“Coming up now. See u at fourth floor toilet.”  The year is 2014. I’m 16. My phone buzzes in the middle of Chinese class. Hiding my screen in the pleats of my school skirt, I see a text from my friend Fionna. I raise my hand and ask for permission to leave. As I exit the classroom, I glance around guiltily.

I bump into Fionna at the end of the hallway. Her face is red from exertion, and her skirt is flung over her shoulder, having just left her soccer game to run up four flights of stairs. We nod at each other and hurry into the toilet, relieved to find it empty. 

“Three more minutes.” We’ve each keyed in the hotline number on our phones, and our thumbs are hovering above the call key. A debit card sits on the sink beside us, borrowed from our tuition teacher. We stare at the clock at the top of the screen. My heart feels like it’s beating out of my chest. 8:59 becomes 9:00. We press the call button. My hands shake as I hear the dial tone. 

I can’t remember which one of us got through first. One moment we were silent, tense with anxiety. The next, we were screaming and jumping—we managed to get tickets to Taylor Swift’s “Red Tour” at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. 

Fast forward 10 years and Taylor’s back. (Given the 17 odd years I’ve been listening to her music, calling her “Swift” feels somehow disingenuous.) The three-and-a-half hour, record-breaking, billion-dollar earning, politicians-begging-her-to-come “Eras Tour” extravaganza features a whopping 44 songs from her 10 original studio albums—technically nine, since she didn’t include a song from her eponymous debut album (a travesty, in my humble opinion). Each era is defined by its own distinctive colour scheme, symbols, costumes, motifs and emotional themes. 

It’s no secret that Taylor is at the top of her game now. Since the first “Eras Tour” concert in Arizona last March, she has generated a staggering US$5.7bn (S$7.6bn) for the US economy, was named TIME magazine’s person of the year and won Album of the Year for the fourth time (a first in Grammy’s history), just to name a few milestones. “[The ‘Eras Tour’ is] a journey through her past, starring all the different Taylors she’s ever been, which means all the Taylors that you’ve ever been,” wrote Rob Sheffield, contributing editor at Rolling Stone

As Taylor defines the cultural zeitgeist in a way we’ve perhaps not seen since Michael Jackson or The Beatles, she offers me a portal to my teenage self—that younger, softer, wilder version of a self that no longer exists.

Being born in 1998 makes me a millenial-Gen Z cusp, which means I use the crying face emoji to symbolise laughter but I also know how to use a DVD player. At nine, I downloaded Taylor’s debut album off LimeWire and transferred it to my pink flip phone; at 10, I listened to “Fearless on a CD; at 12, I streamed “Speak Now” on Nokia’s now defunct MixRadio; and at 14, I streamed “Red” on Spotify. Taylor’s discography punctuates key changes in technology, so listening to her earlier albums adds a tactile dimension to my memories, transporting me not just to an earlier self but an earlier world.

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