At age nine, Swift became interested in musical theater and performed in four Berks Youth Theatre Academy productions. She also traveled regularly to New York City for vocal and acting lessons. Swift later shifted her focus toward country music, inspired by Shania Twain's songs, which made her "want to just run around the block four times and daydream about everything." She spent weekends performing at local festivals and events. After watching a documentary about Faith Hill, Swift felt sure she needed to move to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a career in music. She traveled with her mother at age eleven to visit Nashville record labels and submitted demo tapes of Dolly Parton and The Chicks karaoke covers. She was rejected, however, because "everyone in that town wanted to do what I wanted to do. So, I kept thinking to myself, I need to figure out a way to be different."
When Swift was around 12 years old, computer repairman and local musician Ronnie Cremer taught her to play guitar. He helped with her first efforts as a songwriter, leading her to write "Lucky You". In 2003, Swift and her parents started working with New York-based talent manager Dan Dymtrow. With his help, Swift modeled for Abercrombie & Fitch as part of their "Rising Stars" campaign, had an original song included on a Maybelline compilation CD, and attended meetings with major record labels. After performing original songs at an RCA Records showcase, Swift was given an artist development deal and began making frequent trips to Nashville with her mother.
To help Swift break into country music, her father transferred to Merrill Lynch's Nashville office when she was 14 years old, and the family relocated to a lakefront house in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Swift initially attended Hendersonville High School before transferring to the Aaron Academy after two years, which could better accommodate her touring schedule through homeschooling. She graduated a year early.
2004–2008: Career beginnings and first album
In Nashville, Swift worked with experienced Music Row songwriters such as Troy Verges, Brett Beavers, Brett James, Mac McAnally, and the Warren Brothers, and formed a lasting working relationship with Liz Rose. They began meeting for two-hour writing sessions every Tuesday afternoon after school. Rose thought the sessions were "some of the easiest I've ever done. Basically, I was just her editor. She'd write about what happened in school that day. She had such a clear vision of what she was trying to say. And she'd come in with the most incredible hooks." Swift became the youngest artist signed by the Sony/ATV Tree publishing house but left the Sony-owned RCA Records at the age of 14. She recalled: "I genuinely felt that I was running out of time. I wanted to capture these years of my life on an album while they still represented what I was going through."
At an industry showcase at Nashville's Bluebird Cafe in 2005, Swift caught the attention of Scott Borchetta, a DreamWorks Records executive who was preparing to form an independent record label, Big Machine Records. She had first met Borchetta in 2004. Swift became one of Big Machine's first signings, and her father purchased a three-percent stake in the company for an estimated $120,000. She began working on her eponymous debut album shortly after. Swift persuaded Big Machine to hire her demo producer Nathan Chapman, with whom she felt she had the right "chemistry". She wrote three of the album's songs alone, and co-wrote the remaining eight with Rose, Robert Ellis Orrall, Brian Maher, and Angelo Petraglia.Taylor Swift was released on October 24, 2006.Jon Caramanica of The New York Times described it as "a small masterpiece of pop-minded country, both wide-eyed and cynical, held together by Ms. Swift's firm, pleading voice."Taylor Swift peaked at number five on the U.S. Billboard 200, where it spent 157 weeks—the longest stay on the chart by any release in the U.S. in the 2000s decade.
Big Machine Records was still in its infancy during the June 2006 release of the lead single, "Tim McGraw". Swift and her mother helped "stuff the CD singles into envelopes to send to radio." She spent much of 2006 promoting Taylor Swift with a radio tour, television appearances, and opening for Rascal Flatts on select dates during their 2006 tour after they fired their previous opening act, Eric Church, for playing longer than his allotted time. Church jokingly told Swift she should give him her first gold record as thanks for getting fired. She sent him her first gold record with a note that said, "Thanks for playing too long and too loud on the Flatts tour. I sincerely appreciate it. Taylor."
Swift's second studio album, Fearless, was released on November 11, 2008. Five singles were released in 2008 through 2009: "Love Story", "White Horse", "You Belong with Me", "Fifteen", and "Fearless". "Love Story", the lead single, peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one in Australia. "You Belong with Me" was the album's highest-charting single on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number two. All five singles were Billboard Hot Country Songs top-10 entries, with "Love Story" and "You Belong with Me" peaking at number one.Fearless debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and was the top-selling album of 2009 in the U.S. The Fearless Tour, Swift's first headlining concert tour, grossed over $63 million.Journey to Fearless, a three-part documentary miniseries, was aired on television and later released on DVD and Blu-ray. Swift also performed as a supporting act for Keith Urban's Escape Together World Tour in 2009.
