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Taylor Swift

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For Swift's 2006 album, see Taylor Swift (album).
Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift May 2015 cropped and retouched.jpg
Swift performing at Ford Field in Detroit during The 1989 World Tour in May 2015
Born Taylor Alison Swift
(1989-12-13) December 13, 1989 (age 26)
Reading, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation
  • Singer-songwriter
  • actress
Net worth $250 million (June 2016 estimate)[1]
Website taylorswift.com
Musical career
Genres
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • piano
  • banjo
Years active 2004–present
Labels

Taylor Alison Swift (born December 13, 1989) is an American singer-songwriter. Raised in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 14 to pursue a career in country music. She signed with the independent label Big Machine Records and became the youngest songwriter ever signed by the Sony/ATV Music publishing house. The release of Swift's eponymous debut album in 2006 marked the start of her career as a country music singer. Her third single, "Our Song", made her the youngest person to single-handedly write and perform a number-one song on the Hot Country Songs chart.

Swift's second album, Fearless, was released in 2008. Buoyed by the pop crossover success of the singles "Love Story" and "You Belong with Me", Fearless became the best-selling album of 2009 in the United States. The album won four Grammy Awards, with Swift becoming the youngest ever Album of the Year winner. Swift's third and fourth albums, 2010's Speak Now and 2012's Red, both sold more than one million copies within the first week of their U.S release. Speak Now's "Mean" won two Grammy Awards, while Red's singles "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and "I Knew You Were Trouble" were successful worldwide. Swift's fifth album, the pop-focused 1989, was released in 2014 and sold more copies in its opening week than any album in the previous 12 years, making Swift the first and only act to have three albums sell more than one million copies in the opening release week. Its singles "Shake It Off", "Blank Space", and "Bad Blood" reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The album won three Grammy Awards, with Swift becoming the fifth and only female act to receive the Album of the Year award twice.[2]

Swift is known for narrative songs about her personal experiences. As a songwriter, she has been honored by the Nashville Songwriters Association and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Swift's other achievements include ten Grammy Awards, one Emmy Award, 23 Billboard Music Awards, 11 Country Music Association Awards, eight Academy of Country Music Awards, and one Brit Award. She is one of the best-selling artists of all time, having sold more than 40 million albums—including 27.1 million in the U.S.—and 130 million single downloads. In 2015, she became the youngest woman ever to be included on Forbes' "100 Most Powerful Women" list, ranked at number 64.[3]

Early life

Taylor Swift was born on December 13, 1989, in Reading, Pennsylvania.[4] Her father, Scott Kingsley Swift, is a financial advisor, and her mother, Andrea Swift, is a homemaker who previously worked as a mutual fund marketing executive.[5][6] She has a younger brother named Austin.[7] Swift spent the early years of her life on a Christmas tree farm in Cumru Township, Pennsylvania.[8][9] She attended preschool and kindergarten at the Alvernia Montessori School, run by Franciscan nuns,[10] before moving to the Wyndcroft School.[11] The family then moved to a rented house in the suburban town of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania,[12] where she attended Wyomissing Area Junior/Senior High School.[13]

My parents took all the pressure off by saying, "We're just moving because we love the area, so don't worry." They knew nothing about the industry and had no involvement in entertainment, but I was obsessed with it and so they did their research and read up about it to help me in every way they could. They're amazing people.

—Swift on relocating to Nashville[14]

At the age of nine, Swift became interested in musical theater and performed in four Berks Youth Theatre Academy productions.[15] She also traveled regularly to Broadway for vocal and acting lessons.[16] Swift later shifted focus toward country music inspired by Shania Twain's songs, which made her "want to just run around the block four times and daydream about everything".[17] She spent her weekends performing at local festivals and other events.[18][19] After watching a documentary about Faith Hill, Swift felt sure that she needed to go to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a music career.[20] At the age of eleven, she traveled with her mother to Nashville to submit a demo tape of Dolly Parton and Dixie Chicks karaoke covers, with record labels.[21] However, she was rejected since "everyone in that town wanted to do what I wanted to do. So, I kept thinking to myself, I need to figure out a way to be different".[22]

When Swift was about 12 years old, a computer repairman taught her how to play three chords on a guitar, leading to her first tryst as a songwriter, "Lucky You".[23] In 2003, Swift and her parents started working with New York-based music manager Dan Dymtrow. With his help, Swift modelled for Abercrombie & Fitch as part of their "Rising Stars" campaign, had an original song included on a Maybelline compilation CD, and attended meetings with major record labels.[24] After performing original songs at a RCA Records showcase, Swift was given an artist development deal and began making frequent trips to Nashville with her mother.[25]

To help Swift break into country music, her father transferred to the Nashville office of Merrill Lynch when she was 14, and the family relocated to a lakefront house in Hendersonville, Tennessee.[26] In Tennessee, Swift attended Hendersonville High School for her freshman and sophomore years.[27] Later, to accommodate her touring schedule, the singer transferred to the Aaron Academy, a private Christian school that offered homeschooling services. She maintained a 4.0 grade average, and completed her final two years of course work in twelve months.[28][29]

