Taylor Swift

AMG AllMovie Guide:

Taylor Swift

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Biography

Country music star Taylor Swift showed all the signs of her future career as a singer/songwriter when she was still a small girl growing up in Pennsylvania. Creative from the beginning, Swift was singing for local audiences by the time she was ten, and won a national poetry contest in the fourth grade for her poem "Monster in My Closet." By 12, the young artist was singing, writing songs, playing the 12-string guitar, and shopping demos around Nashville, hoping to score a record contract.

Within a few years, Swift's family relocated to the Nashville area so that the aspiring performer could pursue her career full-time. She was eventually offered a development deal with RCA, but rejected it when it didn't allow for her to record her own songs. Swift would be rewarded for her stalwartness, however, when she was signed by Big Machine Records a short time later. She was also hired in as the youngest staff songwriter ever to work for Sony/ATV Tree publishing.

Swift released a self-titled album in 2006, and it became an immediate hit, soon setting chart records that put her in league with established acts like the Dixie Chicks and Carrie Underwood. The 17-year-old became a household name, appearing on magazine covers, taking home awards, and joining the ranks of other young recording artists like Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. Swift eventually dated Jonas Brothers singer Joe Jonas, and appeared in the brothers' concert film Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience following the release of her equally chart-topping sophomore album, Fearless, in 2008. He had his biggest non-SNL hit to date when he was one of three regular guys looking to kill their Horrible Bosses in 2011, and that same year he co-starred with Owen Wilson in Hall Pass, and starred in the indie comedy A Good Old Fashioned Orgy. ~ Cammila Albertson, Rovi
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Singer, songwriter

Country singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, in the words of the New Yorker magazine, is a prodigy. With an uncanny knack for turning ordinary teenage experiences into fresh country songs that appeal to all ages, she was not just the biggest new star in country music in 2007 and 2008 but among the genre's biggest stars of any age. Beginning her formal country career as a staff songwriter at 14, Swift seemed equipped to become much more than a teen star who flamed out as an adult. "I write songs about my life," she told George Hatza of Pennsylvania's Reading Eagle. "When my life changes, so will my music. It's as simple as that. I tell stories."

Taylor Swift was born on December 13, 1989, in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, near the city of Reading. She has one sibling, a younger brother named Austin. Swift's family operated a Christmas tree farm, and she was steered toward outdoor pursuits. "I had her sitting on a pony when she was nine months old," Swift's mother, Andrea, told Chris Willman of Entertainment Weekly. "If my dream had gone well, she'd be in a horse show right now." Swift's father, Scott, sold stocks on the side. The only obvious forerunner of Swift's musical talent was her grandmother Marjorie Finlay, an opera singer.

That talent showed itself early: when the family went to see an animated musical film from the Walt Disney studios, Swift would emerge from the theater singing the words of all the songs correctly. At age 11 she sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a Philadelphia 76ers game. Some tough experiences during her pre-teen years fired up a layer of creativity to go with Swift's talent. As a child she attended the academically competitive Wyndcroft School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, but then switched to public schools in Wyomissing. Although it was her hometown, she didn't know any of her fellow students, and she was terrified. Swift began to catch on to the storytelling aspect of country songs, and when she was given a guitar she began to channel her feelings into songs of her own, practicing the guitar until her fingers bled.

One of her future hits, "The Outside," was written when she was only 12. "I wrote that about the scariest feeling I've ever felt: going to school, walking down the hall, looking at all those faces, and not knowing who you're gonna talk to that day," she told Willman. "People always ask, How did you have the courage to walk up to record labels when you were 12 or 13? It's because I could never feel the kind of rejection in the music industry that I felt in middle school." Swift's parents quickly realized that they had someone special on their hands. They sold their farm when she was 13 and moved the family to Hendersonville, Tennessee, outside Nashville.

Swift didn't have much luck as a singer at first, approaching labels with a demo on which she sang Dolly Parton and Dixie Chicks songs. But songwriting was another story. The following year, she was signed as a staff songwriter by the prestigious Sony Tree music publisher in Nashville. The environment at Hendersonville High School might have provided other students merely with gossip fodder, but for Swift it was the raw material for new songs. "There was always some drama I could write songs about," she told Eileen Finan of People. "Like my friend getting broken up with and bawling her eyes out or a guy being completely immature."

Swift had a knack, above all, for putting young love into words with an accuracy far beyond her years. Her first single, "Tim McGraw," wove references to an unnamed song by that country superstar with vivid imagery of "a boy in a Chevy truck / that had a tendency of gettin' stuck / on backroads at night." In "Our Song" she wrote, "Our song is the slamming screen door, sneakin' out late, tapping on your window." Swift was soon performing at Nashville's Bluebird Cafe on 21st Avenue South. Music Row executive Scott Borchetta heard her there and signed her to his Big Machine label. In the summer of 2006 he released "Tim McGraw," and almost from the start the 16-year-old Taylor Swift was a star.

Swift's debut album, Taylor Swift, was released at the end of 2006, and she went on tour to support it as an opening act with country stars who could draw arena-sized crowds: the band Rascal Flatts in 2006, and the impressive quintet of George Strait, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill the following year. A five-foot, eleven-inch blonde with a dry, grainy voice that fell naturally into the country tradition, she was a compelling performer who incorporated songs by non-country performers such as Eminem and Beyoncé into her shows. But, asked by Hatza whether she thought of herself more as a singer or a songwriter, she promptly replied, "I love lyrics more than notes. A song is a favorite song not because the singer can hit and hold a high note but because of the words, their meaning."

Taylor Swift was an impressive debut, topping the Billboard magazine country albums chart and cracking the pop top five. Five consecutive singles from the album landed in the country top ten, a first in the history of the genre, and "Our Song" spent six weeks at the top. Swift had songwriting help from Liz Rose on some of the songs, but "Our Song" was entirely her own, and it made her the youngest person ever to write and sing a number-one country single. The Taylor Swift album, in a time of sharply declining album sales, was certified triple platinum and went on to sell more than 3.5 million copies. In 2007 Swift took home the Country Music Association's Horizon Award and the Top New Female Vocalist Award from the rival Academy of Country Music.

Swift released Sounds of the Season: The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection in 2007, and then an EP, Beautiful Eyes, containing acoustic versions of some of her songs. In late 2007 she began working on her sophomore album. She approached the problem with typical confidence and groundedness, telling Joey Guerra of the Houston Chronicle that "I feel kind of bad saying I don't feel it, but I'm not feeling pressure. I've been writing these songs since I was 12. I've got, like, 40 that I want to put on the next record." That confidence held up through a brush with tabloid publicity as Swift was romantically linked to Joe Jonas of the pop group the Jonas Brothers, was dumped by phone, and faced a pregnancy rumor that she categorically denied.

Swift's core fan base of teenage girls continued to grow, and there was pent-up demand by the time she issued her second album, Fearless, in November of 2008. The album continued to shatter sales records, making its debut atop the Billboard 200 pop albums chart and doing extremely well in the digital download market, historically weaker for country music. Fearless, which Swift co-produced, was the fourth-biggest digital debut of all time, behind albums by Coldplay, Jack Johnson, and Kanye West. Music from her MySpace page had been streamed more than 120 million times. The single "White Horse" made its debut at number 13 on the pop top 100; it was Swift's sixth pop top 20 debut for the year, exceeding the Jonas Brothers' record of five.