In August 2010, Swift released "Mine", the lead single from her third studio album, Speak Now. It entered the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 at number three. Swift wrote the album alone and co-produced every track.Speak Now, released on October 25, 2010, debuted atop the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of a million copies. It became the fastest-selling digital album by a female artist, with 278,000 downloads in a week, earning Swift an entry in the 2010 Guinness World Records. The songs "Mine", "Back to December", "Mean", "The Story of Us", "Sparks Fly", and "Ours" were released as singles. All except "The Story of Us" were Hot Country Songs top-three entries, with "Sparks Fly" and "Ours" reaching number one. "Back to December" and "Mean" peaked in the top ten in Canada. Later in 2010, she briefly dated actor Jake Gyllenhaal.
During her tour dates for 2011, she wrote the lyrics of various songs written by other people on her left arm. At the 54th Annual Grammy Awards in 2012, Swift won Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance for "Mean", which she performed during the ceremony. Media publications noted the performance as an improvement from her much criticized 2010 Grammy performance, which served as a testament to her abilities as a musician. Swift won other awards for Speak Now, including Songwriter/Artist of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association (2010 and 2011), Woman of the Year by Billboard (2011), and Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music (2011 and 2012) and the Country Music Association in 2011. At the American Music Awards of 2011, Swift won Artist of the Year and Favorite Country Album.Rolling Stone placed Speak Now at number 45 in its 2012 list of the "50 Best Female Albums of All Time", writing: "She might get played on the country station, but she's one of the few genuine rock stars we've got these days, with a flawless ear for what makes a song click."
In August 2012, Swift released "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", the lead single from her fourth studio album, Red. It became her first number one in the U.S. and New Zealand, and reached the top slot on iTunes' digital song sales chart 50 minutes after its release, earning the Fastest Selling Single in Digital History Guinness World Record. Other singles released from the album include "Begin Again", "I Knew You Were Trouble", "22", "Everything Has Changed", "The Last Time", and "Red". "I Knew You Were Trouble" reached the top five on charts in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. Three singles , "Begin Again", "22", and "Red", reached the top 20 in the U.S.
Red was released on October 22, 2012. On Red, Swift worked with new producers besides longtime collaborators Nathan Chapman and Liz Rose: Max Martin, Shellback, Dann Huff, Jeff Bhasker, Butch Walker, Dan Wilson, and Jacknife Lee. The album incorporates new genres for Swift, such as heartland rock, dubstep and dance-pop. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 1.21 million copies. This made Swift the first female to have two million-selling album openings, a record recognized by the Guinness World Records. It was Swift's first number-one album in the U.K.The Red Tour ran from March 2013 to June 2014 and grossed over $150 million, becoming the highest-grossing country tour when it completed.
Red had sold eight million copies by 2014. The album earned several accolades, including four nominations at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards in 2014. Its single "I Knew You Were Trouble" won Best Female Video at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. Swift received American Music Awards for Best Female Country Artist in 2012, and Artist of the Year in 2013. She received the Nashville Songwriters Association's Songwriter/Artist Award for the fifth and sixth consecutive years in 2012 and 2013. Swift was honored by the Association with a special Pinnacle Award, making her the second recipient of the accolade after Garth Brooks. During this time, she had a short-term relationship with English singer Harry Styles.
In March 2014, Swift lived in New York City.[b] Around this time, she was working on her fifth studio album, 1989, with producers Jack Antonoff, Max Martin, Shellback, Imogen Heap, Ryan Tedder, and Ali Payami. She promoted the album through various campaigns, including inviting fans to secret album-listening sessions. Influenced by 1980s synth-pop, Swift severed ties with the country sound of her previous albums, and marketed 1989 as her "first documented, official pop album". The album was released on October 27, 2014.
1989 sold 1.28 million copies in the U.S. during the first week of release and debuted atop the Billboard 200. This made Swift the first act to have three albums sell more than one million copies in their opening week, for which she earned a Guinness World Record. By June 2017, 1989 had sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Three of its singles—"Shake It Off", "Blank Space", and "Bad Blood" featuring rapper Kendrick Lamar—reached number one in Australia, Canada, and the U.S. The singles "Style" and "Wildest Dreams" reached the top 10 in the U.S. Other singles were "Out of the Woods" and "New Romantics".The 1989 World Tour ran from May to December 2015 and was the highest-grossing tour of the year with $250 million in total revenue.
Prior to 1989's release, Swift stressed the importance of albums to artists and fans. In November 2014, she removed her entire catalog from Spotify, arguing that the streaming company's ad-supported, free service undermined the premium service, which provides higher royalties for songwriters. In a June 2015 open letter, Swift criticized Apple Music for not offering royalties to artists during the streaming service's free three-month trial period and stated that she would pull 1989 from the catalog. The following day, Apple announced that it would pay artists during the free trial period, and Swift agreed to stream 1989 on the streaming service. Swift's intellectual property rights management and holding company, TAS Rights Management, filed for 73 trademarks related to Swift and the 1989 era memes. She re-added her entire catalog plus 1989 to Spotify, Amazon Music and Google Play and other digital streaming platforms in June 2017.