Career

2004–08: Career beginnings and Taylor Swift

Swift moved to Nashville, Tennessee when she was 14 years old,[30] having signed an artist development deal with RCA Records.[31] She worked with experienced Music Row songwriters such as Troy Verges, Brett Beavers, Brett James, Mac McAnally and The Warren Brothers.[32][33] She eventually formed a lasting working relationship with Liz Rose.[34] They began meeting for two-hour writing sessions every Tuesday afternoon after school.[35] Rose said that the sessions were "some of the easiest I've ever done. Basically, I was just her editor. She'd write about what happened in school that day. She had such a clear vision of what she was trying to say. And she'd come in with the most incredible hooks."[36] Swift was signed by the Sony/ATV Tree publishing house[37] but left RCA Records when she was 14.[19][38][39] She recalled: "I genuinely felt that I was running out of time. I wanted to capture these years of my life on an album while they still represented what I was going through."[39]

Taylor Swift, wearing a white dress and sunglasses, plays an acoustic guitar while standing at a microphone stand
Swift performing at Yahoo! headquarters in Sunnyvale, California in 2007

At an industry showcase at Nashville's Bluebird Cafe in 2005, Swift caught the attention of Scott Borchetta, a DreamWorks Records executive who was preparing to form his own independent record label, Big Machine Records. She became one of the label's first signings, with her father purchasing a three per cent stake in the fledgling company at an estimated cost of $120,000.[40][41] The singer began working on her eponymous debut album shortly after signing the record deal. Swift persuaded Big Machine to hire her demo producer Nathan Chapman, with whom she felt they had the right "chemistry".[19] Swift wrote three of the album's songs alone, and co-wrote the remaining eight with writers Rose, Robert Ellis Orrall, Brian Maher and Angelo Petraglia.[42] Musically, the album has been described as "a mix of trad-country instruments and spry rock guitars".[43] Taylor Swift was released on October 24, 2006. Jon Caramanica of The New York Times described it as "a small masterpiece of pop-minded country, both wide-eyed and cynical, held together by Ms. Swift's firm, pleading voice".[44] Rolling Stone's reviewer described Swift as "bright-eyed but remarkably seasoned", and admired "Our Song"'s "insanely hooky sing-song melody that's as Britney as it is Patsy".[43] The album sold 39,000 copies during its first week of release[45] and, as of March 2011, had sold over 5.5 million copies worldwide.[46]

Big Machine Records was still in its infancy upon the release of the lead single "Tim McGraw" in June 2006, and Swift and her mother helped "stuff the CD singles into envelopes to send to radio".[47] She spent much of 2006 promoting Taylor Swift in a radio tour and television appearances.[48][49][50] Borchetta has said that his decision to sign a 16-year-old singer-songwriter initially raised eyebrows among his record industry peers but Swift tapped into a previously unknown market: teenage girls who listen to country music.[26] Following "Tim McGraw", four further singles were released throughout 2007 and 2008: "Teardrops on My Guitar", "Our Song", "Picture to Burn" and "Should've Said No". All were highly successful on Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, with "Our Song" and "Should've Said No" both reaching number one.[51] "Teardrops on My Guitar" became a minor pop hit; it reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.[52] Swift also released a holiday album, Sounds of the Season: The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection, in October 2007, and an EP, Beautiful Eyes, in July 2008.[53][54] Swift promoted her debut album extensively through meet-and-greets with fans, singing cover version of popular songs, as well as being the opening act for other artists on their tours.[55][56][57][58]

Taylor Swift gave the singer a number of accolades. She and Alan Jackson were jointly named the Nashville Songwriters Association's Songwriter/Artist of the Year in 2007, with Swift becoming the youngest person ever to be honored with the title.[59] She also won the Country Music Association's Horizon Award for Best New Artist,[60] the Academy of Country Music Awards's Top New Female Vocalist award[61] and the American Music Awards's Favorite Country Female Artist honor.[62] She was also nominated for a 2008 Grammy Award in the category of Best New Artist, but lost to Amy Winehouse.[63] Swift dated musician Joe Jonas from July to October 2008.[64][65]

2008–10: Fearless and acting

Swift's second studio album, Fearless, was released on November 11, 2008. She wrote seven of the album's songs alone, and co-wrote the remaining six with songwriters Rose, John Rich, Colbie Caillat and Hillary Lindsey.[66] Jon Caramanica of The New York Times complimented the album saying "[Fearless] is every bit as elegantly designed as her 2006 debut" while complimenting Swift's songwriting.[67] Lead single, "Love Story", was released in September 2008 and became the second-best-selling country single of all time,[68] peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100.[69] Four more singles were released throughout 2008 and 2009: "White Horse", "You Belong with Me", "Fifteen" and "Fearless". "You Belong with Me" was the album's highest-charting single, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100.[70] The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart with sales of 592,304, and has since sold over 8.6 million copies worldwide.[71] It was the top-selling album of 2009 and brought Swift much crossover success.[72] The album received promotion from Swift's first headlining 105-date worldwide Fearless Tour,[73] which was attended by more than 1.1 million fans and grossed over $63 million.[74] Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless, a concert film, was aired on television and later released on DVD and Blu-ray.[75] Swift also performed as a supporting act for Keith Urban's Escape Together World Tour.[76]

