Taylor Swift

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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 nameTaylor Alison Swift
Born(1989-12-13) December 13, 1989 (age 23)
Reading, Pennsylvania, U.S.
GenresPop, pop rock, country pop, country
OccupationsSinger-songwriter, musician, actress
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, banjo guitar, ukulele, piano
Years active2006–present
LabelsBig Machine
Websitetaylorswift.com
 
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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 nameTaylor Alison Swift
Born(1989-12-13) December 13, 1989 (age 23)
Reading, Pennsylvania, U.S.
GenresPop, pop rock, country pop, country
OccupationsSinger-songwriter, musician, actress
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, banjo guitar, ukulele, piano
Years active2006–present
LabelsBig Machine
Websitetaylorswift.com

Taylor Alison Swift (born December 13, 1989) is an American singer-songwriter. Raised in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, 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 top-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 1.21 million were the highest recorded in a decade, with Swift becoming the only female artist to have two million-plus opening weeks. The lead single, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", was Swift's first number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became a worldwide hit. The Red Tour is scheduled to begin in March 2013.

Swift is known for her hook-laden, 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 six Grammy Awards, eleven American Music Awards, seven Country Music Association Awards, six Academy of Country Music Awards and thirteen BMI Awards. She has sold over 26 million albums and 70 million song downloads worldwide. In addition to her music career, Swift has appeared as an actress in the crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (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][3] He was raised in Pennsylvania and is the descendant of three generations of bank presidents.[1][4] Her mother, Andrea (née Finlay), is a homemaker who previously worked as a mutual fund marketing executive.[5] 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.[4] Swift was named after singer James Taylor; her mother believed a gender-neutral name would help her forge a successful business career.[6][7] She has a younger brother, Austin, who attends the University of Notre Dame.[8] She spent the early years of her life on an eleven-acre Christmas tree farm in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and was educated at the fee-paying Wyndcroft School.[9] When Swift was nine years old, the family moved to Wyomissing, Pennsylvania,[10] where she attended West Reading Elementary Center and Wyomissing Area Junior/Senior High School.[11] 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".[12]

Swift's first hobby was English horse riding. Her mother put her in a saddle when she was nine months old; Swift later competed in horse shows.[13][14] Her family owned several Quarter horses and a Shetland pony.[14] At the age of nine, Swift turned her attention to musical theatre and performed in Berks Youth Theatre Academy productions of Grease, Annie, Bye Bye Birdie and The Sound of Music.[15] She traveled regularly to Broadway, New York for vocal and acting lessons. However, "after a few years of auditioning in New York and not getting anything", Swift became interested in country music.[16] She spent her weekends performing at local festivals, fairs, coffeehouses, karaoke contests, garden clubs, Boy Scout meetings and hospitals.[5][17][18] At the age of eleven, after many attempts,[19] 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.[15] This growing ambition and interest in country music 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.[10] 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.[20] 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".[21] She began performing the "The Star Spangled Banner" at sporting events because it was an opportunity to "get in front of 20,000 people without even having a record deal".[4] 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".[22] She had previously won a national poetry contest with a poem entitled "Monster in My Closet" but now began to focus on songwriting.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25]

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.[20] "My parents saw that I was so obsessed, that I wasn't going to drop it, that it wasn't some adolescent phase. They were thrown into this."[26] "We had no idea what we were doing. My parents bought books on what the music industry was like."[27] In Tennessee, Swift attended Hendersonville High School for her freshman and sophomore years.[28] 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.[29][30]

Music career

2004–08: Career beginnings and Taylor Swift (Self Titled Debut Album)

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.[31][32] She eventually formed a lasting working relationship with Liz Rose.[33] Swift saw Rose performing at an RCA songwriter event and suggested that they write together.[34] They began meeting for two-hour writing sessions every Tuesday afternoon after school.[35] 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".[36] Swift also began recording demos with producer Nathan Chapman.[34] After performing at a BMI Songwriter's Circle showcase at The Bitter End, New York,[32] Swift became the youngest songwriter ever hired by the Sony/ATV Tree publishing house.[37] 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.[19][38] She also parted ways with manager Dan Dymtrow, who later took legal action against Swift and her parents.[24] "'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."[39] 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,[33] with her father purchasing a three per cent stake in the fledgling company.[40] As an introduction to the country music business, Borchetta arranged for Swift to intern as an artist escort at the CMA Music Festival.[41]

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".[19] In the end, Chapman produced all but one of the tracks on Taylor Swift. She has described the album as the "diary" of her early teens.[42] She has said that, although "it sounds like I've had 500 boyfriends", a lot of the songs are observational.[19] 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.[43] Musically, the album has been described as "a mix of trad-country instruments and spry rock guitars".[44] 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."[45] PopMatters hoped Swift would be "able to find an accomodation between the country tradition and her very obvious pop sensibilities, because Taylor Swift suggests she has much to offer".[46] The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones described 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".[47] Country Weekly felt that "the more thoughtful material suggests a talent poised to last well past high school".[48] 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".[44]