Swift dated Scottish DJ and record producer Calvin Harris from March 2015 to June 2016. Prior to their breakup, they co-wrote the song "This Is What You Came For", which features vocals from Barbadian singer Rihanna; Swift was initially credited under the pseudonym Nils Sjöberg. She subsequently dated English actor Tom Hiddleston for a few months. In June 2016, Kanye West released his single "Famous", which contained a controversial lyric mentioning Swift in regards to his interruption of her 2009 VMA acceptance speech. Swift criticized West, who stated she approved to the lyric beforehand, a claim that Swift denied. Months later, West's wife Kim Kardashian released a video of a phone call between Swift and West in which Swift appears to approve a portion of the lyric, following which "#TaylorSwiftIsASnake" trended on Twitter. In 2020, a 25-minute uncut video of the phone call surfaced, establishing that West did not tell Swift about the specific line ("I made that bitch famous") which she had objected to.
In August 2017, Swift successfully sued David Mueller, a former morning show personality for Denver's KYGO-FM. Four years earlier, Swift had informed Mueller's bosses that he had sexually assaulted her by groping her at an event. After being fired, Mueller accused Swift of lying and sued her for damages from his loss of employment. Shortly after, Swift counter-sued for sexual assault for nominal damages of only a dollar. The jury rejected Mueller's claims and ruled in favor of Swift. After a year of hiatus from public spotlight, Swift cleared her social media accounts and released "Look What You Made Me Do" as the lead single from her sixth album, Reputation. The single was Swift's first number-one U.K. single. It topped charts in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the U.S.
Reputation was released on November 10, 2017. The album incorporates a heavy electropop sound, with hip hop, R&B and EDM influences. It debuted atop the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 1.21 million copies. With this achievement, Swift became the first act to have four albums sell one million copies within one week in the U.S. The album topped the charts in the UK, Australia, and Canada. First-week worldwide sales amounted to two million copies. The album had sold over 4.5 million copies worldwide as of 2018. It spawned three other international singles, including the U.S. top-five entry "...Ready for It?", and two U.S. top-20 singles—"End Game" (featuring Ed Sheeran and rapper Future) and "Delicate". Other singles include "New Year's Day", which was exclusively released to U.S. country radio, and "Getaway Car", which was released in Australia only.
In April 2018, Swift featured on Sugarland's "Babe" from their album Bigger.[d] In support of Reputation, she embarked on her Reputation Stadium Tour, which ran from May to November 2018. In the U.S., the tour grossed $266.1 million in box office and sold over two million tickets, breaking Swift's own record for the highest-grossing U.S. tour by a woman, which was previously held by her 1989 World Tour in 2015 ($181.5 million). It also broke the record for the highest-grossing North American concert tour in history. Worldwide, the tour grossed $345.7 million, making it the second highest-grossing concert tour of the year. In late November, Big Machine Records released a Reputation Stadium Tour playlist for streaming services. The playlist includes every song performed on B-stages during the Reputation Stadium Tour. On December 31, Swift released her Reputation Stadium Tour's accompanying concert film on Netflix.
Reputation was Swift's last album under her 12-year contract with Big Machine Records. In November 2018, she signed a new multi-album deal with Big Machine's distributor Universal Music Group; in the U.S. her subsequent releases were promoted under the Republic Records imprint. Swift said the contract included a provision for her to maintain ownership of her master recordings. In addition, in the event that Universal sells any part of its stake in Spotify, Spotify agreed to distribute a non-recoupable portion of the proceeds among their artists.
Swift released her seventh studio album, Lover, on August 23, 2019. Besides longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff, Swift worked with new producers Louis Bell, Frank Dukes, and Joel Little.Lover was Swift's sixth consecutive album to sell more than 500,000 copies in one week in the U.S., making Swift the first female artist to do so. All 18 songs from the album charted on the Billboard Hot 100 the same week, setting a record for the most simultaneous entries by a woman. The lead single, "Me!", debuted at number 100 on the Billboard Hot 100 and rose to number two a week later, scoring the biggest single-week jump in chart history. Other singles from Lover were the U.S. top-10 singles "You Need to Calm Down" and "Lover", and U.S. top-40 single "The Man".
During promotion for Lover in 2019, Swift became embroiled in a publicized dispute with talent manager Scooter Braun and her former label Big Machine, regarding the acquisition of the masters of her back catalog. Swift stated on her Tumblr blog that she had been trying to buy the masters for years, but Big Machine only allowed her to do so if she exchanged a new album for an older one under another contract, which she chose not to do. In April 2020, Big Machine released Live from Clear Channel Stripped 2008, a live album of Swift's performances at a 2008 radio show, which Swift did not authorize. In October, Braun sold Swift's masters, videos and artworks, to Shamrock Holdings for a reported $300 million. Swift began re-recording her back catalog in November 2020.
