To honor Taylor Swift’s latest rerecording, we’re celebrating 1989 (Taylor’s Version) Week at The Daily Beast’s Obsessed. That means we’re throwing it back to 2014, to re-live everything that Taylor—and the rest of pop culture—was up to.
Taylor Swift knows how to throw a party, and she’s proud of it. But she’s not off hosting housewarmings—at least, not publicly. Her birthday parties have generated varying amounts of interest. (The only ones I remember are the party Selena Gomez stormed out of and the controversial bash Swift and Alana Haim co-hosted during the Delta variant outbreak.) It’s her very exclusive, very star-studded, Fourth of July hangs that have commanded attention for the last decade. And it makes sense! Who’s out here throwing a blowout for America’s birthday instead of their own? Also, how much money do you have to make to get on the guest list?
Since 2013, Swift has invited a select group of celebs to come hang with her on the beaches of Rhode Island over the holiday weekend. (Appropriately, her uber-expensive Westerly, R.I., estate was once known as the Holiday House.) Everything we’ve learned about what actually happens at these parties comes from social media, adding to the intrigue—and, yes, fits of jealousy.
Intentionally or not, by showing off her rotating cast of hot, predominantly white, famous friends each summer doing regular summer things, Swift created an annual event that demanded everyone’s attention from that point on. And knowing her, she very much meant to stoke our envy; girl doesn’t trip over a crack in the sidewalk without planning it ahead of time.
Fittingly, it was 2014’s event that solidified this heavily Instagrammed occasion as, well, an occasion. Her second-annual Fourth of July party boasted a fascinatingly cobbled-together group of wealthy people who seemingly had no business hanging out together. Have Emma Stone, Jaime King, Lena Dunham, or Jessica Szohr even spoken to each other since then? I doubt it. But united under Swift, they stand—or, rather, sit near each other on a yacht.
4th of July is my Coachella
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) July 3, 2014
The Fourth of July party’s increased visibility coincided with the ubiquity not just of Swift’s career nor Instagram itself, but also of the construction of a core tenet of her image: the “squad.” Swift’s public image is as much defined by her work as it is the people with whom she surrounds herself—which is why there’s always so much chatter over who she’s dating. Those relationships openly influence her songwriting, but the friends she hangs out with contribute to a more relatable public persona. Think about any photo you’ve seen of Swift with one of her boyfriends: perfectly poised, strutting down the sidewalk like it’s a runway. But with Gomez, the Haim sisters, or Blake Lively, Swift isn’t afraid to look goofy.
Unlike a famous person’s birthday party, which is always full of fellow celebrities, professional photographers, and even some tabloid-ready chatter, a random holiday party is a perfect place to cultivate a superstar’s image as a relatively normal person. In photos from 2014, which attendees shared on their own Instagram pages, Swift’s seen toting a film camera, pointed at her friends; running into the ocean with abandon; sitting in the back of a larger group shot, to the point where your eyes may glaze over her. (In one widely seen group shot, I first spotted Dunham, sitting in the front with her middle finger raised.) There’s even a photo of her screaming her way down a Slip ‘N Slide. That’s about as self-effacing as any highly managed celebrity gets.
While the 2013 party drummed up few headlines, from 2014 onward, the media seized upon these parceled-out moments of Swift acting real (again: relatively speaking, considering everything she does is PR-approved). There were headlines aplenty and instant fandom myth-making. The media continued to pay obsessive attention in the years that followed, as 1989-era Swift was seen out and about with her gal-pal squad at all sorts of events. The apex of the phenomenon was perhaps Swift’s “Bad Blood” video, which featured various squad members and solidified who really belonged in the artist’s friend group. But that was a friend hangout on a massive scale, as were those stories of Swift getting underage Lorde drunk at an awards ceremony or sitting courtside at a Knicks game with ex-best friend Karlie Kloss. The Fourth of July parties came off as intimate, silly, good-vibe affairs by comparison.
Unfortunately, Swift put an end to her publicly captured Fourth of July bonanza after 2016—just three short years of Taymerica fun. At the same time, the 2016 event strayed away from what made the previous years’ parties so thrilling, as an observer. A legitimate photographer attended, to ensure that everyone was looking Instagram-ready; that was a thing we all really, really cared about in 2016, and it’s an unabated passion for many celebs today.
I’d also like to blame Joe Alwyn, the bland non-American she started dating in late-2016, who must have convinced her that celebrating a former British colony in such a fashion was a silly idea. No matter how obnoxious Taymerica had become, to us or Joe or both, the media and fans mourned their demise.
But with Joe out of the picture following their breakup this spring, and with Swift riding high on the smash success of the Eras Tour, the Fourth of July party has made its grand return. Swift and pals posted cozy photos together at her house this past summer, all in the name of Fourth of July.
The squad is much smaller now; Gomez and the Haims remain, but many of the other members have husbands, kids, dogs, lives, and new friends to hang with. But we still appreciate this rare glimpse at the woman behind the songs—the one who’s obsessed with her cats and just wants to hang out with her girlies. Truly, what is more human than that? And can I get an invite to next year’s party?