There'll be massive convoys traveling to Arlington from all points on Saturday as Taylor Swift finally brings her blockbuster 1989 World Tour to the North Texas area. She'll pack 'em into AT&T Stadium, to be exact.
While we know we'll get five LPs worth of hits from the Pennsylvania-raised 25-year-old, there's no telling which superstar guests she'll bring on stage or what inspired cover tunes she'll pull out. Instead of trying to guess, it'd be worthwhile for any student of pop to examine Swift's footprint on culture so far. What attributes and aphorisms have sent her to the top of the heap?
Exude confidence, project humility: When Swift's first single, "Tim McGraw," hit the radio in 2006, she was only 16. But there was something particularly striking about her inner confidence and self-awareness. She was at an age when friendships and breakups typically seem more dramatic than they are. Yet she still found a way to channel that hormonal confusion into accessible pop-country tunes (thanks in part to early songwriting coach and Dallas native Liz Rose).
That began Swift's slow, steady takeover of the music world. Although she's now reigning pop royalty, you'll notice that she still seems surprised and humbled whenever she receives an award. Always the mensch.
Learn from your heroes, pay it forward: In her country-industry beginnings, Swift did opening stints for headliners Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney and, yes, George Strait. She learned from the best regarding performing live for massive crowds. And you wonder why she transitioned so easily into headlining stadiums just a few years into her career.
For as many boosts as she got from legends and superstars when she needed them, she's been just as encouraging to artists and fans who look up to her. Ask tour collaborators like Ed Sheeran, fans with whom she's chatted on social media, or any of the special guests she's trotted out in her stadium shows, and they'll attest to the realness of the "Swift bump."
Speak out when you're right and when you're wrong: The driving narrative behind Swift's second and third albums, 2008's Fearless and 2010's Speak Now, frustratingly became "diaries of a woman scorned," as the media obsessed over her dating dance card and breakup list. She even fed that a little by saying in interviews that she had no problem "naming names." But she was only conveying the average experiences of someone her age, wrapping them up in increasingly infectious songs.
In recent years she's spoken up about much more than her dating life. Her open letter to Apple earlier this year about its new music service single-handedly encouraged it to right a streaming-royalty wrong. On the flip side, she was quick to bury the hatchet and apologize after her Twitter overreaction to a Nicki Minaj rant about racial double-standards in pop.
Don't dwell on the negative: Swift's desire for acceptance and understanding with fellow artists has prevented any beefs from going too far or becoming a distraction from the music she's making. When she got Kanye'd at the MTV awards back in 2009, she went backstage and said nothing but nice things about him. With her ex-beaus, she's pretty much good once she writes lyrics about how they affected her.
The aforementioned Twitter back-and-forth with Minaj ended up with the two women performing together at this year's VMAs. And rather than trash ex-friend and betrayer Katy Perry to the press endlessly, she wrote and released "Bad Blood." She turned lemons into cold, hard cash.
Work hard, think bigger, do better: When Swift isn't touring, she's recording, and she's often doing both. That's why she's put out five albums in less than a decade, each more successful than the last. And why have they gotten bigger and bigger? Swift is an Internet-age mogul with an artist's talent. She's used social media not only to hold a constant connection to fans, but to promote her projects as organically as possible, considering the business behind her music.
The music itself has become bolder and more diverse with each album, evolving from sweet and sincere, twangy folk into a broad canvas of super-producer retro pop. The thread from "Tim McGraw" to "Bad Blood," though, is Taylor Swift. Her tenacity and voice are two things on which we can rely.