Swift performing in Los Angeles during the Fearless Tour in 2010

In 2009, Swift became the first country music artist to win an MTV Video Music Award when "You Belong with Me" was named Best Female Video for 2009.[77] Her acceptance speech was interrupted by rapper Kanye West.[78] The incident received much media attention and inspired many Internet memes.[79] Two days later, Swift told an interviewer that West offered her a personal apology, which she accepted and refused to discuss the incident in subsequent interviews so as not to make a "bigger deal" of it: "It happened on TV, so everybody saw what happened ... It's not something I feel like we need to keep talking about."[80] James Montgomery of MTV argued that the incident and subsequent media attention turned Swift into "a bona-fide mainstream celebrity".[81]

Following Fearless, Swift was involved in a number of side-projects. She released a cover of Tom Petty's "American Girl" through Rhapsody in 2009,[82] and contributed backing vocals to Mayer's "Half of My Heart", a single featured on his fourth album, Battle Studies.[83] She co-wrote and recorded "Best Days of Your Life" with Kellie Pickler[84] and co-wrote two songs for the Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack—"You'll Always Find Your Way Back Home" and "Crazier"—with Martin Johnson and Robert Ellis Orrall, respectively.[85] Swift also provided vocals for Boys Like Girls' "Two Is Better Than One", written by Johnson.[86] She contributed two songs—including "Today Was a Fairytale"—to the Valentine's Day soundtrack,[87] and recorded a cover of Better Than Ezra's "Breathless" for the Hope for Haiti Now album.[88]

The Fearless era won Swift many accolades. She garnered four Grammy Awards in 2010. Fearless was named Album of the Year and Best Country Album, while "White Horse" was named Best Country Song and Best Female Country Vocal Performance.[89][90] Swift was the youngest artist ever to win Album of the Year.[91] During the 2010 Grammy ceremony, Swift sang "You Belong with Me" and "Rhiannon" with Stevie Nicks. Her vocal performance received negative reviews and media backlash.[81][92] Caramanica of The New York Times found it "refreshing to see someone so gifted make the occasional flub" and described Swift as "the most important new pop star of the past few years".[91]

Swift became the youngest ever artist to be named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association.[93] Fearless also won the Association's Album of the Year award.[94] Other awards won by Fearles included the American Music Awards, which honored Swift with Artist of the Year and Favorite Country Album plaudits.[95] Billboard named her 2009's Artist of the Year.[96] Swift was also included in Time's annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in 2010.[97] She was romantically linked to musician John Mayer from late 2009 until early 2010.[98][99][100][101] She dated actor Jake Gyllenhaal from October to December 2010.[102][103]

Swift made her acting debut in a 2009 episode of CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, playing a rebellious teenager.[104] The New York Times noted that the character allowed Swift to be "a little bit naughty, and credibly so".[105] Later that year, Swift both hosted and performed as the musical guest for an episode of Saturday Night Live.[106] Entertainment Weekly described her as "this season's best Saturday Night Live host so far", noting that she "was always up for the challenge, seemed to be having fun, and helped the rest of the cast nail the punchlines". While filming Valentine's Day in October 2009—Swift's feature film acting debut—she began a romantic relationship with co-star Taylor Lautner; however, they broke up later that year.[107][108] The romantic comedy, released the following year, saw her play the ditzy girlfriend of a high school jock, a role in which Los Angeles Times found "serious comedic potential".[109] In a particularly scathing review, Variety deemed her "entirely undirected", arguing that "she needs to find a skilled director to tamp her down and channel her obviously abundant energy".[110]

2010–14: Speak Now and Red

Swift performing in Sydney during the Speak Now World Tour in 2012

In August 2010, Swift released "Mine", which entered the United States at number three, making Swift the second female artist in the history of the Hot 100 to debut multiple tracks in the top five during a calendar year after Mariah Carey.[111] The song was the lead single from her third studio album, Speak Now, which she wrote without any co-writers.[112] Promoting the album, Swift appeared on various talk shows and morning shows, and performed it at several locations, including an open-decker bus on Hollywood Boulevard and a departure lounge at John F. Kennedy International Airport.[113] Speak Now, released in October 2010, was a commercial success, debuting at number-one on the Billboard 200. Its opening sales of 1,047,000 copies made it the 16th album in U.S. history to sell one million copies in a single week.[114] It also broke the record for "Fastest Selling Digital Album by a Female Artist", an honor recognized by the Guinness World Records; Swift also earned "Most Simultaneous U.S. Hot 100 Hits by a Female Artist".[115][116] Three of the album's singles—"Mine", "Back to December" and "Mean"—peaked within top ten in Canada.[117]

The song "Mean" won Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards.[118] She also performed the song during the ceremony. Claire Suddath of Time felt she "delivered her comeback on-key and with a vengeance"[119] while Jayme Deerwester of USA Today remarked that the criticism in 2010 seemed to have "made her a better songwriter and live performer".[120] Swift won various other awards for Speak Now, including Songwriter/Artist of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association (2010 and 2011),[121][122] Woman of the Year by Billboard (2011),[123] and Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music (2011 and 2012)[124] and the Country Music Association in 2011.[125] At the American Music Awards of 2011, Swift won Artist of the Year and Favorite Country Album.[126]

