Taylor Swift in a gold dress
Myriad publications and academics consider Taylor Swift the most influential music artist of the 21st century

American musician Taylor Swift (b. 1989) has made an impact on popular culture with her music, artistry, performances, image, views, and actions, often referred to as the Taylor Swift effect by publications. Debuting as a 16-year-old independent singer-songwriter in 2006, Swift steadily amassed fame, success, and public curiosity throughout her career, becoming a cultural figure.

Regarded as a trailblazer of the 21st century, Swift is known for her versatile musicality, songwriting prowess and business acuity that have inspired numerous artists and entrepreneurs worldwide. She began in country music, seeped into pop, and explored alternative rock, indie folk and electronic styles, blurring music genre boundaries. Critics describe her as a cultural quintessence wielding a rare combination of chart success, critical acclaim, and intense fan support, enabling her to have a wide impact on and response from the music industry and beyond. With a strong political and economic leverage, Swift has used her influence and social media power to spotlight issues within the industry and society at large, fostering reforms to Spotify, Apple Music, Ticketmaster and recording contracts and awareness of artists' rights, masters, intellectual property, corporate greed, sexism and racism, while also receiving scrutiny and criticism.

From the end of the album era to the rise of the Internet, Swift heralded changes in how music is distributed to, perceived and consumed by the general public across the 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s. Her consistent commercial success is considered unprecedented by journalists, with unique achievements in album sales, digital sales, streaming, airplay, vinyl sales, charts, and touring, simultaneously. Bloomberg Businessweek said Swift is "The Music Industry",[1] one of her many honorific sobriquets. According to Billboard, Swift is "an advocate, a style icon, a marketing wiz, a prolific songwriter, a pusher of visual boundaries and a record-breaking road warrior."[2]

Swift is a prominent subject of critical fascination, intellectual research, media studies, and cultural analysis, generally focused on concepts of internet culture, celebrity culture, poptimism, feminism, capitalism, consumerism, Americanism, post-postmodernism, and various sociomusicological phenomena. Scholars attribute Swift's dominant cultural position, despite the polarizing disposition of her mass media perception, to her musical sensibility and artistic integrity, global and intergenerational appeal, acumen for marketing trends, and the complex sociological relationship between Swift, her fandom, detractors, and the mainstream media. Various academic institutions offer courses on Swift.

Fame and stardom

Taylor Swift is one of the best-selling music artists of all time.[3] She has released 10 studio albums—Taylor Swift (2006), Fearless (2008), Speak Now (2010), Red (2012), 1989 (2014), Reputation (2017), Lover (2019), Folklore (2020), Evermore (2020), and Midnights (2022); and four re-recorded albums—Fearless (Taylor's Version) (2021), Red (Taylor's Version) (2021), Speak Now (Taylor's Version) (2023), and 1989 (Taylor's Version) (2023). All were supported by varying number of singles, apart from her non-album songs and collaborations,[4] and were commercially lucrative and positively received by music critics. Billboard noted that only a handful of artists have had Swift's trifecta of chart success, critical acclaim, and fan support, resulting in her widespread impact.[3]

Several publications note Swift's popularity and longevity as the kind of "ceaseless" fame and "global influence" unseen since the 20th century.[5][6] To CNN, Swift began the 2010s decade as a country star and ended it as an "all-time musical titan".[7] New York author Jody Rosen dubbed Swift the world's biggest pop star, leaving her peers "vying for second place".[8] The New York Times author Ben Sisario compared Swift's cultural dominance to that of Michael Jackson and Madonna in the 1980s, calling it something the "entertainment business had largely accepted as impossible to replicate in the fragmented 21st century."[9] Swift is the richest female musician in history, with a 2023 net worth of $740 million in 17 years.[10]

Cultural omnipresence

"Taylor Swift is the biggest thing going in the entertainment industry. Turn on the TV or radio, scroll social media, listen to talk on the street, and there she is."

Shirley McMarlin, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (2023)[11]

Journalists describe Swift as a cultural touchstone. The Guardian columnist Greg Jericho dubbed Swift a "cultural vitality" whose consistent popularity, accentuated by the era of internet, surpassed that of the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen and U2, all of whom had a short-lived commercial and critical prime, whereas Swift continued to find success in the 18th year of her career with Midnights. Jericho cited numeric 2022 infographics showing that only Drake, Kanye West and Beyoncé could compete with Swift in terms of popularity.[12] Chris Molanphy of Slate stated that Swift's career has lasted longer than that of the Beatles, breaking the band's once-deemed "unbeatable" records.[13] Elle described her as a "pop megastar at celestial echelons",[14] and Vanity Fair called her "the biggest pop star in the world".[15]

Within celebrity culture, Swift's music, life, and image are points of attention.[16] Swift became a teen idol upon the release of her eponymous debut studio album in 2006,[17] and has since become a dominant figure in popular culture,[18] often referred to as a pop icon or diva.[19][20][8] Gayle Pamerleau of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg credited globalization for Swift's fame and called her a social contagion benefitting "from existing in a time of 24-hour, global connectedness, when everybody knows what everyone else is thinking and doing."[11] Kristy Fairclough of the University of Salford dubbed Swift "the center of the cultural universe."[21] The Ringer's Kate Knibbs wrote, Swift is inescapable as her music saturates "deep into the tissue of contemporary public life whether we like it or not."[22] Hence, Swift's career choices result in reforms in the music industry. In a 2016 article, Billboard opined that despite having had only a decade-old career, Swift had shown an "undeniable" cultural impact.[23][14] Time included Swift on its 2010, 2015 and 2019 rankings of the 100 most influential people.[24] In 2014, she was named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 list in the music category.[25] Swift became the youngest woman to be included on Forbes' list of the 100 most powerful women in 2015, ranked at number 64.[26] She was the most googled woman in 2019 and musician in 2022.[27][28]

American symbol

Swift in 2011 addressing an audience while sitting
Swift's early girl-next-door image made her "America's Sweetheart".

Journalists associate Swift's fame with Americanism. According to Knibbs, with Fearless, Swift had become a "countrified celebrity solidified into industrial-grade American fame" due to her craftsmanship.[22] Jack Dickey of Time said, Swift became "America's most important musician" by 2014.[29] Maxim called her career "a quintessential American success story".[30] Shaina Weatherhead, writing for Collider, called Swift "a pillar of the cultural zeitgeist", embodying love, diligence and feminism, irrespective of "whether [Swift] likes it or not". Weatherhead added Swift's fame turned her into a staple of American culture beyond just American music.[31]

Cultural critic Greil Marcus noted that Swift "wears the American flag on her face"—red lips, white skin, and blue eyes.[6] According to Vulture writer Nate Jones, Swift is the "musical embodiment of American hegemony".[32] Emily St. James of Vox wrote, Swift tells the stories of American millennials through her songs, in the manner Springsteen represented American baby boomers.[33] Swift also metaphorically called herself as "Miss Americana" in her 2019 song "Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince",[34] which also inspired the namesake 2020 documentary about her life and career.[35]

Tributes and honorifics

Further information: List of awards and nominations received by Taylor Swift

An very close shot of Swift with text reading "Bloomberg Businessweek" and "Taylor Swift Is The Music Industry".
Bloomberg Businessweek proclaimed Swift "The Music Industry" on the magazine cover dated November 14, 2014.[1]

Swift received various honorific titles and sobriquets recognizing her impact. "America's Sweetheart" is a title the media used for her in her early days, owing to her "all-American girl" image;[36][37] "Princess of Country" stemmed from her mainstream popularity as a country star.[38][39][40] Some media called her "the Pop Titan"[41][42] or the "Queen of Pop" due to her pop music dominance.[43][44][45] Time and PopSugar used "Queen of Bridges" to appreciate Swift's ability to compose well-received bridges.[44][45] "Queen of Easter Eggs" was coined once Swift became known for the Easter eggs and clues embedded in her album cycles.[46][47][48][49] Swift was dubbed "The Music Industry" by Bloomberg Businessweek,[50] Odyssey,[51] and American journalist Barbara Walters in light of her grip on the industry's fiber.[52][53]

In 2019, Swift became the first recipient of the Woman of the Decade (the 2010s) title from Billboard for being "one of the most accomplished musical artists of all time over the course of the 2010s",[54] and the American Music Awards named her Artist of the Decade for her highest tally in the 2010s.[55] In 2021, Brit Awards awarded Swift the Global Icon trophy "in recognition of her immense impact on music across the world".[56] In 2022, Nashville Songwriters Association International named her the Songwriter of the Decade to acknowledge her success as a writer.[57][58] In 2023, she was presented the Innovator Award by iHeartRadio Music Awards for "her impact on global pop culture".[59]

Various objects and locations have been named after Swift. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, established the Taylor Swift Education Center to host curriculum-connected activities for school groups, music programs, workshops and book talks.[60][61] Swift received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from New York University in 2022 for being "one of the most prolific and celebrated artists of her generation".[62] Entomologists conferred a Tennessee-endemic millipede species the scientific name Nannaria swiftae;[63] botanists named a plant remote sensor TSWIFT (Tower Spectrometer on Wheels for Investigating Frequent Timeseries).[64][65]

Genre and musicianship

Reshaping country music

refer to caption
Swift performing "Mean" on the Speak Now World Tour (2012) in Sydney, Australia

Swift helped shape the 21st-century country music scene.[66] The country landscape is "much different today", according to Tom Roland of Billboard, due to Swift and her career decisions that several critics regarded "unorthodox".[23] Rosen described Swift as the first country act whose fame extended beyond the U.S. and marked internationally, as she offered "modernity, cosmopolitanism, youth" in a genre traditionally representing conservatism, parochialism and older adults.[8] Her chart success extended to Asia and the U.K., where country music had not been popular.[66][8] As of February 2011, Fearless sold 400,000 copies in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines.[67] Following her rise to fame, country record labels became interested in signing young singers capable of writing their own music.[68] In 2008, Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker called Swift a "preternaturally skilled student of established values". Frere-Jones wrote, as the opening act for Rascal Flatts, Swift "[strutted] across stage platforms, performing a percussion duet on garbage cans, and switching gears without pause—her voice, all the while, light and breathy and without affectation—she returned the crowd's energy with the professionalism she has shown since the age of fourteen."[69] Rolling Stone said Swift's country music had a large impact on 2010s pop music.[70]

refer to caption
Original draft of lyrics penned by the 15-year-old Swift for her debut single "Tim McGraw" (2006) on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

