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Taylor Swift

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For Swift's 2006 album, see Taylor Swift (album).
Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift looking directly toward the camera.
Swift in Good Morning America launching Red in October 2012
Born Taylor Alison Swift
(1989-12-13) December 13, 1989 (age 26)
Reading, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Residence Manhattan, New York City
Occupation
  • Singer-songwriter
  • actress
Net worth $250 million (June 2016 estimate)
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 self-titled 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 Album of the Year winner. Swift penned every track of her Speak Now (2010) album without any co-writers. It debuted at number-one in the United States and the single "Mean" won two Grammy Awards in 2012. Swift's fourth album Red (2012) yielded the successful singles "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and "I Knew You Were Trouble". Her fifth album, the pop-focused 1989 (2014) earned a Guinness World Record after it became her third consecutive album to sell a million copies in its first week in the United States following Speak Now and Red. Three of it's singles "Shake It Off", "Blank Space" and "Bad Blood" reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The album received three Grammy Awards, with Swift becoming the first woman and fifth person overall to win Album of the Year award twice. The eponymous concert tour for the album, running in 2015, became one of highest-grossing of all time.

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, five Guinness World Records, 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. She has appeared in Time's 100 most influential people in the world (2010 and 2015), Forbes' top-earning women in music (2011–16), Forbes' 100 most powerful women (2015) and Forbes Celebrity 100 (2015-16). She was the youngest woman to be included in the third of these and ranked first in the latter. In addition to her music career, Swift has appeared in the television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in 2009, the late-night show Saturday Night Live in 2009 FOX sitcom New Girl in 2013 and the films Valentine's Day (2010), The Lorax (2012) and The Giver (2014).

Biography

1989–2003: Early life

Taylor Alison Swift was born on December 13, 1989, in Reading, Pennsylvania.[1] Her father, Scott Kingsley Swift, is a financial advisor, and her mother, Andrea Gardner (Finlay) Swift, is a homemaker who previously worked as a mutual fund marketing executive.[2] She has a younger brother named Austin.[3] Swift spent the early years of her life on a Christmas tree farm in Cumru Township, Pennsylvania.[4][5] She attended preschool and kindergarten at the Alvernia Montessori School, run by Franciscan nuns,[6] before moving to the Wyndcroft School.[7] The family then moved to a rented house in the suburban town of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania,[8] where she attended Wyomissing Area Junior/Senior High School.[9]

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[10]

At the age of nine, Swift became interested in musical theater and performed in four Berks Youth Theatre Academy productions.[11] She also traveled regularly to Broadway for vocal and acting lessons.[12] 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".[13] She spent her weekends performing at local festivals and other events.[14][15] After watching a documentary about Faith Hill, Swift felt sure that she needed to go to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a music career.[16] 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.[17] 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".[18]

When Swift was about 12 years old, a computer repairman taught her how to play three chords on a guitar, leading to her first undertaking as a songwriter, "Lucky You".[19] 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.[20] 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.[21]

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.[10][22] In Tennessee, Swift attended Hendersonville High School for her freshman and sophomore years.[23] 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.[24][25]

2004–08: Career beginnings and Taylor Swift

Swift moved to Nashville, Tennessee when she was 14 years old,[26] having signed an artist development deal with RCA Records.[27] She worked with experienced Music Row songwriters such as Troy Verges, Brett Beavers, Brett James, Mac McAnally and The Warren Brothers.[28][29] She eventually formed a lasting working relationship with Liz Rose.[30] They began meeting for two-hour writing sessions every Tuesday afternoon after school.[31] Rose thought 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."[32] Swift was signed by the Sony/ATV Tree publishing house[33] but left RCA Records when she was 14.[15][34][35] 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."[35]

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 percent stake in the fledgling company at an estimated cost of $120,000.[36][37] 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".[15] 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.[38] Musically, the album has been described as "a mix of trad-country instruments and spry rock guitars".[39] Taylor Swift was released on October 24, 2006.[40] 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".[41] The album, as of March 2011, has sold over 5.5 million copies worldwide.[42]

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".[43] She spent much of 2006 promoting Taylor Swift in a radio tour and television appearances.[44][45][46] Borchetta has said that his decision to sign a 16-year-old singer-songwriter initially caused disapproval among his record industry peers but Swift tapped into a previously unknown market: teenage girls who listen to country music.[22] 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. For the former, Swift became the youngest person to single-handedly write and perform a number-one song on the chart.[47] "Teardrops on My Guitar" became a minor pop hit, reaching number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.[48] Swift also released a holiday album, Sounds of the Season: The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection, in October 2007 and the EP Beautiful Eyes in July 2008.[49][50] Swift promoted her debut album extensively as the opening act for other artists on their tours.[51]