Swift embarked on the Speak Now World Tour, which ran from February 2011 to March 2012, and grossed over $123 million.[127] In November 2011, Swift released her first live album, Speak Now World Tour: Live.[128] The following month, Swift contributed two original songs to The Hunger Games soundtrack album—"Safe & Sound", co-written and recorded with The Civil Wars and T-Bone Burnett, and "Eyes Open". The former was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media and nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.[129][130] Swift dated political heir Conor Kennedy from July to September 2012.[131][132]

Swift performing in St. Louis during the The Red Tour

After providing vocals for B.o.B's "Both of Us" in May 2012,[133] Swift released "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" in August 2012. An international success, the song was the lead single from Swift's fourth studio album, Red, and became her first number-one in the US and New Zealand.[134][135] The song reached the top spot on an iTunes chart 50 minutes after its release, becoming the "Fastest Selling Single in Digital History" on Guinness World Records.[136] Swift then released the album's second single "Begin Again" in October. It reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for a Grammy Award.[117] Other singles released from the album included "I Knew You Were Trouble", "22", "Everything Has Changed", "The Last Time" and "Red". "I Knew You Were Trouble" was a commercial success,[137] peaking at number two in the United States.[117]

Red marked a change in Swift's musical style as she experimented with heartland rock, dubstep and dance-pop.[17] Released in October 2012, the album was a critical and commercial success. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 1.21 million copies—this marked the highest opening sales in a decade and made Swift the first female to have two million-selling album openings, a record recognized by Guinness World Records.[138][139] As of May 2013, Red had sold over 6 million copies worldwide.[140] Promoting the album, Swift embarked on The Red Tour, which ran from March 2013 to June 2014, and grossed over $150 million.[141][142] Red earned several accolades, inclduing four nominations from the Grammy Awards. Its single "I Knew You Were Trouble" won Best Female Video at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.[143] Swift was named Best Female Country Artist at the 2012 American Music Awards and Artist of the Year at the 2013 ceremony.[144][145] The Nashville Songwriters Association's Songwriter/Artist Award went to Swift for the fifth and sixth consecutive years in 2012 and 2013.[146][147] Swift was also honored by the Association with a special Pinnacle Award for "unique" levels of success, becoming the second recipient after Garth Brooks. The New York Times considered it an attempt to persuade "country music's cash cow, its creative engine, its ambassador to the wider world" to remain within the genre.[148]

Swift co-wrote "Sweeter Than Fiction" with Jack Antonoff for the One Chance movie soundtrack, and received a Best Original Song nomination at the 71st Golden Globe Awards.[149] She provided guest vocals for a McGraw song titled "Highway Don't Care", featuring guitar work by Urban.[150] She performed an acoustic version of "Red" with Vince Gill and Alison Krauss at the 2013 CMA Awards.[151] Swift performed "As Tears Go By" with The Rolling Stones in Chicago as part of their 50 & Counting... tour.[152] She also joined Florida Georgia Line on stage during their set at the 2013 Country Radio Seminar to sing "Cruise".[153] Outside of music, Swift voiced Audrey, a tree lover, in the animated film The Lorax (2012), made a cameo in the sitcom New Girl (2013), and had a supporting role in the film adaptation of The Giver (2014).[154] She dated British singer Harry Styles from October 2012 to January 2013.[155][156]

2014–present: 1989

Swift's fifth studio album, 1989, was released on October 27, 2014.[157] 1989 featured songs co-written with Antonoff, Martin, Shellback, Imogen Heap, Ryan Tedder and Ali Payami.[158][159] Described by Swift as her first "official" pop release,[160][161] 1989 is "driven by synths and drums in lieu of guitar".[162] Critical response was frequently positive with Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone noting: "Deeply weird, feverishly emotional, wildly enthusiastic, 1989 sounds exactly like Taylor Swift, even when it sounds like nothing she's ever tried before,"[163] while Alexis Petridis of The Guardian praised the album's "Springsteenesque narratives of escape and the kind of doomed romantic fatalism."[164] 1989 received many traditional as well as innovative promotional campaigns which were praised by industry experts, including inviting fans to secret album-listening sessions, called the "1989 Secret Sessions".[165][166]

Swift performing on The 1989 World Tour in Detroit

1989 sold 1,287,000 copies in the US during the first week of release and debuted atop the Billboard 200, selling more copies in its opening week than any album in the previous 12 years. This made Swift the first and only act to have three albums sell more than one million copies in the opening release week.[167] As of February 2015, 1989 had sold over 8.6 million copies worldwide.[168] The album's lead single, "Shake It Off", was released in August 2014 and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100.[169] Subsequent singles include "Blank Space" and "Bad Blood" (featuring Kendrick Lamar), which reached number one in the United States,[170] "Style"[171] and "Wildest Dreams" which peaked in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100, and "Out of the Woods" and "New Romantics".[172] As part of The 1989 World Tour, running from May to December 2015, Swift performed in Japan, the U.S., Canada, the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia.[173][174] It went on to gross over $250 million, becoming one of the highest grossing tours ever.[175]

