‘Karma is a God’: Taylor Swift and my granddaughter

By Basab Dasgupta 

The name “Taylor Swift” has been floating around in the entertainment news for the past twelve years or so but I was never a fan of her music nor her personality. She has a massive following among teenagers and preteen girls. I had seen similar fanfare in the past with stars like Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus. It is not my cup of tea.

Do not get me wrong. I am neither a sexist guy nor some old fellow who only listens to Classic Rock. I am a huge fan of Madonna, Shakira, Adele, Cher, Gwenn Stefani and other female artists. Swift’s pop music seems literally like pop – soda pop. It is sweet, artificially bubbly with no nutritional value and temporarily quenches a thirst but could become addictive. I ignored all the hoopla about her sold-out concerts and her breaking all records on the music charts.

On the personality front she appears like a store mannequin – pretty but plastic-like and expressionless. I am also not impressed by her reported fondness for writing songs about ex-boyfriends after a breakup. It seems like she breaks up with someone just so that she can write a song about him and somehow strike a chord with her fans.

All that changed when my twelve years old granddaughter Sheela recently visited me. She is a self-confessed “Swiftie” – a Bona fide TS fan. She bugged me the entire time as she was here to play TS songs, either through Amazon Alexa or tuning my car radio to a Taylor Swift dominated radio station despite my reluctance and ridicule.

She always sang along and knew the lyrics of every song. Even her singing did not move me. However, the lyrics of one song “Karma” caught my attention. Here is how part of it goes, “Karma is my boyfriend, Karma is a God, Karma is the breeze in my hair on the weekend, Karma’s a relaxing thought”. Frankly, I was baffled. What does she even mean, especially when her fans like Sheela probably do not even know the meaning of “Karma”?

A friend of mine alerted me to the rumors that Taylor Swift has been promoting witchcraft and Satanism in her tours. I even wondered if Taylor Swift could cast a spell on the young minds of her fans much like the Pied Piper of Hamelin. She certainly has the ability to mobilize her army of fans behind any cause she favors. She had feuds with other celebrity singers like Miley Cyrus and Katie Perry and her fans fully supported her.

She is still single at age 34 and not a good role model for pre-teen girls judging by how frequently she changes boyfriends. I made my daughter aware of my concerns. Fortunately, she is also not a fan of TS and assured me that she will not allow Sheela’s Taylor Swift-mania to go too far.

News about Taylor Swift kept coming in from everywhere. She was the commencement speaker at NYU last year. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau tweeted a message not too long ago addressed directly to Taylor Swift urging her to include Canada in her upcoming “Eras” tour, stating that “please do not let it be another cruel summer”, borrowing the title “Cruel Summer” of one of Taylor Swift’s songs.

Joe Garcia, a convicted murderer, wrote an article in the New Yorker magazine describing how Taylor Swift’s music helped him survive his prison term. Arizona State University will offer a course, titled “Psychology of Taylor Swift”. Economists are now taking note of TS concert tours: massive consumer spending associated with Taylor Swift and her tours could be credited for saving our economy or causing inflation. Most recently Taylor Swift has been named “the person of the year (2023)” by the Time magazine.

Taylor Swift was in Los Angeles in early August of 2023, as part of her “Eras” tour. There were not one, not two but six back-to-back sold-out concerts at the SoFi stadium, not too far from my home with a seating capacity of 100,000. Fans came from all over western U.S. by paying an average of $1300 for the trip and some without tickets just to hang out outside the stadium or buy memorabilia. It was a spectacle. 

The Eras tour will continue throughout the year and spill into next year with venues in Europe and Canada. Recently, a movie version of the Eras tour has been released in countries world-wide including India. The total earnings from the tour and the movie are expected to be well in the billions.

What impressed me was not how much she would earn from the tour but how much she donated to her staff members already. According to multiple reports, she wrote bonus checks to all her staff for a total amount of $55 million. The truck drivers who spend countless hours on the road carrying all the paraphernalia for the tour and away from their families were reportedly rewarded with $100,000 each.

This is unheard of. I have followed Michael Jackson, Madonna, Shakira etc and their enormous earnings from tours and their generous contributions to various charities, but to show gratitude to fellow members who make such tours possible speaks volumes of her compassion and team spirit.

I respect Sheela’s musical taste even though she is a little girl; she is an accomplished piano and viola player who often performs in various school events. I now pay attention to TS’s activities. I even researched the lyrics of Sheela’s favorite song “Karma”. The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia: “In the lyrics of ‘Karma’, Swift proclaims how her ‘good karma’ brought her good things in life, as opposed to her detractors”. If Taylor Swift is trying to present profound concepts such as “karma” in a simple catchy way for her young fans1, perhaps there is some merit in the lyrics.

I am still not a Taylor Swift fan, but I thank her for the opportunity to form a special bond with my granddaughter. Now every time I talk to her over the phone, we discuss Taylor Swift. She tells me the latest news about her, such as her remaking the “1989” album. 

We even reached a compromise: we both like the video of a live performance of the song “Ghost Town” by my favorite star Madonna and Taylor Swift together where Madonna is the vocalist and TS is happy just to play the guitar alongside.

Recently I have found another reason to like TS and bond with Sheela: her budding romance with the (American) football player Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs (KCC). I am a big fan of the two-time Super Bowl champion KCC; the duo combo of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and wide receiver Kelce is a lethal weapon for the team. It is a joy to watch Kelce acrobatically catching the ball no matter how Mahomes throws it. The entire National Football League is buzzing with the news of this romance and these days one cannot watch a KCC game without the cameras focusing on Taylor Swift in the guest box every time Kelce makes a catch.

I hope that their romance lasts, they get married, and Sheela and I can live happily ever after talking about them.

Basab Dasgupta has a doctorate in physics from University of Wisconsin and worked with Sony as Vice President of an operating division. Retired, he now lives in San Clemente, CA.

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times 

Images courtesy of USA Today and Provided

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