According to Roland, Swift insisted on writing her songs, mining inspiration from her real life; she entered country music, which has historically been "a place where adults sang grown-up songs for other adults".[23] With her autobiographical songs of romance and heartbreak, Swift introduced the country genre to a relatable younger generation.[8] Although the U.S. country radio's target audience was between ages 25 and 54, listeners were generally limited to those older than 35 years. Various country music acts, label executives, and radio programmers have unsuccessfully attempted to lower this median age since the early 1980s, but with Swift's rise in the early 2000s the median age dropped below 25 with the genre attracting teenagers. According to programmer John Shomby, Swift "wrote for that specific age and was the first one to ever do that."[23]

Swift was one of the first country acts to employ internet as a marketing tool, promoting her music through MySpace, which was the largest social networking website in the world from 2005 to 2009.[71][72] She created her MySpace page the day before her then-label, Big Machine Records, was launched (August 31, 2005), and eventually amassed over 45 million streams via MySpace, which label CEO Scott Borchetta cited to convince "skeptical" country radio stations of Swift's niche audience. Social media followings and streaming service data have since been used "to prove an act's viability to radio".[23] Sisario credited Swift with widening the appeal of country music, introducing it to younger audiences, and contributing to country radio surpassing Top 40 as the largest format in the U.S.[73]

Poptimist spearhead

Journalists highlighted how Swift redefined the 21st-century pop music direction by expanding pop's perceived boundaries to bring forth emotional engagement and artistic ambition without forfeiting commercial success, defying critical beliefs. In 2013, Rosen described the Red-era Swift as a prim figure—"a rock critic's darling who hasn't the faintest whiff of countercultural cool about her", setting her apart from pop stars that followed the "raunchiness" trend of the period.[8]

Swift in 2015
Swift avoided the urban/dance trends prevalent in pop music to embrace "pure pop" with 1989, which solidified her status as a pop icon.

With 1989, Roland said Swift "managed to conquer country and, in an unprecedented move, transition fully into life as a pop artist [...] without even a hiccup."[23] 1989's commercial success transformed Swift's image from a country singer to a full-fledged pop star.[74][75][76] Its singles received heavy rotation on U.S. radio over one and a half years following its release, which Billboard noted as "a kind of cultural omnipresence" that was rare for a 2010s album.[77] Humanities academic Shaun Cullen described Swift as a figure "at the cutting edge of postmillennial pop".[78] Retrospectives from GQ's Jay Willis,[79] Vulture's Sasha Geffen,[80] and NME's Hannah Mylrea note how 1989 avoided hip hop and R&B crossover trends, influencing younger artists to explore "pure pop" and cultivating a trend of nostalgic 1980s-styled sound.[81] Ian Gormely of The Guardian called Swift the flagbearer of 21st-century poptimism, replacing dance/urban trends with ambition and proving "chart success and clarity of artistic vision aren't mutually exclusive ideas."[82] Geffen attributed Swift's pop transition success to her lyrics rooted in layered, emotional engagement rather than superficial themes that dominated mainstream pop.[80]

According to Lucy Harbron of Clash, pop stars like Dua Lipa would not exist if Swift had not normalized blending various pop music genres in 1989—an explicit trend among pop artists since the album.[83] It paved the way for artists "who no longer wish to be ghettoised into separated musical genres", for BBC's Neil Smith.[84] In 2022, critics Sam Sanders and Ann Powers regarded Swift as a "surprisingly successful composite of megawatt pop star and bedroom singer-songwriter."[85]

Musical heterogeneity

Swift has ventured into diverse genres and artistic reinventions in her career.[86][87] Pitchfork opined in 2021 that Swift changed the music landscape forever with a "singularly perceptive" catalog that accommodates musical and cultural shifts.[88] Harbron stated Swift's genre-spanning career encouraged her peers to experiment with diverse sounds.[83] The BBC and Time designated Swift a "music chameleon".[87][86]

A red guitar and microphone attached to a wall
Swift's Les Paul guitar and microphone from the Red Tour (2012–2013) placed in the Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix

Swift's fourth album Red was the record that intensified the critical debate over Swift's genre categorization, as she was a country artist at that time but Red contained heavy pop, electronic and rock elements. Swift commented that she "[leaves] the genre labeling to other people."[89] Critics felt that Red signified Swift's inevitable transition to mainstream pop. Randall Roberts of Los Angeles Times claimed, irrespective of whether Red is a pop or country record, it is "perfectly rendered American popular music". The New York Times' Jon Caramanica dubbed Swift "a pop star in a country context".[90][91] According to Harbron, Red proved the industry that avant-garde is not the only experimental approach in music and that Swift "opened a door for every other musician" in 2012 to coalesce multiple genres into an album.[83]

Post-1989, Swift released Folklore and Evermore, which were described as a mix of indie folk,[92][93] chamber pop,[94] and alternative rock styles.[95][96] They expanded the perception of Swift's discography, with many critics describing her catalog as a musically heterogeneous collection of songs.[16][97] Having demonstrated an emo appeal, Swift's songs are often covered by pop-punk and metalcore acts.[98] Billboard credited Swift with the power "to pull any sound she wants into mainstream orbit".[99]

Emphasis on lyricism

"Swift has a capacity for writing songs and lyrics that are very immediate, that tap into universal emotions and experiences, and that also play with her own public image, in a way that creates this self-perpetuating loop of interest and analysis of her music."

Nate Sloan, The Independent (2022)[100]

Swift is fundamentally a Nashville-enriched songwriter, "steeped in Music Row's values of craftsmanship and storytelling" as per Rosen.[8] According to Zoya Raza-Sheikh of The Independent, Swift is able to balance universal themes with hyper-specificity, possessing "an uncanny talent for reflecting the world's emotional angst through her own lens."[100] In being personal and vulnerable in her lyrics, music journalist Nick Catucci opined Swift helped make space for other singers like Ariana Grande, Halsey, and Billie Eilish to later do the same.[101] Professor Hannah Wing of Wichita State University attributed Swift's popularity to the intimacy in her music, cultivating a "feeling of closeness".[102] According to Scarlet Keys, songwriting professor at Berklee College of Music, Swift "mixes poetry with a very colloquial, current language", and frequently uses poetic devices but also knows to be "practical", such as in "Mean" (2011) or "Shake It Off" (2014).[6]

According to Raza-Sheikh, Fearless and Speak Now depicted Swift's adolescent innocence that resonated with a large audience, followed by her matured records Red and 1989, which exhibited her confidence in defining her narrative, becoming "unafraid of upsetting the status quo and critics"; she explored "the role of the villain" in Reputation.[100] Although Swift had received critical praise for her lyricism, it was not until Folklore and Evermore her songwriting became a major topic of analyses. Commentators regarded both Folklore and Evermore as poetic reinventions, contextualizing them as "lockdown projects" or archetypal "quarantine albums".[103][104] Uproxx noted that Folklore changed the tone of music in 2020.[105] Critic Tom Hull wrote that Swift "caught the spirit of the times" with Folklore.[106] The New York Times and Vogue named Folklore one of the best moments of the "COVID era".[107][108]

British scholar Jonathan Bate dubbed Swift a "real poet", favorably comparing her to literary figures such as William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, and Emily Dickinson, and wrote that she has a "literary sensibility" that other pop stars lack.[109] Stephanie Burt, an English professor at Harvard University, opined that Swift's songwriting skills are rare: "at both the macro level of songwriting—presenting a story or an idea—as well as the micro level of fitting together vowels and consonants."[110] The term "Swiftian" has been used in music journalism to describe works similar to or derivative of Swift's music.[111][112][113]

Commercial influence

Chart success

"[Swift's commercial success is] especially improbable when you consider the music, and the musician, behind them. Swift is an oddball. There is no real historical precedent for her. Her path to stardom has defied the established patterns; she falls between genres, eras, demographics, paradigms, trends. She is a Pennsylvania Yankee turned teen-pop country singer, a Nashville star who crossed over to Top 40, a confessional singer-songwriter who masquerades as a global pop diva. Her music mashes up the quirkily homespun and the gleaming pop-industrial, Etsy and Amazon, in a way we’ve never quite heard before."

Jody Rosen, New York (2013)[8]

Swift's music and concert tours have achieved huge commercial success. Rosen, who began inspecting her success in 2013, felt it was historically unprecedented—disproving the presumed notions of music's commercial success in the 21st century.[8] In the late 2010s, publications considered Swift's million-selling albums an anomaly in the streaming-dominated industry, as the end of the album era marked a sharp decline in album sales.[114][115] Hence, musicologists Mary Fogarty and Gina Arnold regard her as "the last great rock star".[116] The Atlantic's Spencer Kornhaber opined in 2021, Swift's "reign" defies the convention that the prime of artist's commercial success lasts for a few years only.[117] She entered "a new stratosphere of global career success" in the 2020s, as per Music Business Worldwide, which noted that her popularity is "ever-escalating".[118]


Swift has been a highly successful artist on various Billboard charts, pushing the boundaries of commercial success.[117] She ranks eighth on Greatest of All Time Artists, a Billboard list ranking music acts based on chart success, as the only 21st-century act in the top 15 positions.[119] She is the longest-reigning act of Billboard Artist 100 (75 weeks),[120] the soloist with the most weeks (62) atop the Billboard 200,[121] the woman with the most Hot 100 entries (212),[122] top-10 songs (40),[123] weeks atop the Top Country Albums (98),[124] the act with the most Digital Songs number-ones (23),[125][126] the first artist to have three number-one albums in less than a year, beating the Beatles' 54-year-old record,[14] and the first to monopolize the Hot 100 top 10.[123] Her 2021 song "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)" is the longest song ever to top the Hot 100.[127]

Swift is the only act in Luminate Data history to have five albums—Speak Now, Red, 1989, Reputation, and Midnights—sell over one million copies in one week.[128] To New York magazine, her sales figures prove she is "the one bending the music industry to her will".[115] Critics described Swift's commercial power as unrivaled. Billboard noted, Swift's success is evenly distributed across streaming, album sales, and track sales.[2] Financial Times and I-D called Swift "the last pop superstar", given her ability to generate sales figures unseen since the "1990s boy bands" era, which was regarded as the commercial peak for the U.S. music business.[129][130]