2020–present: Folklore, Evermore, and re-recordings
In 2020, Swift released two surprise albums with little promotion, to critical acclaim. The first, her eighth studio album Folklore, was released on July 24. The second, her ninth studio album Evermore, was released on December 11. Swift wrote and recorded the albums while in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, working with producers Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner from the National. Both albums feature collaborations with Bon Iver, and Evermore features collaborations with the National and Haim. Swift's boyfriend Joe Alwyn co-wrote and co-produced select songs under the pseudonym William Bowery. The making of Folklore was discussed in the concert documentary Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, directed by Swift and released on November 25.
Described by Swift and Dessner as "sister records", both albums embrace indie folk and alternative rock, departing from the previous upbeat pop releases. In the U.S., Folklore and Evermore were each supported by three singles—one to mainstream radio, one to country radio, and one to triple A radio. The singles in that order were "Cardigan", "Betty", "Exile" (featuring Bon Iver); and "Willow", "No Body, No Crime" (featuring Haim), "Coney Island" (featuring the National); respectively. In Germany, Folklore was supported by another single, "The 1". The lead singles from each album, "Cardigan" and "Willow", debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100 the same week their parent albums debuted atop the Billboard 200, making Swift the first artist to debut atop both the U.S. singles and albums charts simultaneously. Each album sold over one million units worldwide in its first week, with Folklore selling two million.Folklore broke the Guinness World Record for the highest first-day album streams by a female artist on Spotify, and was the best-selling album of 2020 in the U.S., having sold 1.2 million copies. Swift was 2020's highest-paid musician in the U.S., and highest-paid solo musician worldwide. At the 2020 American Music Awards, Swift won three awards, including Artist of the Year for a record third consecutive time.Folklore won Album of the Year at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, making Swift the first woman in history to win the award three times.
One of Swift's earliest musical memories is listening to American opera singer and her maternal grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, sing in church. As a child, she enjoyed Disney film soundtracks: "My parents noticed that, once I had run out of words, I would just make up my own". Swift has said she owes her confidence to her mother, who helped her prepare for class presentations as a child. She also attributes her "fascination with writing and storytelling" to her mother. Swift was drawn to the storytelling aspect of country music, and was introduced to the genre listening to "the great female country artists of the '90s"—Shania Twain, Faith Hill, and the Dixie Chicks." Twain, both as a songwriter and performer, was her biggest musical influence. Hill was Swift's childhood role model: "Everything she said, did, wore, I tried to copy it". She admired the Dixie Chicks' defiant attitude and their ability to play their own instruments. "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None the Richer was the first song Swift learned to play on the guitar. Swift also explored the music of older country stars such as Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and Dolly Parton, the latter of whom she believes is "an amazing example to every female songwriter out there", and alt-country artists like Patty Griffin and Lori McKenna. She has also cited Keith Urban's musical style as an influence.
Swift has also been influenced by various pop and rock artists. She lists Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams,Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, and Carly Simon as her career role models. Discussing McCartney and Harris, Swift has said, "They've taken chances, but they've also been the same artist for their entire careers". McCartney, both as a Beatle and a solo artist, makes Swift feel "as if I've been let into his heart and his mind [...] He's out there continuing to make his fans so happy. Any musician could only dream of a legacy like that." She likes Springsteen for being "so musically relevant after such a long period of time". She aspires to be like Harris as she grows older because of prioritizing music over fame. Swift says of Kristofferson that he "shines in songwriting", and admires Simon for being "an emotional" but "a strong person". Her synth-pop album 1989 was influenced by some of her favorite 1980s pop acts, including Peter Gabriel, Annie Lennox, Phil Collins and Madonna. As a songwriter, Swift was influenced by Joni Mitchell for her autobiographical lyrics conveying the deepest emotions: "She wrote it about her deepest pains and most haunting demons ... I think [Blue] is my favorite because it explores somebody's soul so deeply".
Swift's discography spans country, pop, folk, and alternative genres. Her first three studio albums Taylor Swift, Fearless and Speak Now are categorized as country; her eclectic fourth studio album, Red, is dubbed both country and pop; her next three albums 1989, Reputation and Lover are labeled pop; and Folklore and Evermore are considered alternative. Music critics have described her songs as synth-pop,country pop,rock,electropop, and indie, amongst others; some songs, especially those on Reputation, incorporate elements of R&B, EDM, hip hop, and trap. The music instruments Swift plays include the piano, banjo, ukulele and various types of guitar. Swift described herself as a country artist until the release of 1989, which she characterized as her first "sonically cohesive pop album".