The songwriting on Fearless was, if anything, even stronger than that on Swift's debut. Among the hits that emerged from the early days of the album's release was "Fifteen," with its understated line, "Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind, and we both cried." Swift had no shortage of ideas for the future. "Later on there will definitely be a huge temptation for me to make an alt-country record, something edgier and a little darker," she told Joe Caramanica of the New York Times. There were also offers to appear in television situation comedies, and acting seemed to be on the horizon.

Selected discography
Taylor Swift, Big Machine, 2006.
Sounds of the Season: The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection, Target, 2007.
Beautiful Eyes, Big Machine, 2008 (EP)
Fearless, Big Machine, 2008.

Sources
Books
Reusser, Kayleen, Taylor Swift, Mitchell Lane, 2009 (for young adult readers).
Ryals, Lexi, Taylor Swift: Country's Sweetheart, Price Stern Sloan, 2008 (for young adult readers).

Periodicals
Billboard, November 29, 2008, p. 45.
Entertainment Weekly, February 8, 2008, p. 40.
Houston Chronicle, November 3, 2007, p. 3.
New York Times, September 7, 2008, p. 61.
Palm Beach Post, January 27, 2007, p. D1.
People, May 21, 2007, p. 122.
PR Newswire, November 19, 2008.
Reading Eagle (Reading, PA), December 7, 2008.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), November 9, 2008, p. E1.
USA Today, August 8, 2008, p. D11; November 11, 2008, p. D5; November 12, 2008, p. D4.

Online
"Prodigy: The Rise of Taylor Swift," The New Yorker, http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/musical/2008/11/10/081110crmu_music_frerejones (December 7, 2008).
"Taylor Swift," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (December 7, 2008).
  • Genres: Country

Biography

Taylor Swift became one of country's brightest (and youngest) faces in 2006, when the 16-year-old released her first album. Although new to the American public, Swift had been performing since her preteen years in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, where she first took the stage as part of a children's theater troupe. Encouraged by the troupe's manager to pursue music instead, Swift began performing karaoke songs at a local mall, with open-mike gigs following shortly thereafter. She sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" before a Philadelphia 76ers game at the age of 11; the following year, she began practicing the guitar several hours each day, modeling her early songwriting attempts on crossover artists like Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks. Swift's parents realized her dedication and began making regular visits to Nashville, Tennessee, where Swift could perform casually and meet with songwriters in the area. The family then decided to move to an outlying Nashville suburb, which accelerated Swift's career.

While performing at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Swift caught the eye of music industry veteran Scott Borchetta, who signed her to his newly formed label. Swift joined the roster at Big Machine Records and released her debut single, "Tim McGraw," in August 2006. The song drew upon her experience as a lovelorn high-school student, a theme that Swift revisited throughout her self-titled debut album. Released in late 2006, Taylor Swift catapulted the young songwriter to stardom, spawned a handful of hits (five consecutive Top Ten singles, a new record for a female solo artist), and earned multi-platinum status. Swift also received a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, an award she ultimately lost to Amy Winehouse. Two subsequent EPs -- Sounds of the Season: The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection and Beautiful Eyes -- helped maintain Swift's popularity while she worked on another album, which arrived in November 2008.

Swift's debut record made her a queen in the country world, but 2008's Fearless positioned her as the year's biggest star of any genre. The sophomore album went gold during its first week of release; combined with the sales of its predecessor, it also made Swift the highest-grossing artist of 2008. The accolades increased in 2009, when Fearless went multi-platinum and took home two ACM awards, five American Music Awards, five CMAs, two CMTs, and a controversial trophy at the MTV Video Music Awards (Kanye West infamously stormed the stage during Swift's acceptance speech to throw his support to Beyoncé, claiming she deserved the award instead). Meanwhile, "You Belong with Me" peaked at number two on the pop charts, officially cementing Swift's status as a crossover artist. By the time 2009 drew to a close, Fearless had sold nearly six million copies in America alone, making it the year's best-selling album.

Swift kicked off the new year by contributing two songs to the Valentine's Day soundtrack. She also made a cameo in the film, playing the high-school sweetheart of her real-life boyfriend, Taylor Lautner. Swift then focused her attention on wrapping up her third album, Speak Now, which she'd written entirely on her own throughout the two previous years. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200 chart, and by August 2011 had sold over five and a half million copies worldwide; it would later win two Grammy Awards for its single "Mean." That same year, Swift released her first live album, World Tour Live: Speak Now.

Swift decided to turn her fourth album, Red, into something of a sonic departure, working with Max Martin -- best known for his collaborations with Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys -- for its lead single, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." Its pop sheen signaled a departure, as did the presence of such collaborators as Dan Wilson, Mark Foster, and Butch Walker. Red was released on October 22, 2012. ~ Andrew Leahey, Rovi
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Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift, with curled hair and red painted lips, smiles over her shoulder
Swift at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater in 2012
Background information
Birth name Taylor Alison Swift
Born (1989-12-13) December 13, 1989 (age 23)
Reading, Pennsylvania, United States
Genres Country, country pop, pop, pop rock
Occupations Singer-songwriter, musician, actress
Instruments Vocals, guitar, banjo guitar, ukulele, piano
Years active 2006–present
Labels Big Machine
Website taylorswift.com

Taylor Alison Swift (born December 13, 1989) is an American singer-songwriter and actress. Raised in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, United States, Swift moved to Nashville, Tennessee at the age of fourteen to pursue a career in country music. She signed to the independent label Big Machine Records and became the youngest songwriter ever hired by the Sony/ATV Music publishing house. The release of Swift's eponymous debut album in 2006 established her as a country music star. "Our Song", her third single, made her the youngest person to single-handedly write and perform a number one song on the country chart. She received a Best New Artist nomination at the 2008 Grammy Awards.

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 and was supported by an extensive concert tour. The record won four Grammy Awards, with Swift becoming the youngest ever Album of the Year winner. Swift's third album, 2010's Speak Now, sold over one million copies in its first week of US release and was supported by the thirteen-month Speak Now World Tour. The album's third single, "Mean", won two Grammy Awards. Swift's fourth album, Red, was released in 2012. Its opening US sales of 1.2 million were the highest recorded in a decade, with Swift becoming the only female artist to have two million-plus opening weeks. The singles "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and "I Knew You Were Trouble" were worldwide hits. The Red Tour is scheduled to begin in March 2013.

Swift is known for her narrative songs about her experiences as a teenager and young adult. As a songwriter, she has been honored by the Nashville Songwriters Association and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Swift's other achievements include seven Grammy Awards, eleven American Music Awards, seven Country Music Association Awards and six Academy of Country Music Awards. She has sold over 26 million albums and 75 million digital downloads worldwide. In addition to her music career, Swift has appeared as an actress in the crime drama CSI (2009), the ensemble comedy Valentine's Day (2010) and the animated film The Lorax (2012). Forbes estimates that she is worth over $165 million. As a philanthropist, Swift supports arts education, children's literacy, natural disaster relief, LGBT anti-discrimination efforts, and charities for sick children.

