February 12, 2024


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Taylor Swift headlines a Senate hearing (Her Lyrics, Anyway)

After  Ticketmaster’s presale for  Taylor Swift’s  Eras tour buckled under intense demand in November, many fans were left ticketless and heartbroken that they might not be able to hear Swift’s lyrics sung in stadiums across the United States.

On Tuesday, fans could hear many of those lyrics issuing forth in a slightly more subdued arena: Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building.

Snippets of both Swift’s recent  chart-toppers and her deeper cuts sprang drolly from the mouths of senators during a hearing in which members of the Judiciary Committee from both parties cast Live Nation Entertainment, the concert giant that owns Ticketmaster, as a monopoly.

“Ticketmaster ought to look in the mirror and say: ‘I’m the problem. It’s me,’” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., quoting Swift’s “Anti-Hero.” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., referred to the 2012 album “Red” to explain that consolidation within an industry was a problem the United States knew “all too well.”

It was a bipartisan effort. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, credited his daughter as his inspiration for invoking Swift’s lyrics on at least three occasions. Lee leveraged Swift’s 2014 hit “Blank Space” to characterize restrictions on reselling tickets as “a nightmare dressed like a daydream” and concluded one set of remarks with a question Swift posed on her most recent album, “Midnights”: “Karma’s a relaxing thought; aren’t you envious that for you it’s not?”

The lyrics were an unsubtle play for virality from politicians who are increasingly aware that becoming a meme can also help get a message across. In otherwise dry congressional hearings, eye-catching displays like Rep. Katie Porter’s whiteboard can stand out. Another way to grab attention is to weave in an unexpected pop culture reference, as when Sen. Ted Cruz was mocked, but discussed, for reading Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” on the Senate floor in 2013.

“More and more, they’re leaning into these moments of viral potential,” said Ioana Literat, an associate professor of communications at Teachers College, Columbia University.

John Fetterman’s successful Senate campaign in Pennsylvania signaled to many politicians that embracing humor online can win votes, Literat said. But the strategy does not always work, she added.

“It can also be perceived as a kind of desperate, inauthentic attempt to create these kind of connections and to connect to youth culture,” Literat said. She saw the senators’ use of Taylor Swift lyrics as a play for young voters that landed awkwardly, pointing to commenters on TikTok who remarked that aides must have written the senators’ statements for them.

“As the kids say: cringe,” CNN anchor Don Lemon said, reacting to a compilation of the senators’ remarks.

But some of Swift’s most ardent fans were on board. Alison Rose Greenberg, 39, an author and screenwriter in Atlanta, said she was “flabbergasted” when she heard Lee recite the line “she’s cheer captain, and I’m on the bleachers,” a twangy slice from the 2008 song “You Belong With Me.”

Greenberg, who was among the fans unable to purchase tickets for Swift’s tour in November, said she did not really care if the senators were true Swifties — she was just happy to see the issue reaching a broader audience.

“If they were pandering toward me,” she said, “it completely worked.”

Below, a selection of the hearing’s greatest hits.

Name: Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Affiliation: Democrat of Minnesota

Song Quoted: “All Too Well” (2012)

I believe in capitalism, and to have a strong capitalist system, you have to have competition. You can’t have too much consolidation. Something that, unfortunately for this country, as an ode to Taylor Swift, we know “all too well.”

Name: Sen. Richard Blumenthal

Affiliation: Democrat of Connecticut

Song Quoted: “Anti-Hero” (2022)

Ticketmaster had the temerity to imply that the debacle involved in pre-ticket sales was Taylor Swift’s fault because she was failing to do too many concerts. May I suggest respectfully that Ticketmaster ought to look in the mirror and say, “I’m the problem, it’s me.”

Name: Sal Nuzzo

Affiliation: Senior vice president at the James Madison Institute

Song Quoted: “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” (2017)

Those representing the dominant player in the market would contend that their growth has allowed them to innovate and make advances that greatly benefit consumers. A few million Taylor Swift fans would respond, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

Name: Sen. Mike Lee

Affiliation: Republican of Utah

Song Quoted: “Karma” (2022)

I have to throw out, in deference to my daughter, Eliza, one more Taylor Swift quote. “Karma’s a relaxing thought; aren’t you envious that for you it’s not?”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.