City Leaders, Please Stop With the Taylor Swift Pandering Already

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Taylor Swift, a blonde woman in a sparkly dress, smiles on stage holding a microphone
Taylor Swift performs onstage during her Eras Tour stop at Ford Field on June 9 in Detroit. The singer will perform at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara — sorry, Swiftie Clara, on July 28 and 29. (Scott Legato/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

Have you heard? Have you somehow not heard? Are you waking from a six-month-long coma and desperately need someone to explain the phrase “Blink-182 submarine stepson”?

Never mind all that, for Taylor Swift is coming to town. Specifically, the singer’s Eras extravaganza will bring her to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on July 28 and 29, events for which the cheapest ticket on Stubhub is currently $1,200 for a nosebleed seat behind the stage.

In theory, Swift is simply on tour, the way other artists go on tour, in that she is traveling to different cities for musical performances. In practice, her fans crashed Ticketmaster in such a spectacular fashion that it led to a Senate hearing, and what she’s bringing to town is more like a circus put on by a small yet powerful nation-state. This thing has its own infrastructure and jurisdiction; it is its own GDP. As of June, the tour was bringing in an average of $13 million per show, putting it on track for the highest-grossing tour in music history.

The pre-sale debacle that confounded fans trying to buy Taylor Swift tickets last November brought renewed scrutiny to the giant Ticketmaster. (Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)

Given the tour’s impact on local economies — her Chicago and Las Vegas shows were credited with briefly bringing tourism in those cities back to pre-pandemic levels — it makes sense that wherever Swift goes, politicians are stoked. Which is fine. Be stoked! Splurge on good seats, take the whole family, buy a $65 crop top.

But please, I beg of you: Stop with the corny-ass proclamations and city renamings and “honorary mayor” nonsense. I’m not sure which polls you’ve been reading, but none of the ones I’ve seen suggest that residents want their civic leaders to devote time and taxpayer dollars to working up a list of song references with their aides or daughters in a patronizing attempt to get said politician’s name in the news and ultimately appeal to white middle-class voters aged 18–42.


In Tampa, Swift was presented with a key to the city and named mayor for a day. Minneapolis officially became “Swiftie-apolis” for two days, while Nashville unveiled a bench with a plaque in honor of “Taylor Swift Homecoming Weekend.” Several other cities have named new streets for the singer; only New Jersey’s governor has declared that the official state sandwich is now called a Taylor Swift Ham, Egg and Cheese.

Santa Clara and San Francisco have both joined the fray in the past few days, getting in line to kneel in this embarrassing form of genuflection at the Altar of Swift. Santa Clara leaders, as a dozen headlines have told you by now, have temporarily renamed the city “Swiftie Clara” and bestowed upon Swift an honorary mayorship. In San Francisco, Supervisor Matt Dorsey introduced, in a song title-laden speech, a resolution that would make July 28–30 “Taylor Swift Weekend” in the city. I understand that this is supposed to be cringey-cute, but I cannot be alone here: my visceral reaction to said headlines is that they make me want to crawl under my desk and stay there forever.

Look, I get it. The tourism sector is struggling; the mall is closing; my friends back East keep gently asking if the streets are actually filled with zombies ransacking Walgreens. A positive, family-friendly event is coming to town, one that represents a weekend-long cash infusion for our hotels and restaurants, and maybe we should all just feel grateful that Swift would deign to grace our poor, sad-sack city with her Midas touch.

But jeez, can we be grown-ups about it? Is it too much to ask our elected representatives — especially here in this supposed bastion of counterculture — to keep their attention trained on artists closer to home, on discussions about the value of live music and what the city can do to encourage a healthy arts scene that makes people want to come here and spend their money at our venues year-round?

Taylor Swift performs at Levi's Stadium, Aug. 14, 2015.
Taylor Swift performs at Levi’s Stadium, Aug. 14, 2015. (Emma Silvers/KQED)

On the one hand, I’m well aware that I’m veering into Old Man Yells at Cloud territory here; “Taylor Swift Weekend” won’t hurt anyone. On the other, it improves absolutely nothing, except for — maybe? possibly? — the public image of the politicians, each of whom is hoping their proclamation speech goes viral, banking on media outlets reposting it without critique.

And here is where I acknowledge that I think Taylor Swift makes good pop songs, and I like a lot of them. While no one person should possess her current slice of market share — and while this tour illustrates so much of what’s currently broken and toxic about the music industry and perhaps, by extension, with free-market capitalism itself — none of that is exactly her fault. I respect her songwriting and her business acumen and this show is supposed to be impressive.

So if you have a spare $1,200 to $8,000 lying around, by all means, hit that resale ticket market, grab your clear backpack and go. The last time I saw her was in 2015, and instead of addressing the crowd as “Bay Area,” she kept saying stuff like “Thank you, Santa Clara, California!” Will she say “Swiftie Clara” this time? Or “Thank you for the Taylor Swift weekend, San Francisco”? Can someone record it and then we’ll play it on loop on a giant screen for people arriving at SFO? How can we milk this until the next tour?

I’ll be in the fetal position under my desk if anyone has ideas.