Taylor Swift grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania. She started out singing in her high school musicals, but eventually turned to writing songs for herself. At age 14, she signed a development deal with Sony/ATV and began performing in Nashville area venues. Her performances caught the attention of music executive Scott Borchetta, who was preparing to launch Big Machine Records. He took a chance and signed Taylor to his label, and her first single, “Tim McGraw,” debuted in 2006.
This early ballad about the first year of high school has all the hallmarks of the sort of thing J.D. Salinger might have written. It plays like a gentle memoir, and it illustrates Swift’s facility for characterization. She is able to capture the emotional low points of the teenage experience, and she is particularly effective when it comes to writing about romance.
With a new generation coming of age, Swift was one of the most popular young artists in the world. She also made the transition to acting, earning a Golden Globe nod and a Grammy nomination for her role in the film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. Her third album, Speak Now (2010), topped the country charts and was a massive crossover success. Its hit singles, such as “Mine” and “Mean,” showcased her expanding songwriting abilities.
In 2012, Taylor was named CMA entertainer of the year. She continued to expand her acting career with a role in the movie Valentine’s Day and a voice-acting gig in the animated Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. She was also nominated for a record-breaking 29th American Music Award.
Amid the tumult of her personal life, Swift returned to the recording studio to begin work on her fourth album, Red (2012). The record embraced a bold pop-rock sound and was propelled to number one by the gleeful “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” The album’s title track pushed her further into the mainstream, while the political track “Only the Young” underscored her ability to speak out about social issues.
After a brief hiatus from the public, Swift returned to the spotlight in 2017 with the release of her sixth album, reputation. The record was a critical and commercial smash, and its lead single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” broke a number of streaming records. Its music video was the most viewed clip on YouTube in 24 hours.
Since then, Swift has remained a fixture on the pop scene. She has collaborated with a variety of artists, including Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, Zayn Malik and Charli XCX. In addition to working on her own music, she has been a spokeswoman for CoverGirl cosmetics and has been active in philanthropy. She is a steadfast advocate for women’s rights and has donated millions of dollars to various charities. In 2020, she released the documentary Miss Americana at the Sundance Film Festival and in January 2021 she premiered her Netflix film, The Taylor Swift Story. In November 2019, she was named AMA Artist of the Decade.