The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) ranked her as the Global Recording Artist of the Year in 2014, 2019, and 2022, for being the most consumed artist in those years; she is the only artist to achieve the feat three times.[131] Charlotte Kripps of The Independent wrote, Swift led an international resurgence in country music, introducing the genre to a new U.K. audience.[132] Swift also became the first country act to find chart success beyond the Anglosphere. Rosen described her as country music's "first truly global star", cultivating dedicated fandoms in foreign markets such as Ireland, Brazil and Taiwan,[8] where country music was not popular.[66][8] Jakarta, Quezon City and Singapore are among her biggest cities on streaming platforms.[133]

Swift holds several all-time chart feats unique to her in Australia, Ireland and the U.K.[134] She earned the highest income for an artist on Chinese digital music platforms (RMB 159,000,000).[135] Her Reputation Stadium Tour (2018) became the highest-grossing North American tour ever.[136] She was the world's highest-grossing female touring act of the 2010s.[137] Beginning with Fearless, all of her studio albums opened with over one million global units.[138] Variety dubbed Swift the "Queen of Stream" after she achieved multiple streaming feats as well.[139] Swift is the most streamed female act on Spotify,[140] and the only artist to have received more than 200 million streams in one day.[141] Midnights is the most streamed album in a single day, with 186 million streams, and the first to collect 700 million global streams in one week.[142][143]


Swift vastly contributed to the 21st century's vinyl revival. She is regarded as a champion of independent record shops,[144][145] and made vinyl variants of her albums available exclusively at small businesses, driving their sales. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Swift shared her LPs to record shops for free.[146][147] Evermore held the record for the biggest sales week for vinyl LPs in the U.S. since Luminate Data's inauguration in 1991, and has since been surpassed by Swift's own Red (Taylor's Version) with 112,000 vinyl LP sales,[148] and Midnights with 575,000 LPs.[149] Midnights is the first 21st-century album to sell over one million vinyl LPs in the U.S.[150] and over 80,000 LPs in a year in the U.K.[151] Due to her support of independent record shops, Record Store Day (RSD) named Swift their first-ever global ambassador.[146] LPs of Swift's third live album, Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, were issued as RSD-exclusive limited editions and became the first RSD-exclusive in history to chart in the top 10 of the Billboard 200.[152]

Business acumen

"At 33 years old, pop star Taylor Swift is one of the world’s most influential business leaders. She has outmaneuvered music executives vying to control her song rights, sparred with tech giants and sold record numbers of albums. She secured her fans' loyalty by speaking directly to them online—before it was a marketing strategy."

— Anne Steele, "How to Succeed in Business Like Taylor Swift", The Wall Street Journal[153]

Swift has established a reputation as a savvy businesswoman. Journalists describe her as an "unparalleled marketing genius" with "high-minded business acumen" and an entrepreneurial role model.[154][155][156] According to Steele, Swift's "winding and winning" career presents management lessons beyond the music industry.[153] Economist Paul Krugman argued: "Being a congenital cynic, I'd like to attribute her fame to marketing hype, but the sad truth is that she's a highly talented songwriter and musician with remarkable stage presence."[157] Similarly, philosophy professor Brandon Polite said that "all the business savvy in the world isn't going to get you much of anything" if the music "isn't good enough [...] And so ultimately, what it has to come down to is this: she's a really, really, really good songwriter."[102]

Name and brand

"Taylor Swift" in cursive.
Pitchfork considers Swift's name a brand on its own.[158]

In attempting to explain her "ceaseless" success and fame,[5][6] various authors have compared Swift to media franchises, conglomerate companies or a one-woman brand. Per The Ringer, Swift is an omnipresent "musical biosphere unto herself", having achieved the kind of success "that turns a person into an institution, into an inevitability."[22] Music publisher Matt Pincus called Swift "an intellectual property franchise" like the DC movies;[129] Fortune compared her to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.[154] According to Internet survey company QuestionPro, "if [Swift] was a corporation, her net promoter score would make her the fourth most admired brand."[159]

Per Professor R. Polk Wagner at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Swift associating her lyrics with a range of goods and services through trademark applications represents her understanding that "she is bigger than the music". He added, "It's more of a branding right, thinking of Taylor Swift as a conglomerate."[160] Additionally, in a practice called "domain squatting", Swift bought the pornographic website domain names "taylorswift.porn" and "taylorswift.adult" to prevent them from being misused;[161] Caroline Reaper of Marie Claire said the purchase demonstrates Swift's self-conscious control over her public image. Reaper highlighted Swift's 2014 tweet when a nude photo of Swift was allegedly "leaked" online by hackers: "Any hackers saying they have 'nudes'? Pssh, you'd love that wouldn't you! Have fun photoshopping, 'cause you got nothing."[162]

Social media presence

Swift, one of the most followed people on social network services, is a "social media powerhouse", according to Entrepreneur.[155] She was the most followed person on Instagram from September 2015 to March 2016,[163][164] and has consistently been influential on Twitter, placing first in Brandwatch's rankings in 2018,[165] 2019,[166] and 2021.[167] Culture critic Brittany Spanos opined that Swift's social media presence is one of the reasons she's "still relevant" after years: "[Swift is] an artist who kind of has come up through every possible social media platform you can. She grew her fan base on Myspace. She was using Tumblr way past its prime. Twitter. She's now on TikTok, commenting on people's videos. So she uses all these things in a way that allows her fans to feel like they can really, really connect with her."[168] The part of TikTok dedicated to Swift is known as "SwiftTok".[169] Ticketing executive Nathan Hubbard said that Swift was the first musician "to be natively online."[9]

Swift's marketing is a combination of social media engagement and television. Brandwatch and Cision called Swift a "master of product launch", with knowledge of "a strategic and well-balanced communications campaign". According to public relations (PR) academic Sinead Norenius-Raniere, Swift's integrated marketing strategy consists of: timed announcements across marketing channels, harnessing the potential of both traditional and digital media, authentic and "intimate" communications with consumers to build trust, and usage of multimedia to offer "sneak peaks".[170] Her novel promotional efforts, such as Midnights Mayhem with Me, were a subject of critical praise for innovation.[171][154]

Concept of "eras"

Swift is known for her traditional album rollouts and cycles, often referred to as "eras", each of which consists of a variety of focused promotional activities.[172][173][174] Rolling Stone described her eras as an inescapable "multimedia bonanza".[175] She is credited with making the "two-year album cycle" approach of releasing and promoting albums the industry standard.[23] Nevertheless, journalists also praised Swift's fast-succeeding release of Evermore less than five months after Folklore. Variety compared it to similar moves by the Beatles and U2,[176] while Rolling Stone termed it a "hot streak" reminiscent of Prince in 1987 and David Bowie in 1977. Vulture called it a "major shock" from an artist known for traditional album cycles.[177]

refer to caption
A digital screen visual from the Eras Tour (2023), depicting various alter egos of Swift from across her 10 album cycles

Easter eggs and cryptic teasers similar to Swift's became a common practice in pop music.[178] Publications describe her discography as a music "universe" subject to analyses by fans, critics and journalists.[179][180][18] Swift's outfits, accessories, diction, color coding, and numerology have also been Easter eggs.[154][181] El País critic Iker Seisdodos called her "a master of the art of suspense".[6] According to Lutz, her marketing style is "an ever-changing burlesque act of selectively revealing details while maintaining an aura of mystery and excitement"—a strategy that goes beyond the music and entertainment industries.[154] Chris Willman of Variety highlighted the elaborate packaging styles of Swift's albums, including special-edition variants.[182]

Reinventing her image and style throughout her career, each of Swift's eras is characterized by a unique aesthetic, fashion style,[183][184] and an associated mood or emotion.[185] As a result, Swift has popularized several aesthetic trends, such as Polaroid motifs with 1989,[186] and cottagecore with Folklore and Evermore.[187] Lutz opined that such era shifts helped broaden her fan base and critical appeal.[154] André Spicer, professor of organizational behavior at the University of London Bayes Business School, commented in 2020 that being "interesting" is an important asset in the digital economy,[188] which Sehdev asserted Swift has managed to do by constantly reinventing herself "while remaining authentic".[154] To Rosen, Swift portrays herself as "a bleacher warmer, a wallflower, an underdog" through her songs.[8] However, in a counterview, Fairclough claimed that Swift's "shifting aesthetic" indicates her struggle with a lack of identity and authenticity.[19]

Corporate sponsorship

An airplane with the text "TAYLOR SWIFT" and headshots of her on its livery.
An AirAsia Airbus A320 celebrating Swift's arrival to Kuala Lumpur for her first ever concert in Malaysia in 2014

Swift embraces corporate sponsors. Her marketing incorporates strategic business partnerships, which, according to John McDuling of Quartz, was initially regarded as a "taboo" among musicians.[189] Marketing expert Christopher Ming wrote, "Sure, working with brands like Apple Music, Elizabeth Arden, and Diet Coke feel like no-brainers. But it takes a certain amount of marketing ingenuity to make campaigns with NCAA Football, United Postal Service [sic], and Papa John's work. Yet they all did."[154] Paper reported that the impact of Swift's album releases is "felt across social media", with companies often "capitalizing on her momentum", endorsing her.[190] Inc. said the companies leverage Swift's cultural relevance.[191]

Industry and economy

See also: Impact of the Eras Tour

Economists and industrial critics have studied Swift's influence on businesses worldwide, comparing her economic impact to countries. According to trade publication Pollstar, if Swift was a country, she would be the 199th largest economy on earth, analogous to a small Caribbean nation.[192] QuestionPro estimated her 2023 economy at $5 billion, higher than the gross domestic product (GDP) of 50 countries.[159]

Alan Krueger in 2011
Economist Alan Krueger devised his concept "rockonomics"—a microeconomic analysis of the music industry—using Swift, whom he considered an "economic genius".[193]

Analyses of Swift's economic influence includes studying the "booming" economy around Swift's concerts, which escalates travel, lodging, cosmetic, fashion, and food businesses,[194] and tourism revenues of cities by millions of dollars.[195][196][197] After the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a global economic recession, the unprecedented ticket sales of the Eras Tour represented a "post-COVID demand shock in the U.S.", as per Bloomberg L.P.'s Augusta Saraiva.[198] Los Angeles Times termed it part of "Swiftonomics", whereas The Wall Street Journal dubbed it "Taylornomics"—an economic microcosm consisting of skyrocketing demand, limited supply, and price gouging, and customers "willing to pay almost anything". Melissa Kearney, economics professor at the University of Maryland, opined that the pandemic has changed the way people think about "what's really important to them, and what brings them joy", prioritizing entertainment over an impending national recession.[193][199]

Noticing the growing trend of Swift-themed dance parties in the world, industry commentators found that Swift's cultural position as a staple in the 21st-century music landscape allowed nightclubs to profit from her.[200][201][202]

Challenging industry norms

Swift is often considered a flagbearer for artists' rights. Journalists praise her ability to question and change industry practices, noting how her moves reformed policies of streaming platforms, prompted awareness of intellectual property among upcoming musicians, reshaped the concert ticket model,[2][203] and negotiated better financial compensations from labels for all music artists.[204] Elle described the Swift-enabled reforms to streaming services as "a milestone moment in the history of music".[14]

Streaming reforms

Daniel Ek in 2011
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek convinced Swift to return to Spotify after she released 1989 to wide commercial success without the platform.

