Perhaps you have heard that Taylor Swift is currently on tour.
I kid. Of course you have heard about the Eras Tour — the record-setting cultural juggernaut that nearly took down Ticketmaster. The concerts started in March, but Eras Tour fever shows no sign of abating. Fans are getting married in the front rows. Entire cities have been temporarily renamed in Swift’s honor. People are camping out overnight just to buy merch. A lavender haze has officially descended upon the nation.
For today’s playlist, though, let’s focus on a less discussed aspect of this tour: the strength, variety and occasional surprises of Swift’s opening acts.
Nine artists will be accompanying Swift throughout all the stops of the tour, two playing per night, which gives each performance a bit of novelty and, occasionally, some fun regional specificity. (Haim, those darlings of the San Fernando Valley, are only doing West Coast dates.) The bill is a mix of obvious choices (Haim and Phoebe Bridgers, both Swift collaborators) and unexpected co-signs (the cult-favorite pop group Muna and up-and-coming indie-rocker beabadoobee are welcome surprises). Others, like the Gen-Z singer-songwriters Gracie Abrams and girl in red, represent Swift’s artistic progeny; both have cited Swift’s music as formative influences on their own and share her sharp eye for emotional detail.
This playlist culls some of the best songs by my favorite of the artists opening for Swift — and one song that features a cameo from Swift herself. Her tour also includes the teen phenom Gayle (whose viral hit “Abcdefu” you have most likely heard already) and Christian Owens, a former Swift backup dancer who has released a handful of songs under the name Owenn.
Even if you’re not much of a Swiftie, this playlist conveniently doubles as both an exploration of the influence that ’90s pop-rock has had on a younger generation of artists, and as a fun, breezy soundtrack for the first warm days of the year. I field-tested it on a long walk in the middle of this gorgeous week in New York for that purpose and found it highly appropriate.
Also: Thanks for all your submissions suggesting your favorite workout song! I’ll be publishing some of them in Tuesday’s newsletter. If you still have one you’d like to recommend, you can submit it here.
1. Haim: “The Steps”
Is this song the clearest distillation of Sheryl Crow’s effect on millennial musicians? Is it the best song on Haim’s sprawling and fantastic 2020 album “Women in Music Part III”? How awesome was Haim’s performance of this song at the 2021 Grammys? I am up for debating any and all of these questions. (Listen on YouTube)
2. beabadoobee: “Care”
There are some excellent songs on “Beatopia,” the most recent release from the Filipino-British singer-songwriter beabadoobee, but this great single from 2020 is the one that first made me a fan. Even though she was born in 2000, “Care” shows how intuitively she understands something about the sort of scuzzy, anthemic indie-pop that underground labels like Slumberland Records were releasing in the ’90s. (A “Best of Slumberland Records” playlist in a future installment of The Amplifier? Now there’s an idea.) (Listen on YouTube)
3. Muna featuring Phoebe Bridgers: “Silk Chiffon”
Two Eras Tour openers for the price of one! Far and away my favorite song from Muna’s 2022 self-titled album, this one is pure pop bliss and a refreshing reverie of queer joy. (When the group played it last weekend at Coachella, it surprised the crowd by bringing out not just Bridgers, but also the other two members of the supergroup boygenius, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker.) (Listen on YouTube)
4. Paramore: “Crave”
Here’s an underappreciated highlight from Paramore’s latest album, “This Is Why.” Hayley Williams’s vocals on the chorus give me some serious Alanis Morissette vibes. (Listen on YouTube)
5. Gracie Abrams: “Best”
I like the dramatic pause Gracie Abrams takes toward the end of this line: “You fell hard, I thought good … riddance.” I also always appreciate a heartbreak song on which the singer takes responsibility for doing the heartbreaking. “Best” is the opening track on Abrams’s 2023 debut studio album, “Good Riddance,” on which she worked with one of Swift’s “Folklore”-era collaborators, the musician and producer Aaron Dessner. (Listen on YouTube)
6. girl in red: “I’ll Call You Mine”
In the years since she started posting songs online as a teenager, the Norwegian singer-songwriter Marie Ulven Ringheim, now 24, has built a devoted fan base that hangs on her every angsty, sharply observed word. When Swift told her Instagram followers she had the girl in red album “If I Could Make It Go Quiet” “on repeat” in 2021, this was the track she was listening to. (Listen on YouTube)
7. Phoebe Bridgers: “Chinese Satellite”
Bridgers’s “Punisher,” released in June 2020, will always be one of the albums that defined the surreal loneliness of that first pandemic summer for me. Over the years I’ve cycled through several different favorite tracks — first “Moon Song,” then “Garden Song” — but if you asked me today I’d say it’s “Chinese Satellite.” The moment when Bridgers’s wry numbness suddenly gives way to a rush of earnestness when she sings, “I’d stand on the corner, embarrassed with a picket sign, if it meant I would see you when I die” never fails to give me chills. (Listen on YouTube)
8. Haim featuring Taylor Swift: “Gasoline”
Is “The Steps” the best song on “Women in Music Part III”? The twist ending to this playlist is that I think it may actually be “Gasoline.” And I get the sense that Swift agrees with me, given the conviction she brings to her guest verse on this remix. Taste! (Listen on YouTube)
You needn’t ask what’s wrong with that,
The Amplifier Playlist
Listen on Spotify. We update this playlist with each new newsletter.
“The Best of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour Openers” track list
Track 1: Haim, “The Steps”
Track 2: beabadoobee, “Care”
Track 3: Muna featuring Phoebe Bridgers, “Silk Chiffon”
Track 4: Paramore, “Crave”
Track 5: Gracie Abrams, “Best”
Track 6: girl in red, “I’ll Call You Mine”
Track 7: Phoebe Bridgers, “Chinese Satellite”
Track 8: Haim featuring Taylor Swift, “Gasoline (Remix)”
I highly recommend this dispatch from the Eras Tour — or, more accurately, a Tampa parking lot — by my colleague Madison Malone Kircher, on Swift fans’ frenzied quest for a certain blue crew neck sweatshirt. While reading it I was alternately touched and horrified, but always entertained. Make sure you get to the kicker at the very end.
Speaking of fascinating-but-depressing reporting, I also appreciate this recent essay in Vulture, in which the writer Nate Jones asks, “Why Are My Secret Spotify Songs Following Me Around?” Jones puts a finger on the precise sort of algorithmic dependency I want to combat with this newsletter in favor of more personal forms of music discovery. Jones writes, “When you love a song, you feel a sense of ownership; it can become a marker of your personal taste in a way that feels private and individual, a feeling ‘Discover Weekly’ is designed to encourage. Encountering a secret Spotify song in the world broke the spell. It made me feel like a widget too.”