Entertainment

Marijke Rowland: Impressive Taylor Swift wears her fame well

Taylor Swift performs on ABC's “Good Morning America” in Times Square in New York last month.
Taylor Swift performs on ABC's “Good Morning America” in Times Square in New York last month. The Associated Press

You may have heard of this week’s subject: Taylor Swift.

In fact, you’ve probably been inundated with Taylor Swift for quite some time now. At only 24 years old, she is a household name, singing superstar and tabloid mainstay. Heck, even your grandma has heard of Taylor Swift and probably plans to buy you her new CD for Christmas.

In short, she is everywhere. And I say that’s a good thing.

While the concept of good role models and bad role models is a tired one with many inherent issues, it’s easy to see that Swift is one of the good ones. You could argue this point with intimate minutia about her dating life that you really shouldn’t know about in the first place – if you really wanted to. But what I find most impressive about Swift is how she has grown under the unblinking eye of the public spotlight from a prodigiously talented teenager to a confident young woman.

She is a celebrity who enjoys being a celebrity and is, to put it simply, good at it.

Of course, we never know what rich and/or tortured inner lives celebrities really lead. But Swift’s publicity game up to this point has been impeccable. While her unendingly perky persona might rub some folks the wrong way (you know who you are, you miserable grouches), you can’t argue with her results.

T-Swizzle (as her fans – known as Swifties – call her) manages to seem like an accessible Everygirl while actually being quite the opposite. A professional performer by age 14, a country star by age 16 and now an international superstar who gets us all feeling 22.

Stories of her kindnesses toward her fans and friends have become legend. She stops on a jog to pose in two young girls’ photo shoots. She skips the MTV Europe Music Awards to see her little brother perform in a play at Notre Dame, to the delight of a surprised audience and cast. And she invites a Waterford 12-year-old girl and her family into her home with a few hundred other fans hand-picked to hear her new album in advance as part of the “1989” Secret Sessions.

Fans revel in her self-proclaimed dorkiness – as dorky as a nearly 6-foot-tall, blond, impossibly gorgeous superstar can be. Though if you’ve ever seen her dance in her seat at an awards show, that’s more than you might expect. There’s even a Tumblr blog dedicated to her awkward dancing. Still, she seems to take it all in stride – along with the often considerably less gracious comments on her past dating life.

Is it really possible for a multimillionaire to be this nice? Who knows, but Swift is sure making it look simple.

Along the way, she also has shown us that our perception of a celebrity can evolve along with the subject. She started out as a teen country singer and has turned into a pop music powerhouse. At 19, she could have become just another pop-culture footnote after Kanye West famously crashed the MTV VMA stage and told her, “Imma let you finish” before going on a rant about how Beyoncé deserved the award.

But instead of becoming a zeitgeist casualty, she gave us the rare opportunity of seeing a young woman come into herself. She has gone from famously not considering herself a feminist to now embracing the term. And she has forged unlikely friendships with everyone from “Girls” creator and star Lena Dunham to teenage Kiwi singing phenom Lorde.

All I know is seven years ago, I interviewed a then-17-year-old singer named Taylor Swift for this paper, as she was about to perform at the Kat Country Listener Appreciation Concert. And she was articulate and charming beyond her years even then. When asked then about going from being a high school student to a country star, she already had a clear concept of her fame:

“(A)t the end of the day, you are not a business transaction; you are nothing more than a person. If you keep people around you who knew you when you were a little kid, they will realize when you are changing. They’ll tell you you are being a jerk. You have to realize that you are no different than anyone else, it’s just a different kind of job.”

And when asked how she felt about sustaining a career well past her teens, Swift was equally levelheaded:

“It is all about your attitude and making the right choices. I think to succeed over a long period of time, you have to not reflect back on the success you have so far. For the second album, I am going to make it like the first album. I am going to put out eight songs I think can be singles, not just three or four. Record companies want you to only put three or four great songs on an album, with the rest filler, so not to waste a single. But I want to put out great songs for people. As long as I am making people as happy as they are making me, I will feel like I’ve accomplished something.”

So, go ahead, tell your grandma to get you something else for the holidays. Because you definitely should already have that new Taylor Swift album.

What? Turns out she is a pretty good singer, too.

Elsewhere around the Scene:

Speaking of music, popular indie record seller Rasputin Music seems set to open a store in Modesto.

Late last month, the Bay Area-based company posted a picture on its Facebook page of the Modesto Arch with the Rasputin logo floating above it accompanied by the words: “Coming Soon.” The music store has locations in Berkeley, San Francisco, Fresno and Stockton, among others.

A business license search showed the record store will be at 3250 Dale Road in the same north Modesto shopping center as Trader Joe’s. There’s no official word yet on when it will open, but – given how few record shops Modesto has now – “coming soon” sounds good to me.

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on Twitter @marijkerowland.

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