During one of her four shows in Los Angeles last week, Taylor Swift brought out the hip Canadian duo of sisters Tegan and Sara for an arena-sized version of the twins’ electropop hit “Closer.”
It was a fan-pleasing, veteran move that says all you need to know about Swift’s place in the pop-music landscape. Far from the teenage country tartlet she started out as, Swift, now 23, occupies the upper echelon of superstardom, and her music and image define mainstream appeal.
Swift brings her polished “Red” tour carnival to the Tacoma Dome on Saturday night for what will likely be a sold-out gathering of preteens and their parents. English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran opens the show.
While Swift is notorious for being an uneven live performer, it’s not hard to see why she has legions of dedicated young fans — she is safe and her songs ruminate on love, not sex. While less prefabricated than some of her peers, her earnestness still comes across as well-rehearsed. It makes her a natural onstage: chatty and seemingly genuinely happy to be there, as if she truly grasps how lucky she is to be one of the most popular performers on the planet.
Despite her easy stage presence, it’s on her albums that Swift has shown the most growth. Long known as one of the few artists who writes all of her own songs, she has a knack for writing hooks that rival any of Music Row’s songwriting pros.
Anyone who has heard her 2012 quadruple-platinum album “Red” — likely blasting from a young daughter’s room — knows that her music has finally made the complete transition from country-light to full-on mainstream pop. It’s hard to remember that Swift is the same artist who wrote “Tim McGraw,” replete with lap steel guitars and fiddles, when she was just 16.
It’s a wise move, allowing Swift to experiment with a little dubstep on “I Knew You Were Trouble” and dance-pop on her massive hit single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” It makes “Red” eminently listenable. If you weren’t familiar with Swift’s background in country music, you’d never suspect that’s where she got her start.
Her crossover complete, the only thing left for Swift to do is grow up. On her 2008 album “Fearless,” she featured a song called “15,” about the perils of high school. With “Red,” she transitioned to “22,” where she sings that “tonight’s the night that we forget about the heartbreaks.” Perhaps by the time Swift gets around to writing “25,” she’ll take her own advice, stop thinking about love and discover some passion. As she and her fan base ages, it might be just what she needs to remain relevant.
Until then, there is Saturday’s show. Youth and innocence intact, we know exactly what to expect from Swift. And that’s OK.