Contents

Early life

Taylor Alison Swift was born on December 13, 1989 in Reading, Pennsylvania.[1] Her father, Scott Kingsley Swift, is a Merrill Lynch financial adviser.[2] He was raised in Pennsylvania, and is the descendant of three generations of bank presidents.[1][3] Her mother, Andrea (née Finlay), is a homemaker who previously worked as a mutual fund marketing executive.[4] Andrea spent the first ten years of her life in Singapore, before settling in Texas; her father was an oil rig engineer who worked throughout Southeast Asia.[3] Swift was given a gender-neutral name because her mother believed it would help her forge a successful business career.[5] She has a younger brother, Austin, who attends the University of Notre Dame.[6]

She spent the early years of her life on an eleven-acre Christmas tree farm in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. She attended preschool and kindergarten at the Alvernia Montessori School, run by Franciscan nuns,[7] and was later educated at the fee-paying Wyndcroft School.[8] When Swift was nine years old, the family moved to Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, where she attended West Reading Elementary Center and Wyomissing Area Junior/Senior High School.[9] She summered at her parents' vacation home in Stone Harbor, New Jersey and has described it as the place "where most of my childhood memories were formed".[10]

Swift's family owned several Quarter horses and a Shetland pony and her first hobby was English horse riding.[11] Her mother first put her in a saddle when she was nine months old and she later competed in horse shows.[12] At the age of nine, Swift became interested in musical theatre. She performed in many Berks Youth Theatre Academy productions and traveled regularly to Broadway, New York for vocal and acting lessons.[13][14] Swift then turned her attention to country music and spent her weekends performing at local festivals, fairs, coffeehouses, karaoke contests, garden clubs, Boy Scout meetings and sporting events.[3][4][15] At the age of eleven, after many attempts,[16] Swift won a local talent competition by singing a rendition of LeAnn Rimes's "Big Deal", and was given the opportunity to appear as the opening act for Charlie Daniels at a Strausstown amphitheater.[13] This growing ambition began to isolate Swift from her middle school peers.[1]

After watching a Behind the Music episode about Faith Hill, Swift felt sure that she needed to go to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue a music career.[17] At the age of eleven, she traveled with her mother to Nashville for spring break to leave a demo of Dolly Parton and Dixie Chicks karaoke covers with record labels along Music Row.[18] She received label rejections and realized that "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".[19] At the age of twelve, Swift was shown by a computer repairman how to play three chords on a guitar, inspiring her to write her first song, "Lucky You".[20] She had previously won a national poetry contest with a poem entitled "Monster in My Closet" but now began to focus on songwriting.[21] In 2003, Swift and her parents started working with New York-based music manager Dan Dymtrow. With Dymtrow's help, Swift modelled for Abercrombie and Fitch as part of their "Rising Stars" campaign, had an original song included in a Maybelline Cosmetics compilation CD and took meetings with major record labels.[22] After performing original songs at an RCA Records showcase, the eight-grader was given an artist development deal and began making frequent trips to Nashville.[23]

When Swift was fourteen, her father transferred to the Nashville office of Merrill Lynch and the family relocated to a lake-shore house in Hendersonville, Tennessee.[1] Swift later described this as "an incredible sacrifice" for her family to make.[18] "My parents saw that I was so obsessed, that I wasn't going to drop it, that it wasn't some adolescent phase."[24] In Tennessee, she attended Hendersonville High School for her freshman and sophomore years.[25] Later, to accommodate her touring schedule, Swift transferred to the Aaron Academy, a private Christian school which offered homeschooling services. She earned her high school diploma in 2008, having completed her final two years of course work in twelve months.[26][27]

Music career

2004–08: Career beginnings and Taylor Swift

Swift moved to Nashville at the age of fourteen. As part of her artist development deal with RCA Records, she had writing sessions 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. Swift saw Rose performing at an RCA songwriter event and suggested that they write together.[30] They began meeting for two-hour writing sessions every Tuesday afternoon after school.[31] Rose has 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".[32] Swift also began recording demos with producer Nathan Chapman.[30] After performing at a BMI Songwriter's Circle showcase at The Bitter End, New York,[29] Swift became the youngest songwriter ever hired by the Sony/ATV Tree publishing house.[33]

She left RCA Records when she was fifteen; the company wanted her to record the work of other songwriters and wait until she was eighteen to release an album, but she felt ready to launch her career with her own material.[16][34] She also parted ways with manager Dan Dymtrow, who later took legal action against Swift and her parents.[22] "'I genuinely felt that I was running out of time," Swift later recalled. "I wanted to capture these years of my life on an album while they still represented what I was going through."[35] At an industry showcase at Nashville's Bluebird Café 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.[36] As an introduction to the country music business, Borchetta arranged for Swift to intern as an artist escort at the CMA Music Festival.[37]

Taylor Swift sits and leans over her oak guitar while picking a string
Swift performing at the Maverick Saloon & Grill in Santa Maria, California in 2006

Swift began working on her eponymous debut album shortly after signing her record deal. After experimenting with veteran Nashville producers, Swift persuaded Big Machine to hire her demo producer Nathan Chapman. It was his first time to record a studio album but Swift felt they had the right "chemistry".[16] Swift wrote three of the album's songs alone, including two singles, and co-wrote the remaining eight with writers such as Liz Rose, Robert Ellis Orrall 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 in October 2006. 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."[40] The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones described the sixteen-year-old Swift as a "prodigy". He noted that "Our Song" "stop[ed] me in my tracks" and praised the lyrics: "He's got a one-hand feel on the steering wheel, the other on my heart".[41] Rolling Stone 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".[39]

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

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".[42] She spent much of 2006 promoting Taylor Swift in a radio tour and later commented, "Radio tours for most artists last six weeks. Mine lasted six months."[16] Swift baked cookies and painted canvases to gift to radio station programmers who played her music.[43] She made many television appearances, including on the Grand Ole Opry,[44] Good Morning America,[45] and TRL.[46] Swift, a self-described "kid of the internet", used MySpace to build a fanbase.[47] This was, at the time, "revolutionary in country music".[48]

Borchetta has said that his decision to sign a sixteen-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.[48] 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 the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, with "Our Song" and "Should've Said No" both reaching number one. "Our Song" made Swift the youngest person to single-handedly write and sing a number one country song.[49] "Teardrops on My Guitar" became a minor pop hit; it reached number thirteen on the Billboard Hot 100.[50] The album sold 39,000 copies during its first week of release[51] and, as of March 2011, has sold over 5.5 million copies worldwide.[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 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.[55] She also won the Country Music Association's Horizon Award for Best New Artist,[56] the Academy of Country Music Awards's Top New Female Vocalist award[57] and the American Music Awards's Favorite Country Female Artist honor.[58] She was also nominated for a 2008 Grammy Award in the category of Best New Artist, but lost to Amy Winehouse.[59]

Swift toured extensively in support of Taylor Swift. In addition to performing her own material, Swift played covers of songs by Beyoncé, Rihanna, John Waite, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Eminem.[60][61][62] She conducted meet-and-greet sessions with fans before and after her concerts; these lasted for up to four hours.[63] As well as festival and theater dates, Swift performed as an opening act for several country artists' concert tours. In late 2006, she opened for Rascal Flatts on the final nine dates of their Me & My Gang Tour, after the previous supporting act Eric Church was fired.[45] Swift later sent Church her first gold record with a note: "Thanks for playing too long and too loud on the Flatts tour. I sincerely appreciate it. Taylor".[64] In 2007, she served as the opening act on twenty dates for George Strait's tour,[65] several dates on Kenny Chesney's Flip-Flop Summer Tour,[66] selected dates on Brad Paisley's Bonfires & Amplifiers Tour[67] and several dates for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's joint Soul2Soul II Tour.[68] Swift again opened for Rascal Flatts on their Still Feels Good Tour in 2008.[69]

