Sparks flew at Tuesday’s congressional hearing on Live Nation Entertainment, Ticketmaster’s parent company — and not just because senators from both parties accused the company of harming artists and music fans as a monopoly.
The fiasco brought the company widespread criticism, and lawmakers were quick to capitalize on the attention “Swifties” brought to Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Lyrics from six songs across Swift’s long discography found their way into a hearing room on Capitol Hill, and in viral clips on social media soon after.
The Washington Post spoke to the four speakers who dropped Swift’s lyrics to see who had help crafting their shout-outs and who was a big enough fan to ad-lib the references on their own.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah): “You Belong With Me,” “Blank Space” and “Karma”
Lee stood out as perhaps the biggest Swiftie, delivering not one, but three song references — all from different albums (or eras). His favorite: calling the idea to limit ticket resales to keep prices down “a nightmare dressed like a daydream,” a nod to “Blank Space” from the album “1989.”
“It’s a good line,” Lee told The Post.
The senator is a “Swiftie by proxy,” he admitted. For years, Swift’s music has been a constant presence in Lee’s life. It often blared as he drove his daughter, Eliza, to school. He almost made it to one of the singer’s concerts but ultimately gave away the ticket at the last minute.
“My daughter’s a Swiftie. I’m a huge fan of my daughter’s,” Lee said. “And so that brings a special bond between me and Swifties.”
It was only natural, then, that Lee would flex his knowledge during the hearing. It also helped that Eliza was texting him throughout it, he said. The result: three references that coincidentally followed the chronology of the singer’s discography — starting with a phrase from Swift’s “Fearless” country era and ending with a nod to her latest album, “Midnights.”
Lee’s first reference came from “You Belong With Me” — telling Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who chairs the subcommittee that oversees antitrust issues, “I had hoped as of a few months ago to get the gavel back but, once again, she’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers.”
“We had decided before the hearing that I was going to use that one in my opening statement, but the rest of it was on the fly,” Lee, the subcommittee’s ranking Republican, said.
His last Easter egg was a collaboration with Eliza, who had identified lyrics from “Karma” as “very quotable.” He used the “Midnights” song to jab at Ticketmaster: “Karma’s a relaxing thought, aren’t you envious that for you it’s not? That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.): “Anti-Hero”
Blumenthal, a longtime Swift fan, might not be far behind Lee. He was on the hunt for the perfect Swift song, one that would allow him to “pay tribute to her and also connect with her fans, who are the victims here,” he told The Post.
After going back and forth with his children, Blumenthal said he landed on the chorus of the “Midnights” lead single “Anti-Hero” — suggesting that “Ticketmaster ought to look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m the problem. It’s me.’ ”
Blumenthal said Live Nation President Joe Berchtold “essentially was saying, ‘It’s just everyone but us. It’s bots. It’s scalpers.’ So my idea was to say, ‘Look in the mirror and realize you’re the problem.’ The lyrics fit perfectly.”
“And ‘Anti-Hero’ is also one of my new favorites,” Blumenthal added.
He’s been listening to Swift “for 13 to 15 years” — even if “her music has changed somewhat, I love it.” His all-time favorite, though, is “You Belong With Me.”
“I know it’s one of her older songs, but my wife and I have danced to it and it has kind of stuck with me,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal said he appreciated how his colleagues also tapped into the singer’s discography during their remarks. There was no mastermind behind the plan — but it made a three-hour hearing “bearable,” Blumenthal said with a chuckle.
“I didn’t talk to anyone else about doing this, and I can only speak for myself, but we all look for ways to be somewhat creative,” Blumenthal said. “As strange as it may sound to talk about a politician that way, we try to be genuinely inventive.”
Another thing Blumenthal said he appreciated: a bipartisan moment as rare as the glimmer of a comet in the sky (“Long Story Short”).
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.): “All Too Well”
Klobuchar threw in a reference to one of Swift’s most beloved songs.
“I believe in capitalism, and to have a strong capitalist system, you have to have competition,” Klobuchar said. “You can’t have too much consolidation — something that unfortunately for this country, as an ode to Taylor Swift, I will say, we know all too well.”
Klobuchar’s office, which includes Swiftie staffers, told The Post that although the senator might not be the most passionate of fans, she came up with the phrasing herself — in fact, it wasn’t in her prepared remarks.
“While this hearing was about more than just Taylor Swift, there was clearly an appreciation on both sides of the aisle for her work,” Klobuchar said in a statement to The Post. “I’m glad to see that competition policy is an issue that is uniting music fans across the country.”
Sal Nuzzo, James Madison Institute: “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”
Nuzzo of the Florida-based think tank the James Madison Institute testified in the hearing and slipped a lyric into his remarks. Nuzzo has two daughters who are Swifties, and he’s a fan himself — but more of a purist. He told The Post he enjoyed Swift’s first two albums after hearing her track “Tim McGraw.”
“I’m a huge country fan,” Nuzzo said. “I have not followed her in the years since she’s kind of crossed over [into other genres].”
So when Nuzzo told the committee that “a few million Taylor Swift fans would respond: ‘This is why we can’t have nice things’” — quoting from Swift’s sixth record, the hip-hop influenced “Reputation” — his daughters knew he had help.
“As I was sitting there after I’d given my remarks, I heard my phone buzz and it was my 14-year-old critiquing my performance,” Nuzzo said. “ … She said, ‘Who gave you that reference?’”
Another executive at Nuzzo’s think tank had suggested the lyric. Nuzzo added that he hoped Swift’s popularity would draw attention to other artists hampered by Ticketmaster’s fees.
“At the end of the day, this is also about thousands and thousands of smaller artists,” Nuzzo said. “ … I hope as much light is shone on that portion of the artist population and the impacts of what’s happening in the space.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly said that Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has multiple daughters. He has one daughter. The article has been corrected.