New Yorks Taylor Swift Experience Ignores Everything Interesting About Taylor Swift


With this dreadfully, almost deliberately dull exhibition, one gets the sense that Taylor Swift really is fascinating in spite of herself.”>

The sun is shining on the cobblestone streets of New York Citys South Street Seaport. Its a beautiful day to stare at the early childhood books, tour costumes, and handwritten lyrics of pop phenomenon Taylor Swift.

To enter The Taylor Swift Experience, presented by the Grammy Museum, I cut in front of a line of eager exhibit-goers waiting on a modest red carpet outside. This is what it must feel like to be Taylor Swift. Im greeted by a room full of staff and security, methodically prepping the Experience for its East Coast debut.

The first thing I see is an iridescent piano that looks like it belongs in a futuristic production of The Little Mermaid. This is one of the many never-before-displayed items that I have been promised a peek at: the custom-built piano Swift commissioned for her 1989 World Tour. An accompanying placard confirms that, yes, this piano was designed to look like a shell. Now that thats settled, I proceed to the Childhood display case.

Every well-curated exhibit tells a story, and The Taylor Swift Experience is no exception. At the beginning of The Experience, a well-meaning sign outlines exactly what were meant to take away from this extravaganza. Apparently, the exhibit is about the making of a modern music mega-star. Our heroine, Tay-Tay, is a remarkably savvy businesswoman with both a vision and a plan for a future that is as bright as her present. She has broadened her artistic reach, going beyond the confines of country and into the wild, unpredictable world of pop without missing a beat. And The Taylor Swift Experience will show us how she did it.

With this dreadfully, almost deliberately dull exhibition, one gets the sense that Taylor Swift really is fascinating in spite of herself. A famous control freak, Swift has scrubbed her premature retrospective free of even the faintest whiff of controversy. It would be difficult to leave The Taylor Swift Experience with any more insight into the songstress herself. But even that is remarkably on brand. Taylor Swift is, more than anything else, a symbol. Her ongoing sagawith the Kardashian Wests has fed into a larger conversation on race and celebrity in America. Her decision to surround herself with Victorias Secret models and Lena Dunham has made her a key figure in the confusing world of pop culture feminism. Swift may refuse to be political, but she has been thoroughly politicized. And her unwillingness to be entirely candid and authentic, as if thats even possible, has only fueled the conversation. Despite her best efforts, Taylor Swift is not another bland, likable twentysomething writing pop songs about her exes. In aiming for palatabilitythe mindless fun and cutesy artifacts of The Taylor Swift ExperienceSwift has somehow become one of our most intriguing celebrity enigmas.

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