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Express View on governments fighting over Taylor Swift: It’s her world

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The last time a pop act caused a diplomatic row this big was in 1966 when The Beatles refused to meet Imelda Marcos, the first lady of the Philippines, resulting in a rough send-off from the country. Now, pop star Taylor Swift’s superhit Eras Tour has resulted in a war of words between Singapore and some of its Southeast Asian neighbours. The former’s exclusive deal with Swift — which makes it her only stop in the region — has got Thailand, Philippines and others asking why they should be left out. The tour has meant a financial bonanza for every city — and nation — that has hosted it so far. So why should they not get a share of the pie?

Few artistes have captured the public imagination like Swift has. The 34-year-old is not just seen as a reliable revenue generator, but has also become a subject of study in the hallowed halls of Harvard and New York University. Her concerts are so well-attended that in at least one case, the crowd generated seismic activity equivalent to a 2.3 magnitude earthquake. Across cultures and economies, Swift seems to have left a mark.

Of course, Swift is not the first star to inspire fevered devotion. From the Beatlemaniacs to the Beliebers and BTS Army, music history is dotted with examples of crying, screaming fans and the cold, hard cash they are willing to spend on their idol. Swift is no Kardashian — she can actually sing. But stardom, these days, is no longer just a function of talent. It requires social-media management and mythmaking in real time. From singing about her exes to an alleged genealogical connection to the poet Emily Dickinson, the musician evidently knows how to train the spotlight on herself. The recent diplomatic tension is proof that this is Swift’s world. Everyone else is just living in it.

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