Swift contested music streaming services to regulate corporate policies for better preservation of artistic integrity.[14][205] She said digital streaming services have become a dominant form of media consumption since 2013, causing a gradual decline in traditional album sales.[206][207] In November 2014, Swift announced that 1989, her then-upcoming album, would not be released on Spotify, which was growing in popularity at the time, in protest of the platform's "minuscule" payment to artists (US$0.006 to 0.0084 per stream). In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, she believed the value of works of art should be fixed by artists:[206]

"Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It's my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album's price point is. I hope they don't underestimate themselves or undervalue their art."

Karim R. Lakhani and Marco Iansiti, business administration professors at Harvard Business School, reviewed the issue and upheld Swift's belief that musicians should set the prices.[208] For academic Jessica Searle, Swift proposed music as a "non public good".[209] Nilay Patel, writing for Vox, criticized Swift's beliefs about albums and said she "doesn't understand supply and demand"; Patel stated that the internet has "killed" the album format, claiming most consumers would not shop for a Swift CD anymore.[210] Eventually, Swift withdrew her entire discography from Spotify.[206] Spotify responded, "We hope [Swift will] change her mind and join us in building a new music economy that works for everyone." 1989 was a commercial success upon release, selling millions of CDs; another Vox journalist Constance Grady regarded this a "huge blow" for Spotify, which attempted to bring Swift back by releasing playlists dedicated to Swift. Her music stayed off Spotify for nearly three years, until Swift released it back on June 9, 2017, in celebration of Swift's milestone 100 million certified units from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[211] Spotify CEO Daniel Ek stated on CBS This Morning that he convinced Swift to bring her music back on Spotify by meeting her in Nashville, "explaining the model, why streaming mattered", and how her fans want her music back on Spotify.[212]

In June 2015, Swift wrote an open letter to Apple Inc. on Tumblr, addressing the three-month free trial that Apple Music had chosen to offer their users while not paying the artists whose catalogs are streamed by users during the trial period. Swift said she finds it "shocking" that they had opted not to pay "writers, producers, or artists" for the three months. She explained:[213]

"This is not about me. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field…but will not get paid for a quarter of a year's worth of plays on his or her songs. [...] Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing. We don't ask you for free iPhones. Please don't ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation."

Swift asserted 1989 would not be on Apple Music either and urged the company to change the policy before its launch on June 30, 2015.[213] Eddy Cue, an Apple executive, apologized and promised to reverse the policy.[214] Cue told Associated Press, "When I woke up this morning and I saw Taylor's note that she had written, it solidified that we needed to make a change."[215] When Apple Music officially launched, it paid royalties to artists during the three-month trial.[205] Various musicians, music organizations and industry commentators expressed their gratitude to Swift.[215]

Following the expiration of her six-album Big Machine contract in 2018, Swift signed a new global contract with Republic Records, a label owned by Universal Music Group.[216] She revealed that, as part of the contract, any sale of Universal's shares in Spotify would result in non-recoupable equity shares for all Universal artists.[217] Grady called it a huge promise from Universal "far from assured" until Swift interceded.[218] Financial Times's Jamie Powell said, "Swift, on her own, is as powerful as an entire union", and dubbed the equity negotiation "Comrade Swift's special dividend".[219]

Intellectual property

Main article: Taylor Swift masters controversy

Scooter Braun in 2011.
Swift's dispute with Scooter Braun has been credited with bringing widespread awareness of masters in the public.

Swift's "battle" against exploitative recording contracts for the ownership of her masters has been described as "revolutionary".[14] In June 2019, after Swift moved to Republic Records, Braun acquired Big Machine from Borchetta for $330 million, funded by many private equity firms, making Braun the owner of all of the masters and works copyrighted by Big Machine, including those of Swift's first six studio albums. Swift responded that she attempted to purchase the masters but the label offered unfavorable conditions, and that she did not expect the buyer would be Braun—an "incessant, manipulative [career] bully". Borchetta claimed Swift declined a chance to purchase the masters.[220] Swift alleged that the label blocked her from performing her music at the 2019 American Music Awards,[221] and claimed Borchetta and Braun were "exercising tyrannical control" over her music: "the message being sent to me is very clear. Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you'll be punished."[222] Big Machine then released Live from Clear Channel Stripped 2008 (2020), an unreleased live album by Swift, without due diligence.[223] The controversy was highly publicized, becoming one of the most widely discussed and covered news topics of 2020 and 2021.[224] Evening Standard called it "music's biggest feud".[225] Billboard wrote, celebrities "lined up for Team Swift or Team Braun, creating the most public battle about an artists' masters in recent memory".[226] Hashtags "#IStandWithTaylor" and "#WeStandWithTaylor" trended worldwide on Twitter.[227]

Re-recording the albums was the only viable option to gain full ownership of her music, according to Swift. Braun sold the masters in October 2020 to Shamrock Holdings for $405 million under the condition he would continue profiting.[228] Swift disapproved again, rejected a Shamrock offer for equity partnership, and began releasing the re-recordings via Republic Records.[229] The re-recorded albums were met with critical and commercial success, breaking multiple commercial records.[230][122] When "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)" became the longest song ever to top the Hot 100, Jack Antonoff, the song's producer and a frequent collaborator of Swift, told Rolling Stone that a 10-minute-long song topping the Hot 100 teaches artists to "not listen" to what the industry has to say.[231]

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez contextualized the masters dispute as part of the subjugation of creative industries in the U.S. by private equity firms.

A multitude of music artists, politicians, journalists, and legal experts supported Swift's actions regarding the issue, deeming it trailblazing and inspirational.[222][232] Numerous singers openly supported Swift.[note 1] Publications wrote, while the issue of master ownership and conflicts between record labels and artists such as Prince, the Beatles, Janet Jackson, and Def Leppard have been prevalent earlier, Swift was one of the few to make it a public discourse on artists' rights, private equity and industry ethics.[242][243][158][244] Dubbing the dispute one of the 50 "most important moments" of the 2010s decade,[245] Rolling Stone journalists noted Swift's role in shifting the public perception of the concept of re-recording or re-mastering.[246] Dominic Rushe of The Guardian said Swift's battle marked a change in the digital music era, with artists more aware of their rights without the need to rely on record labels anymore.[244] Pitchfork critic Sam Sodomsky recognized the visibility she brought, saying Swift "is also so huge—not just an artist but a brand—that she can enact change by wielding the leverage of the reliability of her success" and that it is "financially lucrative for the industry to listen" when Swift makes a statement.[158]

Unlike most artists when faced with this kind of injustice, Swift could stand up for herself, and in doing so, invoke meaningful dialogue and inspire change within the notoriously slow-moving music industry [...] Re-recording a back catalog of six full albums and respective secret bonus tracks, then developing a hugely successful campaign to drive loyal fans towards the new versions of their beloved albums—and away from the original master recordings, prompting a dip in streams that will be mimicked in the rights holders' income statement—is something only very, very few artists can do. Taylor Swift is, indeed, amongst that handful.

— Eilish Gilligan, "Taylor Swift's Re-Recordings Expose The Music Industry's Chokehold On Intellectual Property", Refinery29[247]

The A.V. Club and MarketWatch interpreted Swift's statements as a criticism of private equity firms, highlighting the Carlyle Group, one of Braun's investors.[248] U.S. Congress members such as Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez backed Swift and stated that she is "one of many" creative businesses threatened by private equity firms that harm the U.S. economy.[249][250] The New York Times said, despite being a young artist, Swift was capable of turning a contractual dispute into a "cause célèbre", especially in the 2010s where there is public wrath over corporate greed and "gender-based power dynamics".[251] Music attorney James Sammataro observed that "any time Taylor brings attention to an issue, it gets magnified [...] She has a very loud megaphone and she's not afraid to use it. She's had great success in effectuating change."[252] To Billboard, the outcomes of her re-recording venture are unprecedented.[230] Kornhaber opined that the re-recordings disproved critics who doubted Swift.[253]

Ticket model

Further information: 2022 Ticketmaster controversy

Swift performing in a stadium in front of thousands of concertgoers.
Inspired by Swift's Reputation Stadium Tour (2018), the concert industry adopted the "slow ticketing" model.

The concert industry shifted to a "slow ticketing model" after Swift, who is known for her stadium concerts,[254] first implemented it with the Reputation Stadium Tour (2018). It replaced the selling-out of tickets in minutes with a demand-driven ticketing approach that requires consumers to register in advance and allowed them to purchase tickets at any time and price level upon access. This meant higher ticket prices in the beginning and a gradual drop as the concert date approached, replacing "momentum with consumer choice and experience" and bypassing scalpers, according to David Marcus of Ticketmaster. The model was initially criticized by journalists, who thought it was an attempt at camouflaging Swift's dull ticket sales following her unfavorable press in 2016; however, the tour was a sold-out success, surpassing the Beatles to become the highest grossing North American tour of all time, after which critics favored the model.[255][256][257]

In November 2022, the pre-sale of the U.S. leg of the Eras Tour was mismanaged by Ticketmaster, attracting widespread public and political criticism. Due to the "astronomical" demand for tickets,[258] with 3.5 million people registering for the on-sale program, the Ticketmaster website crashed within an hour of sale but still sold 2.4 million tickets, breaking the record for the most concert tickets sold by an artist in a single day. Ticketmaster attributed the crash to "historically unprecedented" site traffic.[259][260] Fans and consumer groups accused Ticketmaster of deceit and monopoly.[261] Several members of United States Congress claimed that Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation Entertainment should be separated as their merger led to substandard service and higher ticket prices.[262] The U.S. Department of Justice opened investigations into Live Nation–Ticketmaster,[263] whereas several fans sued the companies for intentional deception, fraud, price fixing, and antitrust law violations.[264] Bipartisan members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee censured the companies at a hearing.[265] Under pressure from the National Economic Council, Ticketmaster and other ticketing companies agreed to terminate junk fees—additional fees revealed at the end of ticket purchases. American legal scholar William Kovacic termed it the "Taylor Swift policy adjustment."[266]

