Swift and a Kennedy: Can it last?
Posted August 22, 2012
As so many entertainers have before her, country-singer sweetheart Taylor Swift is romancing a Kennedy — a boy who's younger, wealthy and way less famous than she, although that's going to change. The question is, can this relationship endure and flourish?
And why should America care?
Because it's the Kennedys, specifically Conor Kennedy, 18, a grandson of Robert F. Kennedy. And it's Taylor Swift, 22, millionaire pop star with a reputation for sugary innocence.
What could go wrong? Will conservative country music fans punish her for hanging out with liberal Kennedys? Will her brands be damaged?
The world has always sympathized with star-crossed lovers, but so far — it has only been two months — things seem to be all good for Swift and Kennedy. This is a couple with major fan appeal, says Joey Bartolomeo, senior writer at People.
"First of all, the fascination with the Kennedys is endless," Bartolomeo says. "And then you mix in a beloved pop star like Taylor, who has dated a bunch of famous guys and written songs about them, so you're immediately invested in seeing how this plays out."
People has reported that Swift spent $5 million on a beachside mansion near the home of Ethel Kennedy, widow of RFK and Conor's grandmother. That's an expensive purchase for just a summer romance, not to mention awkward if they break up eventually.
Plus, this weekend saw Swift accompanying Conor on a windswept visit to the grave of his mother, Mary Richardson Kennedy, who suffered from alcoholism and depression and hanged herself in a barn at her New York estate in May.
Swift has introduced Kennedy to her parents in Nashville; now there's speculation about whether he will accompany her on the red carpet at the MTV Video Music Awards Sept. 6, where she is scheduled to perform her latest single, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.
Not always a happy history
Swift is no Jackie Kennedy, nor even a Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, but people can hope, especially Swift's deeply loyal fan base.
Adam Bromberg, founder and webmaster of a Swift fan website/podcast (TaylorTalk.org), says he doesn't see objections from her fans to her new romance, although the relationship has yet to be confirmed to them by Swift herself.
"If she is happy with Conor, and that's who she decides to date, we as fans are happy for her," he says. "The age difference is something I hear least about within fan community discussions.
"To me, age is just a number, and it cannot dictate what makes Taylor happy. If she's happy, then the age difference means nothing."
The history of the Kennedys hooking up with Hollywood has not always been happy: If Gloria Swanson, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and Peter Lawford were around today, they'd have some snarky stories to tell. But at least those stars of yesteryear had plenty of life and romantic experience when they do-si-doed with the Kennedys.
Anyway, "there's an exception to every rule," Bartolomeo says. "Taylor is not Marilyn Monroe. Who knows how this will turn out?"
They're 'dating, not setting policy'
One thing is certain, say experts on branding and image: The romance is not going to have consequences, one way or another, for Swift's career and ad sponsorships, even though many of her country-music fans may not be enthused about the politics of the Kennedys.
"They're just dating; they're not setting policy," says Peter Shankman, an expert on branding and social media. "She hasn't come out and said, 'I believe everything my boyfriend believes.' Until she's his guest at (the Democratic) convention and she makes a speech, I really think … they're just having a good time."
Adds Silvio Pietroluongo, director of charts for Billboard: "I don't think the Kennedy romance is an issue at all with her fans or with country music fans in general. She's just dating the young man. She's not making political statements, nor will she."
Can associating with the Kennedy name help her? In the past, romances with Kennedys has been beneficial for some, not so much for others.
"It carries a name, but she wasn't a nobody to begin with — she has her own name and she doesn't need him to rely on," Shankman says. In fact, now he's better known because of Swift. "There are so many Kennedys that we know only 1% of them, and the other 99% we never heard of," Shankman says.
Then there's the question of whether an enduring happy relationship will derail Swift's skill at writing sad songs that become huge hits. Don't count on it, Bartolomeo says.
"She's a very talented songwriter, so I'm sure she'd have no problem writing happy love songs. But then we'd all lose the fun game of trying to figure out who each of her songs is about."
Latest in Entertainment