To say that many pop stars are viewed as nothing more than passing fads, is, for a large section of the population, true. Your average person of a certain age won’t view pop singers as being worth much examination except to listen to in the car. Yet, for a particular group of people, politicians, they’d be missing a trick to completely ignore the genre. For, though they may not like it, politicians can learn an awful lot from pop music – after all, it’s popular for a reason.
For a start, pop musicians are incredibly adept at putting their message across. They can generate hundreds of millions of responses, create news and focus the conversation of the general public onto a specific topic. Many politicians can only dream of such power and few ever generate enough name recognition, whether positive or negative, to be able to grasp even a percentage of it. Yet, it is skill, the ability to work the media and communicate to the public, that is greatly lacking in mainstream politicians. To truly learn how politicians can do this they should examine perhaps pop’s most able communicator, Taylor Swift, who today released a new single, ME!, from her upcoming seventh album.
Now, while it might be difficult to compare a pop singer with a politician, there are many striking similarities. Most good politicians know how to stump and so do most good pop stars. Swift’s social media posts, like many pop stars, attract millions of responses because they are catered in a specific way to garner the most responses. They are inclusive, clear and designed to set the audience at their ease. This of itself is a talent; politicians so often use social media in a way that is counteractive to what they are trying to achieve. Either they’ll use it to spread their message in a way the voter finds irritating or simply only appeal to a small group of core supporters.
This can also be further seen in the promotional material that Swift releases. Like politicians, who use part political broadcasts to extol their aims and what voters can gain from voting for them, pop stars also have to make advertisements to sell their products. For her recent Reputation album and tour were designed to play on the public’s perception of her and she utilised that in the marketing material – the fans of Swift are as pivotal to the advertising of her work as she is herself.
Trailers for both the tour and the film of the tour emphasise how much the audience love her and how much she values them. It also allows those who may be interested in the singer to potentially become more willing to listen to their music – if so many people are so enthusiastic towards them, then maybe I can as well? Politicians often try to emulate this, but many fail to because they don’t pitch it in the right way.
Something else that Swift is proficient at is allowing her audience to project themselves on to her. Projection is something far too many politicians feel uncomfortable with – they see it as being somewhat dishonest to their principles.
Yet, whether they encourage it or not it will happen – it is how Jeremy Corbyn has been seen as both a Remainer and a Brexiteer, and how Senator John Kennedy, during the 1952 Massachusetts Senate Race, met 1,000 people “five hundred of whom were liberal and convinced he was a liberal and five hundred who were conservatives and convinced he was a conservative.”
If people like you then they want you to be like them; imagine that you completely agree with them. Swift has harnessed this through her songs (the amount of times the word “you” pops up is noticeable and situations that many people can relate to such as a break up or feeling you aren’t being fully appreciated) and her social media presence.
This has somewhat negatively impacted on Swift, resulting in her being seen by the alt right as an “Aryan Goddess” who is somehow their ideal woman. This is partly due to her reluctance to commit politically in the past, ingenious if you don’t want to upset potential buyers of your music. Swift has changed tact somewhat recently – backing Tennessee Democrats in last year’s US elections, which helped turn out and voter registration in the state.
Of course, being shy about one’s political views can’t be directly applied from pop to politics; but allowing voters to interpret your policy gives you more ability to convince them to vote for you.
Swift’s cool calculations as to how to maximise her abilities and utilise them for her own benefit should be noted by those who want to go into politics – after all, taking inspiration from a woman who would have been a banker if she hadn’t been a singer and who used the skills of the former to improve her standing in the latter are worth understanding.
Ultimately, Taylor Swift’s ability, more than any other pop star, to present an image of herself that has allowed her to garner millions of avid fans who not only buy her work but express their support for her continually is a skill many politicians should attempt to capture. As the world is changing it is becoming more self-evident than ever that to capture the imaginations and votes, politicians have to think outside of the box. And, learning from the successes of pop’s most consummate politician isn’t a bad place to look.