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".[49] 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."[19] Swift baked cookies and painted canvases (inspired by Jackson Pollock) to gift to radio station programmers who played her music.[50] She made many television appearances, including on the Grand Ole Opry,[51] Good Morning America,[52] and TRL.[53] She also signed endorsement deals, appearing as a spokesmodel for l.e.i. jeans and as the face of Verizon Wireless' Mobile Music campaign.[54][55] Swift, a self-described "kid of the internet", used MySpace to build a fanbase.[56] She wrote her own blog posts, left comments on her fans' accounts and personally respond to the messages that were sent to her.[57] This was, at the time, "revolutionary in country music".[58] 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.[58] 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.[59] "Teardrops on My Guitar" became a minor pop hit; it reached number thirteen on the Billboard Hot 100.[60] The album sold 39,000 copies during its first week of release[61] and, as of March 2011, has sold over 5.5 million copies worldwide.[62] 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.[63][64]

Swift toured extensively in support of Taylor Swift. In addition to 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.[52] 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".[65] In 2007, she served as the opening act on twenty dates for George Strait's tour,[66] several dates on Kenny Chesney's Flip-Flop Summer Tour,[67] selected dates on Brad Paisley's Bonfires & Amplifiers Tour[68] and several dates for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's joint Soul2Soul II Tour.[69] Swift again opened for Rascal Flatts on their Still Feels Good Tour in 2008.[70] In addition to performing her own material, Swift played covers of songs by Beyoncé, Rihanna, John Waite, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Eminem.[71][72][73] She conducted meet-and-greet sessions with fans before and after her concerts; these lasted for up to four hours.[74]

In 2007, Swift and Alan Jackson were jointly named the Nashville Songwriters Association's Songwriter/Artist of the Year. Swift was the youngest person ever to be honored with the title.[75] She also won the Country Music Association's Horizon Award for Best New Artist.[76] In 2008, she was named Top New Female Vocalist at the Academy of Country Music Awards[77] and Favorite Country Female Artist at the American Music Awards.[78] She received seven BMI Awards for songs featured on Taylor Swift.[79] Swift was also nominated for a 2008 Grammy Award in the category of Best New Artist, but lost to Amy Winehouse.[80]

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.[81] She co-produced the album with Nathan Chapman.[81] 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".[82] 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".[83] The Village Voice felt she displayed "preternatural wisdom and inclusiveness", "masterfully avoiding the typical diarist's pitfalls of trite banality and pseudo-profound bullshit".[84] 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".[82] USA Today found it "a pleasure to hear a gifted teenager who sounds like a gifted teenager, rather than a mouthpiece for a bunch of older pros' collective notion of adolescent yearning."[85] The New Yorker described it as an album "without a bad track", adding that "the album's finest effort, "Fifteen", will feature in yearbook quotes for years".[86] Entertainment Weekly noted that the album would appeal mainly to young girls – "she sounds like a real teen, not some manufactured vixen-Lolita" – but predicted it would be "exciting to watch her precocious talent grow".[87] Music critic Robert Christgau described Swift as "an uncommonly-to-impossibly strong and gifted teenage girl".[88]

Swift promoted Fearless heavily upon its release. An episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show was dedicated to the album launch[58] and Swift appeared on many other chat shows.[89] She communicated with fans using social media platforms such as Twitter and personal video blogs.[58] She launched a l.e.i. sundress range at Wal-Mart,[90] as well as a line of American Greetings cards and Jakks Pacific dolls.[91][92] She became a spokesperson for the NHL's Nashville Predators and Sony Cyber-shot digital cameras,[93][94] and performed in a commercial for the Band Hero video game, with Rivers Cuomo, Pete Wentz and Travis Barker appearing as her backing band.[95] 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,[96] took part in a joint, televised concert with rock band Def Leppard in Nashville,[97][98] and performed a cover of George Strait's "Run" at a televised ACM event honoring Strait as the Artist of the Decade.[99] Swift sang her song "Fifteen" with Miley Cyrus at the 51st Grammy Awards,[100] performed a self-penned rap skit with T-Pain at the CMT Awards[101] and hosted Saturday Night Live.[102] 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.[103] 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.[104] 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.[105] It was the top-selling album of 2009 and brought Swift much crossover success.[106]

Swift carried out her first headlining tour from April 2009 to June 2010. 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.[107] The elaborate stage set included a fairy-tale castle and a high school bandstand.[108] She sang a cover of Justin Timberlake's "What Goes Around... Comes Around" nightly, intertwined with her own "You're Not Sorry".[109] Swift invited John Mayer, Faith Hill and Katy Perry to perform one-off duets with her at various dates during the North American tour.[110][111][112] Justin Bieber, Kellie Pickler and Gloriana were the support acts.[113] The tour was attended by more than 1.1 million fans and grossed over $63 million.[114] Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless, a concert film, was aired on television and later released on DVD and Blu-ray.[115] Also in 2009, Swift performed as a supporting act for Keith Urban's Escape Together World Tour.[116]