Swift won a number of accolades for Taylor Swift. She was one of the recipients of Nashville Songwriters Association's Songwriter/Artist of the Year in 2007, becoming the youngest person to be honored with the title.[52] She also won the Country Music Association's Horizon Award for Best New Artist,[53] the Academy of Country Music Awards's Top New Female Vocalist,[54] and the American Music Awards's Favorite Country Female Artist honor.[55] She was also nominated for a 2008 Grammy Award in the category of Best New Artist.[56] Later in July of that year, Swift was involved in a romance with Joe Jonas that ended three months later.[57][58]

2008–10: Fearless and acting

Swift's second studio album, Fearless, was released on November 11, 2008.[40] Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone described her as "a songwriting savant with an intuitive gift for verse-chorus-bridge architecture" whose "squirmingly intimate and true" songs seemed to be "literally ripped from a suburban girl's diary".[59] Lead single, "Love Story", was released in September 2008 and peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100.[60] 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 on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number two.[61] The album debuted at number one on Billboard 200 and has since sold over 8.6 million copies worldwide.[62] It was also the top-selling album of 2009 in the United States.[63] The album received promotion from Swift's first concert tour, Fearless Tour,[64] which grossed over $63 million.[65] Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless, a concert film, was aired on television and later released on DVD and Blu-ray.[66] Swift also performed as a supporting act for Keith Urban's Escape Together World Tour.[67]

Taylor Swift performing with a guitar in a yellow dress
Pictured in Los Angeles during the Fearless Tour in 2010

In 2009, the music video for "You Belong with Me" was named MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video.[68] Her acceptance speech was interrupted by rapper Kanye West.[69] The incident was the subject of controversy and frequent media attention, and resulted in many Internet memes.[70] 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."[71] James Montgomery of MTV argued that the incident and subsequent media attention turned Swift into "a bona-fide mainstream celebrity".[72]

Fearless 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.[73][74] Swift was the youngest artist ever to win Album of the Year.[75] 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.[72][76] 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".[75] Swift became the youngest ever artist to be named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association.[77] Fearless also won the Association's Album of the Year award.[78] Other awards won by Fearless included the American Music Awards, which honored Swift with Artist of the Year and Favorite Country Album plaudits.[79] Billboard named her 2009's Artist of the Year.[80]

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,[81] and contributed backing vocals to Mayer's "Half of My Heart", a single featured on his fourth album, Battle Studies.[82] She co-wrote and recorded "Best Days of Your Life" with Kellie Pickler[83] 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.[84] Swift also provided vocals for Boys Like Girls' "Two Is Better Than One", written by Johnson.[85] She contributed two songs—including "Today Was a Fairytale", which became her first number one on the Canadian Hot 100 chart—to the Valentine's Day soundtrack,[86][87] and recorded a cover of Better Than Ezra's "Breathless" for the Hope for Haiti Now album.[88]

Swift made her acting debut in a 2009 episode of CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, playing a rebellious teenager.[89] The New York Times noted that the character allowed Swift to be "a little bit naughty, and credibly so".[90] Later that year, Swift both hosted and performed as the musical guest for an episode of Saturday Night Live.[91] 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.[92][93] 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".[94] In a particularly scathing review, the critic for Variety deemed her "entirely undirected", arguing that "she needs to find a skilled director to tamp her down and channel her obviously abundant energy".[95] Later in 2010, she briefly dated actor Jake Gyllenhaal.[96][97]

2010–14: Speak Now and Red

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 (after Mariah Carey) to debut multiple tracks—the other one was "Today Was a Fairytale" at number two—in the top five during a calendar year.[98] The song was the lead single from her third studio album, Speak Now, which she wrote without any co-writers.[99] She said, "It didn't really happen on purpose, it just sort of happened. Like, I'd get my best ideas at 3:00 am in Arkansas, and I didn't have a co-writer around and I would just finish it."[100] Speak Now, released on October 25, 2010,[40] was a commercial success, debuting at number-one on the Billboard 200, with opening week sales of one million copies, the 16th album to do so.[101] Later, it became the fastest-selling digital album by a female artist, with 278,000 downloads in a week. For this record, Swift received a 2010 Guinness World Records; she earned another entry in the book after 10 of Speak Now's tracks debuted at the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first female to achieve the feat.[102][103] Three of the album's singles—"Mine", "Back to December" and "Mean"—peaked within top ten in Canada.[87]

