Why Taylor Swift?
Why is the 21-year-old blond the best-selling pop act of the 21st century, a gal who sold-out a tizzied St. Pete Times Forum on Saturday?
Why was her effect on 15,431 local fans so profound that many females, both wee and wizened, busted into tears when she first appeared on stage, wearing a gold flapper dress and singing Sparks Fly (as, of course, real sparks flew)?
Because Swift, who has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide, understands the lure of transformation, especially for young girls who can't wait to shed the skin they're in. Her monstrous gilded stage, all balustrades and sparkly sparkles, morphed into a down-home back porch for the pickin' party of Mean. And then it switched back: princess, regular gal, and so on until a finale in which she hovered over the crowd, a flying Cinderella at last.
Because the lanky, wide-eyed talent is just so cheekily cute: "Good evening, Tampa!" she said by way of introduction. "I'm Taylor!"
Because Swift is a master of myriad faces, from her patented "wonder gaze" (is this really happening to me?) to the "smirky flirt" (you're darn right this is happening to me, and it's AWESOME!) to the "shattered heart at 2 a.m. alone in my pink bedroom" (okay, I'm not really that shattered, but I'm totally going to win an Oscar someday, just watch me).
Because she's one of the rare pop stars these days who deals in romance, not sex, with a warm feeling (Fearless) or a wedding proposal (Love Story) the ultimate goal. We all just want to fall in love, and Swift, who is natural where Britney is plastic, works that Cupid shtick like a champ.
Because although she's not a first-class vocalist, Swift is a gifted pop songwriter who's only getting better. Backed by a tight rock band and yowza dancers, Our Song was a fiendishly catchy ditty. Better Than Revenge was no doubt as fun to write as it was to unleash live, a snotty lil' dig on a gal who dared steal Swift's man. And sprawling slow-churners Last Kiss and Dear John, both from her latest album Speak Now, are some of the best breakup tunes in recent memory.
So, you continue to ask, why isn't the world sick of Taylor Swift after her seemingly endless string of pop-culture domination?
Because she's the ultimate master of the humble brag, a gamine who can trumpet her accomplishments in the slyest of likable ways. For instance, she announced that "we" — as in her band, her crew — just won entertainer of the year at the CMAs. She also repeatedly gushed we all sold out the Times Forum together!
Because she worked her tail off for two hours: rocking the main stage, playing a small acoustic set in the back, doing a victory lap around the whole joint. Despite no-goodniks like me tweaking her vocal chops, Swift sang every breathy note, matched her dancers head snap for hip thrust, all while going through more wardrobe changes and special-effects setups than Cher on Red Bull.
Because the song Fifteen, which she performed during her spirited encore, told the daughters of the world (of which I have two) to slow down and live life and know that it will all make sense some day. And that, of course, made more women weep. And maybe a few men, too.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. Follow him on Twitter (@seandalypoplife) and Facebook (facebook.com/seandaly.tampabay).