2008–10: Fearless, VMA controversy and Grammy backlash

Swift's second studio album, Fearless, was released in November 2008. Swift wrote seven of the album's songs alone, including two singles, and co-wrote the remaining six with songwriters Liz Rose, John Rich, Colbie Caillat and Hillary Lindsey.[70] She co-produced the album with Nathan Chapman.[70] Musically, it has been said that the record is characterized by "loud, lean guitars and rousing choruses", with the occasional "bit of fiddle and banjo tucked into the mix".[71] The New York Times described Swift as "one of pop's finest songwriters, country's foremost pragmatist and more in touch with her inner life than most adults".[72] The Village Voice felt she displayed "preternatural wisdom and inclusiveness", "masterfully avoiding the typical diarist's pitfalls of trite banality and pseudo-profound bullshit".[73] 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".[71] Music critic Robert Christgau characterized Swift as "an uncommonly-to-impossibly strong and gifted teenage girl".[74]

Swift promoted Fearless heavily upon its release. An episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show was dedicated to the album launch and Swift appeared on many other chat shows.[48][75] She communicated with fans using social media platforms such as Twitter and personal video blogs.[48] The lead single from the album, "Love Story", was released in September 2008 and became the second best-selling country single of all time, peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[76] 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.[77] The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 Album Chart with sales of 592,304 and has since sold over 8.6 million copies worldwide.[78] It was the top-selling album of 2009 and brought Swift much crossover success.[79]

Swift carried out her first headlining tour in support of Fearless. As part of the 105-date Fearless Tour, Swift played 90 dates in North America, six dates in Europe, eight dates in Australia and one date in Asia.[80] She sang a cover of Justin Timberlake's "What Goes Around... Comes Around" nightly, intertwined with her own "You're Not Sorry".[81] Swift invited John Mayer, Faith Hill and Katy Perry to perform one-off duets with her at various dates during the North American tour, while Justin Bieber, Kellie Pickler and Gloriana were the support acts.[82] The tour was attended by more than 1.1 million fans and grossed over $63 million.[83] Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless, a concert film, was aired on television and later released on DVD and Blu-ray.[84] Swift also performed as a supporting act for Keith Urban's Escape Together World Tour.[85] In addition to tour dates, the singer paid tribute to a number of fellow artists in televised performances. She performed a cover of Alan Jackson's "Drive (For Daddy Gene)" at the CMT Giants: Alan Jackson event, took part in a joint, televised concert with rock band Def Leppard in Nashville, and performed a cover of George Strait's "Run" at a televised ACM event honoring Strait as the Artist of the Decade.[86] Swift sang her song "Fifteen" with Miley Cyrus at the 51st Grammy Awards and performed a self-penned rap skit with T-Pain at the CMT Awards.[87] Swift also recorded a number of side-projects. She released a cover of Tom Petty's "American Girl" through Rhapsody in 2009[88] and continues to make her stage entrance to Petty's recording of the song.[89] She contributed backing vocals to John Mayer's "Half of My Heart", a single featured on his fourth album.[90] She co-wrote and recorded "Best Days of Your Life" with Kellie Pickler[91] 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.[92] Swift also provided vocals for Boys Like Girls's "Two Is Better Than One", written by Martin Johnson.[93] She contributed two songs – including "Today Was a Fairytale" – to the Valentine's Day soundtrack[94] and recorded a cover of Better Than Ezra's "Breathless" for the Hope for Haiti Now album.[95]

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 became the first country music artist to win an MTV Video Music Award when "You Belong with Me" was named Best Female Video in 2009.[96] Her acceptance speech was interrupted by rapper Kanye West, who had been involved in a number of other award show incidents.[97] In the event's press room, Swift, a fan of West's music,[98] denied having "any hard feelings" towards him.[99][100] The incident received much media attention and inspired many Internet memes.[101] A few days later, Swift told an interviewer that West offered her a personal apology, which she accepted: "He was very sincere."[96] She 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."[102] It has been said that the incident and subsequent media attention turned Swift into "a bona-fide mainstream celebrity".[103]

Swift won four Grammy Awards in 2010, from a total of eight nominations.[104] 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.[105] She was the youngest ever artist to win Album of the Year.[106] During the ceremony, Swift sang "Rhiannon" and "You Belong with Me" with Stevie Nicks. Her vocal performance received negative reviews and sparked a widespread media backlash.[103][107] Her vocals were described variously as "badly off-key", "strikingly bad" and "incredibly wretched".[108][109] While 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",[106] music analyst Bob Lefsetz predicted that her career would end "overnight". He publicly appealed to Swift's father to hire a "crisis publicity agent" to manage the story because "Taylor's too young and dumb to understand the mistake she made".[110][111] Stevie Nicks, writing in Time, defended the singer: "Taylor reminds me of myself in her determination and her childlike nature. It's an innocence that's so special and so rare. This girl writes the songs that make the whole world sing, like Neil Diamond or Elton John ... The female rock-'n'-roll-country-pop songwriter is back, and her name is Taylor Swift. And it's women like her who are going to save the music business."[112] Fearless won many other accolades and has become the most awarded album in country music history.[113] Swift became the youngest ever artist and one of only six women to be named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association.[114] Fearless also won the Association's Album of the Year award.[114] Swift was the youngest ever artist to win the Academy of Country Music's Album of the Year honor.[115] The American Music Awards honored Swift with Artist of the Year and Favorite Country Album plaudits.[116] She was awarded the Hal David Starlight Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame[117] and was named Songwriter/Artist of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association.[118] Billboard named her 2009's Artist of the Year.[119] Swift was included in Time's annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in 2010.[112]

2010–12: Speak Now; live and studio collaborations

Swift released her third studio album, Speak Now, in October 2010. She wrote all twelve songs alone and co-produced the record with longtime collaborator Nathan Chapman.[120] Musically, it has been said that the album "expands beyond country-pop to border both alternative rock and dirty bubblegum pop".[121] The New York Times described the album as savage, musically diverse and "excellent too, possibly her best".[120] The Village Voice remarked that the album demanded "a true appreciation of Swift's talent, which is not confessional, but dramatic: Like a procession of country songwriters before her, she creates characters and situations—some from life—and finds potent ways to describe them."[122] Music critic Robert Christgau found the album's songs "overlong and overworked" but remarked that "they evince an effort that bears a remarkable resemblance to care—that is, to caring in the best, broadest, and most emotional sense".[74] Rolling Stone described Swift as one of the best songwriters in "pop, rock or country": "Swift might be a clever Nashville pro who knows all the hitmaking tricks, but she's also a high-strung, hyper-romantic gal with a melodramatic streak the size of the Atchafalaya Swamp".[123] Swift carried out an extensive promotional campaign prior to Speak Now's release.[124] She appeared on various talk shows and morning shows, and gave free mini-concerts in unusual locations, including an open-decker bus on Hollywood Boulevard and a departure lounge at JFK airport.[125] She took part in a "guitar pull" alongside Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill and Lionel Ritchie at LA's Club Nokia; the musicians shared the stage and took turns introducing and playing acoustic versions of their songs to raise money for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.[126][127] The album's lead single, "Mine", was released in August 2010 and five further singles were released throughout 2010 and 2011: "Back to December", "Mean", "The Story of Us", "Sparks Fly" and "Ours".[128] Speak Now was a major commercial success, debuting at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart. Its opening sales of 1,047,000 copies made it the sixteenth album in US history to sell one million copies in a single week.[129] As of February 2012, Speak Now has sold over 5.7 million copies worldwide.[130][131]