In September 2009, Swift became the first country music artist to win an MTV Video Music Award when "You Belong with Me" was named Best Female Video.[117] Her acceptance speech was interrupted by rapper Kanye West, who had been involved in a number of other award show incidents.[118] West declared Beyoncé's video for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)", nominated in the same category, to be "one of the best videos of all time." Many audience members booed West,[119] prompting him to flip off the crowd.[120] He then handed the microphone back to a speechless Swift.[119] Backstage, Swift was seen "hysterically crying".[119] According to Rolling Stone, when Swift's mother confronted West, he gave "a half-hearted apology in which he added he still thought Beyoncé's video was superior".[121] West was removed from the event.[119] When Beyoncé later won the award for Video of the Year, she invited Swift onstage to finish her speech.[119] In the event's press room, Swift, who in 2008 had expressed a desire to sing a hook on a Kanye West rap song,[122] was asked if she had "any hard feelings" towards West: "I don't know him, and I've never met him, so... I don't want to start anything because I had a great night tonight."[121][123] The incident received much media attention and inspired many Internet memes.[124] President Barack Obama, in an off the record comment, called West a "jackass".[125] Former US President Jimmy Carter said West's interruption was "completely uncalled for".[126] West's behavior was criticized by celebrities, including Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Madonna.[127][128][129] West apologized for his verbal outburst in two blog entries and during an appearance on The Jay Leno Show.[119][130] He maintained that, while Swift was "very talented", "Beyoncé's video was the best of this decade!!!! ... I gave my awards to Outkast when they deserved it over me ... I'm not crazy y'all, I'm just real."[131] Two days after the VMAs, Swift told an interviewer that West had not spoken to her since the ceremony.[132] West then contacted her to offer a personal apology, which Swift accepted: "Kanye did call me, and he was very sincere in his apology."[117] 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."[133] It has been said that the incident and subsequent media attention turned Swift into "a bona-fide mainstream celebrity".[134]

Swift released a cover of Tom Petty's "American Girl" through Rhapsody in June 2009[135] and continues to make her stage entrance to Petty's recording of the song.[136] She contributed backing vocals to John Mayer's "Half of My Heart", a single featured on his fourth album, in November 2009. Mayer wrote the song as a tribute to Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac: "I thought, 'Well, if this is going to be my love letter to that style of music, who's going to be the Stevie Nicks in this equation?' And I thought, 'This Taylor Swift girl is going to be around for a long time."[137] Swift collaborated with a number of other artists in 2008 and 2009. She co-wrote and recorded "Best Days of Your Life" with Kellie Pickler.[138] She 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.[139] Swift also provided vocals for Boys Like Girls's "Two Is Better Than One", written by Martin Johnson.[140] In January 2010, Swift contributed two songs – including "Today Was a Fairytale" – to the Valentine's Day soundtrack[141] and recorded a cover of Better Than Ezra's "Breathless" for the Hope for Haiti Now album.[142]

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 won four Grammy Awards in January 2010, from a total of eight nominations.[143] 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.[144] She was the youngest ever artist to win Album of the Year.[145] 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.[134][146] Her vocals were described variously as "badly off-key", "strikingly bad" and "incredibly wretched".[147][148] 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",[145] 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".[149][150] In April 2010, 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."[151] Fearless won many other accolades and has become the most awarded album in country music history.[152] Swift became the youngest ever artist and one of only six women to be named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association.[153] Fearless also won the Association's Album of the Year award.[153] She was the youngest ever artist to win the Academy of Country Music's Album of the Year honor.[154] The American Music Awards honored Swift with Artist of the Year and Favorite Country Album plaudits.[155] She was awarded the Hal David Starlight Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame[156] and was named Songwriter/Artists of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association.[157] She won four BMI Awards.[158] Billboard named her 2009's Artist of the Year.[159] Swift was included in Time's annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in 2010.[151]

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.[160] Swift, who co-produced the record with longtime collaborator Nathan Chapman,[161] has described it as "a collection of confessions—things I wish I had said when I was in the moment".[162] She originally intended to call the album Enchanted but Scott Borchetta, her record label's CEO, felt the title did not reflect the album's more adult themes.[163] Musically, it has been said that the album "expands beyond country-pop to border both alternative rock and dirty bubblegum pop".[164] USA Today felt that Swift's songwriting skills would remind listeners "what all the fuss was about in the first place", with the album capturing "the sweet ache of becoming an adult".[165] The Los Angeles Times praised her ability as a songwriter to "hit on common experiences that feel unique".[164] The New York Times described the album as savage, musically diverse and "excellent too, possibly her best".[161] The Village Voice found 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."[166] Entertainment Weekly noted that, while love may confound her, "the art of expert songcraft clearly doesn't".[167] Music critic John 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".[88] 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".[168]

