exactly what she wants.

“She’s driven, and I think it’s really paid off.”

grey placeholderKaty Ellis Katy Ellis in character as Taylor SwiftKaty Ellis

Taylor Swift impersonator Katy Ellis says she can hear herself in the star’s songs

For fans, it’s the personal connection that makes Swift so special. They hear themselves in her lyrics, as she navigates love, illness, treacherous friendships, and finding your place in the world.

“To see someone flourish like Taylor has, it gives hope to the rest of us,” one young fan told me at a playback for Swift’s latest album, The Tortured Poets Department, in April.

“You have this amazingly powerful woman, who goes through it ten-fold because of the media – but she is just continually growing,” added another. “She’s such an inspiration.”

The sentiment is echoed by Katy Ellis, who has been performing as a Taylor Swift tribute act for more than a decade.

“I never get sick of singing the songs,” she says. “Depending on your mood, you can go, ‘Oh, I relate to this one today’. And I think that’s why she’s so popular.”

Swift is aware that relatability is her USP. In concert, she continually uses pronouns like “we” and “us” when she addresses the crowd.

And every tour stop gets two unique songs, tailored to the local crowd, during the star’s acoustic set. In Scotland, fans are already theorising she’ll play Guilty As Sin, as it references local band The Blue Nile.

Unlike Beyoncé and Madonna’s recent tours, where the driving thesis seemed to be, “cast your eyes upon these divine beings, in whose presence you must bow down”, the Eras tour is more like a celebration: “Hey you guys, we did this together!”

“I thought to myself ‘How can I keep our connection going?’ So I decided to make and release as many albums as humanly possible,” Swift told the audience at California’s SoFi Stadium last year.

“People around me were saying… ‘What are you going to do – a tour where you just play all the music, and it’s just three and and a half hours long?’

“And I was like, ‘Yeah, well, that’s exactly what I’m doing. It’s called the Eras Tour.’”

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