Taylor Swift Headlines a Senate Hearing. (Her Lyrics, Anyway.)

After Ticketmaster’s presale for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour buckled under intense demand in November, many fans were left ticketless and heartbroken that they might not be able to hear Ms. Swift’s lyrics sung in stadiums across the United States.

On Tuesday, fans could hear many of those lyrics issuing forth in a slightly more subdued arena: Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building.

Snippets of both Ms. Swift’s recent chart-toppers and her deeper cuts sprang drolly from the mouths of senators during a hearing in which members of the Judiciary Committee from both parties cast Live Nation Entertainment, the concert giant that owns Ticketmaster, as a monopoly.

“Ticketmaster ought to look in the mirror and say: ‘I’m the problem. It’s me,’” said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, quoting Ms. Swift’s “Anti-Hero.” Another Democrat, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, referred to the 2012 album “Red” to explain that consolidation within an industry was a problem the United States knew “all too well.”

It was a bipartisan effort. Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, credited his daughter as his inspiration for invoking Ms. Swift’s lyrics on at least three occasions. Mr. Lee leveraged Ms. Swift’s 2014 hit “Blank Space” to characterize restrictions on reselling tickets as “a nightmare dressed like a daydream” and concluded one set of remarks with a question Ms. Swift posed on her most recent album, “Midnights”: “Karma’s a relaxing thought; aren’t you envious that for you it’s not?”

The lyrics were an unsubtle play for virality from politicians who are increasingly aware that becoming a meme can also help get a message across. In otherwise dry congressional hearings, eye-catching displays like Representative Katie Porter’s whiteboard can stand out. Another way to grab attention is to weave in an unexpected pop culture reference, as when Senator Ted Cruz was mocked, but discussed, for reading Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” on the Senate floor in 2013.

“More and more, they’re leaning into these moments of viral potential,” said Ioana Literat, an associate professor of communications at Teachers College, Columbia University.

John Fetterman’s successful Senate campaign in Pennsylvania signaled to many politicians that embracing humor online can win votes, Dr. Literat said. But the strategy does not always work, she added.

“It can also be perceived as a kind of desperate, inauthentic attempt to create these kind of connections and to connect to youth culture,” Ms. Literat said. She saw the senators’ use of Taylor Swift lyrics as a play for young voters that landed awkwardly, pointing to commenters on TikTok who remarked that aides must have written the senators’ statements for them.

“As the kids say: cringe,” the CNN anchor Don Lemon said, reacting to a compilation of the senators’ remarks.

But some of Ms. Swift’s most ardent fans were on board. Alison Rose Greenberg, 39, an author and screenwriter in Atlanta, said she was “flabbergasted” when she heard Mr. Lee recite the line “she’s cheer captain, and I’m on the bleachers,” a twangy slice from the 2008 song “You Belong With Me.”

Ms. Greenberg, who was among the fans unable to purchase tickets for Ms. Swift’s tour in November, said she did not really care if the senators were true Swifties — she was just happy to see the issue reaching a broader audience.

“If they were pandering toward me,” she said, “it completely worked.”

Below, a selection of the hearing’s greatest hits.

Credit…Kenny Holston/The New York Times

Name: Senator Amy Klobuchar

Affiliation: Democrat of Minnesota

Song Quoted: “All Too Well” (2012)

Credit…Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

Name: Senator Richard Blumenthal

Affiliation: Democrat of Connecticut

Song Quoted: “Anti-Hero” (2022)

Credit…Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

Name: Sal Nuzzo

Affiliation: Senior vice president at the James Madison Institute

Song Quoted: “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” (2017)

Credit…Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

Name: Senator Mike Lee

Affiliation: Republican of Utah

Song Quoted: “Karma” (2022)

Related Articles

Back to top button