The song "Mean" won Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards.[104] She also performed the song during the ceremony, of which Claire Suddath of Time felt she "delivered her comeback on-key and with a vengeance"[105] while Jayme Deerwester of USA Today remarked that the criticism in 2010 seemed to have "made her a better songwriter and live performer".[106] Swift won various other awards for Speak Now, including Songwriter/Artist of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association (2010 and 2011),[107][108] Woman of the Year by Billboard (2011),[109] and Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music (2011 and 2012)[110] and the Country Music Association in 2011.[111] At the American Music Awards of 2011, Swift won Artist of the Year and Favorite Country Album.[112]

Taylor Swift performing live
Swift performing during the Speak Now World Tour in 2012

Swift embarked on the Speak Now World Tour, which ran from February 2011 to March 2012, and grossed over $123 million.[113] In November 2011, Swift released her first live album, Speak Now World Tour: Live.[114] 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.[115][116] After providing vocals for B.o.B's "Both of Us" in May 2012,[117] Swift dated political heir Conor Kennedy from July to September 2012.[118][119] In August, Swift released "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"—the lead single from her fourth studio album, Red. An international success, it became her first number-one in the US and New Zealand.[120][121] The song reached the top slot on an iTunes chart 50 minutes after its release, earning the "Fastest Selling Single in Digital History" in Guinness World Records.[122] 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.[123] 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,[124] peaking at number two in the United States.[123]

Incorporating new genres, such as heartland rock, dubstep and dance-pop,[13] Red was released on October 22, 2012.[40] 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.[125][126] As of May 2013, Red had sold over 6 million copies worldwide.[127] Promoting the album, Swift embarked on The Red Tour, which ran from March 2013 to June 2014 and grossed over $150 million.[128][129] Red earned several accolades, including four nominations at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.[130] Its single "I Knew You Were Trouble" won Best Female Video at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.[131] Swift was named Best Female Country Artist at the 2012 American Music Awards and Artist of the Year at the 2013 ceremony.[132][133] Swift received the Nashville Songwriters Association's Songwriter/Artist Award for the fifth and sixth consecutive years in 2012 and 2013, respectively.[134] 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.[135]

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.[136] She provided guest vocals for a McGraw song titled "Highway Don't Care", featuring guitar work by Urban.[137] She performed an acoustic version of "Red" with Vince Gill and Alison Krauss at the 2013 CMA Awards.[138] Swift performed "As Tears Go By" with The Rolling Stones in Chicago as part of their 50 & Counting tour.[139] She also joined Florida Georgia Line on stage during their set at the 2013 Country Radio Seminar to sing "Cruise".[140] Outside of music, Swift voiced Audrey, a tree lover, in the animated film The Lorax (2012),[141] made a cameo in the sitcom New Girl (2013),[142] and had a supporting role in the film adaptation of The Giver (2014).[143] She dated British singer Harry Styles from October 2012 to January 2013.[144][145]

2014–present: 1989

In March 2014, Swift relocated to Manhattan, New York City.[146] For her fifth studio album, 1989, Swift worked with writers Antonoff, Martin, Shellback, Imogen Heap, Ryan Tedder and Ali Payami.[147][148] She promoted the album through various campaigns, including inviting fans to secret album-listening sessions, called the "1989 Secret Sessions".[149][150] Credited as her "first documented, official pop album", it marks a departure from her previous country albums.[151] The album was released on October 27, 2014 to positive reviews,[40][152] 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."[153]

Taylor Swift is performing onstage with a mic in her right hand
Swift's 1989 World Tour grossed $250 million, becoming one of the highest grossing tours of all time

1989 sold 1.28 million copies in the US during the first week of release and debuted atop the Billboard 200—this made Swift the first act to have three albums sell more than one million copies in the opening release week, for which she earned a Guinness World Record.[154][155] As of February 2015, 1989 had sold over 8.6 million copies worldwide.[156] The album's lead single, "Shake It Off", was released in August 2014 and debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.[157] Subsequent singles include "Blank Space" and "Bad Blood" (featuring Kendrick Lamar), which reached number one in the United States,[158] "Style"[159] and "Wildest Dreams" which peaked in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100, and "Out of the Woods" and "New Romantics".[160] The music video for "Blank Space" briefly became the fastest video to reach one billion views on Vevo.[161] "Blank Space" and the video for "Bad Blood" won four accolades at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, with the latter winning for Video of the Year and Best Collaboration.[162] Swift's headlining tour, The 1989 World Tour, running from May to December 2015, went on to gross over $250 million, becoming one of the highest grossing tours of all time.[163]