If there's one thing that Swift has proven throughout her career, it's that she refuses to be put in a box. Her ever-evolving sound took her from country darling to pop phenom to folk's newest raconteur—a transition that, on paper, seems arduous [...] Her wordcraft is some of the most alluring of her generation, and that's never been lost on her music, regardless of the genre she's exploring.
Rolling Stone wrote, "[Swift] might get played on the country station, but she's one of the few genuine rock stars we've got these days." According to The New York Times, "There isn't much in Ms. Swift's music to indicate country—a few banjo strums, a pair of cowboy boots worn onstage, a bedazzled guitar—but there's something in her winsome, vulnerable delivery that's unique to Nashville."The Guardian wrote that Swift "cranks melodies out with the pitiless efficiency of a Scandinavian pop factory."Consequence pinpointed her "capacity to continually reinvent while remaining herself", while Time dubbed Swift a "musical chameleon" for the constantly evolving sound of her discography.Clash said her career "has always been one of transcendence and covert boundary-pushing", reaching a point at which "Taylor Swift is just Taylor Swift", not defined by any genre.
Swift possesses a mezzo-sopranovocal range. Her singing voice is "sweet but soft" according to Sophie Schillaci of The Hollywood Reporter.Pitchfork's Sam Sodomsky called it "versatile and expressive".Music theory professor Alyssa Barna described the timbre of Swift's upper register as "breathy and bright", and her lower register "full and dark". The Los Angeles Times identified Swift's "defining" vocal gesture in studio recordings as "the line that slides down like a contented sigh or up like a raised eyebrow, giving her beloved girl-time hits their air of easy intimacy." In 2010, a writer from The Tennessean conceded that Swift was "not the best technical singer", but described her as the "best communicator that we've got". Her vocal ability is something that has often concerned Swift in her early career, and she has "put a lot of work" into improving it. She said she only feels nervous performing live "if I'm not sure what the audience thinks of me, like at award shows".
In 2011, Rolling Stone wrote: "Swift's voice is unaffected enough to mask how masterful she has become as a singer; she lowers her voice for the payoff lines in the classic mode of a shy girl trying to talk tough."The Village Voice wrote that her phrasing was previously "bland and muddled, but that's changed. She can still sound strained and thin, and often strays into a pitch that drives some people crazy; but she's learned how to make words sound like what they mean." In 2014, NPR Music described her singing as personal and conversational thanks to her "exceptional gift for inflection", but also suffered from a "wobbly pitch and tight, nasal delivery".The Hollywood Reporter wrote that her live vocals were "fine", but did not match those of her peers. Swift was praised for refusing to correct her pitch with Auto-Tune.
In 2020, Variety critic Andrew Barker said Swift has developed "remarkable" control over her vocals, never allowing a "flourish or a tricky run to compromise the clarity of a lyric", while doing "wonders within her register" and "exploring its further reaches". Reviewing Swift's 2021 re-recording of Fearless, The New York Times critic Lindsay Zoladz wrote that her voice became stronger, more controlled, and deeper over time, discarding the nasal tone of her early vocals. Lucy Harbron of Clash opined that Swift's vocals have evolved "into her own unique blend of country, pop and indie".
I love songwriting so much because there's an element to it that is still really mysterious—like I think any songwriter will tell you, when you get an idea you're not quite sure where it floated down from, but if you can grab onto that idea and turn it into something, a piece of music, that's where craftsmanship comes in; that’s where you have the opportunity to learn and to nurture that craft.
In a 2011 interview with The New Yorker, Swift identified primarily as a songwriter: "I write songs, and my voice is just a way to get those lyrics across." Swift's personal experiences were a common inspiration for her early songs, which helped her navigate the complexities of life. Her "diaristic" technique began with identifying an emotion, followed by a corresponding melody. On her first three studio albums, recurring themes were love, heartbreak, and insecurities, from an adolescent perspective. She delved into the tumult of toxic relationships on Red, and embraced nostalgia and positivity after failed relationships on 1989.Reputation was inspired by Swift's celebrity, and Lover detailed her realization of the "full spectrum of love". Besides romance, other themes in Swift's music include parent-child relationships, friendships, alienation, and self-awareness.
Swift's confessional narratives received critical praise. Music critics complimented Swift's songwriting for its vivid details and emotional engagement, which were uncommon among other pop artists.New York magazine argued that Swift was the first teenage artist who explicitly portrayed teenage experiences in her music.Rolling Stone described Swift as "a songwriting savant with an intuitive gift for verse-chorus-bridge architecture". Although reviews of Swift are generally positive, The New Yorker stated she was generally portrayed "more as a skilled technician than as a Dylanesque visionary". Because of her confessional narratives, tabloid media often speculated and linked the subjects of the songs with ex-lovers of Swift, a practice which New York magazine considered "sexist, inasmuch as it's not asked of her male peers". Aside from clues provided in album liner notes, Swift avoided talking about song subjects specifically. In a 2013 interview with Vanity Fair, Swift stated that the criticism on her songwriting—critics interpreted her persona as a "clingy, insane, desperate girlfriend in need of making you marry her and have kids with her"—was "a little sexist".