Pitchfork asked, "Is there any other artist [other than Swift] who could force urgency into the federal investigation of a music industry monopoly just by going on tour?"[267] Entertainment Weekly and The A.V. Club listed "Swifties vs. Ticketmaster" as one of the biggest cultural news stories of 2022. The former's Allaire Nuss wrote, "If there was ever an artist with enough pop-culture prowess to bring down the music industry's most hated monopoly, it's Taylor Swift."[268][269] The Washington Post proclaimed Swift has "an unbreakable hold on our increasingly fractured world—and its discourse—in a way that almost no one else can."[18]

Mass media coverage

See also: Miss Americana

Swift is a widely covered person in the mass media. She and her music have been referenced or used in numerous books,[270] films, and television shows.[271] The socioeconomic relationship between Swift and the mainstream media has been described as a celebrity–industrial complex by journalists. Hence, she is also a subject of incessant scrutiny in the press. Clash described Swift as a lightning rod for both praise and criticism.[272] According to Entertainment Weekly's Maura Johnston, Swift's every move is inspected, "as one of the first pop stars to have fully grown up in the era of social media's endless feedback loop with the celebrity-industrial complex".[273] The phenomenon has affected Swift's art profusely; Reputation is a critique of the complex,[274] while Miss Americana deconstructs it.[275]

Negative publicity

Drag queens portraying Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Adele, Cardi B, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, and Nicki Minaj (from left to right).
In her "You Need to Calm Down" music video, Swift critiqued the media for pitting female artists against each other by portraying drag queens impersonating various pop stars competing for one crown.

Swift has been described as a "polarizing figure". Her fame has had detrimental effects on her position in the media; some are genuine critique of her actions, while the rest constitute unverified tabloid gossip that has resulted in various moments of negative press for Swift.[276][277] Branding expert Jeetendehr Sehdev told Fortune, "People love her or hate her".[154] Swift has generally used negative critique as musical inspiration, writing songs such as "Shake It Off" (2014), "Look What You Made Me Do" (2017), and "You Need to Calm Down" (2019).[22]

Swift's dating life has been a subject of tabloid scrutiny and has thus prompted some pop culture news outlets, conservative commentators, and social media users to slut-shame her.[278][279] Figuring out the celebrity inspiration behind a Swift song is the media's favorite game, in the words of Rosen, who wrote that outlets maligned Swift "as a serial kisser-and-teller, as an entitled rich kid, as a mean girl with a victim complex", attributing it partly to the "shrill" tone of Swift's early songs. However, Rosen also stated that there is "a sexist double standard in the policing of Swift's confessions, especially when you consider the routine misogyny in the songs of rockers, rappers, and woebegone beardy indie balladeers."[8] Some media outlets and journalists are also noted for their bias, frequently vilifying Swift for clickbait or to gain readership, capitalizing on consumer interest in "juicy" details about Swift's life.[14][280]

Overexposure and controversy

Swift performing onstage with a graphic of a striking cobra and a close-up shot of her behind her.
Snake, a term that was used by detractors to ridicule Swift in 2016, became the main visual motif of her 2017 album Reputation.

Swift's public disputes and alleged "feuds" have received widespread online attention and media coverage.[281][282] She began experiencing media "overexposure" in 2012.[283] Some media are noted for igniting "beef" between Swift and other celebrities, especially against other women. Swift has had "feuds" with celebrities like Perry and Nicki Minaj,[284][285] both of whom publicly engaged Swift. Animosity alleged by media outlets also contest Swift against Cardi B,[286] Adele,[287] Demi Lovato,[288] SZA,[289] and Ariana Grande—despite the fact that Swift engaged none of them and even attempted to quash some of the rumors[290]—and against her former boyfriends Joe Jonas, John Mayer, Calvin Harris,[282] and Jake Gyllenhaal.[291] Kanye West has been a significant source of controversy in Swift's public image.[292]

Knibbs commented that Swift was a "country music princess on the verge of superstardom" in 2009, became a "snake" in 2016, and returned as a "full-blown music juggernaut" after 2019, providing an excellent "case study for the ups and downs of modern pop stardom".[22] Swift has attempted to avoid overexposure since 2017,[293] and has often mocked the media in her music; she sold supplementary magazines inspired by Reputation at Target with sarcastic comments about her life mimicking gossip headlines.[294] According to Carter Sherman of Vice, after viewing Swift as a "villain" from 2016 to 2018, growing self-awareness in the media helped popular culture undergo a "Great Swift Revival" in 2020, healing her public image.[295]

Kanye West feud

refer to caption
Kanye West taking the microphone from Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, with Taylor Lautner and Shakira in the background.

The decade-spanning feud between Swift and West mutually affected their reputations and cultural perception.[296] In September 2009, at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, Swift won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video for her 2009 song "You Belong With Me", becoming the first country singer and one of the youngest artists (age 18) to win a MTV Video Music Award. While Swift was delivering her speech, West climbed the stage, interrupted her, and took her microphone to declare "Yo, Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'ma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!", referring to "Single Ladies" (2008). Swift was then escorted backstage. Beyoncé later won Video of the Year that evening, and invited Swift to finish her speech. Nevertheless, West's actions were met with widespread criticism; then-U.S. President Barack Obama called West a "jackass" on television. West issued apologies and blamed his "difficult day" but subsequently recanted. Swift joked about the incident in her Saturday Night Live monologue in November 2009. Swift and West posed together in photographs from the 57th Annual Grammy Awards in 2015, and she stated that they had become friends with help from Jay-Z, a mutual friend.[296]

The feud was re-ignited when West released his 2016 single "Famous", containing the lyrics "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous" in reference to the 2009 incident. West claimed that Swift had approved the lyrics beforehand on a phone call, whereas she said she was not made aware of the second line describing her as a "bitch". He also released a music video for "Famous", incorporating a naked wax doll of Swift, which she dubbed "revenge porn" in 2019. After Swift "shaded" West in her speech following her Album of the Year win for 1989 at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards (2016), talking about not letting detractors take credit for her fame, West's then-wife, Kim Kardashian, released trimmed clips of the Swift-West call on Snapchat that appeared to support West's claim. "#TaylorSwiftisOverParty" became the top trend on Twitter, with viral social media posts calling Swift "fake, calculated, manipulative, a snake, a liar and is not what she seems". Various media criticized, trolled and "cancelled" Swift. The backlash caused Swift to step away from spotlight for a year, avoiding being seen by the press until the 2017 release of Reputation, which was partially inspired by the controversy. It was not until 2020 that the full, unedited footage of the call leaked, proving Swift had not lied, resulting in "#KanyeWestisOverParty" becoming the top Twitter trend.[296][292][204]

The BBC called it the "music's most notorious on-off feud".[297] Jones pinpointed her overexposure during the Red and 1989 album cycles as the reason why the media easily "turned against" her in 2016,[32] such as an opinion piece from Vice's Grace Medford that attributed Swift's later success to her "vilifying" West.[298] However, after 2020, media outlets began praising Swift for standing her ground.[299][300]

Mental health repercussions

"I've never seen any woman handle herself the way [Swift] does. She makes my eyes water, the way she handles herself. She manages the whole fame trip, what it means to be in the spotlight. So when you think about all the things going wrong the world she is the true great role model."

Oprah Winfrey, Herald Sun (2015)[301]

Swift has been vocal about the impact of press coverage on personal health, discussing issues like eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, anorexia athletica, self-esteem, and cyberbullying. Jessica Gold, professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, stated, "when our political leaders are struggling to build consensus on and convey the gravity of issues" like mental health, Swift is sending a powerful message by opening up about her issues—"one that is likely to save lives in myriad ways".[302] Writer Elana Fishman confessed, "every so often, I'll still catch myself criticizing the way my tummy or legs look in a photo or how a certain pair of pants fits me. From now on, whenever that happens, I'll be repeating a line Swift says in [Miss Americana]—We do not do that anymore, because it's better to think you look fat than to look sick".[303]

The Daily Targum stated, despite being an expert in handling negative criticism, even Swift "succumbed to insecurities that blossomed into eating problems, which shows how even the strongest among us are susceptible to potential eating disorders due to the toxic environment of social media".[304] Ellen Ricks of HelloGiggles called Swift's reveal of her disorder inspirational, noting "how it can potentially impact so many people still fighting", as "there is still so much stigma and misinformation" surrounding it.[305] In the article "Why women say sorry too much" for Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Kate Midena highlighted Swift's struggle to "deprogram the misogyny in [her] own brain" and "it's a conundrum women have been stuck in since the middle ages". Midena said girls are often taught to value empathy over "masculine traits" such as strength and assertiveness, and hence they "feel the need to cushion their actions with an apology".[306] Miss Americana prompted several critics of Swift to respond, such as comedian Nikki Glaser,[307] who confessed her comments came from a place of insecurity; journalist Richard S. He stated the intention of his 2016 Vice article "Taylor Swift Isn't Like Other Celebrities, She's Worse" was to "deconstruct the pettiness of the celebrity–industrial complex" but regretted it could have been unduly critical of Swift.[308]

Gender and feminism

refer to caption
Swift is a popular inspiration for upcoming artists, especially for women in music. Pictured is a wax figure of Swift at Madame Tussauds Sydney.

Identifying as a pro-choice feminist,[309][310] Swift is dubbed a feminist figure by the media. Her career has been studied to understand its feminist aspects.[14] Swift has criticized the way media depicts women; in an appearance on the show Tout le monde en parle, Swift stated she "couldn't stand the way media portrays young women as rivals rather than allies."[311] She has regularly donated to various feminist causes and women's empowerment programs.[14] According to a 2023 survey by Morning Consult, 52% of Swift's U.S. fans are women, while 48% are men.[312]

Target of misogyny

People have been singing songs about broken hearts as long as music and broken hearts have existed, and [Swift's] male peers aren't questioned in quite the same way she is. Heartbroken girls are labeled as whiny in our society, while heartbroken guys are endearing and lovable. And it sucks.