Swift was named Billboard's Woman Of Year in 2014, becoming the first artist to be awarded this title twice.[164] Also that year, she received the Dick Clark Award for Excellence at the American Music Awards.[165] At the 2015 Grammy Awards, "Shake It Off" was nominated for three awards including Record of the Year and Song of the Year[166] while, at the 2015 Brit Awards, Swift won the Brit Award for International Female Solo Artist.[167] The singer was one of eight artists to receive a 50th Anniversary Milestone Award at the 2015 Academy of Country Music Awards.[168] At the 58th Annual Grammy Awards, Swift won three awards for 1989—Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Music Video for "Bad Blood". She became the first woman and fifth person overall to win the first of these twice.[169]

Prior to 1989's release, Swift stressed on the importance of albums,[170] 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.[171] 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.[172] The following day, Apple announced that they would pay artists during the free trial period,[173] and Swift agreed to stream 1989 on the streaming service.[174] 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.[175]

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,[176] and joined Kenny Chesney to sing "Big Star" on the opening night of his Big Revival Tour in Nashville.[177] She also accompanied Madonna on guitar for an acoustic performance of "Ghosttown" at the iHeartRadio Music Awards.[178] In March 2015, Swift started dating Scottish DJ and record producer Calvin Harris.[179] 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.[180] They announced the end of their relationship in June 2016.[181] Before their break-up, Swift collaborated with Harris on the song "This Is What You Came For" as a songwriter—she was initially credited under the pseudonym Nils Sjöberg.[182]

Artistry

Musical style

Swift's music contains elements of pop, pop rock and country.[183] She self-identified as a country artist until the 2014 release of 1989, which she described as a "sonically cohesive pop album".[184] 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".[185] 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."[186] The Guardian has said that Swift "cranks melodies out with the pitiless efficiency of a Scandinavian pop factory".[187]

Swift's vocals has been described by Sophie Schillaci from The Hollywood Reporter as "sweet, but soft".[188] 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".[189] 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."[190] 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."[191] Her live vocals were relegated as "fine", but did not match her peers.[188] It was also described in 2009 as "flat, thin, and sometimes as wobbly as a newborn colt".[192] However, Swift has received praise for refusing to correct her pitch with Auto-Tune.[193]

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."[22] Borchetta conceded in 2010 that Swift is "not the best technical singer", but described her as the "best communicator that we've got".[194] Swift's vocal presence is something that concerns her and she has "put a lot of work" into improving it.[195] It was reported in 2010 that she continues to take vocal lessons.[196] She has said that she only feels nervous performing "if I'm not sure what the audience thinks of me, like at award shows".[197]

Influences

One of Swift's earliest musical memories is listening to her maternal grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, sing at church.[2] 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."[198] Swift has said she owes her confidence to her mother, who helped her prepare for class presentations as a child.[199] She also attributes her "fascination with writing and storytelling" to her mother.[200] Swift was drawn to the storytelling of country music,[201] and was introduced to the genre by "the great female country artists of the '90s"— Shania Twain, Faith Hill, and the Dixie Chicks.[202][203] Twain, both as a songwriter and performer, was her biggest musical influence.[204] Hill was Swift's childhood role model: "Everything she said, did, wore, I tried to copy it."[205] She admired the Dixie Chicks's defiant attitude and their ability to play their own instruments.[206] The band's "Cowboy Take Me Away" was the first song Swift learned to play on the guitar.[207] Swift also explored the music of older country stars, including Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn,[14] Dolly Parton, and Tammy Wynette.[14][208] She believes Parton is "an amazing example to every female songwriter out there".[209] She admires alt-country artists such as Ryan Adams,[210] Patty Griffin,[211] and Lori McKenna.[212]

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

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.[213][214] In her high school years, Swift listened to emo bands such as Dashboard Confessional,[215] Fall Out Boy,[216] and Jimmy Eat World.[217] She has also expressed her admiration for contemporary singers and songwriters, such as Michelle Branch,[217] Alanis Morissette,[218] Ashlee Simpson,[219] Fefe Dobson[217] and Justin Timberlake.[220] According to Swift, she is "obsessed" with the 1960s acts like The Shirelles, Doris Troy and The Beach Boys.[221]