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 carried out an extensive promotional campaign prior to Speak Now's release.[169] 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.[170][171] 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.[172][173] In addition to her pre-existing Sony Electronics and American Greetings endorsements, Swift also became a CoverGirl spokesmodel,[174] launched an Elizabeth Arden fragrance entitled Wonderstruck[175] and released a special edition of Speak Now through Target.[176] 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".[177] Speak Now was a major commercial success, debuting at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart. Its sales of 1,047,000 copies made it the sixteenth album in US history to sell one million copies in a single week.[178] As of February 2012, Speak Now has sold over 5.7 million copies worldwide.[179][180]

In September 2010, Kanye West used his Twitter account to apologize to Swift for his 2009 VMA interruption, referring to her as "just a lil girl with dreams like the rest of us": "I wrote a song for Taylor Swift that's so beautiful and I want her to have it. If she won't take it then I'll perform it for her."[181] At the 2010 VMAs later that month, Swift sang "Innocent", a song widely believed to be about West, which The Washington Post described as "a small masterpiece of passive aggressiveness, a vivisection dressed up as a peace offering".[182] Music critics found Swift's performance overly serious and "petty".[183][184] In October 2010, West remarked that it was "inaccurate" for Swift's Fearless to have been named Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards earlier that year.[185] Speaking in November 2010, West said he failed to see what was "so arrogant" about his VMA interruption and described his actions as "selfless".[186][187] He argued it was "just disrespectful" and "retarded" for Swift to be included in the same award category as Beyoncé.[188] He added that "if it was the other way around" and Swift were an established artist who had "made the video of her career, do you think she would have lost to a brand new artist? Hell no!"[186][187] He claimed that his interruption caused Swift to "have 100 magazine covers and sell a million first week".[188] Also that month, he claimed that, "If I wasn't drunk, I would have been on stage longer ... Taylor never came to my defense at any interview. And rode the waves and rode it and rode it".[189][190] At the Costume Institute Gala in May 2011, Swift and West came face-to-face on the red carpet. West was observed to hold "a hand out, and the two exchanged a studiedly casual, "down low" high five".[1]

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.[191] The stage show was inspired by Broadway musical theatre, with choreographed routines, elaborate set-pieces, pyrotechnics and numerous costume changes.[192][193] 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.[194][195] 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".[196][197] Swift performed many acoustic cover versions during her North American tour. In each city, she paid tribute to a homegrown artist.[198] She has said the cover versions allowed her to be "spontaneous" in an otherwise well-rehearsed show.[199] The tour was attended by over 1.6 million fans and grossed over $123 million.[191] 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.[200] In July 2012, James Taylor invited Swift to appear as a special guest during his Tanglewood set; they performed "Fire and Rain", "Love Story" and "Ours" together.[201] 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".[202][203]

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 in February 2012, Swift's song "Mean" won Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance.[204] 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.[205][206] Lefsetz had previously been a supporter of the singer's career,[207] and Swift and Lefsetz had corresponded occasionally by email and telephone.[205] Time felt she "delivered her comeback on-key and with a vengeance"[208] while USA Today remarked that the criticism in 2010 seemed to have "made her a better songwriter and live performer".[209] 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.[210][211] She was named Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music in both 2011 and 2012[212] and was named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association in 2011.[213] Swift was the American Music Awards's Artist of the Year in 2011, and Speak Now was named Favorite Country Album.[214] She was also the recipient of three BMI Awards.[215] Billboard named Swift 2011's Woman of the Year.[216] Also that year, Billboard ranked her at number 15 in a list of the Top 20 Hot 100 Songwriters 2000–2011; she was the second highest ranking woman.[217] Swift was ranked second on Rolling Stone's list of the Top 16 "Queen Of Pops" of the decade.[218]

Swift contributed two original songs to The Hunger Games soundtrack album in March 2012. "Safe & Sound" was co-written and recorded with The Civil Wars and T-Bone Burnett.[219] John Paul White has said working with Swift was "a revelation. She had some great ideas. We had complete freedom. It truly was a collaboration. We brought the melancholy and the darker angle. Taylor was bringing the melody and the chords."[220] Rolling Stone described the song as "Swift's prettiest ballad" and wondered whether the alt-country folk song was "a one-off novelty, a trial balloon cred-move, or the stirrings of a "grown-up" style".[221] Swift and The Civil Wars debuted a live version of the song at the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville in January 2012.[222] It was released as the album's lead single and, as of July 2012, has sold over one million copies in the United States.[223] Swift's second contribution to the album, "Eyes Open", was written solely by the singer and produced by Nathan Chapman.[224] In May 2012, Swift contributed vocals to "Both of Us", a Dr. Luke-produced single from B.o.B's second album Strange Clouds.[225]