Taylor Swift, wearing a purple dress, plays a blue acoustic guitar while sitting on a stool
Swift performing during the Speak Now World Tour in 2011

Swift toured throughout 2011 and early 2012 in support of Speak Now. As part of the thirteen-month, 111-date world tour, Swift played seven shows in Asia, twelve shows in Europe, 80 shows in North America and twelve shows in Australasia.[132] Swift invited many musicians to join her for one-off duets during the North American tour. Appearances were made by James Taylor, Jason Mraz, Shawn Colvin, Johnny Rzeznik, Andy Grammer, Tal Bachman, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Nicki Minaj, Nelly, B.o.B, Usher, Flo Rida, T.I., Jon Foreman, Jim Adkins, Hayley Williams, Hot Chelle Rae, Ronnie Dunn, Darius Rucker, Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney.[133][134] During the North American tour leg, Swift wrote different song lyrics on her left arm for each performance and has said that the lyrics should be viewed as a nightly "mood ring".[135][136] Swift performed many acoustic cover versions during her North American tour. In each city, she paid tribute to a homegrown artist.[137] She has said the cover versions allowed her to be "spontaneous" in an otherwise well-rehearsed show.[138] The tour was attended by over 1.6 million fans and grossed over $123 million.[132] Swift's first live album, Speak Now World Tour: Live, featuring all seventeen performances from the North American leg of the tour, was released in November 2011.[139]

Taylor Swift speaks into a microphone, wearing a navy polka-dot dress and red heels
Swift speaking during a YouTube interview in 2011

At the 54th Grammy Awards, Swift's song "Mean" won Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance.[140] She also performed the song during the ceremony. Bob Lefsetz, one of the most vocal critics of her 2010 Grammy performance, believes the song is addressed to him.[141][142] Lefsetz had previously been a supporter of the singer's career,[143] and Swift and Lefsetz had corresponded occasionally by email and telephone.[141] Time felt she "delivered her comeback on-key and with a vengeance"[144] while USA Today remarked that the criticism in 2010 seemed to have "made her a better songwriter and live performer".[145] Swift won various other awards for Speak Now. She was named Songwriter/Artist of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association in both 2010 and 2011.[146][147] She was named Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music in both 2011 and 2012[148] and was named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association in 2011.[149] Swift was the American Music Awards's Artist of the Year in 2011, while Speak Now was named Favorite Country Album.[150] Billboard named Swift 2011's Woman of the Year.[151]

While Swift was completing her fourth album in the summer of 2012, James Taylor invited her to appear as a special guest during his Tanglewood set; they performed "Fire and Rain", "Love Story" and "Ours" together.[152] Taylor, who first met Swift when she was eighteen, has said that, "we just hit it off. I loved her songs, and her presence on stage was so great".[153][154] During this period, Swift also contributed two original songs to The Hunger Games soundtrack album. "Safe & Sound" was co-written and recorded with The Civil Wars and T-Bone Burnett.[155] John Paul White has said working with Swift was "a revelation ... It truly was a collaboration."[156] It was released as the album's lead single and, as of January 2013, has sold over 1.4 million copies in the United States.[157] It was nominated for Best Original Song at the 70th Golden Globe Awards.[158] Swift's second contribution to the album, "Eyes Open", was written solely by the singer and produced by Nathan Chapman.[159] In addition, Swift contributed vocals to "Both of Us", a Dr. Luke-produced single from B.o.B's second album Strange Clouds.[160]

2012–present: Red and tour announcement

Swift at Good Morning America in 2012

Swift's fourth studio album, Red, was released in October 2012.[161] She wrote nine of the album's sixteen songs alone. The remaining seven were co-written with Max Martin, Liz Rose, Dan Wilson, Ed Sheeran and Gary Lightbody. Nathan Chapman served as the album's lead producer but Jeff Bhasker, Butch Walker, Jacknife Lee, Dann Huff and Shellback also produced individual tracks. Chapman has said he encouraged Swift "to branch out and to test herself in other situations".[162] Musically, while there is experimentation with heartland rock, dubstep and dance-pop, it is "sprinkled among more recognisably Swiftian fare".[163][164] Jon Caramanica of The New York Times placed Red at number two on his end-of-year list, characterizing it as the album on which Swift "stops pretending she’s anything but a pop megastar, one with grown-up concerns, like how two bodies speak to each other and how taste in records can be a stand-in for moral turpitude."[165] The Times praised her "sublime" lyrics, particularly those on the "brooding" "All Too Well".[166] Rolling Stone enjoyed "watching Swift find her pony-footing on Great Songwriter Mountain. She often succeeds in joining the Joni/Carole King tradition of stark-relief emotional mapping ... Her self-discovery project is one of the best stories in pop."[167]

As part of the Red promotional campaign, representatives from 72 worldwide radio stations were flown to Nashville during release week for individual interviews with Swift.[168] She also appeared on many television chat shows and performed at award ceremonies in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Australia.[169] The album's lead single, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", became Swift's first number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.[170] Two further singles have been released: "Begin Again" (to country radio) and "I Knew You Were Trouble" (to pop and international radio). Red 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.[171] As of February 2013, Red had sold over 4 million copies worldwide.[172] In her career, as of November 2012, she had sold in excess of 26 million albums and 75 million song downloads.[173]

Swift will embark on the first leg of the Red Tour from March to September 2013. She will play 64 dates across North America, including thirteen stadium shows.[174] She provided guest vocals for a Tim McGraw song entitled "Highway Don't Care", featuring guitar work by Keith Urban.[175] Ed Sheeran, who features on Red and will appear as a support act on the Red Tour, has revealed that the pair plan to write further material together while touring.[176] In early 2013, Swift worked on an as-yet-unknown studio project with producer Zedd.[177][178]

Swift received three nominations for the 2013 Grammy Awards. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" was nominated for Record of the Year. "Safe and Sound", Swift's soundtrack collaboration with The Civil Wars, won Best Song Written For Visual Media and was nominated for Best Country Duo/Group Performance.[179] Swift won three MTV Europe Music Awards in 2012, including the honors for Best Female and Best Live Act.[180] She was named Best Female Country Artist at the 2012 American Music Awards.[181] The Nashville Songwriters Association's 2012 Songwriter/Artist Award went to Swift for the fifth year in a row.[182]

Artistry

Influences

One of Swift's earliest musical memories is listening to her maternal grandmother, Marjorie Finlay (née Moehlenkamp), sing at church.[8][183] In her youth, Finlay was a recording star in Puerto Rico and performed in operas in Singapore.[3] As a very young child, Swift enjoyed Disney movie soundtracks: "My parents noticed that, once I had run out of words, I would just make up my own".[18][184] Later, her parents exposed her to artists including James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel and Def Leppard.[185][186] Swift has said she owes her confidence to her mother, who helped her prepare for class presentations as a child.[187] She also attributes her "fascination with writing and storytelling" to her mother.[188] Swift enjoyed both reading and writing poetry and was particularly drawn to the works of Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss.[3][189] She remains interested "in any writing from a child's perspective" and has cited To Kill a Mockingbird as one of her favorite books.[43]