Prior to 1989's release, Swift stressed on the importance of albums,[176] and in November 2014, she removed her entire catalog from Spotify, arguing that the streaming company's ad-supported free service undermined the premium service, which provides higher royalties for songwriters.[177] In June 2015, Swift criticized Apple Music in an open letter for not offering royalties to artists during the streaming service's free three-month trial period and stated that she would pull 1989 from the catalog.[178] A day later, Apple announced that they would pay artists during the free trial period[179] and Swift agreed to stream 1989 on the streaming service.[180] Swift's intellectual property rights management and holding company, TAS Rights Management, filed for 73 trademarks related to the singer and the 1989 era memes.[181]

In March 2015, Swift started dating Scottish DJ and record producer Calvin Harris.[182] By June 2015, the duo were ranked as the highest-paid celebrity couple over the past year by Forbes with combined earnings of over $146 million.[183] They announced the end of their relationship in June 2016.[184] Also in 2015, Swift performed "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Shake It Off" with Paul McCartney at the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special after-party,[185] and joined Kenny Chesney to sing "Big Star" on the opening night of his Big Revival Tour in Nashville.[186] She also accompanied Madonna on guitar for an acoustic performance of "Ghosttown" at the iHeartRadio Music Awards.[187]

Swift was named Billboard's Woman Of Year in 2014, becoming the first artist to be awarded this title twice.[188] Also that year, she received the Dick Clark Award for Excellence at the American Music Awards.[189] At the 2015 Grammy Awards, "Shake It Off" was nominated for three awards including Record of the Year and Song of the Year[190] while, at the 2015 Brit Awards, Swift won the Brit Award for International Female Solo Artist.[191] Swift was named by Time magazine as one of the 2015 Time 100.[192] The singer was one of eight artists to receive a 50th Anniversary Milestone Award at the 2015 Academy of Country Music Awards.[193] In 2016, Swift topped Forbes' annual list of the 100 highest-paid celebrities with $170 million.[194]

Artistry

Musical style

Swift's music contains elements of pop, pop rock and country.[195][196][197] She self-identified as a country artist until the 2014 release of 1989, which she described as a "sonically cohesive pop album".[197][198] Rolling Stone asserted that, "[Swift] might get played on the country station, but she's one of the few genuine rock stars we've got these days".[199] The New York Times noted that, "There isn't much in Ms. Swift's music to indicate country—a few banjo strums, a pair of cowboy boots worn onstage, a bedazzled guitar—but there's something in her winsome, vulnerable delivery that's unique to Nashville."[200] The Guardian has said that Swift "cranks melodies out with the pitiless efficiency of a Scandinavian pop factory."[201]

Swift's vocals has been described by Sophie Schillaci from The Hollywood Reporter as "sweet, but soft".[202] In studio recordings, the Los Angeles Times identifies Swift's "defining" vocal gesture as "the line that slides down like a contented sigh or up like a raised eyebrow, giving her beloved girl-time hits their air of easy intimacy".[203] Rolling Stone, in a Speak Now review, remarked: "Swift's voice is unaffected enough to mask how masterful she has become as a singer; she lowers her voice for the payoff lines in the classic mode of a shy girl trying to talk tough."[204] In another review of Speak Now, The Village Voice noted that her phrasing was previously "bland and muddled, but that's changed. She can still sound strained and thin, and often strays into a pitch that drives some people crazy; but she's learned how to make words sound like what they mean."[205] Her live vocals were relegated as "fine", but did not match her peers.[202] It was also described in 2009 as "flat, thin, and sometimes as wobbly as a newborn colt".[206][207] However, Swift has received praise for refusing to correct her pitch with Auto-Tune.[208][209]

In an interview with The New Yorker, Swift characterized herself primarily as a songwriter: "I write songs, and my voice is just a way to get those lyrics across."[26][210] Borchetta conceded in 2010 that Swift is "not the best technical singer", but described her as the "best communicator that we've got".[211] Swift's vocal presence is something that concerns her and she has "put a lot of work" into improving it.[212] It was reported in 2010 that she continues to take vocal lessons.[213][214] She has said that she only feels nervous performing "if I'm not sure what the audience thinks of me, like at award shows".[215]

Influences

Shania Twain (left), Stevie Nicks (center) and Madonna (right) have influenced Swift

One of Swift's earliest musical memories is listening to her maternal grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, sing at church.[216] As a child, Swift enjoyed Disney film soundtracks: "My parents noticed that, once I had run out of words, I would just make up my own."[21][217] Swift has said she owes her confidence to her mother, who helped her prepare for class presentations as a child.[218] She also attributes her "fascination with writing and storytelling" to her mother.[219] Swift was introduced to country music by "the great female country artists of the '90s […] Shania [Twain], Faith [Hill], the Dixie Chicks".[55][220] She was drawn to the storytelling of country music.[221] Twain, both as a songwriter and performer, was her biggest musical influence.[222] Hill was Swift's childhood role model: "Everything she said, did, wore, I tried to copy it."[223][224] Swift admired the Dixie Chicks's defiant attitude and their ability to play their own instruments.[18][225] The band's "Cowboy Take Me Away" was the first song Swift learned to play on the guitar.[226] Swift then began to explore the music of older country stars, including Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn,[18] Dolly Parton, and Tammy Wynette.[18][227] She believes Parton is "an amazing example to every female songwriter out there".[224] Swift also admires alt-country artists such as Ryan Adams,[228] Patty Griffin,[229] and Lori McKenna.[230]