2012: Red and tour announcement

Swift's fourth studio album, Red, was released in October 2012.[226] 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".[227] She has described the collaborative process as "an apprenticeship".[227] Red examines Swift's attraction to drama-filled relationships; she believes that, since writing the record, such relationships no longer appeal to her.[227] Musically, while there is experimentation with heartland rock, dubstep and dance-pop, it is "limited to a handful of tracks sprinkled among more recognisably Swiftian fare".[228][229] The Guardian described Swift as a "Brünnhilde of a rockstar" and the album as "another chapter in one of the finest fantasies pop music has ever constructed."[230] 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."[231] However, he conceded that, "though often great, it is her least steady album."[232] The Times praised her "sublime" lyrics, particularly those on the "brooding" "All Too Well".[233] 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."[234] However, Salon asserted that, "more than the token Serious Female Singer Songwriters (Joni Mitchell, Lucinda Williams, Carole King,) Swift reminds me of masters of quirky pop sincerity like Alex Chilton and Jonathan Richman."[235]

Swift at Good Morning America in 2012

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.[236] She also appeared on many television chat shows and performed at award ceremonies in the US, the UK, Germany and Australia.[237] Swift offered exclusive album promotions through Target,[238] Papa John's[236] and Walgreens.[239] She became a spokesmodel for Keds sneakers,[240] released her sophomore Elizabeth Arden fragrance,[241] and continued her partnerships with Covergirl, Sony Electronics and American Greetings, as well as her unofficial brand tie-ins with Ralph Lauren and Shellys.[242] The album's lead single, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", was released in August 2012. The song became Swift's first number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, recording the highest ever one-week sales figures for a female artist.[243] Three further singles have been released: "Begin Again" (to country radio), "I Knew You Were Trouble" (to pop and international radio) and "22". 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.[244] The album also topped international sales charts in the UK, Ireland, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Japan, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand.[245] As of November 2012, Red had sold 2.8 million copies worldwide.[246] In her career, as of November 2012, she had sold in excess of 26 million albums and 75 million song downloads.[246] Swift will embark on the first leg of the Red Tour from March to September 2013, which will see her play 62 dates across North America.[246][247]

Swift and Keith Urban will provide guest vocals for an upcoming Tim McGraw song entitled "Highway Don't Care". McGraw describes the track as “breezy yet complex"; it will feature on his Two Lanes of Freedom album, due for release on February 5, 2013.[248] Swift has written an as-yet-unreleased song with Justin Bieber. Scooter Braun, Beiber's manager, has said that the song was created with a specific project in mind; there is speculation that it will appear on Bieber's upcoming Believe Acoustic album.[249] 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.[250]

Swift has received three nominations for the 2013 Grammy Awards; the ceremony is due to take place on 10 February. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is nominated for Record of the Year. "Safe and Sound", Swift's soundtrack collaboration with The Civil Wars, is nominated for Best Country Duo/Group Performance and Best Song Written For Visual Media.[251] Taylor was awarded the 2012 Ripple of Hope Award at the RFK Center's annual gala in New York.[252]"Safe & Sound" has also received a nomination for Best Original Song at the 70th Golden Globe Awards.[253][254] Swift won three MTV Europe Music Awards in 2012, including the honors for Best Female and Best Live Act.[255] She was named Best Female Country Artist at the 2012 American Music Awards.[256] The Nashville Songwriters Association's 2012 Songwriter/Artist Award went to Swift for the fifth year in a row.[257]

Artistry

Influences

One of Swift's earliest musical memories is listening to her maternal grandmother, Marjorie Finlay (née Moehlenkamp), sing.[9] In her youth, Finlay was a recording star in Puerto Rico and performed in operas in Singapore: "She was in The Bartered Bride, The Barber of Seville and musicals like West Side Story".[4] 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".[20][258] Later, her parents exposed her to artists including James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel, Def Leppard and Smokey Robinson.[259][260][261] Swift has said she owes her confidence to her mother, who helped her prepare for class presentations as a child: "We would stay up that whole night before, just practicing different things to say."[262] She also attributes her "fascination with writing and storytelling" to her mother: "When I was little, she would indulge my imagination and tell me stories."[263] Swift enjoyed both reading and writing poetry and was particularly drawn to the works of Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss.[4][264] She remains interested "in any writing from a child's perspective" and has cited To Kill a Mockingbird as one of her favorite books.[50]

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".[71][265] Those three artists "really sealed the deal" for Swift and she became "infatuated with the sound, with the storytelling" of country music.[9][266] Shania Twain was her biggest musical influence: "She was just so strong and so independent and wrote all her own songs".[267] As an artist, Swift has said she "can only aspire to be like her" and, in 2009, she named Twain's Come On Over as her favorite album.[268][269] She has spent time with Twain,[270] who later expressed an interest in writing with the younger singer.[271] Faith Hill was Swift's childhood role model and she tried to copy "everything she said, did, wore".[272][273] She admired Hill for "taking country music to bigger audiences, and her grace in the spotlight".[272] Hill has become a "welcoming and warm presence" in Swift's life since her rise to fame.[272] On one occasion, Hill and her husband Tim McGraw gave Swift the use of their Los Angeles house while she was working in the area.[274] Swift admired the Dixie Chicks's "we don't care what you think" attitude and was inspired by the way they played their own instruments.[4][275] The band's "Cowboy Take Me Away" was the first song Swift learned to play on the guitar.[276] LeAnn Rimes served as another introduction to country music.[4] Swift found it "motivating" to observe another young artist find success.[277] She then began to explore the music of older country stars, including Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton.[4][278] Lynn's "Fist City" is one of Swift's favorite country songs.[4] She has said Parton is "an amazing example to every female songwriter out there ... There's so much about Dolly Parton that every female artist should look to".[273] She respects Kenny Chesney, particularly from "a business standpoint": "He's one of the only artists playing stadiums ... He's always been a huge hero of mine".[272][273] Other mainstream country influences include Miranda Lambert,[279] Dwight Yoakam,[280] George Strait,[4] Garth Brooks,[71] Reba McEntire,[281] Alan Jackson,[4] Martina McBride,[282] Tim McGraw[283] and Brad Paisley.[284] Swift also admires alt-country artists such as Ryan Adams,[285] Patty Griffin,[286] Lori McKenna[287] and Bon Iver.[288]

