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‘I love when we get crazy’: Swifties revel in ‘joy’ of Taylor Swift’s album release

Taylor Swift devotees find community, connection through fan group

By Kaitlyn Huamani, Los Angeles Times
Published: April 25, 2024, 6:04am

After a week of decoding clues, hunting for Easter eggs and theorizing about the rerelease of “Reputation,” fans of Taylor Swift could finally relax on Saturday.

To celebrate the Friday release of Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department,” which the artist revealed to be a “secret double album” with 15 additional tracks, fans packed a rented-out photo studio in downtown L.A. for a listening party.

The event, organized by the SoCal Swifties Club, drew dozens of women of all ages and a handful of men dressed in moody black-and-white ensembles who sipped on themed cocktails, swapped friendship bracelets and speculated whether tracks on the new album were “Joe songs” or “Matty songs,” referring to the singer’s most recent exes, fellow artists Joe Alwyn and Matty Healy.

Taylor Swift fans, known affectionately as Swifties, are an intense group. Some of its rather extreme members are a case study in zealous fandom culture and celebrity worship. Between referencing the pop star as “mother” in conversations and concurring that they couldn’t possibly go see the latest film starring another Swift ex, Jake Gyllenhaal, the fans at Saturday’s event love their star and they are fiercely protective of her.

“Swifties tend to be more defensive of Taylor than other fan groups are, sometimes to a fault,” said Erin Asis, a Swiftie who attended the event with her friend Eirena Ewert.

Asis, who lives east of L.A., hosted Ewert, who drove down for the weekend from the Fresno area to celebrate the album release. The pair agreed that some fans behave in extreme ways, citing that many are clamoring for Swift’s release of the rerecording of “Reputation,” despite the 31-track batch of original music she just dropped.

“I think we are intense, and I’m going to own that,” said Joy Pangilinan, who founded the SoCal Swifties Club in September 2023 after attending the Eras Tour. “I think it’s because we’re passionate. I know we get criticized a lot, but like Taylor says, ‘Forget the haters.’ We’re living as our truest selves.”

Swifties have long been bashed for jumping at anyone who utters a negative word about the singer. Reporter Chris Panella said he received death threats and incessant harassment from so-called fans in June 2023 after writing a piece that gently criticized the Eras Tour. The fans in attendance at Saturday’s listening party agreed that that sect of Swifties is not at all representative of the group they know.

“You can be a Swiftie on different levels — you can connect to her lyrics or you can dedicate your life to her, but people often forget that she’s just a human being,” said Isha Agrawal of Pasadena. “We think that she’s perfect, but she’s not. She has flaws. Haters shouldn’t hate, but I don’t think the Swifties should be attacking people.”

Beyond the rational condemnation of the faction of Swifties who attack others online, the most common and more casual criticism levied against the group of millions is a misunderstanding of the fans’ undying love for the artist.

To some, like Cassy Simmons, who drove to the listening party from San Diego Saturday morning, the group’s love for Swift is no different than rabid sports fans’ enthusiasm for their favorite teams.

“What’s different about us going to a concert dressed up with our bracelets? That’s the same thing as you going to a football game and putting a mask or body paint on,” Simmons said. “Leave us alone. Let us enjoy it. It doesn’t mean you have to.”

The Swiftie culture that these fans know and identify with, as opposed to guard-dogging and Twitter doxxing, is one that has fostered a vibrant community and lifelong friendships for them.

“Swifties are my life,” Agrawal said. “I don’t have other communities outside of this — it’s harder to connect with people. With the Swifties, I can be a total stranger to someone and then be able to have something in common with them. Taylor is probably the biggest part of my life. I’ve dedicated so much of my life to her and I’ve seen so many other thousands of people have done the same and it’s so easy to connect with those people.”

Saturday’s celebration, designed to bring together local Swifties, also boasted a robust agenda: a game of bingo related to the new album, a fashion show featuring the themed outfits of attendees, a “sad poetry” open mic and a dance party to close out the evening.

Even with the busy docket, much of the fan base’s attraction to Saturday’s celebration was to hear from Reagan Baylee, the host of the popular “Swifties School” podcast. The digital content creator led a “Taylor Talk” discussion as a part of the four-hour day, and came prepared with a notebook full of thoughts on the album, theories about its meaning and questions to pose to the group.

The interactive discussion involved the group “getting into the trenches” of the album’s symbolism, decoding the Easter eggs hidden in last week’s library installation at the Grove and even doing the “flight math” to see if the singer can make it to the Met Gala in May before her Paris stops on the Eras Tour.

“I love when we get crazy,” Baylee said to the group as they threw out numbers and theories.

Baylee says the Swiftie community brings together people of all ages and music tastes, given the rich lyrical and musical diversity of Swift’s discography.

“Either you get it or you don’t,” Baylee said of the fan base culture. “People live a lot of their lives online these days and don’t realize this translates offline for a lot of people. What I hope to do with my content is cultivate that same community and feeling that Taylor’s done but through my own life experiences and our shared love of all the songs and things Taylor has done in this world.”

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That sense of community was in full force at the celebratory gathering, with several fans saying they felt a “sisterhood” or familial-like bond with fellow fans.

Brooke Muschott, a tortured poet in her own right, fittingly summed up the artist’s impact on her and her fellow Swifties at the evening’s poetry open mic.

“I can pour my heart out to a room of strangers because you did it first,” she said. “We survived because of you.”