Swift has also been influenced by many artists outside the country genre. As a pre-teen, she enjoyed bubblegum pop acts including Hanson and Britney Spears; Swift has said she has "unwavering devotion" for Spears.[231][232] In her high school years, Swift listened to emo bands such as Dashboard Confessional,[233] Fall Out Boy,[234] and Jimmy Eat World.[235] She was also a fan of contemporary female singer-songwriters including Celine Dion,[236] Michelle Branch,[235] Pink,[237] Alanis Morissette,[238] Ashlee Simpson,[239] Kelly Clarkson,[240] Fefe Dobson[235] and Avril Lavigne.[240] Swift's favorite artist is Justin Timberlake.[241] In addition, Swift holds hip hop music in high esteem, stating that "Pride [in a lifestyle] is something that both country and hip-hop share".[18] Swift also drew inspiration from the catalogues of veteran artists. She describes Nicks as a "hero" who "has inspired me in so many ways".[242][243] Swift has said that Petty "is on a pedestal for me".[244] According to Swift, she is "obsessed" with the 1960s acts like The Shirelles, Doris Troy and The Beach Boys.[245][246]

Swift lists Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson and Carly Simon as her career role models: "They've taken chances, but they've also been the same artist for their entire careers."[212][247][248][249] McCartney, both as a Beatle and a solo artist, makes Swift feel "as if I've been let into his heart and his mind": "Any musician could only dream of a legacy like that."[250] She admires Springsteen because he is "so musically relevant after such a long period of time".[251] She aspires to be like Harris as she grows older: "It's not about fame for her, it's about music."[252] Swift says of Kristofferson: "He shines in songwriting ... He's just one of those people who has been in this business for years but you can tell it hasn't chewed him up and spat him out."[253] She admires Simon's "songwriting and honesty": "She's known as an emotional person but a strong person."[249] Swift's fifth album, the pop-focused 1989 was influenced by some of Swift's favorite 1980s pop acts, including Annie Lennox, Phil Collins and "Like a Prayer-era Madonna".[254]

Songwriting

Thematically, The Guardian noted that Swift was "fantastically good at regarding teenage life with a kind of wistful, sepia-toned nostalgia" over the course of her first two albums.[201] New York Magazine remarked that many singer-songwriters have made great records as teens, but "none made great records so explicitly about their teens [...] Her nearest antecedent might be sixties-era Brian Wilson, the one true adolescent auteur before she came along."[255] Comparisons have also been drawn with Janis Ian.[247] Fairytale imagery featured on Swift's second album, Fearless. She explored the disconnect "between fairy tales and the reality of love".[256][257] Her later albums address more adult relationships.[248] In addition to romance and love, Swift's songs have discussed parent-child relationships, friendships,[258][259] alienation, fame, and career ambitions.[219][260] Swift frequently includes "a tossed-off phrase to suggest large and serious things that won't fit in the song, things that enhance or subvert the surface narrative".[261] The New Yorker has said that her songs, "though they are not subversive, have a certain sophistication".[262]

Structurally, Slant notes that Swift has "effortless, preternatural mastery of pop conventions: Very few songwriters can build better bridges than she does".[263] Rolling Stone described her as "a songwriting savant with an intuitive gift for verse-chorus-bridge architecture".[264] The Village Voice noted that Swift uses third-verse point of view reversals frequently.[261] In terms of imagery, repetition is evident in Swift's songwriting. In the words of The Guardian, "she spends so much time kissin' in the rain that it seems a miracle she hasn't developed trenchfoot".[201] Slant added, "to Swift's credit, she explores new lyrical motifs over the course of [her fourth] album".[265] While reviews of Swift's work are "almost uniformly positive", The New Yorker has said she is generally portrayed "more as a skilled technician than as a Dylanesque visionary".[247]

Swift uses her real-life experiences as an inspiration in her work.[266] Listening to music as a child, she felt confused when someone with a personal life issue did not address it in music.[267] In her songs, Swift often addresses the "anonymous crushes of her high school years" and celebrities.[268] Swift frequently mentions ex-boyfriends derogatively in her music,[269] an aspect of her songwriting downplayed by The Village Voice: "Being told What Songs Mean is like having a really pushy professor. And it imperils a true appreciation of Swift's talent, which is not confessional, but dramatic."[270] New York Magazine believes the media scrutiny over her decision to "mine her personal life for music [...] is sexist, inasmuch as it's not asked of her male peers": "It's a relief to see Swift, the ur-nice-girl, refuse to give the mea culpa that many journalists she's talked to have sought".[271] The singer herself has said that not all her songs are factual and are sometimes based on observations.[272] Aside from her liner note clues, Swift tries not to talk specifically about song subjects "because these are real people. You try to give insight as to where you were coming from as a writer without completely throwing somebody under the bus".[273]