Swift has been influenced by many artists outside the country genre.[289] As a pre-teen, she enjoyed bubblegum pop acts including Hanson,[290] the Backstreet Boys[291] and Britney Spears; she still has "unwavering devotion" for Spears.[292] In her high school years, Swift listened to emo bands such as Dashboard Confessional,[293] Fall Out Boy,[294] The All-American Rejects,[295] Death Cab for Cutie[296] and Jimmy Eat World.[297] She was also a fan of female singer-songwriters including Michelle Branch,[297] Pink,[298] Alanis Morissette,[299] Ashlee Simpson,[300] Kelly Clarkson,[291] Fefe Dobson[297] and Avril Lavigne.[291] Swift closely followed the musical supervision on the television dramas The O.C. and Grey's Anatomy, downloading "every" song featured.[288][301] She was a fan of hip hop music, particularly the rhyming patterns used by artists such as Eminem: "Pride [in a lifestyles] is something that both country and hip-hop share".[4] Swift also drew inspiration from the catalogues of veteran artists. Tom Petty, she has said, "is on a pedestal for me".[14] She is "obsessed" with Sixties acts like The Shirelles, Doris Troy and The Beach Boys,[197][295] and admires Bon Jovi because "there's just a melodic stickiness to their songs that I've always been drawn to".[197] Influence also came from older female pop rock singers including Pat Benatar,[291][302] Stevie Nicks,[302] Melissa Etheridge,[302] Sarah McLachlan,[299] Sheryl Crow,[303] Shawn Colvin[304] and Linda Ronstadt.[261][305]

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."[306][307][308] 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."[309] She admires Springsteen because he is "so musically relevant after such a long period of time".[310] She aspires to be like Harris as she grows older: "It’s not about fame for her, it’s about music."[311] 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".[312]

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".[313][314] 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".[315][316] 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".[317][318] 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".[151] 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."[319] Swift has also received songwriting praise from contemporaries including Alicia Keys,[320] Kelly Clarkson[321] and Lady Gaga.[322] Christopher Owens, the songwriter and former frontman of Girls, describes Swift as his "favourite artist out of anybody", and has expressed a desire to work with her.[323][324] The New York Times has noted similarities in the songwriting approach of Owens and Swift.[325] Ryan Adams has said that "every tune of hers is like the one you wait a whole lifetime to write".[326] Lena Dunham, the creator and star of HBO's television series Girls, has described Swift as her "artistic kindred spirit ... the way she uses autobiography in her work and the way she calls out guys who have, you know, fronted on her before. But at the same time there is something sort of affectionate and non-judgmental about her music that I appreciate."[327][328][329]

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.[330] 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".[331] Comparisons have also been drawn with Janis Ian.[306] Fairytale imagery featured on Swift's second album, Fearless. She explored the disconnect "between fairy tales and the reality of love": "We're raised as little girls to think that we're a princess and that Prince Charming is going to sweep us off our feet".[332][333] Her third and fourth albums addressed more adult relationships.[307] 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"),[334][335] alienation ("The Outside", "A Place In This World", "Tied Together with a Smile", "Mean") and career ambitions ("Change", "Long Live", "The Lucky One").[336][337] 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".[338] 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".[339] 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".[340]

Structurally, Slate notes that Swift has "effortless, preternatural mastery of pop conventions: Very few songwriters can build better bridges than she does."[341] Rolling Stone has described her as "a songwriting savant with an intuitive gift for verse-chorus-bridge architecture".[342] The Village Voice has noted that Swift uses third-verse POV reversals frequently.[339] 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".[330] However, "to Swift's credit, she explores new lyrical motifs over the course of [her fourth] album."[343] 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."[344][345] 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".[306]

Swift uses autobiographical detail in her work.[346] 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".[347] The New York Times believes that "righting wrongs is Ms. Swift's raison d'être".[348] In her songs, Swift often addresses the "anonymous crushes of her high school years" and, more recently, fellow celebrities.[348] Entertainment Weekly remarked that Speak Now was sometimes "an exercise in name-that-celebrity Whac-a-Mole".[349] 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!'"[350] 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."[351] 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 ... I would hate for her to get shamed into discretion."[352] The singer herself has said that all her songs are not factual[353] and are often based on observations.[354] 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."[355]