Shania Twain wearing a black and white dress and earrings holds an award statuette in both hands
Shania Twain was Swift's greatest musical influence

Swift was introduced to country music by "the great female country artists of the '90s ... Shania, Faith, the Dixie Chicks".[60][190] She was drawn to both the sound and storytelling of country music.[191] Shania Twain, both as a songwriter and performer, was her biggest musical influence.[192] Faith Hill was Swift's childhood role model and she tried to copy "everything she said, did, wore".[193][194] Swift admired the Dixie Chicks's defiant attitude and their ability to play their own instruments.[3][195] The band's "Cowboy Take Me Away" was the first song Swift learned to play on the guitar.[196] She then began to explore the music of older country stars, including Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton.[3][197]

Lynn's "Fist City" is one of Swift's favorite country songs.[3] She believes Parton is "an amazing example to every female songwriter out there".[194] Other mainstream country influences include Miranda Lambert,[198] Dwight Yoakam,[199] George Strait,[3] Garth Brooks,[60] Kenny Chesney,[194] Reba McEntire,[200] Alan Jackson,[3] Martina McBride,[201] LeAnn Rimes,[202] Tim McGraw[203] and Brad Paisley.[204] Swift also admires alt-country artists such as Ryan Adams,[205] Patty Griffin,[206] Lori McKenna[207] and Bon Iver.[208]

Swift has been influenced by many artists outside the country genre. As a pre-teen, she enjoyed bubblegum pop acts including Hanson and Britney Spears; she still has "unwavering devotion" for Spears.[209] In her high school years, Swift listened to emo bands such as Dashboard Confessional,[210] Fall Out Boy[211] and Jimmy Eat World.[212] She was also a fan of contemporary female singer-songwriters including Michelle Branch,[212] Pink,[213] Alanis Morissette,[214] Ashlee Simpson,[215] Kelly Clarkson,[216] Fefe Dobson[212] and Avril Lavigne.[216] Swift closely followed the musical supervision on the television dramas The O.C. and Grey's Anatomy, downloading "every" song featured.[208]

She was a fan of hip hop music, particularly the rhyming patterns used by artists such as Eminem: "Pride [in a lifestyle] is something that both country and hip-hop share".[3] Swift also drew inspiration from the catalogues of veteran artists. She describes Stevie Nicks as a "hero" who "has inspired me in so many ways."[157][217] Tom Petty, she has said, "is on a pedestal for me".[11] She is "obsessed" with Sixties acts like The Shirelles, Doris Troy and The Beach Boys.[136][218] Influence also came from older female pop rock singers including Pat Benatar,[216][219] Melissa Etheridge,[219] Sarah McLachlan,[214] Shawn Colvin[220] and Linda Ronstadt.[221][222]

Swift lists Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Emmylou Harris and Kris Kristofferson as her career role models: "They've taken chances, but they've also been the same artist for their entire careers."[223][224][225] 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."[226] She admires Springsteen because he is "so musically relevant after such a long period of time".[227] She aspires to be like Harris as she grows older: "It’s not about fame for her, it’s about music."[228] 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".[229]

Neil Young describes Swift as "a great writer": "I like listening to her. I kind of like watching her respond to all the attacks. I like the ways she's defining herself. So I keep my eye on it".[230][231] Kris Kristofferson claims that "she blows me away. It's amazing to me that someone so young is writing such great songs. She's got a great career ahead of her".[232][233] Dolly Parton is "extremely impressed with her, especially with her songwriting .... I'm real impressed with the depth of her sometimes. She's got the qualities that could last a long time".[234][235] Stevie Nicks believes Swift writes "songs that make the whole world sing, like Neil Diamond or Elton John ... It's women like her who are going to save the music business".[112] She remarked that the younger singer's "Today Was A Fairytale" has "stayed in my heart forever. And it just reminds me of me in a lot of ways."[236] Swift has also received songwriting praise from contemporaries including Alicia Keys,[237] Kelly Clarkson[238] and Lady Gaga.[239] Ryan Adams has said that "every tune of hers is like the one you wait a whole lifetime to write".[240] Lena Dunham, the creator and star of HBO's television series Girls, has described Swift as her "artistic kindred spirit."[241]

Lyrical themes and style

Thematically, The Guardian has 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.[242] New York Magazine has remarked that few singer-songwriters have written "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".[243] Comparisons have also been drawn with Janis Ian.[223] Fairytale imagery featured on Swift's second album, Fearless. She explored the disconnect "between fairy tales and the reality of love".[244][245] Her third and fourth albums addressed more adult relationships.[224]

In addition to romance and love, Swift's songs have discussed parent-child relationships ("The Best Day", "Never Grow Up", "Ronan"), friendships ("Fifteen", "Breathe", "22"),[246][247] alienation ("The Outside", "A Place In This World", "Tied Together with a Smile", "Mean") and career ambitions ("Change", "Long Live", "The Lucky One").[248][249] Her defining quality as a songwriter, it has been said, is "a determination to register and hang onto fleeting feelings and impressions, a pre-emptive nostalgia for a present (and sometimes even a future) that she knows will some day be in the past".[250] 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".[251] The New Yorker has said that her songs, "though they are not subversive, have a certain sophistication ... Sentimental songs are laced with intimations of future disillusionment".[252]

Swift at the Time 100 Gala in 2010.

Structurally, Slate notes that Swift has "effortless, preternatural mastery of pop conventions: Very few songwriters can build better bridges than she does."[253] Rolling Stone has described her as "a songwriting savant with an intuitive gift for verse-chorus-bridge architecture".[254] The Village Voice has noted that Swift uses third-verse POV reversals frequently.[251] She has a tendency to use the same images repeatedly. 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".[242] However, "to Swift's credit, she explores new lyrical motifs over the course of [her fourth] album."[164] American Songwriter describes Swift as "a great songwriter, who writes with an unmatched and almost unnatural acuity ... Even her earliest material is characterized by thoughtful – perhaps meticulous – word choice and deliberate melodic construction, with nary a lazy rhyme or aimless tune to be found."[255][256] 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".[223]

Swift uses autobiographical detail in her work.[257] Listening to music as a child, she felt confused "when I knew something was going on in someone's personal life and they didn't address it in their music".[258] The New York Times believes that "righting wrongs is Ms. Swift's raison d'être".[259] In her songs, Swift often addresses the "anonymous crushes of her high school years" and, more recently, fellow celebrities.[259] John Mayer, the presumed subject of "Dear John", has said the song "humiliated" him: "I think it's kind of cheap songwriting. I know she's the biggest thing in the world, and I'm not trying to sink anybody's ship, but I think it's abusing your talent to rub your hands together and go, 'Wait till he gets a load of this!'"[260]

The Village Voice has downplayed this aspect of Swift's songwriting: "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."[261] New York Magazine believes the media scrutiny over her decision to use autobiographical detail "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."[262] The singer herself has said that all her songs are not factual[263] and are often based on observations.[264] 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."[265]