Public image

A Rolling Stone journalist who profiled Swift in 2009 remarked upon her polite manners: "If this is Swift's game face, it must be tattooed on because it never drops."[274][275] The magazine later took note of her "ease with glad-handing",[40] while The Hollywood Reporter credited her as "the Best People Person since Bill Clinton".[276] In 2012, a Vogue editor described Swift as "clever and funny and occasionally downright bawdy" in person.[277] While presenting Swift an award for her charitable work in 2012, Michelle Obama praised her as someone who "has rocketed to the top of the music industry but still keeps her feet on the ground, someone who has shattered every expectation of what a 22-year-old can accomplish".[278] Swift considers Obama to be "a role model".[279] In 2012, Grantland described Swift as "dorky" and "openly neurotic in a way you'd never see from a blonde country princess […] overly gracious and eager to please but full of a nonstop, nervous, fluttering energy."[280]

Taylor Swift stands in a Time press area, wearing a black, strapless dress and curled hair
Swift at the 2010 Time 100 Gala, where she was honored

Swift is one of the most followed people on social media, and is known for her friendly interactions with her fans, who the media often refers to as "Swifties".[281][282] She invited 100 of her fans to appear in the "Shake It Off" music video.[283] Swift has sent holiday gifts to fans by post and in person, dubbed "Swiftmas",[284] and has invited groups of fans to her home for album playback sessions.[285] She has said that her fans are "the longest and best relationship I have ever had".[286] Swift considers it her "responsibility" to be conscious of her influence on young fans.[287]

Swif's personal life has been the subject of constant media attention.[288] In 2012, Gawker remarked that Swift had dated "every man in the universe".[289] Abercrombie & Fitch marketed a slogan T-shirt with a "slut-shaming" Swift reference.[290] The New York Times asserted that her "dating history has begun to stir what feels like the beginning of a backlash" and questioned whether Swift was in the midst of a "quarter-life crisis".[291] Swift has, however, cited an unwillingness to discuss her personal life in public.[288] "I have this feeling like if I were to open myself up to love, that would be a career weakness", she says.[292]

Swift is considered a sex symbol—the media cites her figure, hair and lips as her distinctive physical features.[293][294] However, unlike her contemporaries, Swift is modest in her appearance, refusing to wear tiny amounts of clothing: "I find it relatively easy to keep my clothes on because I don't really feel like taking them off. It's not an urge I have".[295][296] Swift was named an Icon of American Style by Vogue in 2011.[297] In 2014 she topped People's annual best dressed list.[298] In February 2015, Swift won Woman of the Year award at the Elle Style Awards.[299] In May 2015, Maxim ranked Swift first in their Hot 100 of the year.[300]

Other ventures

Philanthropy

Swift's philanthropic efforts have been recognized by the Do Something Awards,[301] The Giving Back Fund[302] and the Tennessee Disaster Services.[303] Others include The Big Help Award for her "dedication to helping others" and "inspiring others through action"[304] and the Ripple of Hope Award because of her "dedication to advocacy at such a young age ... Taylor is just the kind of woman we want our daughters to be."[305][306]

Throughout her career, the singer has donated money for helping victims of natural disasters. In 2008, she donated $100,000 to the Red Cross to help the victims of the Iowa flood of 2008.[307] The singer has performed in charity reliefs like Sydney's Sound Relief concert,[308] and the Hope for Haiti telethon.[309] She also recorded a song for the Hope for Haiti Now album.[310] In response to the May 2010 Tennessee floods, Swift donated $500,000 during a telethon hosted by WSMV.[311] In 2011, Swift used the final dress rehearsal for the North American leg of her Speak Now tour as a benefit concert for victims of recent tornadoes in the United States, raising more than $750,000.[312] In 2012, Swift supported Architecture for Humanity's Restore the Shore MTV telethon in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.[313]

Swift is a supporter of arts and donated $75,000 to Nashville's Hendersonville High School in 2010, to help refurbish the school auditorium's sound and lighting systems.[314] In 2012, she pledged $4 million to fund the building of a new education center at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.[315] Also in 2012, Swift partnered with textbook rental company Chegg to donate $60,000 to the music departments of six US colleges.[316] Swift promotes children's literacy. In 2009, she donated $250,000 to various schools around the country that she had either attended or had other associations with. The money was used to buy books, fund educational programs and help pay teacher's salaries.[317] Her other endeavors to promote literacy include donating 6,000 Scholastic books to Reading Public Library, Pennsylvania,[318] 14,000 books to Nashville Public Library, Tennessee,[319] 2,000 Scholastic books to the Reading Hospital Child Health Center's early literacy program,[320] and 25,000 books to New York City schools in 2015.[321] Swift co-chaired the National Education Association's Read Across America campaign in 2012, and recorded a PSA encouraging children to read.[322] In 2014, she appeared in a READ campaign.[323]

Swift opposes LGBT discrimination. Following the 2008 murder of Larry King, she recorded a GLSEN PSA to combat hate crimes.[324] On the first anniversary of King's death, Swift told Seventeen that her parents taught her "never to judge others based on whom they love, what color their skin is, or their religion".[325] In 2011, the music video for Swift's anti-bullying song "Mean" dealt in part with homophobia in high schools; the video was later nominated for an MTV VMA social activism award.[326][327] The New York Times believes she is part of "a new wave of young (and mostly straight) women who are providing the soundtrack for a generation of gay fans coming to terms with their identity in a time of turbulent and confusing cultural messages".[326]

