Taylor Swift, born December 13, 1989, is the apex of the Millennial Baby Boom, and her music speaks to a generation that has watched her rise. Her musical journey has taken her from the country romance of her teens to imperial pop of her twenties to the ambivalent ruminations of her thirties — and all the while, her voice remains at the center of it all.
She grew up on a Christmas tree farm in West Reading, Pennsylvania, where her parents worked as stockbrokers and took her to New York for vocal and acting lessons. But it was at a showcase at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe in 2005 that she caught the eye of Scott Borchetta, whose independent record label Big Machine Records would later sign her as one of its first artists.
As a teen, Swift wrote songs in two-hour sessions after school with Liz Rose and became a regular on the country charts. Her first album, Fearless (2007), pushed her into the mainstream, but it was a sexy acoustic number, Shake It Off, that made her an icon. The song topped the Billboard 200 for five weeks and sold more than 10 million copies, a record that still stands. Its racy video, featuring a snake-wrapped piano and Swift in a bikini top surrounded by gyrating dancers, was another smash.
Unlike many of her other hits, this ballad isn’t autobiographical, but it reflects the way that the loss of a close friend can alter your perspective on life. Grief is a recurring theme in Swift’s repertoire, and she captures the sense of disbelief that can come with losing someone you thought was a good friend.
Swift’s seventh album, RED (2012), marked a shift in style from her earlier work. It brought in producers such as Max Martin and Shellback – who would become some of her biggest collaborators in the future – as well as songwriters like Liz Rose and Nathan Chapman. It also included a guest appearance from rapper Drake, who contributed a rap verse. The album was a huge hit, spending 11 weeks at the top of the Billboard 200 and selling more than 1.2 million copies in its first week. Its accompanying tour grossed over $150 million, making it the highest-grossing country concert of all time.
The re-release of RED, with the bonus track “Blank Space”, came with evermore, a sister album with additional tracks from producers such as Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff. Both evermore and its lead single, Willow, debuted at the top of the Billboard 200.
For her ninth album, Reputation (2022), Swift enlisted the Dixie Chicks and delivered one of her most emotionally moving songs, the elegiac “Shake It Off.” The song is a reminder that even though we grow up, love can still feel like high school. It’s a song about a woman who realizes that the guy she loved may not be worth it after all, and she’s not afraid to break up with him.