Musical and vocal style

Swift's music contains elements of pop, pop rock, country and country-pop.[356][356][357] She self-identifies as a country artist.[358] 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".[359] 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".[358] She has said there will be "a huge temptation" to make an alt-country record as her career progresses.[45] 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."[360] 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."[361] The Guardian has said that Swift "cranks melodies out with the pitiless efficiency of a Scandinavian pop factory".[330] Similarly, Rolling Stone has noted that her melodies call to mind "Swedish pop gods Dr. Luke and Max Martin".[342]

Swift's voice has been described as "sweet but soft".[362] 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".[164] 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".[363] 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".[166] 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".[362] Her live vocals have been described as "flat", "thin, and sometimes as wobbly as a newborn colt".[364][365] However, Swift has received praise for refusing to correct her pitch with Auto-Tune.[366][367][368] 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][369] 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".[370] Swift's vocal presence is something that concerns her and she has "put a lot of work" into improving it.[371] It was reported in 2010 that she continues to take vocal lessons.[372][373] She has said that she only feels nervous performing "if I'm not sure what the audience thinks of me, like at award shows".[374]

Public image

Swift has been described as "America's sweetheart" and "a role model".[375][376] 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.[377] The singer considers it her "responsibility" to be conscious of her influence on young fans.[378] 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".[50][379] In 2012, Rolling Stone remarked upon Swift's "ease with glad-handing ... it's not hard to imagine her running for office someday"[380] while The Hollywood Reporter referred to her as "the Best People Person Since Bill Clinton".[381] It has been said that she is "the kind of driven, intensely ambitious person who’d thrive regardless of her profession".[382] A 2012 Vogue cover story described Swift as "clever and funny and occasionally downright bawdy" in person.[383] 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".[384]

In the early years of her career, Swift's signature look consisted of sundresses and cowboy boots.[385][386] This fashion style is still copied by many of the young fans who attend her concerts.[385][387] At formal events, Swift became known for "sparkly, beaded dresses".[385] 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."[387] She was asked by Vogue to cut bangs for a cover shoot in late 2011, and now straightens her hair.[388] Swift favors retro style and it has been said that she has the look of "a nineteen-thirties movie siren ... red lipstick, thick mascara."[389][390] She was named an Icon of American Style by Vogue in 2011.[391] She has named Françoise Hardy, Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot, and Audrey Hepburn as her own style inspirations.[392]

There has been much media commentary about Swift's reactions when she is recognized at award ceremonies.[393][394] In 2011, The Hollywood Reporter remarked that Swift "seems to be consistently shocked and wonderstruck by each awards win".[393] Kristen Wiig parodied Swift's surprised facial expressions during a Saturday Night Live sketch in 2012.[395] Swift later said she had seen the sketch: "I was laughing the entire time and then I realized that, as I was watching it, I was making the face she was making".[396] Also that year, the Academy of Country Music Awards' host Blake Shelton joked in his opening monologue that Swift should release a perfume called "I can't believe I smell this good". When Swift later presented Shelton with the Academy's Best Male Vocalist award, "the two faced off, showing each other their ultra-surprised looks".[397][398] Speaking to Nightline in October 2012, 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'?"[399]

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.[400] The New York Times noted that the character allowed Swift to be "a little bit naughty, and credibly so".[401] Rolling Stone felt she "held her own" and "does a good job with the script"[402] while the Chicago Tribune said she "acquits herself well".[403] Later that year, Swift both hosted and performed as the musical guest for an episode of Saturday Night Live.[404] 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".[405]

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.[406] The Los Angeles Times felt the performance suggested "serious comedic potential"[407] while the San Francisco Chronicle found her "very funny".[408] Time remarked that Swift portrayed her character "rather charmingly";[409] The Boston Globe described her as "adorably dorky".[410] 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."[411] However, Variety found her "entirely undirected ... she needs to find a skilled director to tamp her down and channel her obviously abundant energy".[412] The Daily News described her performance as "painfully clunky" while Slant Magazine found her "unwatchable".[413][414] In 2012, Swift voiced the character of Audrey, a tree lover, in the animated film The Lorax.[415]

Philanthropy

Swift's philanthropic efforts have been recognised by the Do Something Awards,[416] The Giving Back Fund[417] and the Tennessee Disaster Services.[418] In 2012, Michelle Obama presented Swift with The Big Help Award for her "dedication to helping others" and "inspiring others through action".[419] 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."[420][421]

Arts education

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.[422] 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.[423] The 7,500-square-foot building is scheduled to open in 2014 and will facilitate new programs and workshops for teenagers and senior citizens.[424][425] 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.[426] Museum officials have decided to name it The Taylor Swift Education Center and the singer will be involved in an advisory capacity.[427] Also in 2012, Swift partnered with textbook rental company Chegg to donate $60,000 to the music departments of six US colleges.[428][429]