— Nicole Pomarico, "Taylor's Pointing Out Sexism in The Music Industry", Bustle[313]

Journalists have reported on the intense misogyny and slut-shaming directed at Swift,[314][279] who has been vocal in condemning all forms of sexism. She highlighted misogynistic language used against her in tabloids and headlines, as well as sexist comments discrediting her achievements.[14] She stated that her "dating life has become a bit of a national pastime" and does not appreciate the "Careful, Bro, She'll Write a Song About You" trope as it "trivializes" her artistry.[311] Glamour opined Swift is an easy target for male derision, triggering "fragile male egos".[315] According to Rosen, some media and public censure Swift's "acidic" lyrics about former partners while praising male artists like Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello and Drake for the same, revealing the double standards.[8] Several former detractors of Swift have blamed their unconscious misogyny.[254]

In various media, Swift has been the subject of comments, "jokes", punch lines and memes that have been perceived as sexist or misogynistic. The New Feminist highlights, apart from sexist men, several women also channel their internalized misogyny towards Swift.[316][317] At the 70th Golden Globe Awards (January 2013), hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler delivered a joke about Swift, following tabloid news that week that claimed Swift had broken up with Connor Kennedy; Fey said that given Swift's "interest in famous guys", she should stay away from actor Michael J. Fox's son, who was escorting the award winners off the stage that evening. Poehler disagreed and said "Swift should go for it", to which Fey retorted. The joke was the subject of viral news coverage.[318] Fey also had a history of joking about Swift's dating life.[319] Two months later, when Vanity Fair asked about Fey and Poehler, Swift quoted Madeleine Albright: "there's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."[318] She subsequently elaborated:[319]

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

In June 2013, American retail company Abercrombie & Fitch sold shirts saying "more boyfriends than t.s." After backlash from Swift's fans, the retailer withdrew them.[320] Westboro Baptist Church leader Ben Phelps called Swift the "poster child for the young whores of doomed America", accusing her of "fornication and sin-coddling songs", and announced plans to protest at her concert.[321] In October 2014, on Australian radio show Jules, Merrick & Sophie, Swift stated she is "unfairly criticized" for her lyrics compared to her male peers:[322]

"You're going to have people who are going to say, 'Oh, you know, like, she just writes songs about her ex-boyfriends.' And I think frankly that's a very sexist angle to take. No one says that about Ed Sheeran. No one says that about Bruno Mars. They're all writing songs about their exes, their current girlfriends, their love life, and no one raises the red flag there."

In a 2016 interview, when asked what advice she would give her 19-year-old self, Swift replied, "Hey, you're going to date just like a normal twenty-something should be allowed to, but you're going to be a national lightning rod for slut-shaming."[323] In a 2019 interview with New Zealand DJ Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1, Swift stated that the slut-shaming "happened to [her] at a very young age, so that was a bit hard. That was one of the first times [she] was like—Wow, this is not fair."[324]

Taylor Swift Twitter

Hey Ginny & Georgia, 2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back. How about we stop degrading hard-working women by defining this horse shit as FuNnY. Also, @netflix after Miss Americana this outfit doesn't look cute on you. Happy Women's History Month I guess

March 1, 2021[325]

On March 1, 2021, Swift criticized the writers of Netflix series Ginny & Georgia for using a "lazy, deeply sexist joke" slut-shaming her.[326] Beth Ashley of Grazia wrote sexism is why male celebrities like Pete Davidson are celebrated for his dating history, while Swift is "shamed and shunned".[324]

Sexual assault discourse

Further information: Taylor Swift sexual assault trial

In August 2017, a sexual assault trial was held in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, involving former DJ David Mueller, a KYGO-FM radio employee, who filed for defamation against Swift. He claimed she had him wrongfully terminated following an incident at a 2013 meet-and-greet,[327] in which Swift posed for a photo with Mueller.[327] Swift alleged Mueller reached under her skirt and grabbed her buttocks in the photo.[328] Mueller was escorted out of the concert once Swift reported it to her mother and team.[329][327] The incident was reported to KYGO, and Mueller was fired shortly after.[330] He sued Swift for defamation in September 2015, claiming he never touched Swift under her skirt and that he lost his job and reputation due to her false claims.[328] Swift counter-sued Mueller for battery and sexual assault, seeking $1 in damages. The jury ruled in Swift's favor.[330]

The trial was a subject of wide media attention due to Swift's status as a high-profile celebrity.[331] In a post-trial statement, Swift revealed she counter-sued Mueller to empower other victims of sexual assault.[332] The BBC stated that the trial was culturally significant as it highlighted the underreporting of sexual assaults, Swift's refusal to back down even though the defense lawyers attempted to discredit her, and the symbolic $1 damages. Brand strategists said, Swift "has been not only trying to empower ordinary women that she doesn't know but also music industry colleagues" with the case. Public relations expert Marvet Britto stated that Swift "is aware that her defiance in fighting against these allegations—not only made toward her but other artists and colleagues—will achieve global visibility around sexual assault issues that, in many cases, go unreported and ignored and are marginalized."[333] In December 2017, Swift was named a "Silence Breaker" in Time magazine's Person of the Year issue.[334] Elle described the trial as a landmark case "aiming to not bankrupt the perpetrator, but to set a precedent for other artists and women around the world to speak up and hold predators accountable for the irreparable damage they cause."[14] Additionally, Swift donated $250,000 to American singer Kesha in 2016 to assist her with the legal fees for her sexual assault case, and further donation to the Joyful Heart Foundation for survivors of sexual assault in 2017.[14]


Marren Morris in 2019.
Kacey Musgraves in 2019.
Swift is credited with shaping the career trajectories of female country singers like Maren Morris (left) and Kacey Musgraves (right).

Critics have noted Swift's musical style resonating in albums released by female country singers like Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini.[335] Swift's onstage guitar performances contributed to "the Taylor Swift effect"—a phenomenon to which upsurge in guitar sales to women, a previously ignored demographic, is attributed.[336][337][338] Todd Cassetty, president of Cassetty Entertainment, opined "everybody was trying to mimic [Swift]" and that "a lot of young women are trying to find their voice now, but a lot of them were inspired to pick up a guitar because of [Swift]."[23] Journalist Shah Ezayadi attributed Swift's commercial success with "the way she makes her listeners feel understood, particularly her young female audience."[100] Raza-Sheikh said Swift is a cultural litmus test: "can we begin to respect art created by famous women, particularly when it explores love stories and womanhood?"[100]

Feminism is a core aspect of Swift's discography, particularly since 2014.[322] According to Rosen, Swift existed on the modest, "Victorian" end of the feminist spectrum, compared to pop stars like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Miley Cyrus, who "represent aggressively sexualized feminist pop, harnessing big beats and skimpy outfits to work through questions of power and self-determination"; however, Swift's songs "aren't totally chaste: Sex is there in the rush and flush of the music, and it peeks through, discreetly, in the lyrics."[8] Many of her songs address feminist themes; examples include "I Did Something Bad" (2017), "The Man" (2019), "The Last Great American Dynasty" (2020), "Mad Woman" (2020), "Vigilante Shit" (2022), and "Would've, Could've, Should've" (2022).[339]

A man on a subway spreading his legs apart, squishing people beside him.
Swift played a man (middle) in the music video for "The Man" (2020) to demonstrate sexist double standards against women.

Swift's 2014 single "Blank Space" is a satirical feminist critique of her portrayal in media.[311] The Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti called its music video a "dystopian feminist fairytale", playing into the "annoying, boy-crazy" tropes media projected on Swift.[340] In the music video of "The Man", Swift's portrays a male alter-ego named Tyler Swift, presenting several prevalent examples of sexist double standards, including objectification, sexualization, toxic masculinity, and patriarchy.[341] iHeartRadio's Paris Close said it demonstrates "how the hubris of male privilege plays out in the real world".[342]

The artistic reinventions of her career were also examined feministically. Swift said, "The female artists I know of have to remake themselves 20 times more than the male artists, or else you're out of a job" in regards to the music industry "discarding" female pop stars as soon as they reach their mid-30s. The 2020 Prospect article "It's time to face the facts—our male pop stars need to try a bit harder" pointed out the requirement for female pop stars to be "highly visual, and to change that visual often".[343] Vanessa Friedman, chief fashion critic of The New York Times, considered Swift's "hamster wheel of constant reinvention" a meta-commentary on the expectation that female pop stars "unveil new versions of themselves for our viewing pleasure, one-upping their old image with new wardrobes ad infinitum", while male pop stars do not change much.[344]

In a contradictory perspective, even though Swift described herself as a feminist,[345] her 2014–2015 public appearances and social media posts with female singers and fashion models whom the media called her "squad" gave some the impression that she did so to keep her name afloat in media.[21] A number of critics claimed Swift's feminism lacks intersectionality,[346] causing her to come off as a white feminist whose "clique was really just an exclusive group of mostly white actresses and supermodels."[32]

Political role

Taylor Swift Twitter

After stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism your entire presidency, you have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence? 'When the looting starts the shooting starts'??? We will vote you out in November. @realdonaldtrump

May 29, 2020[347]

Political journalists and authors note Swift as a powerful personality in American politics—the most influential musician politically.[348] She has used her fame to incite political action.[10] Lawmakers outside the U.S. have also shown admiration for Swift, such as Liz Truss, former Prime Minister of the U.K.;[349] Leni Robredo, former Vice President of the Philippines;[350] Gabriel Boric, President of Chile;[351] Mexican Supreme Court justice Arturo Zaldivar;[352] and Pita Limjaroenrat, member of the House of Representatives of Thailand.[353]

Alignment and demographics

Swift is socially liberal,[354] having criticized white supremacy, racism, and police brutality in the U.S.[355][309] She is pro-choice and an advocate of gender equality and LGBT rights.[356][357] However, Swift has also been censured by some liberal and conservative commentators;[358] the former criticize her for what they consider as performative activism,[359] while the latter detest her for being an outspoken, "woke" liberal.[360] She endorsed Democratic candidates Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper for the 2018 U.S. midterm elections in her home state Tennessee,[361] and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for the 2020 U.S. presidential election,[362] and criticized Republican politicians Donald Trump and Marsha Blackburn.[363]

Joe Biden in 2019 and Donald Trump in 2017.
According to The Times, 53% of adult Americans consider themselves fans of Swift, far higher than the approval ratings of Joe Biden (left) and Donald Trump (right) in 2023.