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".[22][222] 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."[223] She admires Springsteen because he is "so musically relevant after such a long period of time".[224] She aspires to be like Harris as she grows older: "It's not about fame for her, it's about music."[225] 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."[226] She admires Simon's "songwriting and honesty": "She's known as an emotional person but a strong person."[227] 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".[228]

Songwriting

The Guardian has praised Swift for writing about teenage "with a kind of wistful, sepia-toned nostalgia" over the course of her first two albums.[187] The New York magazine has 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."[229] Comparisons have also been drawn with Janis Ian.[230] Fairytale imagery featured on Swift's second album, Fearless. She explored the disconnect "between fairy tales and the reality of love".[231][232] Her later albums address more adult relationships.[222] In addition to romance and love, Swift's songs have discussed parent-child relationships, friendships,[233][234] alienation, fame, and career ambitions.[200] 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".[235]

"For a female to write about her feelings, and then be portrayed as some clingy, insane, desperate girlfriend in need of making you marry her and have kids with her, I think that's taking something that potentially should be celebrated – a woman writing about her feelings in a confessional way – that's taking it and turning it and twisting it into something that is frankly a little sexist."

— Swift in response to criticism of her songwriting[236]

Rolling Stone describes her as "a songwriting savant with an intuitive gift for verse-chorus-bridge architecture".[237] According to The Village Voice, Swift uses third-verse point of view reversals frequently.[235] In terms of imagery, repetition is evident in Swift's songwriting. In The Guardian's words, "she spends so much time kissin' in the rain that it seems a miracle she hasn't developed trenchfoot".[187] Slant Magazine adds, "to Swift's credit, she explores new lyrical motifs over the course of [her fourth] album".[238] 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".[230]

Swift uses her real-life experiences as an inspiration in her work.[239] Listening to music as a child, she felt confused when someone with a personal life issue did not address it in music.[240] In her songs, Swift often addresses the "anonymous crushes of her high school years" and celebrities.[241] Swift frequently mentions ex-boyfriends derogatively in her music,[242] 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."[243] The New York Magazine, however, 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".[244] The singer herself has said that not all her songs are factual and are sometimes based on observations.[245] 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".[246]

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."[247] The magazine later took note of her "ease with glad-handing",[36] while The Hollywood Reporter credits her as "the Best People Person since Bill Clinton".[248] 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".[249] Swift considers Obama to be a role model.[250]

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".[251][252] Swift has sent holiday gifts to fans by post and in person, dubbed "Swiftmas",[253] and has invited groups of fans to her home for album playback sessions.[254] Swift considers it her "responsibility" to be conscious of her influence on young fans.[255] She has said that her fans are "the longest and best relationship I have ever had".[256] Swift's personal life has been the subject of constant media attention.[257] In 2012, Gawker remarked that Swift had dated "every man in the universe".[258] Abercrombie & Fitch marketed a slogan T-shirt with a "slut-shaming" Swift reference.[259] 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".[260] Swift has, however, cited an unwillingness to discuss her personal life in public,[257] considering it "a career weakness".[261]

Swift is considered a sex symbol—the media cites her figure, hair and lips as her distinctive physical features.[262][263] However, unlike her contemporaries, Swift is modest in her appearance, remarking that she finds it easy to "keep my clothes on".[16][264] Swift was named an Icon of American Style by Vogue in 2011.[265] In 2014 she topped People's annual best dressed list.[266] In February 2015, Swift won Woman of the Year award at the Elle Style Awards.[267] In May 2015, Maxim ranked Swift first in their Hot 100 of the year.[268] Swift has also appeared in various power listings. She was included in Time's annual list of the 100 most influential people in 2010 and 2015.[269][270] From 2011–15, she appeared in the top three of Forbes' Top-Earning Women In Music with respective earnings of $45 million,[271] $57 million,[272] $55 million,[273] $64 million,[274] and $80 million.[275] In 2015, she became the youngest woman ever to be included on Forbes' 100 most powerful women list, ranked at number 64.[276] In 2016, Swift topped Forbes' annual list of the 100 highest-paid celebrities with $170 million.[277] As of June 2016, Swift's net worth is $250 million.[278]

