There's a reason why music critics and serious popular culture doesn't mention Swift's name alongside Springsteen's (and will likely chide me for doing so). Actually several reasons.
First, a reason or two I can get with.
I didn't realize Swift was so "commercial." She's selling everything from Diet Coke to Keds to perfume at her shows. Legend has it that Bruce turned down millions from Chevy for the rights to "Born in the USA." At the same time, the spectacle of Swift's show (the costumes, the dancing, the pomp and circumstance) undermines her musical talents.
If she stripped everything down to bare bones -- using the nondescript black and drab set The E Street Band uses -- Swift would instantly trigger comparisons to Bruce's hard-driving, no-nonsense, four-hour rock shows.
She could and, I believe, eventually will dedicate herself to the sweaty marathon sessions The Boss has become known for. She'll drop much of the pizazz and bring the power.
The same elements that make Bruce's show tick provide what will be the lasting foundation for a Taylor Swift performance -- "part circus, dance party, political rally (maybe not so much) and big tent revival." That's how Springsteen described his show to
several years ago.
Swift, along with her audience, simply needs to evolve.
And that's not a cheap shot at Swift. Quite the contrary.
Going back to context and personal circumstance. If you're in your 30s, 40s, 50s or thereabouts, Springsteen delivered and continues to deliver what you need. It's become lore to call Bruce's music the soundtrack of your life or to state that it got you through good times and bad. That's absolutely the case for me. No other person, let alone artist, speaks to me the way Springsteen does. He's as relevant to me today as he was when I was drinking sixteen-ounce bottles of Old Milwaukee daydreaming ways to exit Niagara Falls, New York.
Bruce connects with many of us because he's able to tap into our greatest fears and deepest emotions, relaying what we're feeling and have felt at various stages of our lives with equal parts anger, bitterness, revival and redemption. That's exactly what Swift does, particularly as part of her show. But she's not doing it for the people a young Springsteen did it for or an "old" Springsteen does it for today. She's doing it for a largely female audience comprised of teenagers and twentysomethings.