Facebook data from 2014 revealed that Swift is one of the artists who formed the "happy median" of musical listening habits of its Democratic and Republican users.[364] According to 2023 surveys reported by The Times, 53% adult Americans consider themselves "fans" of Swift, ratings that journalist Ellie Austin said Biden and Trump "can only dream of". Austin explained, though Swift is left-aligned, some rightists still "covet" her, making her a "uniting" demographic fulcrum that can bridge America's political divide.[365] This was evident in the bipartisan criticism of Ticketmaster in 2022 and 2023. CNN journalist Allison Morrow wrote in an article titled "One Nation, Under Swift" that Swift's fans united the parties in a way "the Founding Fathers failed to anticipate".[366] Brooke Schultz of the Associated Press noticed how the issue turned into a political movement and considered Swift's fans an influential voter demographic: "the sheer power and size of Swift's fandom has spurred conversations about economic inequality, merely symbolized by Ticketmaster".[367] As per Morning Consult, 55% of Swift's U.S. fans are Democratic, 23% are Republican, and 23% are independent.[368]


Apolitical stance

Swift was apolitical as a country artist, avoiding discussing political topics in her early career—noted by critics in retrospect as her time under Big Machine. When asked by Time in 2012 regarding the 2012 U.S. presidential election, Swift said, "I try to keep myself as educated and informed as possible. But I don't talk about politics because it might influence other people. And I don't think that I know enough yet in life to be telling people who to vote for."[369] Journalists criticized Swift's lack of political activism despite her status as a celebrated figure, claiming her philanthropy is inadequate.[19][370] Motivated by Swift's apoliticism, Trump called her a "terrific" role model; conservative lawmakers invited her to visit the U.S. Capitol.[371]

She remained apolitical for the 2016 U.S. presidential election, not supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton or speaking against Trump as some had expected.[19] Critics questioned who Swift had voted for in the election as she posted a picture of her in a polling station queue.[358] An USA Today headline said, "Who did Taylor Swift vote for? Here's why her sweater [in the Instagram post] suggests Hillary".[372] Entertainment Weekly analyzed Instagram's "most popular Election Day content", reporting that some of the most-liked posts were those from Rihanna, Lovato, Kourtney Kardashian, and Grande, all of whom had explicitly endorsed Clinton, but it was Swift's "innocuous" non-partisan post that earned the most likes  (2.1 million).[373] This showed Swift was a pop culture anomaly, according to The Ringer critic Alyssa Bereznak.[358] BBC journalist Nick Levine found her political silence "increasingly conspicuous".[19]

Sociopolitical scrutiny and race

According to Bereznak, apoliticism might have been "an advantageous business strategy" for pop stars before, but for cultural figures like Swift, their "actions, communication, and work" will be analyzed by the media in a political lens. In 2017, Swift supported the 2017 Women's March via Instagram,[358] which was met with criticism from both fans and critics, who felt it was pointless as Swift refused to channel her feminist activism into politics.[358] The Cut suggested, even though Clinton had the open support of Perry, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Springsteen, Swift's public endorsement "could have" helped her become President.[374] Medford opined Swift cannot subsist in a political vacuum as it becomes "deafeningly noticeable". Criticizing her use of social media only for music announcements and not politics, Medford wrote: "To have such a large, wide-reaching platform and use it only for the advancement of your own ambition reflects poorly, regardless of how progressive your politics may be."[375]

Some critics attributed Swift's political silence to a significant portion of her fandom in 2014 being conservative country fans.[346] The most intense sociopolitical criticisms alleged that Swift is a crypto-fascist.[376][377] Exploiting her persisting political silence in 2016 and 2017, some white supremacists in the U.S. considered Swift one of them—a neo-nazi. Some alt-right websites proclaimed her their "Aryan Goddess",[378][379][380] waiting for Trump's win to announce her "Aryan Agenda" to the world.[381] Liberal media outlets demanded Swift to clarify her political stance.[346] When a blog post by PopFront, a left-wing website, alleged that "Look What You Made Me Do" was a "subtle" alt-right nod, Swift's PR/legal team called the post defamatory and demanded that PopFront "issue a retraction, remove the story from all media sources, and cease and desist," or face legal consequences.[382] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized Swift for attempting to "suppress constitutionally protected speech".[383]

However, NPR journalist Leah Donella asserted that there is no reason to think Swift is a white supremacist, stating "she has no affiliation with any white supremacist groups. She has never publicly made any white supremacist remarks, nor has she ever been accused of making them in private". Donella noted claims that Swift is a white supremacist rest solely on the fact that she is white, "looks white, and hangs out with mostly white people", justifying the latter with 2014 studies demonstrating that a white person has only one person of color as a friend for every 91 white friends: "This isn't a Taylor Swift thing. It's a housing segregation/workplace diversity/general American history thing."[380]

Disillusionment and endorsements

See also: Miss Americana

Kamala Harris in 2017.
Kamala Harris thanked Swift for endorsing the Democratic campaign in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Swift voiced her political view for the first time in the 2018 midterm elections, "breaking her political silence" according to the media.[384][362] She endorsed Democrats Bredesen and Cooper via social media posts on October 18, 2018; it was a subject of widespread media coverage and sparked much praise from fans, journalists, celebrities, and Democrats. For instance, This Is Spinal Tap director Rob Reiner tweeted, "A big shout out to Taylor Swift for speaking out. You can single-handedly change this country. Impress your fans with how critical and powerful their voices are. If you get them to the polls on Nov 6, everything you care about will be protected."[361][385] Swift also censured Republican candidate Blackburn for her "appalling" policies:[385]

"In the past I've been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions. I feel very differently about that now. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in [the United States]. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening, and prevalent."

Swift received "fierce backlash" from Republicans, Trumpists, and right-wing supporters, who felt "betrayed" by Swift, criticized, slut-shamed, and berated her online; they stated she "ended" her career, should have "shut up" and "stick to music". The National Republican Senatorial Committee opined, "If you haven't heard, multimillionaire pop star Taylor Swift came down from her ivory tower to tell hardworking Tennesseans to vote for [Bredesen]." Charlie Kirk, president of conservative group Turning Point USA, tweeted: "You just endorsed a Democrat in the Tennessee Senate race with a ridiculous statement saying Marsha Blackburn, a woman, is against women. You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about." Trump told reporters: "I'm sure Taylor Swift doesn't know anything about [Blackburn]. Let's say that I like Taylor's music about 25% less now, OK?".[385][362]

Over 169,000 people registered to vote in the 2018 elections within two days of her post, as per Vote.org, whereas only 59,000 people registered to vote in the 30 preceding days. Publications dubbed it "the Taylor Swift effect".[386][387][388] As per a statistical research by academics Gwendelyn Nisbett and Stephanie Dunn, Swift's narrative and message in the post influenced her followers, beyond their parasocial attachment with her.[389] Behavioral scientist Simone Driessen wrote, some media consider Swift's political "coming-out" as a strategy to further her career, whereas others consider it mandatory for pop stars in political climate "to express where they stand".[390]

In 2019, Swift stated that when she began her country music career, Big Machine and other label executives advised her to not discuss politics, making an example of the Dixie Chicks controversy.[361] She described Trump's presidency as an autocracy, and regretted not endorsing Clinton in 2016, but said her negative press at the time made her feel "useless" and "like a hindrance".[391] Swift added, Hillary was being called a "manipulative" liar by Trumpists on the internet—the same type of harsh comments Swift had received in 2016 following her West-Kardashian feud, and wondered whether she would be a liability to Hillary: "Look, snakes of a feather flock together. Look, the two lying women. The two nasty women"; as "millions of people wanted [her] to disappear", Swift decided to step away from spotlight.[204] Emily Strayer, member of the Chicks, opined that "the power [Swift] has right now to change things is way beyond any power [the Chicks] ever had."[392]

Swift described Blackburn as "Trump in a wig" who won in 2018 by "being a female applying to the kind of female males want us to be in a horrendous 1950s world."[363] Blackburn responded in July 2021, claiming liberals want a Marxist socialist society which prohibits women to perform, or create the type of music Swift does, denying private intellectual property rights,[393] and that Swift "is going to be the first ones who will be cut off because the state would have to approve your music."[394] In the 2020 election, Swift endorsed Biden and Harris and lent her protest song "Only the Young" (2020) to their campaign.[362] Forbes staff Seth Cohen wrote, Swift's increased political engagement in the past year "has been notable for its high-profile approach and big hit commentary."[348] Trump eventually lost his re-election; Biden was elected as the next U.S. president.[395] Swift was found to be the second most influential celebrity in Biden's win, after LeBron James.[396]


Nota bene: This section is non-exhaustive and includes illustrative examples only.
refer to caption
A cutout of Swift's face being used at the 2017 Chicago Pride Parade

Inspiring law and legislation

Fashion and aesthetic

Taylor Swift wearing red lipstick and a red dress
Swift on Good Morning America in 2012. Red lips are generally regarded as one of her signature looks.[418]

Swift's style and dressing are widely covered by fashion journalists. Her street style has received acclaim from critics. She has reinvented her image and aesthetic throughout her career, matching them with respective album cycles and influencing fashion trends in the process.[183][184]

Her "style evolution", both within and outside her music, has been the subject of widespread analyses by media outlets. Consequence opined, Swift's looks evolved from "girl-next-door country act to pop star to woodsy poet over a decade".[419] Her debut was characterized by country boots, "girly" gowns, and sundresses; Fearless was inspired by fairy tale princesses and the regency era, incorporating corsets; with Speak Now, she began adapting matured, glamorous looks; she wore black hats and bangs for the Red era, which drew from generally red-themed retro and hipster clothes; 1989 departed from "ultra-femininity" to urban styles, jumpsuits, "clean lines and sleek fabrics"; Reputation was characterized by dark colors, edgier styles, leotards, and snake-inspired motifs; Lover incorporated "candy-colored" fashion, pastels, and blazers; rooted in cottagecore, Folklore was rustic, featuring simplistic dresses, shirts, pants and sweaters, while Evermore included flannel and overcoats; Midnights explored romper suits, embellishments, and "popstar glamor".[420]

In 2011, Vogue asked American fashion designers about the "new icons of American style"; Tommy Hilfiger named Swift, owing to her "charismatic" summer outfits.[421] People named Swift the Best-Dressed woman of 2014, calling her a "street style queen".[422] In 2015, Swift won the Elle Woman of the Year award for cementing herself as "a style icon" capable of "seamlessly switching between chic street style and glamorous couture gowns on the red carpet",[423] and topped the 2015 Maxim Hot 100 list.[30] In a 2018 Vogue article, critic Francesca Wallace wrote that Swift has become known for her "easygoing, feminine" and "dainty" take on fashion, incorporating bows, prints and carryall bags, creating a street style "worth copying".[424]

