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Taylor Swift Has It. Elon Musk and George Santos Don’t

When someone feels “most deeply and intensely active and alive,” philosopher William James wrote to his wife shortly after they wed in 1878, “at such moments there is a voice inside which speaks and says: ‘This is the real me!’”

James was looking to an inner voice to help understand what it means to be “authentic,” a century and a half before Merriam-Webster picked it as the 2023 word of the year. The dictionary publisher called it “the term for something we’re thinking about, writing about, aspiring to, and judging more than ever.” Interest in the word grew this year — Taylor Swift and Elon Musk were just two of the celebrities to deploy it — “driven by stories and conversations about AI, celebrity culture, identity, and social media.”

But whether you hear that inner voice or not, being real is a goal that makes sense. Taylor Swift’s phenomenal success is partly owed to her aspiration to authenticity despite the “constant reinvention” that “pop iconhood” requires, as Jeff Yang noted.

“No one else does it with the same casual, frictionless aplomb as Swift; her self-shifts don’t come off as acts of extravagant pick-me theater in the mode of Ariana Grande, or explosive artistic statements a la Beyoncé. Instead, they’re more like chord changes; variations in the key of Tay — eyebrow-raising, but never too extreme or off-putting. Which means that throughout all of her evolutions, she has remained accessible, approachable, personable and projectable; a cool hang for the guys, trusted bestie to the girls.”

Swift’s Eras tour “could become the most lucrative music tour in history. It will, all in, represent a $5.7 billion boost to the US economy, while injecting a profound degree of monetary stimulus into every city hosting her, given that her fans collectively spend around $93 million per show.” Yang noted that Swift, already a billionaire, could personally make more than $4 billion from the tour, not including her concert film, which has already scored $250 million at the box office. And on her 34th birthday, December 13, Swift is releasing the film for home viewing on demand, which will earn her millions more. No wonder that “Swiftie” was shortlisted for the Oxford Word of the Year.

“Authenticity” is so hard to pin down that its choice by Merriam-Webster gave Holly Thomas pause.

“Are the airbrushed Kardashians inauthentic, or are their choreographed photoshoots just an extension of their Botoxed aesthetic IRL? Are filtered selfies inauthentic, or are they more authentic than forced-casual ‘woke up like this’ snaps? Was YouTuber Emma Chamberlain as authentic hosting the Met Gala as she was when she made videos about her meltdowns?

Even assuming we have sufficient insight to identify our own authentic traits, we can never be entirely sure we’re communicating them effectively to the world, nor that it’s a good idea to do so. The things we feel comfortable sharing online don’t necessarily align with what we’re prepared to say in ‘real life,’ and either way, we can’t control how we’ll be received.”

Source: CNN