The singer is involved with a number of charities which provide services to sick children. In 2008, she donated a pink Chevy pick-up truck to the Victory Junction Gang Camp; the truck is used to transport sick children from the airport to the camp.[328] In 2011, as the Academy of Country Music's Entertainer of the Year, Swift donated $25,000 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Tennessee.[329] In 2012, Swift participated in the Stand Up to Cancer telethon, performing "Ronan", a song she wrote in memory of a four-year-old boy who died of neuroblastoma. The song was made available for digital download, with all proceeds donated to cancer-related charities.[330] In 2014, she donated $100,000 to the V Foundation for Cancer Research[331] and $50,000 to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.[332] The singer made private visits to hospitals to meet with sick patients and supporting them.[333][334][335]

Swift has encouraged young people to volunteer in their local community as part of Global Youth Service Day.[336] In 2007, she launched a campaign to protect children from online predators, in partnership with the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police.[337] In 2009, Swift recorded a Sound Matters PSA to make listeners aware of the importance of listening "responsibly".[338] Swift has donated auctionable items to a large number of charities, including the Elton John AIDS Foundation,[339] the UNICEF Tap Project,[340] Oxfam International,[341] Habitat for Humanity,[342] MusiCares[343] and Feeding America.[344]

Politics

During the 2008 presidential campaign, she supported the Every Woman Counts campaign, aimed at engaging women in the political process, and was one of many country stars to record a public service announcement for the Vote (For Your) Country campaign.[345] She stated: "I don't think it's my job to try and influence people which way they should vote."[18] Following President Obama's inauguration, she told Rolling Stone that she supported the president: "I've never seen this country so happy about a political decision in my entire time of being alive. I'm so glad this was my first election."[346]

In a 2012 interview, Swift remarked that in spite of keeping herself "as educated and informed as possible", she does not "talk about politics because it might influence other people".[347] Swift has spent time with the Kennedy family[348] and has spoken of her admiration for Ethel Kennedy.[349][350] Swift is also a feminist.[351][352]

Product endorsements

While promoting her debut album, Swift appeared as a spokesmodel for l.e.i. jeans and as the face of Verizon Wireless' Mobile Music campaign.[353][354] In the Fearless era, she launched a l.e.i. sundress range at Wal-Mart,[355] and designed American Greetings cards and Jakks Pacific dolls.[356][357] She became a spokesperson for the NHL's Nashville Predators and Sony Cyber-shot digital cameras.[358][359] She performed in a commercial for the Band Hero video game, with Rivers Cuomo, Pete Wentz and Travis Barker appearing as her backing band.[360][361] In the Speak Now era, she released a special edition of her album through Target.[362] Swift became a CoverGirl spokesmodel,[363] launched two Elizabeth Arden fragrances, Wonderstruck and Wonderstruck Enchanted.[364]

While promoting her fourth album Red, Swift offered exclusive album promotions through Target,[365] Papa John's Pizza[366] and Walgreens.[367] She became a spokesmodel for Diet Coke and Keds sneakers,[368] released her third Elizabeth Arden fragrance titled Taylor by Taylor Swift,[369] and continued her partnerships with Sony Electronics and American Greetings.[370][371] Swift also partnered with a number of companies during the Red Tour; AirAsia[372] and Qantas[373] acted as the official airlines for the Australian and Asian legs, while Cornetto sponsored the Asian leg of the tour.[374] While promoting 1989, Swift had tie-ins with Subway, Keds, Target and Diet Coke.[375] In 2014, Swift released her fourth fragrance Incredible Things.[376]

Awards and achievements

Swift has received many awards and honors, including 10 Grammy Awards,[377][378][379][380] 19 American Music Awards,[381] 11 Country Music Association Awards, 8 Academy of Country Music Awards,[382] 22 Billboard Music Awards, 1 Brit Award and 1 Emmy.[191] Swift is also the second most awarded artist at the Teen Choice Awards, with 25 awards. As a songwriter, she has been honored by the Nashville Songwriters Association[59][383] and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[384]

By the beginning of 2016, Swift had sold more than 40 million albums, 130 million single downloads and was one of the top five music artists with the highest worldwide digital sales.[168] Each of Swift's studio albums had sold at least four million units in the U.S.: Taylor Swift (5.5 million), Fearless (7.0 million),[385] Speak Now (4.5 million), Red (4.1 million), and 1989 (5.7 million).[386]

Discography

Concert tours

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
2009 Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience Herself Cameo
2009 Hannah Montana: The Movie Herself Singer cameo
2010 Valentine's Day Felicia Miller
2012 Lorax, TheThe Lorax Audrey Voice
2014 The Giver Rosemary

Television

Year Title Role Notes
2009 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Haley Jones Episode: "Turn, Turn, Turn"
2009–2015 Saturday Night Live (four episodes) Herself Host, writer, performer[387][388]
2013 New Girl Elaine Episode: "Elaine's Big Day"

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