“I’m very happy to be bringing some music to the airport tonight. What do you all think about it?”” Taylor Swift asked an estimated 1,500 fans at John F. Kennedy International Airport last night. Whatever it was the crowd thought of the venue — JetBlue’s chaotic terminal 5, with its food court and gift shops — they roared their approval for Swift, who performed a five-song acoustic set for thirty contest winners and their guests, JetBlue employees and customers who just happened to be catching a flight.
The star emerged shortly before 7 p.m. in a red polka-dot dress. “Hello New York — I’m Taylor,” she said, kicking into “You Belong With Me.” Swift — whose third album, Speak Now, came out Tuesday — sang in key, walking the stage without a guitar and doing her her trademark hair-flip. She peppered her set with the kind of vague references to her personal life that have had bloggers trying to decode her song lyrics and liner notes. She explained that the new ballad “Back to December” is about “learning a lesson too late.” “Speak Now,” she said, referred to not holding one’s peace at a wedding. “Mine”? “It’s about one time I was sitting with a guy and he put his arm around me.”
Swift left the stage as the band played the final bars of “Speak Now,” power-walking with her security team to a nearby V.I.P. Lounge, as a throng of fans darted after her. The big prize for the contest winners was yet to come: a private flight to L.A. with the singer, where she was to meet fans, answer questions and hold a performance in the air. “We have a list of questions and points we have to hit,” said one winner, 17-year-old Audrey Leung from Southern California. “I learned guitar because of her, I wrote a bunch of school newspaper stories on her. I sign everything ‘Fearlessly.’ She also showed us how to hairflip!”
Leung won her and her guest’s spot after she submitted a short essay on Swift’s show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, when she and her friend dressed up in Swift gear and made “Loser” signs for one of the star’s ex-boyfriends. (Swift’s mother noticed the duo at one point, and moved them to the pit up front.) “When I found out [I won], I was bawling in my dorm room,” Leung sais. “I called my friend and we were crying together.”
The performance will be edited, mixed in with interviews, and broadcast to JetBlue’s 80,000 customers each day for the next two months. “It’s a very intimate experience,” said Chad Issaq, executive vice president of Superfly Marketing Group, who organized the concert. “Taylor is very in tune with her audience and she wants to have that connected experience. And obviously second to that, she gets to leverage everything else that JetBlue can do for her.”