Shake it off, Southeast Asia, and accept Singapore is just better for Taylor Swift

Little Red Dot offers political stability, loads of cash and weird water shows to woo pop megastar - and it's okay to be just a little proud

Pop superstar Taylor Swift performs in Sydney during her Eras Tour.
Pop superstar Taylor Swift performs in Sydney during her Eras Tour. (PHOTO: David Gray/AFP)

ON behalf of a giddy, grateful Singapore nation, thank you, Taylor Swift. A Little Red Dot stands on the shoulders of hundreds of thousands of Swifties, as we prepare for six sold-out gigs, shameless media commentaries (like this one) and the best putdown in decades.

Suddenly, albeit briefly, Taylor Swift has elevated a small nation with a bit of an inferiority complex (let’s be honest, we have a tendency to wet ourselves whenever an obscure travel blogger gives us a poor review.) But it doesn't matter because Taylor Swift is the burn of all burns, a name to throw out in defence at every opportunity, like a temperamental teenager with an answer for everything. Because Taylor Swift really is Singapore’s current answer for everything.

Malaysia has cheap petrol and keropok? Yeah, but Taylor Swift. Thailand has miles of golden beaches and sunburnt backpackers with dodgy dreadlocks? Yeah, but Taylor Swift. Indonesia has sandy islands offering cheaper golf courses and cheaper homes for mistresses? Yeah, but Taylor Swift.

Collectively, we’re like a geeky Jho Low who can’t quite believe he’s managed to get Paris Hilton to attend his exclusive party. If only there was a reason or two (million), why such an invite was accepted.

It’s the cash, obviously. Swift isn’t on a philanthropic tour to bring music to the poorest souls, appearing on stage with an acoustic guitar and a pair of sandals and promising to heal the world through the power of song. (We’ve already had Coldplay for that.) She’s here to make money and Singapore is extraordinarily agile when it comes to making money from international pop stars and football franchises. (It’s less successful at producing international pop stars and football franchises, but let’s not digress.)

Much more than geography, stability, convenience

For days now, experts have been trotted out to deliver the usual soundbites. Singapore’s geographical position, its political stability, its convenience and efficiency are the reasons why everyone from Taylor Swift to Liverpool Football Club are eager to pop in, which again makes our home sound more like a 7-Eleven than a country. On world atlases, it’s always difficult to squeeze the word "Singapore" across the Little Red Dot. Maybe the 7-Eleven logo might be easier. It makes sense. We’re a little more expensive than our bigger rivals, but we’re open all hours – to everyone - and you’ll never get robbed.

But it’s so much more than geography, stability and convenience. It’s about pool parties and light and water shows. Over at Resorts World Sentosa, the Pre-Eras Tour Pool Party is being held at Adventure Cove Waterpark on 3 March and organised by Malaysia fan group TSwiftMY. Elsewhere, Marina Bay Sands has organised Taylor Swift-themed zones at The Shoppes and Sands Expo & Convention Centre, along with a personal favourite, The Eras Tour Light and Water Show at the Event Plaza, which will sync performances to Swift’s songs.

Full disclosure, I’ve long been obsessed with Singapore’s obsession with light and water shows ever since I took my extended family to watch a surreal affair at Sentosa in the 1990s, which involved dancing fountains and green lasers shooting from the Merlion’s eyes and led to my late father-in-law asking if everyone in Singapore was on LSD.

Our city-state has yet to find a festival, an event or a special occasion that it couldn’t build a light and water show around.

More importantly, Singapore typically finds a way to squeeze every dollar from all of the above. Singapore is about the whole shebang. Around 300,000 Swift tickets have been sold and merchandise pop-ups are being set up at the Sands Expo & Convention Centre. Changi Airport has invited Swifties to a sing-along at Shiseido Forest Valley. MBS has sold all of its Swift premium packages, which range from $10,000 to $50,000, and every kopitiam beer seller has been instructed to perform a table-top dance to Shake it Off with every bucket of beer sold.

No, they haven’t really. But nothing else is being left on the table. According to giddy reports, Swift’s six concerts could boost Singapore’s economy by up to S$500 million in tourism receipts - and only half of that is expected to come from the light and water shows.

It's okay to feel proud to be in Swift's world

And it’s all happening because of Taylor Swift. That’s the best part. Coldplay were perfectly fine, but Coldplay offers saccharine melodies for middle-aged men to weep at their daughter’s weddings. Swift’s power, influence and uplifting messages for girls and women irritate certain groups of middle-aged men, particularly those of a right-wing persuasion, which is bloody marvellous.

Right now, there are Donald Trump supporters propagating the conspiracy theory that Swift is part of the Deep State, working with nefarious characters to get Joe Biden re-elected as American President. Proud, gun-toting Republicans, always ready to storm the White House to preserve their liberty, are terrified of a young woman in a sparkly dress, singing Cardigan.

It's just wonderful, isn't it?

As for the regional snipers, don’t hate the player or the game. Do better. Make cities and venues more welcoming, appealing and inclusive, in every sense. Ask the hard questions. Can fans and artists really come together safely, openly and honestly? Is every dollar being squeezed? And most importantly of all, is there a light and water show?

As for Singaporeans and Swifties, bask in this shared moment. Appreciate a job well done, by a global city and a global megastar. It’s Taylor Swift’s world and we’re all living in it. But for one week only, she’ll be living with us. In Singapore. It’s okay to feel just a little proud.

Of course, the Eras Tour will eventually move on, but we must take solace in the fact that this is Singapore. We won’t rest on our laurels. There will always be another light and water show.

It’s Taylor Swift’s world and we’re all living in it. But for one week only, she’ll be living with us. In Singapore. It’s okay to feel just a little proud.

Neil Humphreys is an award-winning football writer and a best-selling author, who has covered the English Premier League since 2000 and has written 28 books.

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