The Decade of Taylor Swift
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Taylor Swift is a living legend in the music industry. From catchy songs like “Shake It Off,” “22,” and most recently, “Lover,” to her appearances in the media, Swift has been a singer-songwriter for over half of her life and a hugely influential part of this decade of music. Without her music, our world would not be what it is today. Her songs, which range from popular party anthems to tear-jerking ballads, have all made her incredibly worthy of winning the title Artist of the Decade at the 2019 American Music Awards (AMAs).
Swift, who just turned 30 years old, was born in Virginia on December 13, 1989. She was a part of her school’s theater productions and performed at festivals and fairs as a teenager. After falling in love with country music, Swift and her mother went to Nashville, Tennessee in hopes of getting a record deal. Though she was rejected the first time around, Swift was picked up by RCA Records, and her whole family subsequently moved to Tennessee when she was twelve. After a few months, Swift left RCA and joined Big Machine Records, which was then a small record company headed by Scott Borchetta, at just 14 years old. There she produced big country hits including “Teardrops on My Guitar,” “Our Song,” and “Tim McGraw.” The success of these songs lead to the production of “Fearless” (2008), her second studio album (“Taylor Swift” (2006) being her first). Today, she has released many chart-topping albums, including “Speak Now” (2010), “Red” (2012), “1989” (2014), “reputation” (2017), and her most recent album, “Lover” (2019). Swift has also appeared in the films “Valentine’s Day” (2010), “The Lorax” (2012), “The Giver” (2014), and “Cats” (2019).
Swift’s massive success is demonstrated by her long list of awards. Some of her most notable wins include 29 American Music Awards (including Artist of the Decade), 23 Billboard Music Awards, three Billboard Women in Music Awards (including Woman of the Decade), and 10 Grammy Awards. These are just a fraction of the awards that Swift has received throughout her career. Swift has also been included in the rankings of a few newspapers and magazines, such as Time’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in 2011, 2015, and 2019. She was also listed in the top three of Forbes’ Top Earning Women in Music between 2011 to 2019 and was the youngest woman to be included in Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women.
Swift deserves this title because we can relate to her. Like many of us, Swift has a lucky number—13. “I was born on the 13th. I turned 13 on Friday the 13th. My first album went gold in 13 weeks. My first #1 song had a 13-second intro,” Swift explained. “Every time I've won an award, I've been seated in either the 13th seat, the 13th row, the 13th section or row M, which is the 13th letter.” Swift is also known for being a cat person and has three cats: Meredith Grey, Olivia Benson, and Benjamin Button. They have been an integral part of her success, appearing in her music videos and public appearances. While these are quirks that some celebrities might shy away from revealing, Swift makes them prominent on her social media page and in her music.
What is impressive about Swift is her ability to sing in any genre. With the release of her later albums, Swift made a drastic transition from being an innocent country singer to a powerful pop artist. While “Fearless” and “Speak Now” are mainly country pop albums, “Red” (her fourth studio album) veers closer to country rock, and “1989,” “reputation,” and “Lover” are pop or pop rock. Despite her evolution, fans still love her. Swift’s versatile sound and incredible voice suits all genres and allows genres like country music to be more accessible to a younger crowd. She has the ability to pump a crowd up at one moment, then pull at our heartstrings in the next. According to Borchetta, this is one of the main reasons that he took on Swift so young.
Speaking of Borchetta, Swift has been in a feud with him and Big Machine Records for over a year. Swift announced her move from Big Machine Records to Republic Records in November 2018. She will own all of her future master records at Republic. At the time, Borchetta still owned all of Swift’s music aside from “Lover.” Soon after, he sold Big Machine—along with Swift’s catalog of music—to music manager Scooter Braun. Swift expressed her disapproval of Borchetta’s decision, not only because she wanted to own her albums, but also because she was a target of Braun’s “incessant, manipulative bullying,” Swift said. Borchetta responded by saying that Swift was never upset around Braun and released his messages to Swift outlining what was going to happen. Braun and Borchetta also weren’t allowing Swift to perform her old songs at the AMAs because it would be considered as re-recording her songs, which she isn’t allowed to do until November 2020. Despite this feud, Swift’s performance at the AMAs was stronger than ever, demonstrating her resilience and need to stand up for what’s right.
Aside from her music, Swift supported the Democratic party for the first time in 2018. She endorsed Congressman Jim Cooper for re-election to the House of Representatives and Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen for election to the Senate. Swift also donated millions of dollars to help schools and other places that were damaged due to natural disasters. Furthermore, she not only supported the massive Time’s Up movement, which fights against sexual assault, but also used her own sexual assault experience (by ex-radio host David Mueller) as a means to advocate, asking only for a symbolic one dollar in damages. Swift has publicly supported the LGBTQ+ community and spoken out against systemic racism. She is also a feminist and pro-choice. Her confidence to stand up for these issues is enviable; Swift knows what to say in order to encourage people to make a change.
But what makes someone an “Artist of the Decade”? Is it solely based on talent, or is it also someone who makes an impact? It’s both. It’s the artist who stands up for what’s right, inspires others, and is the perfect example of what it means to be an artist. This decade has been full of new albums, singles, and all-around incredible artists. One in particular has not only released a plethora of albums, toured around the world multiple times, and received many awards, but has also spoken up about—and stood by—her personal beliefs. Taylor Swift has left an impression on the world so impactful that many artists look up to her charisma, passion for music, and positive outlook on life. For all this, she fully deserves to the Artist of the Decade.