December 6, 2022 - 9:02 pm
This is a story about how enchanting song lyrics brought together a cantankerous veteran journalist and someone who thinks I came from another planet: my 13-year-old daughter, Vanessa.
Granted, we had help from Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen.
Vanessa is an old soul who has put her photographic memory to the maximum benefit of society by memorizing lyrics written by one Taylor Alison Swift. Until recently, I knew little about the 32-year-old singer-songwriter from West Reading, Pa., who went to Nashville at 14 to find her voice — and who, I am told by the two “Swifties” under my roof (Vanessa and her older sister, Jacqui), wound up the second coming.
In the past 16 years, Swift has sold more than 114 million albums worldwide. For this, she earns what Vanessa calls “mad stacks.” As of 2019, Swift had an estimated net worth of $360 million. That figure would be even higher if she had the rights to the master recordings of her first few albums. Those are retained by her first record label despite Swift’s legal efforts to get them back.
The upcoming “Eras” concert tour — which includes more than 50 shows in the United States in 2023 — sold out in minutes.
“The Swifties are going to crash Ticketmaster,” Vanessa told me the day before tickets went on sale. She was right. Ticketmaster underestimated the demand for presale offerings and ran out of tickets for the general public.
A Senate antitrust panel led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar promises hearings into the ticketing industry.
Vanessa and Jacqui have their tickets in hand, and they’re more excited than I was when I got into Harvard. This, I imagine, must be how the World War II generation felt when they saw Elvis Presley on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
I asked my 13-year-old to school me on Taylormania. What’s the secret to Swift’s global popularity?
“She’s not trying to make her life seem perfect,” Vanessa said. “She isn’t afraid to write about her struggles. She fought for her music, while people were praying for her downfall.”
What do you personally like about Swift?
“She loves her fans and appreciates them,” she said. “All of her songs are really well thought out. Not everyone does that. She creates both good lyrics and good music. That’s rare.”
And — speaking as a writer — how important do you think it is to her success that she writes her own songs?
“It sets her apart,” Vanessa said. “Her music is relatable for a lot of people. I can’t find other artists who write and sing about the things she writes about — mental illness, miscarriages, death, loneliness.”
For Swift, a recurring subject is heartbreak. When I asked my daughter for a favorite lyric, she zeroed in on this line from “My Tears Ricochet”: “And I can go anywhere I want, anywhere I want. Just not home. And you can aim for my heart, go for blood. But you would still miss me in your bones.”
Nice. My turn. I grabbed my laptop, opened YouTube and summoned my version of the second coming. As someone who was a teenager in the 1980s, I know what it’s like to have a musician grab you by the soul and go on to produce more than 400 songs in a catalogue that later sells for an estimated $550 million.
“Look, mija,” I told Vanessa. “This song is called ‘Thunder Road,’ and the singer-songwriter is named Bruce Springsteen.”
The lyrics charge toward us like a ’65 Mustang. “The screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways. Like a vision, she dances across the porch as the radio plays Roy Orbison singing ‘For the Lonely.’ Hey, that’s me, and I want you only.”
Vanessa smiled. Maybe Dad is not so square after all. And I got a new appreciation for the writing ability of her musical hero. You know who agrees? The Boss.
During an interview with SiriusXM radio host Howard Stern, the 73-year-old Springsteen revealed that his daughter is a Swift fan “to the max.” He recalled the time she played a Swift record for him. When Stern asked the rock ’n’ roll icon what he thought of the record, Springsteen declared: “It was good.” He described Swift as “super talented” and “a tremendous writer.”
Meanwhile, Vanessa is out to convert me into a Swiftie. This old dog may not learn new tricks. But I am grateful to a couple of gifted scribes for letting me bond with my little girl. For me, that’s better than impossible-to-get concert tickets.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is email@example.com. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.