The Songs That Made Taylor Swift a Pop Culture Icon

taylor swift is a pop culture icon, a red-carpet tabloid staple, a symbol of millennial female empowerment, and a singer-songwriter whose songs have defined a generation. Yet, beneath the mythology and glamour, she’s also a songwriter who knows how to capture the most human moments in her songs. To follow her musical evolution from the country romance of her teens to the imperial pop of her twenties to the ambivalent ruminations of her thirties is to watch a generation coming of age.

Swift began writing songs as a teen, and her first single, “Tim McGraw,” was an immediate hit. After signing a development deal with RCA in 2004, she sharpened her skills with a host of professional songwriters, forming the strongest connections with Liz Rose. She continued to tour extensively, opening for the likes of Rascal Flatts and George Strait, while maintaining a rigorous schedule of writing and recording new music.

At an industry showcase at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe in 2005, she caught the attention of Scott Borchetta, a record executive who was preparing to form his own independent label, Big Machine Records. Her father purchased a three percent share of the company and she became one of its first signings.

While she would continue to release hits in country and pop, it was Swift’s debut album, Fearless, that marked her arrival as a fully formed songwriter capable of crafting evocative narratives with lyrics that resonated beyond the genres. The album’s opening track, “Love Story,” is an anthem of unrequited love — in this case, between two young women. It’s a song that’s not afraid to make its point, but does so with an emotional conviction that keeps the listener invested in both characters.

It’s no surprise that this song is a fan favorite. In addition to a poignantly personal message, the song’s melody is absolutely gorgeous and the backing vocals from the band are stunningly beautiful. This is a great example of the kind of ballad that Swift excels at, and it’s easy to see why it’s become one of her most iconic works.

This song is about a girl trying to figure out her identity in a world that doesn’t always give her the time of day, which speaks to many teen experiences. The catchy chorus is irresistible, and the production is a perfect blend of slick and intimate. It’s the kind of song that deserves to be stuck in your head for a long time.

This song is about Swift’s struggle to balance the demands of celebrity with her normal life, a battle that she continues to face with regularity. The lyrics are a bit on the repetitive side, but this is still a solid song that’s worth checking out.