On her 2020 albums Folklore and Evermore, Swift was inspired by escapism and romanticism to explore fictional narratives. Without referencing her personal life, she imposed her emotions onto imagined characters and story arcs, which liberated her from the mental stress caused by tabloid attention and suggested new paths for her artistry. In a feature for Rolling Stone, Swift explained that she welcomed the new songwriting direction after she stopped worrying about commercial success: "I always thought, 'That'll never track on pop radio,' but when I was making Folklore, I thought, 'If you take away all the parameters, what do you make?" With the release of Evermore, Spin found Swift exploring "exceedingly complex human emotions with precision and devastation".Consequence stated her 2020 albums "offered a chance for doubters to see Swift's songwriting power on full display, but the truth is that her pen has always been her sword" and that her writing prowess took "different forms" as she transformed from "teenage wunderkind to a confident and careful adult."
Swift's bridges have been underscored as one of the best aspects of her songs and earned her the title "Queen of Bridges" from media outlets. Awarding Swift with the Songwriter Icon Award in 2021, the National Music Publishers' Association remarked that "no one is more influential when it comes to writing music today" than her.The Week deemed Swift the foremost female songwriter of modern times.
Swift has collaborated with many different directors to produce her music videos, and over time she has become more involved with writing and directing. She has her own production house, Taylor Swift Productions, Inc., which is credited with producing music videos for singles such as "Me!", and is known for hiding elaborate clues and easter eggs in her work. In 2010, Swift co-directed the music video for "Mine" with Roman White. In 2011, she continued to collaborate with White on the music videos for "Mean" and "Ours". Swift developed the concept and treatment for "Mean". In an interview, White elaborated that Swift "was keenly involved in writing the treatment, casting and wardrobe. And she stayed for both the 15-hour shooting days, even when she wasn't in the scenes." Swift wrote the concept for the "Ours" music video and then brought in White to direct, who described her vision of both videos as being "storylines".
From 2014 to 2018, Swift collaborated with director Joseph Kahn on eight music videos—four each from her albums 1989 and Reputation. Kahn has praised Swift's involvement in the craft. In 2014, Swift worked with American Express for her "Blank Space" music video (which Kahn directed), and released the interactive app AMEX Unstaged: Taylor Swift Experience. Swift received starring and executive producer credit and won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Interactive Program in 2015 for the app. She received producing credit in her music video for "Bad Blood" and won a Grammy Award for Best Music Video in 2016. Swift developed the concept, wrote the treatment for, and starred in the music video for the Sugarland song "Babe" (2018). She has since emerged as a music video director herself, co-directing the music videos for three Lover singles: "Me!" with Dave Meyers, and "You Need to Calm Down" and "Lover" with Drew Kirsch. She co-executive produced the second of them with Todrick Hall. Swift was the sole director of the videos for "The Man", for which she won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Direction in 2020; "Cardigan"; and "Willow", for which Swift was nominated again for Best Direction at the 2021 Video Music Awards.
Swift became a teen idol upon her debut, and a pop icon following global fame. Journalists have taken note of her polite personality, with TheGuardian attributing it to her formative years in country music.The Hollywood Reporter described her as "the Best People Person since Bill Clinton". While presenting Swift with an award for her humanitarian endeavors in 2012, former First Lady Michelle Obama described Swift as an artist who "has rocketed to the top of the music industry but still keeps her feet on the ground, someone who has shattered every expectation of what a 22-year-old can accomplish"; Swift considers Obama to be a role model. In 2020, YouGov named Swift the most admired female musician in the world.
Swift is one of the most followed people on social media, with accounts on Instagram,Twitter,YouTube,Tumblr,TikTok, and Sina Weibo.Brandwatch ranked her as the most influential person on Twitter in 2021. Swift is known for her frequent and friendly interactions with her fans both online and in real life, delivering holiday gifts to them by mail and in person. She considers it her "responsibility" to be conscious of her influence on young fans, calling her relationship with her fans "the longest and best" she has ever had. According to Elle, Swift has changed the way artists interact with their fandoms, and cited the intimacy she shares with her fans as a major factor contributing to her "perennial" success. She regularly incorporates easter eggs into her works and social media posts for fans to figure out clues about a forthcoming release.
Journalists also describe Swift as a savvy businessperson. According to marketing executive Matt B. Britton, her business acumen has helped her "excel as an authentic personality who establishes direct connections with her audience", "touch as many people as possible", and "generate a kind of advocacy and excitement that no level of advertising could."
