"Losing her audio, but never her nerve!" writes Jon Caramanica in the Times about the recent Taylor Swift concert in Newark at the huge Prudential Center. The rock critic, as I suppose he is called, then added of this superstar -- "Ms. Swift's voice is stronger
than it's ever been, and sturdier ... She stands atop a tall peak with potential missteps in every direction..." He also refers to: "One of the great pop songs of recent months "I Knew You Were Trouble," and Ms. Swift's most blatant statement about her increasingly evanescent relationship to country. It's a ferocious, thumping song, and it's already done more for introducing dub-step to new ears and mainstreaming it than all the Electric Daisy Carnivals put together."
What the hell that last sentence means, I can't begin to know. I do know this: I, a great fancier of pop music and also of the classic era of popular songs, went to Taylor's concert. It boasted what seemed to be thousands of screaming little, middle-aged and big girls all waving their arms, jumping up and down and boosting their "I love you" electric signs in the air. And while I don't even imagine what " dub-step" means, I want to say that having seen many of the greats in concert -- the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Madonna, and on and on... I loved Taylor Swift and what she has done with her 22-or-23 year life. I didn't even notice that the audio had failed as I was already absorbed in her daring show which requires the poise of Cleopatra as queen, as well as Cleopatra falling out of the rug before Caesar. (How can you tell when Audio has failed, when the audience is already hysterically so loud and screaming?)
Anyway, a friend asked me was I now a Taylor Swift "groupie?!" I can say now I am.
I don't see how anyone could meet Taylor and her mother and father and her closely knit group of supporters without loving all of them. They are simply nice, gracious and loving human beings, as amazed at her being a top pop success, winning the Grammy, having created her own
show, her own life, her own songs, playing at least 15 difficult instruments, and retaining her cool. Maybe she is mining, as songs and show, her personal post teenage romantic failures? Is she supposed to sing somebody else's songs and work from somebody else's life?
When I met Taylor and Andrea Finlay (mother) and Scott Kingsley Swift (father) backstage in the green area, she appeared in a demure red dress which showed off her perfect figure. She had a long written slogan running from her left bicep down her arm -- lyrics of a song which she
applies every performance with a marking pen. It brings her luck or it brings the songwriter luck, says she. Her "handwriting", which looks like a tattoo, is beautiful and perfect, much like Taylor. She is affectionate and friendly and simple, down to earth.
Then when she appears onstage, glancing affectionately around at her screaming audience, and you are told she "produced" all this from her own imagination, talent and control -- well, it's as if Lana Turner could sing and told Louis B. Mayer she'd design her own movie. There are at least 24, maybe more, of the big red trucks parked outside. They carry her multi-costume changes, sound equipment, acrobatic stuff, musicians and dancing girls and boys around the world on the Red Tour. Eventually, they will be seen even in New Zealand.
As the show started with an exotic hot drum motif, daddy Scott whispered in my ear, "Believe me, the show will pick up after this opening. You'll see."
He went on ragging and stage whispering the same sort of joke to me and it was quite funny as the show starts on a high note and seldom lags. Scott is so proud of Taylor that he, too, becomes part of her show. And her mother told me that after the demanding performance, Taylor usually regroups with the cast in the green room too, they order pizza in for everybody and discuss how it went.
I've met and known a lot of music stars from Michael Jackson and Madonna on. Daunting giants. Perhaps because of their decades-long legendary status. None of them seem quite as human to me, with as much effortless showmanship as Taylor. But then, I am yet to meet Lady Gaga.
- Too bad that Ashley Judd was talked out of running for the Kentucky Senate seat now occupied by Mitch McConnell. Judd has always projected an intelligent presence onscreen, and after hearing her speak about real issues, I saw that she was more than mere presence.
For one thing, it would have been fun. Pundits such as Chris Matthews would have had a ball. Another reason? Well -- the more women the better in the Senate. Those close to Ashley believe she will eventually run, after she has established herself more firmly in Kentucky. (She was born there, but only recently bought a home in that state.)
And if she acts again, in the interim, she will have to choose her roles with care. Nothing that can come back to bite her during a campaign.
- So, Madonna is not on the Forbes list as a new billionaire. The story that she'd made that exclusive club turned out to be bogus. The poor thing is still just a multi-multi-multi millionaire. She'll probably hit the billion mark with her next concert tour -- each one is, incredibly, more popular than the last! (But the pop press always says she is "over.")
Another clever businesswoman might not have cracked the billionaire's club, but former supermodel-turned entrepreneur Kathy Ireland is also wallowing in many millions. She was featured on the cover of Forbes, and now she's on the cover of Forbes in China. The magazine chose her as the keynote speaker at the most recent Forbes international CEO conference in Dubai. She often appears on TV as a super-reliable source and commentator on business, particularly women-in-business. She is the number one personality-based brand in the world.
And to think 25 years ago, all anybody thought about Kathy Ireland was that she was a knockout and they hoped she saved her modeling cash because models tend to have short-lived careers.
Kathy has a soft voice and gentle persona. But she carries a big smart business stick!
- "There's just something old-fashioned about him. His closest people have always been his been closest people. He met them in middle school, high school, a few years after college. And I think that's lovely. I don't know if I have any secrets for you. There are no secrets."
That's actress/director/writer Jennifer Westfeldt talking about her guy, Mad Men's Jon Hamm, for Rolling Stone's Josh Ells.
Hamm, who is on the cover of Rolling Stone, disagrees with his love of 15 years. "Oh, there are secrets. But they're going to stay secret." Hamm, who has only one more year on Mad Men after this season, will be a free agent, and I bet, like George Clooney and Jeff Bridges, the best is yet to come -- once Don Draper takes his final drink, smokes his last cigarette and makes his ultimate deal!