Children's literacy

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.[430] 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.[431][432] In 2011, Swift donated 6,000 Scholastic books to Reading Public Library, Pennsylvania[433] and, in 2012, she donated 14,000 books to Nashville Public Library, Tennessee.[434] Most of the books were placed in circulation; the rest were gifted to children from low-income families, preschools and daycare centers.[434] In 2012, she co-chaired the National Education Association's Read Across America campaign and recorded a PSA encouraging children to read.[435][436] Also in 2012, Swift promoted the "power of reading" in a second live Scholastic webcast, broadcast directly to US classrooms.[437]

Natural disaster relief

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.[438] Later that year, she donated $100,000 to the Red Cross to help the victims of the Iowa flood of 2008.[439] In 2009, Swift supported the Victorian Bushfire Appeal by joining the lineup at Sydney's Sound Relief concert,[440] reportedly making the biggest contribution of any artist to the Australian Red Cross.[441] In 2010, she took part in the Hope for Haiti telethon; she performed and answered phone calls from viewers wishing to donate money.[442] She also recorded a song for the Hope for Haiti Now album.[443] In response to the May 2010 Tennessee floods, Swift donated $500,000 during a telethon hosted by WSMV.[444] Later that year, she donated $100,000 to help rebuild a playground in Hendersonville, Tennessee which was damaged by floodwater.[445] 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.[446] 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.[447] In 2012, Swift supported Architecture for Humanity's Restore the Shore MTV telethon in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.[448]

LGBT support

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.[449] 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".[450] 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.[451][452][453] 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".[451]

Charities for sick children

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.[454] In 2009, after performing at the BBC Children in Need annual telethon, she donated $20,000 to the cause.[455] 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.[456] 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.[457] Swift has met with many sick fans through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.[458][459][460][461] 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.[462][463][464]

Other charitable endeavors

Swift has encouraged young people to volunteer in their local community as part of Global Youth Service Day[18] 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.[465] In 2007, she launched a campaign to protect children from online predators, in partnership with the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police.[466] Also in 2007, she supported an Allstate campaign which promotes safe teenage driving.[467] In 2009, Swift recorded a Sound Matters PSA to make listeners aware of the importance of listening "responsibly".[468] She appeared in a Got Milk? campaign in 2010.[469] Swift has donated auctionable items to a large number of charities, including the Elton John AIDS Foundation,[470] the UNICEF Tap Project,[471] Oxfam International,[472] Habitat For Humanity,[473] MusiCares[474] and Feeding America.[475] She has also performed at a number of benefit concerts, including for the Food Bank For New York City,[476] the Reading, Writing & Rhythm Foundation,[477] Christmas for Kids[478] and Shriners Hospitals for Children.[479]

Personal life

Swift's main residence is a duplex penthouse in Midtown Nashville, Tennessee.[1][480] She also maintains a residence in Beverly Hills, California.[481][482] According to Forbes's Celebrity 100 list, released annually in the month of May, Swift earned $18 million in 2009,[483] $45 million in 2010,[484] $45 million in 2011[485] and $57 million in 2012.[486]

Swift dated singer Joe Jonas from July to October 2008,[487][488] and actor Taylor Lautner from October to December 2009.[489][490] She was romantically linked to musician John Mayer from late 2009 until early 2010.[491][492][493][494] She dated actor Jake Gyllenhaal from October to December 2010.[495][496] Following their break-up, they were seen together in January and February 2011.[497][498] Swift dated political heir Conor Kennedy from July to September 2012.[499][500] She is currently in a relationship with One Direction singer Harry Styles.[501][502] They began dating in October 2012,[503] following a brief flirtation in April of the same year.[504] Styles has said that Swift is "a really lovely girl. Honestly, she couldn't be a sweeter person."[505]

Politics

On her eighteenth birthday, "the first thing" Swift did was register to vote.[506][507] 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.[508] She stated: "I don't think it's my job to try and influence people which way they should vote."[4] 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."[509]

In 2010, former U.S. President George H. W. Bush attended the taping of a Swift television special in Kennebunkport, Maine,[510] and later described Swift as "unspoiled" and "very nice".[511] 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".[512] Swift later described the First Lady as "a role model".[513] 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."[514] She has spoken of her interest in American history and has read books about Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, the Founding Fathers and Ellis Island.[515]

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".[516] The singer has spoken of her admiration for Ethel Kennedy[517] and, when asked about her friendship with Swift, Ethel replied, "Oh, she is amazing! Such good company."[518] 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".[518]

Awards and nominations

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

Discography

Concert tours

Filmography

Television
YearTitleRoleNotes
2009CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationHaley JonesEpisode: "Turn, Turn, Turn"
2009Saturday Night LiveHostAlso appeared as the musical guest
Film
YearTitleRoleNotes
2009Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert ExperienceHerselfCameo
2009Hannah Montana: The MovieHerselfCameo
2010Valentine's DayFeliciaFilm debut
2012Lorax, TheThe LoraxAudreyVoice only

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