Taylor Swift

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Taylor Swift (2006), 4/10
Fearless (2008), 4/10
Speak Now (2010), 6/10
Red (2012), 5/10
1989 (2014), 6/10
Reputation (2017), 5/10
Lover (2019), 4/10
Folklore (2020), 5/10
Evermore (2020), 3/10
Midnights (2022), 4/10

Taylor Swift, raised in a wealthy family of Pennsylvania who moved to Nashville specifically to help her succeed in the world of country music, was the unusual country-music star (and songwriter) who, a teenager herself, addressed her songs to the younger generation. Taylor Swift (2006), containing the hits Teardrops on My Guitar (a languid country ballad) and Picture to Burn (a rowdier honky-tonk number), was her breakthrough; and Fearless (2008), containing the smooth, poppy Fifteen, was her first best-selling album of the year. At the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, Swift's You Belong With Me was voted best video by a jury that obviously had seen very few music videos in their lives.

The route to stardom continued with Mean (an unusually lively ditty), off Speak Now (2010), perhaps her most personal album, the danceable We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and the hard-rocking (by her standards) I Knew You Were Trouble, off Red (2012). A ten-minute version of All Too Well would eventually break the record of longest song to reach the top the US sales charts, a record held for 50 years by Don McLean's American Pie.

After she moved to New York, she became recognizable for the bubblegum dance-pop of the Max Martin creations: Bad Blood, Shake It Off and Blank Space, off 1989 (2014).

In 2016 she mainly made news for clashing with Kim Kardashian and ever obnoxious rap star Kanye West.

The songs of Reputation (2017), mostly composed by Martin, Shellback (Johan Schuster) and Jack Antonoff, notably Look What You Made Me Do (not written by Martin), were not particularly more tedious and banal than the previous ones, just she had decided to impersonate the villain. Five consecutive Swift albums had topped the Billboard charts.

In 2019 Swift was named the world's highest paid celebrity by Forbes magazine Me (by Joel Little) was the first single off Lover (2019), followed by You Need to Calm Down.

Folklore (2020), co-written with her boyfriend Joe Alwyn (under the pseudonym William Bowery), remained eight weeks at the top of the US sales charts. Most of the songs were composed and produced by Aaron Dessner (The National), including the mega-hit Cardigan, while Jack Antonoff composed and produced some of the most interesting, like Mirrorball and This Is Me Trying, and Exile was a collaboration with Justin Vernon (Bon Iver).

A few months later she released Evermore (2020), another collaboration with Dessner, which is basically a collection of leftovers.

Starting in 2021, with Fearless: Taylor's Version (2021), she began re-recording her first five albums in order to own the rights on their music. This re-recorded version has 26 songs, i.e. it includes leftovers and assorted garbage, i.e. it sounds even worse than the original.

Despite being one of the worst albums of the year, Midnights (2022), entirely produced by Jack Antonoff, again co-written with her boyfriend Joe Alwyn (under the pseudonym William Bowery), was another bestseller. In fact, in 2022 Taylor Swift became the first artist in history to claim every slot in the top 10 of the US singles chart, thus overtaking Drake, who held the previous record of nine top 10 singles in September 2021 (the Beatles scored eight top 10s in 1964). The album is divided between danceable numbers like Anti-Hero (the catchy hit du jour) and Bejeweled and more artistic statements like Maroon (like an introverted Whitney Huston but without the voice), the whispered and sparse Vigilante Shit and the ethereal Labyrinth.

In April 2023 the world's tabloids discussed her breakup with Joe Alwyn after six years of romance.

By 2023 Swift had had more No. 1 albums on the Billboard charts than any other woman in history. She also became the first artist since 1966 to have four songs in the Top 10 on the same week. The "Eras Tour" that started in March 2023 was the biggest event in the history of the music business, with record attendances in almost every city (70,000 people in Arizona, 120,000 in Cincinnati in two nights, 140,000 in Denver in two nights, and a record 96,000 in one night in Melbourne, Australia). For her fans, attending the concerts of that tour was akin to a religious pilgrimage. Swift's tour became a significant economic boost for each host city because her fans spend not only on tickets and merchandise but also on lodging and restaurants. Attending a Taylor Swift concert became a form of tourism. Her fan base had a buying power that previous generations of concert goers didn't have. At the end of 2023 a movie of the tour set sale records even before arriving in theaters. Time Magazine named her person of the year. In 2024 Taylor Swift won the "album of the year" Grammy award for a record fourth time.

Swift's rise to stardom was also unusual in that it mainly focused on her personal life, unlike, say, the Beatles and Michael Jackson, who rarely shared their personal life in their hits. Swift was the opposite: her hits were a diary (mostly a romantic diary) of her personal life, the ultimate case of confessional singer-songwriter.

Somehow, her lyrics reflected the anxieties of 21st-century dating, which resonated with millennials. It was not only her music that had changed dramatically from her early days, it was especially the lyrics: she was a storyteller coming from the country-music tradition who had abandoned the milieu of rural under-educated outcasts and misfits for the milieu of urban educated young women.

Swift's autobiographical saga continued on The Tortured Poets Department (2024).

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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