Musical and vocal style

Swift's music contains elements of country, country pop, pop and pop rock.[266][266][267] She self-identifies as a country artist.[268] Rolling Stone asserts that, "she might get played on the country station, but she's one of the few genuine rock stars we've got these days".[269] Swift's own definition of country music "is really pretty simple. It's when someone sings about their life and what they know, from an authentic place ... One guy will write about how he grew up on a farm and fell in love and raised kids on that same farm. Some people sing about how, when they get sad, they go to the bar and drink whiskey. I write songs about how I can't seem to figure out relationships and how I'm fascinated by love".[268] She has said there will be "a huge temptation" to make an alt-country record as her career progresses.[40] The New York Times notes 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."[270] The New Yorker believes she is "considered part of Nashville's country-pop tradition only because she writes narrative songs with melodic clarity and dramatic shape—Nashville's stock-in-trade."[271] The Guardian has said that Swift "cranks melodies out with the pitiless efficiency of a Scandinavian pop factory".[242]

Swift's voice has been described as "sweet but soft".[272] 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".[121] 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".[273] 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".[122] In a live setting, Swift, according to The Hollywood Reporter, "does her best, but certainly doesn't have the pipes to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Christina Aguilera or Carrie Underwood".[272]

Her live vocals have been described as "flat", "thin, and sometimes as wobbly as a newborn colt".[274][275] However, Swift has received praise for refusing to correct her pitch with Auto-Tune.[276][277][278] 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".[1][279] Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Records has conceded that Swift is "not the best technical singer" but describes her as the "best communicator that we've got".[280] Swift's vocal presence is something that concerns her and she has "put a lot of work" into improving it.[281] It was reported in 2010 that she continues to take vocal lessons.[282][283] She has said that she only feels nervous performing "if I'm not sure what the audience thinks of me, like at award shows".[284]

Public image

Swift has been described as "America's sweetheart" and "a role model".[285][286] She has high Q Score and Davie-Brown Index ratings, reflecting a high level of public awareness (90 percent) and popularity (80 percent) in the United States.[287] The singer considers it her "responsibility" to be conscious of her influence on young fans.[288] 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".[43][289] In 2012, Rolling Stone remarked upon Swift's "ease with glad-handing ... it's not hard to imagine her running for office someday"[290] while The Hollywood Reporter referred to her as "the Best People Person Since Bill Clinton".[291] It has been said that she is "the kind of driven, intensely ambitious person who’d thrive regardless of her profession".[292] A 2012 Vogue cover story described Swift as "clever and funny and occasionally downright bawdy" in person.[293] Grantland describes Swift as "dorky" and "openly neurotic in a way you'd never see from a blonde country princess like Faith Hill or Carrie Underwood. She is more like Diane Keaton in Annie Hall: overly gracious and eager to please but full of a nonstop, nervous, fluttering energy".[294] There has been much media commentary about Swift's surprised reactions when she is recognized at award ceremonies.[295][296] Swift laughingly noted that "people make so much fun of me". Although she sometimes tries to act blasé, "it's just hard when you get excited about stuff. It's like, if you win an award, isn't that crazy? ... How do you sit there and be like 'Oh, another Grammy. I guess I'm gonna get that now'?"[297]

In the early years of her career, Swift's signature look consisted of sundresses and cowboy boots.[298][299] This fashion style is still copied by many of the young fans who attend her concerts.[298][300] At formal events, Swift became known for "sparkly, beaded dresses".[298] Her naturally curly hairstyle is replicated by fans, and Swift has remarked: "I remember straightening my hair because I wanted to be like everybody else, and now the fact that anybody would emulate what I do? It's just funny."[300] She was asked by Vogue to cut bangs for a cover shoot in late 2011, and now straightens her hair.[301] Swift favors retro style and it has been said that she has the look of "a nineteen-thirties movie siren ... red lipstick, thick mascara."[302][303] She was named an Icon of American Style by Vogue in 2011.[304] She has named Françoise Hardy, Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot, and Audrey Hepburn as her own style inspirations.[305]

Product endorsements

While promoting her self-titled debut record, Swift appeared as a spokesmodel for l.e.i. jeans and as the face of Verizon Wireless' Mobile Music campaign.[306][307] In the Fearless era, she launched a l.e.i. sundress range at Wal-Mart,[308] and designed American Greetings cards and Jakks Pacific dolls.[309][310] She became a spokesperson for the NHL's Nashville Predators and Sony Cyber-shot digital cameras.[311][312] She performed in a commercial for the Band Hero video game, with Rivers Cuomo, Pete Wentz and Travis Barker appearing as her backing band.[313] In the Speak Now era, Swift became a CoverGirl spokesmodel,[314] launched an Elizabeth Arden fragrance entitled Wonderstruck[315] and released a special edition of her album through Target.[316] While promoting her fourth album Red, Swift offered exclusive album promotions through Target,[317] Papa John's[168] and Walgreens.[318] She became a spokesmodel for Diet Coke and Keds sneakers,[319] released her sophomore Elizabeth Arden fragrance,[320] and continued her partnerships with Covergirl, Sony Electronics and American Greetings. She also maintains an unofficial brand tie-in with Ralph Lauren.[321]

Acting career

Taylor Swift, wearing a strapless dress, looks directly at the camera. Her hair is tied back, with a few curly tendrils loose
Swift at the premiere of Hannah Montana: The Movie in 2009

Swift made her acting debut in a 2009 episode of CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, playing a rebellious teenager.[322] The New York Times noted that the character allowed Swift to be "a little bit naughty, and credibly so".[323] Rolling Stone felt she "held her own" and "does a good job with the script"[324] while the Chicago Tribune said she "acquits herself well".[325] Later that year, Swift both hosted and performed as the musical guest for an episode of Saturday Night Live.[326] 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". Proving "admirably resilient in a wide variety of sketch roles", "Swift inspired more of a female, girly-in-the-best-sense sensibility in SNL than it's shown since the Tina Fey-Amy Poehler days".[327]

Swift made her feature film acting debut in the 2010 ensemble comedy Valentine's Day, playing the ditzy Valley girlfriend of a high school jock.[328] The Los Angeles Times felt the performance suggested "serious comedic potential"[329] while the San Francisco Chronicle found her "very funny".[330] Time remarked that Swift portrayed her character "rather charmingly";[331] The Boston Globe described her as "adorably dorky".[332] Salon asserted that she was "one of the few actors not wasted in "Valentine's Day". Her overgrown-pixie look and odd, widely set eyes lend her a little bit of Marilyn and a little bit of Lucille Ball: She's Taylor-made for comic greatness."[333] However, Variety found her "entirely undirected ... she needs to find a skilled director to tamp her down and channel her obviously abundant energy".[334] The Daily News described her performance as "painfully clunky" while Slant Magazine found her "unwatchable".[335][336] In 2012, Swift voiced the character of Audrey, a tree lover, in the animated film The Lorax.[337]

Philanthropy

Swift's philanthropic efforts have been recognised by the Do Something Awards,[338] The Giving Back Fund[339] and the Tennessee Disaster Services.[340] In 2012, Michelle Obama presented Swift with The Big Help Award for her "dedication to helping others" and "inspiring others through action".[341] Also that year, Kerry Kennedy of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights presented Swift with 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."[342][343]

