Capping off my time in BR with @TaylorSwift13

Seven years. That’s the amount of time I have spent in Baton Rouge. It’s where I grew from awkward, nerdy, fresh-out-of high school Kittu to older, more confident Kittu. The funny part about all of this is that Taylor Swift had been an integral part in my growth. I know it sounds cheesy, but bear with me.

What I would sing to all the haters in my life before “Shake It Off;” crazy part is that it’s actually happening now (the whole living in a big ‘ole city part)!

It all started with an unlikely music suggestion from a now-dear friend, Molly Ronan. After taking in the breadth of my iTunes Library, she asked me why I had never listened to TSwift. I told her that I refused to have any country music on my iPod. She insisted that I would like it, so I went to my local BestBuy and purchased Fearless, the LP that, at the time, had been dominating the Billboard 200 Albums Chart (11 non-consecutive weeks at No. 1). I figured I had nothing to lose if America had kept her at No. 1 for so long. As soon as I popped it into my CD player, the title track flooded my sound system, and with that first guitar pluck, I knew that my life would never be the same.

Since then, TSwift had been a staple in all of my playlists. She has dominated my own play count “charts,” with 22 songs hitting “platinum” or “diamond” status (played more than 200 or 500 times, respectively), and 25 songs hitting “gold” status (played more than 100 times). In other words, Swift has been a major part of my musical growth. From her songs with topics ranging from love and loss to empowerment and self-respect, to her personal demeanor, Taylor has always remained a class act and someone who was not ashamed or afraid to address those concerns that most of us have when trying to make sense of this thing we call life. Her vocal abilities, though not the best, have gotten better with time, just as her understanding of her environment and the people she surrounds herself with. But, at the core of her musical presence is her ability to write meaningful hooks and connect with fans through her songwriting. She’s grown up and made mistakes like the rest of us, but she has always learned and chosen to grow from them. This, along with her quirkiness, has been a leading reason for her sheer magnetism and public fascination.

While Taylor made mistakes with boys, I myself was wading into the dating pool. And trust me, nothing can prepare you for the hardship and vulnerability that entails dating. But, her music, however fantastic, gave the romantic in me hope that one day things can work out. There is something so innocent and romantic about her view on love when she croons on songs like my favorite “Enchanted,” from Speak Now:

The lingering question kept me up
2 AM, who do you love?

 It’s at times like this that Swift excels at capturing just how exhilarating love and dating can be. It’s obviously a more romantic understanding of love, and it works for me. Because, without this romantic lens on love, you’re left with the dregs of regret and apathy – at least for me. See “Begin Again” for a better understanding. But I digress.

So, Swift, through her albums, videos, life experiences, and more helped soundtrack my college life. Things would have been so different without those many nights belting out “You Belong With Me” and “Mine” with my best friends during my freshman and sophomore years. Hell, I wouldn’t have grown as close to one of my other best friends (Grace Montgomery) without us bonding over how amazing her music was. Needless to say, Swift’s music made for the perfect setting for my own growth.

During these seven years, I changed my major six times, graduated with three Bachelor’s Degrees, traveled to various continents multiple times, lived in the biggest cities in the US, dealt with adversity in multiple areas, and made countless amazing friends with which I have made numerous epic experiences. In other words, I have had much good fortune. People have asked me if I’m going to miss Baton Rouge, and I always say the same thing: I’m going to miss my friends that I made here. I’m going to miss the places where I made so many worthwhile memories. Whether it be my 18th birthday bash at 600 Main, running around LSU in the snow, or rushing the field in Tiger Stadium, I will always have those amazing memories to cherish forever.

And now, the reason I am writing this post: Taylor Swift’s 1989 Stadium Tour. When I heard that she was coming to BR, I was surprised and elated. I mean, the tour date was a week after graduation when I would still be living in Baton Rouge. She would be playing at Tiger Stadium, somewhere I had never been outside of attending football games. And, I figured it would be fate to finish my time in BR with the artist who helped me forge my own path here. So, I bought tickets in the general admission pit, sat outside for about seven hours, and then had the most epic concert experience ever. She began with “Welcome To New York,” another reason I felt like I was supposed to be at that concert (I’m leaving BR for NYC). From here, she delivered flawless vocals, a couple of pretty awesome choreographed dances and hair flips, and awe-inspiring spectacles. Whether she was walking through wheeled door panels or “attacking” her beautiful dancers, Swift proved just how much she had grown up since that first time she held her guitar close and sang her heart out. Swift was all about the showmanship, and she pulled it off perfectly.

Throughout the concert, Swift relied on video segments to segue into the various parts of the concert experience. For these, she used her now-famous squad to educate the masses on Swift’s persona and direction, all things that true Swifties knew already but I’m sure still appreciated (I know I didn’t mind). These videos, along with the lyrical content of the set list (she played almost all of the 1989 songs, save for “Wonderland“) helped maintain Taylor’s own vision for where she currently is in life: a young girl just trying to make sense of her mid-twenties while also striving to be the best version of herself. She stated multiple times that the album was conceived while she reflected on how society viewed love and romance, not from her own personal experiences (even though “Out Of The Woods” is pretty much about Mr. Styles).

I think that’s why this tour connected with me so much – I, too, happen to be in a similar boat (minus the whole young girl thing 😉 ). When we finally get to our early- to mid-twenties, we tend to get thrown out into the world with no true instruction manual. And things can get messy. But life is supposed to be messy. That’s what makes it interesting. And that’s why I believe Swift has excelled in pop culture. She has that knack for understanding her fans by taking the problems that affect all of us and drawing attention to them.

All in all, the concert was the best way to bookend my time in BR. The experience helped me appreciate and understand what I will miss from this place. It’s not the location, not the bars where I spent nights and spent much of my hard-earned cash, but rather it’s the people, my friends, the community I managed to make for myself in this capital city. Thanks, TSwift, for letting me leave on such a high (note)!

I’ll leave you with my favorite performance of the night: the “Enchanted/Wildest Dreams” mashup.