Pinch me, I’m going to the Eras Tour.
That was my first reaction after surviving the Great War Versus Ticketmaster. A week later, my mom asked why so many go to such great lengths for tickets to Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. Is it the appeal of singing songs with thousands of others, or the prospect of exchanging bracelets with strangers, and those strangers becoming friends? Over a million attendees so far probably have a million answers, but most would certainly mention how this tour is a trip down memory lane.
Memory runs two ways in Taylor's latest concerts. Onstage, she recalls the time she composed and recorded these tracks. In singing and screaming along, Swifties return to the moments of our lives that have been bookmarked by these songs. The title of the Eras Tour refers to the memories explored by the artist, but as I prepare for the show I will attend, I find myself going down Memory Lane Number 2.
Lover came out a few weeks into my sophomore year. I spent release week debating The Archer with my college roommate because we found ourselves reacting to the track in different ways, mirroring social media. Some called the track underproduced or rushed — it is obviously structurally simpler to many tracks we’ve heard. Unlike Cruel Summer, where percussion claims the foreground, The Archer doesn’t have a drastic chorus-to-bridge shift. Against Cornelia Street’s synth and backing vocals, The Archer feels thin.
However, that lack of noise directs the listener’s attention to the lyrics, its particular mix of feelings accompanying every step I took in school. Stress was spelled out in the repetition of, “They see right through me.” Pre-exam worries took shape in, “The room is on fire, invisible smoke.” Solace came in the last line, “You could stay.” As soon as I identified a part of my life that would never leave, the smoke cleared up and college was just college again.
Surprisingly, I am excited to hear Look What You Made Me Do live. Its lyric video premiered in the middle of my last high school field trip. This was horrible for my nerves on two counts. One: I was freezing due to the bus aircon. Two: the single was Taylor’s first announcement after a social media blackout, so the fandom did not know what to expect. Hands shaking, I turned my mobile data on, opened up YouTube, and told anyone who would listen that the premiere was almost here.
More than any other artist, Taylor Swift has been the soundtrack of my youth. Her albums demarcate my own eras: from childhood, going into my teenage years, and entering adulthood.
When the song came on, I thought the references were much less veiled than anything Taylor had done before. I thought I knew everything she was alluding to. But what I didn’t know was that my girlhood was fading fast, that Look What You Made Me Do would be the opening song for an entirely new era of me taking responsibility for things that I made myself do. Graduating from high school forced me to own my choices: the college course I applied for, the campus I enrolled in, and the friendships that I chose to maintain.
One incredibly fun component of following the Eras Tour is seeing all sorts of Surprise Song Trackers. These record each tour date’s surprise songs: two tracks that are not on the setlist, one played on piano and the other on guitar. It’s an acoustic set with 60,000 people focused on one point of the stage. My dream surprise song combo is two songs I heard around the fourth grade.
For the piano track, I am praying to hear Innocent. This song contained a narrative I did not understand at once. As classmates took sides on the Swift-West VMA scandal of 2009, I carried math exercise books believing that there was a simple solution. One character was a bully, the other a victim. But listening to Innocent and watching the fallout for the last 13 years taught me to look at what happens after conflict ensues. In grade school barkada tiffs or group work squabbles, I began to see the need to ask forgiveness or give it even when it hasn’t been requested.
Crazier is not yet on any Taylor Swift album, so hoping to hear it live is a bit of a stretch. Still, I am crossing my fingers that Taylor will pick up her guitar and grin like the show has reached its curveball. This song marked my era of slam books and sleepovers, back when I thought anything was possible. I first heard it in 2009, shocked as Taylor came on screen in Hannah Montana: The Movie. Cheese popcorn was forgotten as I thought, “Hey, I know her! That’s the Love Story girl!”
Of course, no Taylor tracklist of mine would ever exclude the legend. The first time I tried penmanship exercises in ink, Love Story came blaring through the radio. I was seven, so my mind was on Roman numerals and sentence construction. Romantic love was not anywhere on my radar yet. I was just amazed by the physical beauty of the music video. I gushed over the silk gowns, the ballroom choreography, the huge castle, and the really pretty horse. This song was an instant favorite. I printed the lyrics and practiced them for talent shows. I begged Dad to take me horse riding. Three years later, curiosity would give way and I would pick up my first copy of Romeo and Juliet. Ten years later, I would write a research paper about the music video’s narrative value.
More than any other artist, Taylor Swift has been the soundtrack of my youth. Her albums demarcate my own eras: from childhood, going into my teenage years, and entering adulthood. I hear “Fearless” and return to the first time I held a pen. “Red” plays over the grocery speakers and I’m meeting my first love all over again. I see “folklore” on my bookshelf and flashback to the best part of my lockdown. In five months, I will be accompanying Taylor on her trip down memory lane and I will be making a trip down my own. Until then, I’ll be counting the days, one friendship bracelet at a time.