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UK fans wonder if Taylor Swift will say ‘So long, London’ after Eras Tour

By LISA LEFF, Associated Press
Published: June 21, 2024, 7:39am

LONDON (AP) — Taylor Swift fans enjoy parsing the singer-songwriter’s lyrics for references to her romantic life and insights into her state of her mind.

But the pop superstar’s fans in the U.K. didn’t have to listen closely to her latest album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” to get the sense that Swift had soured on the country’s capital city after long making it a regular hangout and then her second home. The record’s fifth track is titled “So Long, London.”

As Swift brings her blockbuster Eras Tour to London’s Wembley Stadium, some Swifties therefore are wondering if they are witnessing the beginning of an extended goodbye. She is performing three nights starting Friday, and is scheduled to return to Wembley for six nights in August to close the tour’s European leg.

London is the only city on the tour where Swift is stopping twice. Some worry the arrangement may represent a swan song of sorts, while others think it just reflects a new era in Swift’s bond with the Big Smoke. Whether “So Long, London” turns out to be a final chapter or a bookend to her valentine to the city, the song “London Boy,” Eras is arriving as an emotional milestone.

“Her relationship now kind of assumes London won’t be somewhere she will be. It’s not like there is an American football player living here,” said Maggie Fekete, 22, a Canadian graduate student who credits the London references in Swift’s music with orienting her when she moved to the city three years ago. “I think there will be a lot less London in her music, which is sad.”

For those who haven’t been paying attention, Swift had a series of romances with famous British citizens, starting with Harry Styles in 2012 and ending last year, when she started dating Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. The speculation surrounding “So Long, London” and a mournful companion song that mentions a London pub, “The Black Dog,” stems from the 2023 breakup of Swift and English actor Joe Alwyn, who were together for over six years.

Alwyn is assumed to have inspired “London Boy,” a song from her 2019 album “Lover.” A special-edition “Lover” CD included what appeared to be a January 2017 diary entry in which Swift talked about being “essentially based in London” but trying to lay low. British tabloids later reported that Swift spent much of the COVID-19 pandemic sheltering with Alwyn in north London.

The Sun newspaper reported in December that the multiple Grammy-winner had bought a large property in the area and was remodeling it to be her base in Europe. After Swift released “The Tortured Poets Department” last month, however, a writer for the British edition of ELLE magazine observed that Londoners had an opening “for an all-American A-lister who can slot into her place in our collective consciousness.”

“We had Swift before we lost her to her record-breaking, box office-breaking Eras Tour and now, it would appear that her vacant position has been filled by Zendaya,” writer Naomi May playfully posited before listing the various locations the American actor had been spotted with her longtime boyfriend, British actor Tom Holland.

Either way, the capital is putting on quite a show of its own to make sure Swift and her fans feel appreciated. Guides are offering walking, bus and taxi tours that retrace her footsteps, including a kebab shop whose owner says his establishment is supplying sandwiches for the singer and her crew on Friday.

Before the end of August, Swifties can partake in a full diet of Swift-themed brunches and dance parties, or ride the London Eye Ferris wheel accompanied by a string quartet playing her music. Souvenir stalls in Camden Market, one of the places mentioned in “London Boy,” stocked up on Swift-specific caps, T-shirts, bags and stickers in preparation.

“We’re very proud that London is hosting more shows than any other city on Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour, a real testament to her love for London,” Laura Citron, CEO of tourism agency London & Partners, said.

Fans started lining up outside Wembley on Thursday in hopes of being among the first ticket-holders to claim spots in standing sections close to the stage. A pop-up tour merchandise store opened in a parking lot by the stadium that morning.

Zachary Hourihane, who co-hosts a Swift podcast called “Evolution of a Snake” and posts YouTube and TikTok videos under the name Swiftologist, said it’s too soon to know whether the singer will retain her honorary citizenship or part ways with London. As her fans know all too well, only time will tell with Taylor.

Hourihane notes that Swift started spending more time in London after a difficult year in which she went from winning album of the year at the 2016 Grammy Awards for “1989” to seeing her popularity plummet amid a public feud with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. From his study of her life in England, he thinks the happy memories she created there come mixed with “a sense of isolation.”

“There is a lot of nostalgia that might have turned into regret,” Hourihane said. “She felt like she was trapped there for a while.”

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Fast forward several boyfriends, 10 albums (including the Taylor’s Version re-records ) and the Eras Tour juggernaut, and it’s not surprising her life is up for reappraisal. Hourihane suspects Swift is “not quite ready to give up on London” for both practical and artistic reasons.

“Taylor is someone who retraces her steps a lot. Things are never really over with her. She likes to revisit things that have finished,” he said. “Let’s be realistic about it. Her relationship, even if it is, ‘so long, goodbye,’ she has good reason to be in London and good money to make there.”

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