Though labeled by the media as "America's Sweetheart", a sobriquet based on her down-to-earth personality and girl-next-door image, Swift insists she does not "live by all these rigid, weird rules that make me feel all fenced in. I just like the way that I feel like, and that makes me feel very free".Consequence opined that her image evolved from "girl-next-door country act to pop star to woodsy poet over a decade." Although Swift publicly refuses to take part in "sexy" photoshoots,Bloomberg views her as a sex symbol, albeit of a subtle and sophisticated variety, unlike many of her female contemporaries. In agreement, Elle highlighted the various styles Swift has adopted throughout her career, including the "curly-haired teenager" of her early days to "red-lipped pop bombshell" with "platinum blonde hair and sultry makeup looks" later on. Swift has been recognized as a fashion icon;Vogue named her an Icon of American Style in 2011, she topped People's annual best-dressed list in 2014, named Woman of the Year at the Elle Style Awards in 2015, and ranked first on Maxim's Hot 100 list.Vogue regards Swift as one of the world's most influential figures in sustainable fashion.
Hey, you're going to date just like a normal 20-something should be allowed to, but you're going to be a national lightning rod for slut-shaming.
— Swift on what she would tell her 19-year-old self, 73 Questions with Taylor Swift, Vogue
Swift's personal life is a topic of widespread media attention and tabloid speculation.The New York Times asserted in 2013 that her "dating history has begun to stir what feels like the beginning of a backlash" and questioned whether Swift was in the midst of a "quarter-life crisis". She is reluctant to publicly discuss her personal life, believing that doing so can be "a career weakness". Critics of entertainment industry have also highlighted the sexism,misogyny, and slut-shaming Swift's life and career has been subject to; Swift has addressed these issues in her music. In "Blank Space", she parodies her portrayal by the media as "a girl who's crazy but seductive but glamorous but nuts but manipulative". Much of Reputation was conceived under the "intense" media scrutiny she experienced in 2015 and 2016, which caused her to adopt a dark, defensive alter ego on the album. She further criticized sexist double standards and gaslighting in her songs "The Man" (2019) and "Mad Woman" (2020), respectively. When asked "why sing to the haters?" by CBS journalist Tracy Smith, Swift replied, "well, when they stop coming for me, I will stop singing to them".
Swift's career helped shape the modern country music scene. According to music journalist Jody Rosen, Swift is the first country artist whose fame reached the world beyond the U.S. Her chart success extended to Asia and the U.K., where country music had previously not been popular. Following Swift's rise to fame, country labels became more interested in signing young singers who write their own music. With her autobiographical narratives revolving around romance and heartbreak, Swift introduced the genre to a younger generation that could relate to her personally. Critics have since noted the impact of her sound on various albums released by female country singers such as Kacey Musgraves,Maren Morris, and Kelsea Ballerini.Rolling Stone listed Swift's country music as one of the biggest influences on 2010s pop music and ranked her 80th in their list of 100 Greatest Country Artists of All Time.
Her onstage performance with guitars contributed to the "Taylor Swift factor", a phenomenon to which the rise in guitar sales to women, a previously ignored demographic, is attributed.Pitchfork opined that Swift changed the contemporary music landscape forever with her "unprecedented path from teenage country prodigy to global pop sensation" and a "singularly perceptive" discography that consistently accommodates both musical and cultural shifts.Clash stated that Swift's genre-spanning career encouraged her peers to experiment with various genres. Music journalist Nick Catucci wrote that, in being personal and vulnerable in her lyrics, Swift helped make space for later pop stars like Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, and Halsey to do the same. According to The Guardian, Swift leads the rebirth of poptimism in the 21st-century with her ambitious artistic vision.
Publications consider Swift's million-selling albums an anomaly in the streaming-dominated music industry following the decline of the album era in the 2010s. For this reason, musicologists Mary Fogarty and Gina Arnold regard her "the last great rock star". Swift is the only artist to have four albums sell over one million copies in one week since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for the Billboard 200 in 1991. To New York magazine, Swift's million sales figures prove that she is "the one bending the music industry to her will". She also contributed to the resurgence of vinyl sales in the 21st century.The Atlantic remarked that Swift's "reign" defies conventional wisdom about the successful phase of an artist's career rarely lasting more than a few years.
Swift has been recognized for challenging music industry norms. Her actions have fostered debate over reforms to on-demand music streaming and prompted awareness of intellectual property rights among younger musicians. According to Rolling Stone, her opposition to low royalties for artists from streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, along with her efforts to claim ownership of her masters, were two of the music industry's most defining moments in the 2010s decade.The Standard said Swift is "one of few artists with the power and profile to create change in the music world", and hence her decision to re-record her back catalog "motivates less established musicians to fight for better record deals."