Swift is a supporter of arts education. In 2010, she donated $75,000 to Nashville's Hendersonville High School to help refurbish the school auditorium's sound and lighting systems.[344] 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.[345] The 7,500-square-foot building is scheduled to open in 2014 and will facilitate new programs and workshops for teenagers and senior citizens.[346][347] The space will include three classrooms and an exhibit space, and will house interactive activities such as a musical petting zoo and a "wet" classroom space to make concert posters and other art projects.[348] Museum officials have decided to name it The Taylor Swift Education Center and the singer will be involved in an advisory capacity.[349] Also in 2012, Swift partnered with textbook rental company Chegg to donate $60,000 to the music departments of six US colleges.[350][351]

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 teachers' salaries.[352] In 2010, she took part in a live webcast, Read Now! with Taylor Swift, broadcast exclusively in US schools to celebrate Scholastic's Read Every Day campaign.[353][354] In 2011, Swift donated 6,000 Scholastic books to Reading Public Library, Pennsylvania[355] and, in 2012, she donated 14,000 books to Nashville Public Library, Tennessee.[356] Most of the books were placed in circulation; the rest were gifted to children from low-income families, preschools and daycare centers.[356] In 2012, she co-chaired the National Education Association's Read Across America campaign and recorded a PSA encouraging children to read.[357] Also in 2012, Swift promoted the "power of reading" in a second live Scholastic webcast, broadcast directly to US classrooms.[358] In 2013, through the Reach Out and Read initiative, she donated 2,000 Scholastic books to the Reading Hospital Child Health Center's early literacy program.[359]

Throughout her career, Swift has donated money to help victims of natural disasters. In 2008, she donated the proceeds from her merchandise sales at the Country Music Festival to the Red Cross's disaster relief fund.[360] Later that year, she donated $100,000 to the Red Cross to help the victims of the Iowa flood of 2008.[361] In 2009, Swift supported the Victorian Bushfire Appeal by joining the lineup at Sydney's Sound Relief concert,[362] reportedly making the biggest contribution of any artist to the Australian Red Cross.[363] In 2010, she took part in the Hope for Haiti telethon; she performed and answered phone calls from viewers wishing to donate money.[364] She also recorded a song for the Hope for Haiti Now album.[365] In response to the May 2010 Tennessee floods, Swift donated $500,000 during a telethon hosted by WSMV.[366] Later that year, she donated $100,000 to help rebuild a playground in Hendersonville, Tennessee which was damaged by floodwater.[367] 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.[368] She also donated $250,000 to Alabama football coach Nick Saban's charity, Nick's Kids, to aid in the tornado relief efforts of West Alabama.[369] In 2012, Swift supported Architecture for Humanity's Restore the Shore MTV telethon in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.[370]

Swift opposes LGBT discrimination. Following the 2008 murder of Larry King, she recorded a Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network PSA to combat hate crimes.[371] 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".[372] 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.[373][374][375] 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".[373]

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.[376] In 2009, after performing at the BBC Children in Need annual telethon, she donated $20,000 to the cause.[377] 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. This figure was matched by the Academy.[378] 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.[379] Swift has met with many sick fans through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.[380][381][382][383] She has also made private visits to hospitals such as St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Ronald McDonald House.[384][385][386]

Swift has encouraged young people to volunteer in their local community as part of Global Youth Service Day[387] and has promoted The @15 Fund, a social change platform underwritten by Best Buy, which gives teenagers the opportunity to direct the company's philanthropy.[388] In 2007, she launched a campaign to protect children from online predators, in partnership with the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police.[389] Also in 2007, she supported an Allstate campaign which promotes safe teenage driving.[390] In 2009, Swift recorded a Sound Matters PSA to make listeners aware of the importance of listening "responsibly".[391] She appeared in a Got Milk? campaign in 2010.[392] Swift has donated auctionable items to a large number of charities, including the Elton John AIDS Foundation,[393] the UNICEF Tap Project,[394] Oxfam International,[395] Habitat For Humanity,[396] MusiCares[397] and Feeding America.[398] She has also performed at a number of benefit concerts, including for the Food Bank For New York City,[399] the Reading, Writing & Rhythm Foundation,[400] Christmas for Kids[401] and Shriners Hospitals for Children.[402]

Personal life

Swift's main residence is a duplex penthouse in Midtown Nashville, Tennessee.[1][403] She also maintains a residence in Beverly Hills, California.[404] According to Forbes's Celebrity 100 list, released annually in the month of May, Swift earned $18 million in 2009,[405] $45 million in 2010,[406] $45 million in 2011[407] and $57 million in 2012.[408]

Relationships

Swift dated singer Joe Jonas from July to October 2008,[409][410] and actor Taylor Lautner from October to December 2009.[411][412] She was romantically linked to musician John Mayer from late 2009 until early 2010.[413][414][415][416] She dated actor Jake Gyllenhaal from October to December 2010.[417][418] Following their break-up, they were seen together in January and February 2011.[419][420] Swift dated political heir Conor Kennedy from July to September 2012.[421][422] She dated One Direction singer Harry Styles from October 2012 to January 2013.[423][424]

Politics

Swift says she registered to vote on her eighteenth birthday.[425][426] 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.[427] She stated: "I don't think it's my job to try and influence people which way they should vote."[3] 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."[428]

In 2010, former U.S. President George H. W. Bush attended the taping of a Swift television special in Kennebunkport, Maine,[429] and later described Swift as "unspoiled" and "very nice".[430] In 2012, Swift was presented with a Kids' Choice Award in recognition of her charitable work by Michelle Obama, who 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".[431] Swift later described the First Lady as "a role model".[432] In a 2012 interview, Swift remarked that, although she tries to keep herself “as educated and informed as possible”, she doesn’t “talk about politics because it might influence other people."[433] She has spoken of her interest in American history and has read books about Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, the Founding Fathers and Ellis Island.[434]

Swift is a friend of the Kennedy family. "She's a great friend of all of ours," Rory Kennedy has said. "She's awesome and we love her".[435] The singer has spoken of her admiration for Ethel Kennedy[436] and, when asked about her friendship with Swift, Ethel replied, "Oh, she is amazing! Such good company." Rory has said, "There is a mutual admiration society between my mother and Taylor Swift and I just love it! I think it says so much about Taylor – she has that ability to connect and cross generations ... She's terrific and such a great role model for young girls, as well as for all women, really ... She's just so curious and interested".[437]

Awards and nominations

Swift has been the recipient of seven Grammy Awards, eleven American Music Awards, seven Country Music Association Awards and six Academy of Country Music Awards. As a songwriter, she has been honored by the Nashville Songwriters Association and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Discography

Concert tours

Filmography

Television
Year Title Role Notes
2009 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Haley Jones Episode: "Turn, Turn, Turn"
2009 Saturday Night Live Host Also appeared as the musical guest
Film
Year Title Role Notes
2009 Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience Herself Cameo
2009 Hannah Montana: The Movie Herself Cameo
2010 Valentine's Day Felicia Film debut
2012 Lorax, TheThe Lorax Audrey Voice only

See also

References

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The Rubyz (2008 Album by The Rubyz)
Taylor Swift (2006 Album by Taylor Swift)
Taylor Swift [Deluxe Edition CD/DVD] (2007 Album by Taylor Swift)
Taylor Swift [Bonus Tracks] (2008 Album by Taylor Swift)
Fearless (2008 Album by Taylor Swift)