Taylor Swift – 21st Century Pop Star

The daughter of a mutual fund marketer and a stay-at-home mom, Taylor Alison Swift was raised on a Christmas tree farm in rural Reading, Pennsylvania. She took piano lessons and competed in horse shows, but it was singing that gave her the most joy. At a talent contest in Nashville she caught the attention of Scott Borchetta, who signed her to Big Machine Records. She quickly began writing songs with songwriter Liz Rose and performing at Nashville venues, sometimes opening for country artists like LeAnn Rimes.

In her songwriting, Swift often reaches for insight beyond her own experience. In this ode to soldiers and frontline health-care workers, she cries out for understanding from people who don’t see “just a flesh wound” or “someone’s daughter.” Credit her for expanding outside her normal vocal range, though — she employs an Imogen Heap-style yawp here.

Swift’s first major collaboration with Jack Antonoff is a sugary, ’80s-inspired pop song that reflects the giddy rush of her early dates. She’s already an established grownup here, wishing she could go back and relive those rushing passions. It’s not a particularly deep track, but it’s a lot of fun.

After a slow start to her career, Swift’s breakthrough came in 2022 with the release of the album Midnights and its lead single “Anti-Hero”. The record topped sales charts in multiple countries, making it the fastest-selling album of the 21st century so far. The album also won a Grammy for Best Country Album and the music video for the hit single “All Too Well” broke multiple record-setting YouTube viewing records. Swift expanded her horizons as an actress, starring as Bombalurina in the movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats and directing the 2020 documentary Miss Americana.

By 2020, she had re-released her four prior albums with new material and an acoustic version of the record-breaking single, “Blank Space”. The re-recordings also made history as the only album to debut at #1 on both the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 in the same week. She signed with Republic Records in 2018, a deal that granted her ownership of her master recordings, an advantage over her previous label, Big Machine. She released the album Lover (2019) and the autobiographical film, 1989 (Taylor’s Version), in addition to directing her second short film, Please Don’t Destroy and starring in the 2021 period comedy film Amsterdam.

On December 10, 2020, Swift surprised fans with the release of folklore’s sister album, evermore. It featured additional collaborations with musicians such as Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and continued her remarkable mastery of genre switches. Like its predecessor, folklore spent eight non-consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard 200.