HOUSTON — Taylor Swift stood in front of the thousands of lucky wristband holders in Club Nomadic, a makeshift warehouse that AT&T and DirecTV built just for holding concerts in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Swift pulled the strap of her acoustic guitar over her head and then wiped the sweat off her face with a towel, joking that she wasn’t going to throw it to the crowd because “you don’t want it; trust me.” The reaching hands and screams suggested otherwise.
“So I wrote this song when I was, like, 16,” Swift said, dropping the towel at her feet. “Would it be OK if I played it for you?”
The room lost its collective mind as she started to play that song about cheerleaders and bleachers and being the only one who understands the guy she’s into. I rolled my eyes. Of course it’s OK, Taylor. That’s why we’re all in this warehouse!
While she still has legions of die-hard fans, for some people (including yours truly) Swift’s wide-eyed, “isn’t this all amazing and who can believe it?!” shtick is stale. She’s been one of the biggest pop stars in the world for close to a decade. The narrative of the naive ingenue is hard to swallow at this point.
Then she started to play. And all of a sudden, I was dancing in the cavernous room as my special AT&T-sponsored, color-changing, light-up wristbands flickered on my wrists along with the thousands of other wristbands on the thousands of other wrists. I realized I knew all the words. As much as Swift drives me crazy, I had to hand it to her: She puts on a good show.
And it hit me: Taylor Swift is the Patriots of music. Look at all the reasons why:
1. The way I felt watching Swift in concert is how I imagine people who can’t stand the Pats fans might feel when they watch the team play. Swift and the Pats are both insufferable, and both are really good at doing their jobs. They command attention, move with halted grace, and pull off impressive plays like headbanging while playing the piano or winning four Super Bowls in 13 years.
2. Swift and the Patriots have both been involved in a number of scandals and have public enemies. The Patriots were labeled cheaters for Spygate and Deflategate. Swift has been through numerous celebrity breakups and was labeled a “snake” for her beef with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. The NFL basted the Patriots with Brady’s four-game suspension. Kardashian blasted Swift by posting a recorded phone call between Swift and West. Swift’s response was: “I would like to be excluded from this narrative.”
3. You know who else wants to be excluded from narratives? The Patriots. Bill Belichick’s version of narrative exclusion is simply to repeat the name of the team the Patriots are facing next when he doesn’t want to answer a question about something unrelated to football. He famously said “We’re on to Cincinnati” over and over to a reporter a few years ago and recently just repeated, “Seattle, Seattle, Seattle,” when asked about the letter of support he wrote to President Donald Trump before the election.
4. Both the singer and the team have also come under fire recently for refusing to denounce Trump. While Swift doesn’t have the same overt ties to the man that the Patriots do, she has been criticized for labeling herself a feminist and then not going public with who she’d vote for, even though one of the candidates (who is now the leader of the free world) bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy.”
5. It’s really not fun to be on the wrong side of either’s obsessive fan base on social media (RIP my Twitter mentions).
6. Swift and the Patriots both sell out football stadiums. They are also both in Houston right now.
7. Taylor’s long list of white ex-boyfriends is like the Patriots’ long list of white wide receivers over the years. (In fact, I’m surprised Swift hasn’t dated one yet). Put ‘em all in a lineup together, and it would be hard to differentiate between a Swift ex and one of Brady’s pass catchers. Danny Amendola and Jake Gyllenhaal? Basically the same person.
8. They both rake in a buttload of money.
9. Neither appear to be going away anytime soon.