Other ventures

Philanthropy

Swift's philanthropic efforts have been recognized by the Do Something Awards and the Tennessee Disaster Services.[279][280] Others include The Big Help Award for her "dedication to helping others" and "inspiring others through action"[281] 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."[282][283] In 2008, she donated $100,000 to the Red Cross to help the victims of the Iowa flood of 2008.[284] The singer has performed in charity reliefs like Sydney's Sound Relief concert.[285] She also recorded a song for the Hope for Haiti Now album.[286] In response to the May 2010 Tennessee floods, Swift donated $500,000 during a telethon hosted by WSMV.[287] 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.[288] In 2012, Swift supported Architecture for Humanity's Restore the Shore MTV telethon in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.[289] In 2016, Swift donated $1 million to help people impacted by the 2016 Louisiana floods.[290]

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.[291] 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.[292] Also in 2012, Swift partnered with textbook rental company Chegg to donate $60,000 to the music departments of six US colleges.[293] 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.[294] Her other endeavors to promote literacy include donating 6,000 Scholastic books to Reading Public Library, Pennsylvania,[295] 14,000 books to Nashville Public Library, Tennessee,[296] 2,000 Scholastic books to the Reading Hospital Child Health Center's early literacy program,[297] and 25,000 books to New York City schools in 2015.[298]

The singer is involved with a number of charities which provide services to sick children. 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.[299] 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.[300] In 2014, she donated $100,000 to the V Foundation for Cancer Research[301] and $50,000 to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.[302] The singer made private visits to hospitals to meet with sick patients and supporting them.[303][304][305] Swift has encouraged young people to volunteer in their local community as part of Global Youth Service Day.[306] In 2007, she launched a campaign to protect children from online predators, in partnership with the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police.[307] In 2009, Swift recorded a Sound Matters PSA to make listeners aware of the importance of listening "responsibly".[308] Swift has donated auctionable items to a large number of charities, including the Elton John AIDS Foundation,[309] the UNICEF Tap Project,[310] MusiCares[311] and Feeding America.[312]

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.[313] She stated: "I don't think it's my job to try and influence people which way they should vote."[14] 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."[314]

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".[315] Swift has spent time with the Kennedy family[316] and has spoken of her admiration for Ethel Kennedy.[226] Swift is also a feminist.[317][318] She has spoken out against LGBT discrimination. Following the 2008 murder of Larry King, she recorded a GLSEN PSA to combat hate crimes.[319] 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".[320] 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.[321][322] 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".[321]

Product endorsements

While promoting her debut album, Swift appeared as the face of Verizon Wireless' Mobile Music campaign.[323] In the Fearless era, she launched a l.e.i. sundress range at Wal-Mart,[324] and designed American Greetings cards and Jakks Pacific dolls.[325][326] She became a spokesperson for the NHL's Nashville Predators and Sony Cyber-shot digital cameras.[327][328] She performed in a commercial for the Band Hero video game, with Rivers Cuomo, Pete Wentz and Travis Barker appearing as her backing band.[329][330] In the Speak Now era, she released a special edition of her album through Target.[331] Swift became a CoverGirl spokesmodel,[332] launched two Elizabeth Arden fragrances; Wonderstruck and Wonderstruck Enchanted.[333]

While promoting her fourth album Red, Swift offered exclusive album promotions through Target,[334] Papa John's Pizza[335] and Walgreens.[336] She became a spokesmodel for Diet Coke and Keds sneakers,[337] released her third Elizabeth Arden fragrance titled Taylor by Taylor Swift,[338] and continued her partnerships with Sony Electronics and American Greetings.[339][340] Swift also partnered with a number of companies during the Red Tour; AirAsia[341] and Qantas[342] acted as the official airlines for the Australian and Asian legs, while Cornetto sponsored the Asian leg of the tour.[343] While promoting 1989, Swift had tie-ins with Subway, Keds, Target and Diet Coke.[344] In 2014, Swift released her fourth fragrance Incredible Things.[345]

Awards and achievements

Swift has received many awards and honors, including 10 Grammy Awards,[346] 19 American Music Awards,[347] 23 Billboard Music Awards, Country Music Association Awards, 8 Academy of Country Music Awards,[348] one Brit Award,[167] and one Emmy.[349] As a songwriter, she has been honored by the Nashville Songwriters Association[52][350] and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[351][a]

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.[156] 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),[352] Speak Now (4.5 million), Red (4.1 million) and 1989 (5.7 million).[353]

Discography

Concert tours

Filmography

Notes

  1. ^ For a full list of citations for the awards, refer to the list of awards and nominations received by Taylor Swift.

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