Webster is in its Taylor Swift era

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From New York University to the University of Missouri, colleges, students and professors are in their Taylor Swift era.

There are several courses available at colleges throughout America that revolve around singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, including one being taught at Webster.

Webster has most recently shown its love for Swift at the school’s first-ever album release party. On April 19, Swift released her 11th album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” and on the same day, Campus Activities held a listening party in the Sunnen Lounge of the University Center. 

Director of the Office of Student Engagement Jennifer Stewart came up with the idea based on a potential t-shirt.

“I wanted to create an ‘in my Gorlok era’ shirt and didn’t really have a reason that made sense,” Stewart said. “When Taylor announced her album, it seemed like a fun event since people were so excited about it.”

The listening party had approximately 100 students in attendance. Photo by Chloe Sapp

Approximately 100 students showed up to the listening party to make friendship bracelets, complete Swift-related crossword puzzles, or make flowers out of guitar picks and a magnet. Inspired by the “22” music video, a t-shirt with the words, “a lot going on at the moment,” was given to students as a reward for making crafts. Attendees wore Swift-related outfits, some donning her official merchandise (“merch”) and drawing 13s on their hands, Swift’s lucky number.

During the three-hour listening party, Campus Activities leaders organized “Musical Bingo (Taylor’s Version),” where attendees marked off Swift songs on their bingo cards as they played. Sierra Lucas won the grand prize—a record player and “The Tortured Poets Department” vinyl—after singing along to every single song that played. Lucas has been a fan since she was a child and attended Swift’s Eras Tour in Kansas City, spending $630 on six tickets in the nosebleeds of Arrowhead Stadium. She dedicated over 10 hours to trying to purchase tickets on Ticketmaster.

“[Swift] means a lot to me because I relate to a lot of her music and it has gotten me through so many struggles in my life,” Lucas said.

The listening party had a photo booth set up where attendees got their photo printed and put in decorated frames. Photo by Chloe Sapp

Elsa Davinroy attended both the listening party and concert with Lucas, but considers herself more of a casual fan.

“I don’t really consider myself a ‘Swiftie’, but I do enjoy her music,” Davinroy said. “It’s very cathartic.”   

When it comes to the new album, the two friends have split opinions. Lucas enjoys the album because of its relatability, while Davinroy wasn’t impressed.

“I’m not really rocking with [the album] if I’m being honest,” Davinroy said. “I think she really found her sound with ‘folklore’ and ‘evermore’ and the synth pop with these convoluted lyrics isn’t for me.”

Love or hate the album, it sold 1.4 million copies, generated 243.4 million streams on the first day of its release, and became Spotify’s most streamed album in a single day in 2024, according to Billboard. This makes it the top-selling album of 2024 and Swift’s biggest sales week ever for any album in the U.S.

“The Tortured Poets Department” is the only album that has earned a listening party at Webster, so far. Stewart credits the strong fan culture around Swift for the event. 

This isn’t the first time Webster has given Swift her flowers. Topics in Music – Musical Worlds of Taylor Swift is a class taught by professor Stuart Hill. The course takes an in-depth look at Swift’s career and influence on popular music and the industry. The activities involve listening to Swift’s albums, watching her concert films and documentaries, and reading articles about her. 

“I think studying her work provides students an opportunity to interrogate and even problematize their relationships to music and artists they love,” Hill said. “There are also opportunities to take something unique about her career, like her project of re-recording her first six albums so she can own the masters, and use it as an excuse to learn something about the music industry, like the basics of music copyright and how artists monetize their music.”

During the listening party, guests solved Swift-themed crosswords and listened to “The Tortured Poets Department.” Photo by Chloe Sapp

Hill considers himself a Swift fan, saying he listens to her often and admires her songwriting skills. He says even though he hasn’t seen her live or own any merch; she is one of his most-listened artists. Academic journal Contemporary Music Review’s issue dedicated to Swift and her music inspired Hill to start the class.

“That confirmed for me she was worthy of academic attention and would make a great topic for a topics class,” Hill said. “As you’d expect, there are a lot of fans.” 

There have been no other Webster classes focused on a single artist, but Hill believes a Beyonce course would be “fabulous.”

St. Louis itself has proven to be a massive Swiftie. At Saint Louis University, the SLU Swift Society hosts events about Swift, such as trivia nights, listening parties and movie nights. The weekend after Swift released her new album, the St. Louis Wheel at Union Station decorated gondolas with Swift’s albums. Swift’s grandma is even a Lindenwood University alum.

Musical Worlds of Taylor Swift will not be taught next semester, but Swift isn’t going anywhere. She still has two albums to re-record—”Reputation” and her self-titled album, “Taylor Swift”—to continue her efforts to own her discography. Until then, the new album plays in Webster students’ headphones, enrolling them into Swift’s “tortured poets department.”

 

 

 

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Chloe Sapp
Staff Writer | + posts