From available data, Swift has sold over 50 million albums, including 37.3 million in the U.S., and more than 150 million singles worldwide. She has amassed over 114 million units in global album consumption, including 78 billion streams, as of May 2021. In 2019, Billboard placed her eighth on its Greatest of All Time Artists Chart. Swift is the longest-reigning act of Billboard Artist 100 (50 weeks at number one), the solo act with the most cumulative weeks (55) atop the Billboard 200, the woman with the most Billboard Hot 100 entries in history (164), and the artist with the most number ones (23) on the BillboardDigital Songs chart. In August 2021, Swift became the first female artist to have five albums chart for 150 weeks each on the Billboard 200 with 1989, Taylor Swift, Fearless, Red and Reputation.
She has the most number-one albums in the United Kingdom and Ireland for a female artist in this millennium and is the best-selling artist of all time on Chinese digital music platforms, earning CN¥ 159,000,000 from her discography. Swift is the second highest-certified female digital singles artist (and third overall) in the U.S., with 134 million total units certified by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and the first female artist to have both an album (Fearless) and a song ("Shake It Off") certified Diamond. She broke the record for the highest-grossing North American tour of all time with her Reputation Stadium Tour (2018) and is the world's highest-grossing female touring act of the 2010s.
Swift has appeared in various power listings. Time included her on its annual list of the 100 most influential people in 2010, 2015, and 2019. She was one of the "Silence Breakers" honored as Time Person of the Year in 2017 for speaking up about sexual assault. From 2011 to 2020, she appeared in the top three on the Forbes Top-Earning Women in Music list, placing first in 2016 and 2019. In 2014, she was named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 list in the music category and again in 2017 in its "All-Star Alumni" category. In 2015, Swift became the youngest woman to be included on Forbes' list of the 100 most powerful women, ranked at number 64. She was the most googled female musician of 2019.
In 2021, Forbes estimated Swift's net worth at US$550 million, coming from her music, streaming royalties, merchandise, promotions, and tours. She topped the magazine's list of the 100 highest-paid celebrities in 2016 with $170 million—a feat recognized by the Guinness World Records as the highest annual earnings ever for a female musician, which she herself surpassed in 2019 with $185 million. Swift was the highest-paid female musician of the 2010s, with $825 million earned.
Swift has invested in a real estate portfolio worth $84 million. In Nashville, she purchased a condo for $1.99 million in 2009 and a suburban Greek-revival estate for $2.5 million in 2011. In Beverly Hills, California, she bought a $3.55 million Cape Cod-style cottage in 2011 and a $1.78 million single-story mid-century home in 2012; Swift sold both properties in 2018 for $4 million and $2.65 million, respectively. She purchased the Samuel Goldwyn Estate, a Georgian-revival house in Beverly Hills, for $25 million in 2015, which she has since restored to its original condition. The estate was granted National Historic Landmark status in 2017 and contains Swift's home studio, Kitty Committee, where she recorded songs for Folklore. In 2013, Swift acquired the Holiday House, a seafront mansion in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, for $17.75 million; she previously hosted annual Fourth-of-July parties on the estate and has had stalking incidents there. In 2015, Gina Raimondo, then-Governor of Rhode Island, proposed but never implemented a statewide property tax for second homes worth more than $1 million, dubbed the "Taylor Swift tax". Holiday House also inspired Swift's 2020 song "The Last Great American Dynasty". In New York City, her $47 million worth of property on a single block in Tribeca includes a $19.95 million duplex penthouse, an $18 million four-story townhouse, and a $9.75 million apartment purchased in 2014, 2017 and 2018, respectively.
While promoting her fourth album, Red, Swift offered exclusive album promotions through Target,Papa John's Pizza, and Walgreens. She became a spokesmodel for Diet Coke and Keds sneakers, released her third Elizabeth Arden fragrance named Taylor by Taylor Swift, and continued her partnerships with Sony Electronics and American Greetings. Swift released her fourth fragrance, Taylor by Taylor Swift: Made of Starlight, and partnered with the companies AirAsia and Qantas during the Red Tour. The companies acted as the official airlines for the Australian and Asian legs; Cornetto sponsored the Asian leg of the tour. While promoting 1989, Swift had tie-ins with Subway, Keds, Target, Xfinity, and Diet Coke. In 2014, Swift released her fifth fragrance, Incredible Things. In 2016, she worked with Apple Music to release a series of three commercials.
^ Sources on recognition of Alwyn as Swift's "partner"
Malone Kircher, Madison (December 11, 2020). "Thank You, Taylor Swift, for Making My Sad Yuletide Gay(er)". Vulture. Retrieved September 15, 2021. For "betty", it was "William Bowery" a.k.a. her partner Joe Alwyn who, according to Swift’s folklore concert film, plays the piano "just beautifully" and roams the house singing fully formed songs.
"Paul McCartney & Taylor Swift". Rolling Stone. November 13, 2020. Retrieved September 15, 2021. McCartney: So how does that go? Does your partner sympathize with that and understand? Swift: Oh, absolutely.