Swift co-chaired the 2016 Met Gala.[425] To Kelsey Glein of InStyle, Swift is an expert in "off-duty" fashion, often synchronizing outfits, blending classic, retro and "cool" elements, floral prints, Mary Jane or Oxford shoes, Jimmy Choo boots, and other accessories from Aldo, Prada, Christian Louboutin, Elie Saab and Dolce & Gabbana.[426] Vogue Australia regards Swift as an influential figure in sustainable fashion.[427] She released a sustainable clothing line with Stella McCartney in 2019.[428]

Fashion trends

refer to caption
Swift's cardigan and flannel coat from Folklore and Evermore exhibited at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Swift's music, visuals, general attire, and concerts have influenced fashion trends and led to sales surges. She boosted the popularity of red lipsticks—considered one of her signature fashion motifs, especially since Red, which prominently featured red lips in its cover.[429][430] Swift helped popularize sleeveless formal wear and waistcoats in women's fashion.[431]

"The scarf" mentioned in autobiographical lyrics of "All Too Well" has also become a signature object associated with Swift.[432][433][434] NME critic Rhian Daly said the scarf is "an unlikely pop culture icon in an inanimate object".[435] Kate Leaver of The Sydney Morning Herald wrote only Swift "could make a decade-old item of clothing a universal symbol for heartbreak."[436] Following the 2021 release of her self-directed All Too Well: The Short Film, the Google searches for "Taylor Swift red scarf meaning" spiked by 1,400 percent.[437] The scarf is seen in the film and also in the music video for "I Bet You Think About Me" as a red-colored one.[438][439]

Cottagecore experienced a resurgence on the internet after Swift used the aesthetic,[440] leading to an increase in sales of hand-knitted Aran jumpers in Ireland and the U.S.[441] RTÉ thanked Swift for putting cardigans "back on the map" with Folklore.[442] Upon Evermore's release, replicas of the flannel coat Swift wore on the cover artwork sold out on Farfetch instantaneously.[443] The Eras Tour increased the demand for metallic boots, cowboy hats, and sequin dresses. CNN reported that fashion retailers marketed their products to target attendees of the tour, with various clothing brands creating a range of items inspired by Swift and her eras" and scoring their biggest sales year yet.[444][445]

Fandom dynamics

See also: Impact of the Eras Tour

Swift maintains a close relationship with her fans, "Swifties", to whom many journalists attribute her impact.[14][446] Her connection with fans is considered unique for artists of her stature; she has interacted with them on social media, sent gifts, hand-selected them to attend intimate concerts or meet-and-greets, made surprise visits, participated in some of their functions, and gifted free tickets to disadvantaged fans.[447][448][449] She hosted the "Secret Sessions", a series of pre-release album-listening parties for fans at her houses.[450][451]

Swift giving away her autographs to fans in 2012
Swift taking pictures with fans in 2022
Academics say that Swift redefined artist-fandom relationships by establishing an intimate connection with her fanbase.

She has donated to fans to cover their academic loans, medical bills, rent or other expenses, and once bought a house for a pregnant, homeless fan.[452][453] Her excess donation to a fan with leukemia on GoFundMe in 2015 caused the crowdfunding platform to expand its policy.[454] Swift has written songs for her fans, such as "Long Live" (2010)[455] or "Ronan" (2012); the latter is a charity record about a fan's four-year-old son who died of neuroblastoma.[448]

To The Washington Post, Swift and Swifties "[are] all part of one big friend group".[456] Many fans feel connected to Swift as they "have grown up with her and her music."[457][110] Their positive reception of Reputation, which was released after the 2016 controversy, demonstrated their commitment to Swift, irrespective of a tonal shift in her artistry and public perception.[458] Billboard cited the unprecedented success of Swift's re-recorded albums as further evidence of their loyalty.[459] Willman wrote, the re-records' success inspired other artists to "weaponize fans in their business disputes".[460] Author Amanda Petrusich described Swifties' allegiance as both "mighty and frightening".[461]

The consumerist phenomenon of purchasing anything related to Swift has been termed "the Taylor Swift effect" by The Guardian.[462] To business scientists Brendan Canavan and Claire McCamley, the relationship between Swift and Swifties represents post-postmodern consumerism.[463] Sociologist Brian Donovan opined, "it is easy to dismiss the frenzy surrounding Swift as mindless hero worship. Yet, the Swifties have shown the power of fandom to create social bonds that transcend consumerism."[169] The frenzy, generally termed "Swiftmania",[464] has been considered the 21st-century equivalent to Beatlemania by journalists such as Jon Bream of Star Tribune, who said "Swift has achieved a once unthinkable monoculture, a zeitgeistian redux of Beatlemania".[11][465]

Swifties have been the subject of journalistic and academic interest for their "prolific content creation, digital savvy, organizing capacity, and sometimes vicious online behaviors", as per internet culture researchers Cristina López and Avneesh Chandra.[466] Donovan distinguished "Taylor Swift fans" from Swifties, opining that the latter are a subculture characterized by collective effervescence, unlike other fanbases. Some linguists termed the Swifties' fan-coded, lyrics-based language a "fanilect".[467]

Mythology and subculture

"Her use of symbols and imagery has only grown over time, to the point that if you look deep enough into Swift World, her fans seem as if they are practically speaking another language with abbreviations, coded catchphrases and references that only they understand."

Emily Yahr, The Washington Post (2022)[468]

Propagated by her prolific use of easter eggs and "unusually close connection with her fans",[456][102] Swift is a source of myth in popular culture. Journalists describe her works, celebrity, and the fanfare surrounding them a world on its own. Glamour and The Washington Post termed it the Taylor Swift Cinematic Universe.[18][179] Entertainment Weekly called it Taylor Swift Musical Universe—"a pop star known for prodigious hint-dropping, whose fans turn every piece of info into an online archaeological dig."[180] In The Guardian, Adrian Horton said "Swiftverse" is a subculture of mass media, cultivated by "years of worldbuilding and Swiftian mythology",[181] while Alim Kheraj wrote Swift turned pop music into a "multiplayer puzzle" involving fanbase commitment, which other artists have attempted to reproduce.[469]

Andrew Unterberger of Spin wrote that symbolisms are "inextricable elements of the Taylor Swift experience" and key to understanding her work.[470] To Caroline Mimbs Nyce of The Atlantic, Swift's fandom is nearly a metaverse: "a huge virtual community unmoored from a single platform, based on a world around Taylor Swift, missing only the 3D virtual space to hang out in."[471] According to Yahr, Swift enjoys embedding "clues, hints and puzzles" in her works, social media posts and interviews, constructing a self-mythology that fans believe could have a hidden meaning and attempt to decode, such as a release date, song or album title or an artistic element.[468] The critical analysis is referred to as "Swiftology" in the media.[472][470] Such theorizing, for example, led fans to correctly predict the date of the announcement of 1989 (Taylor's Version) in 2023.[473]

"The scarf" mentioned in "All Too Well" has been a topic of mythology.[432][433][434] Brad Nelson wrote in The Atlantic that the missing scarf quickly became a "fantastic pop culture mystery" of much internet attention.[474] The scarf's existence or its lyrical use as simply a metaphor has been a topic of debate among fans and cultural commentators, who "agree it's more than a simple piece of outerwear."[475] According to Rob Sheffield, the scarf is so significant to Swift's discography that it "should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."[476] Kaitlyn Tiffany of The Verge described the scarf as "the green dock light of our time."[477] Ahlgrim called it a "fabled accessory" and "a source of cultural curiosity".[475]

Though Swift described herself as an ally to the LGBT community, a small faction of fans called "Gaylors" believe she is secretly gay and hints her queerness through music. A 2023 network map published by López and Chandra divided Swifties into six factions based on online behavior; a subset of Gaylors specifically ship Swift with Karlie Kloss, Dianna Agron, or both, claiming Swift dated them in the past, and accuse Swift of queerbaiting if she is not actually gay. Most fans criticize Gaylor as far-fetched, malicious, and disrespectful to Swift; journalists likewise dismiss it as an invasive, baseless conspiracy theory,[478][466] and have criticized the parasocial interactions that some fans have with Swift's private life.[479][480]

Generational appeal

Critical commentary has used Swift's career to mark a paradigm shift in popular culture, regarding her as a millennial cultural figure. According to Rosen, Swift is a "generational bard", merging "the pleasures of old-fashioned songcraft with millennial social-media oversharing."[8] Psychiatrist Suzanne Garfinkle-Crowell opined, Swift is the generational poet laureate who always has a song to describe the precise emotion a listener is feeling.[481] American author Neil Howe, who coined the term "millennial", named Swift as the classic example of millennial spirit.[482]

In 2010, The Christian Science Monitor commentators Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais opined that Swift's rise to fame signals the "musical coming-of-age" of the millennial generation and that "it's only a matter of time before Swift and her generation make over America's music as triumphantly as they did its politics with the election of President Obama."[483] Awarding Swift for her humanitarian endeavors in 2012, former First Lady of the U.S., Michelle Obama, described Swift as an artist 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".[484]

Bruce Springsteen performing with a guitar
Bob Dylan with a guitar
Swift is frequently compared to 20th-century singers like Bruce Springsteen (left) and Bob Dylan (right) in terms of generational cultural impact.

In 2014, Quartz's John McDuling wrote, Swift was "quickly becoming the most influential artist of her generation", spurred by critical praise and "blockbuster" sales, and pondered if she is the millennial equivalent to Dylan, Springsteen, or Kurt Cobain.[189] National Post opined that 1989—an album created by a millennial for millennials—"lays claim to an entire generation", as average millennials "are constantly exposed to criticism and heavy dialog" like Swift, and coerced to become both sensitive and hardened emotionally, all of which is embodied by Swift's music; the newspaper considered "New Romantics" (2016) as an millennial ode.[485]

According to a 2019 YPulse survey, Swift is the musician who best-represents millennials (ages 19–37).[486] She also represents "millennial anxiety" according to The Walrus's Joelle Kidd, who wrote that millennials have a tendency of "obsessive self-analysis" and self-awareness which "the hypercompetent Swift" has grown to embody, sharing her anxieties with an entire generation.[487] Today senior editor Elena Nicolaou noted how Swift culturally transformed millennial weddings as many couples choose to incorporate her music and aesthetics into the ceremonies.[488]

Discussing Swift's Generation Z appeal in the 2020s, Spanos stated that despite Gen Z forming a significant portion of Swift's newer fans, they do not "really understand the cultural history, the sociopolitical and cultural elements that have molded Taylor as a millennial woman because they grew up after that". As a result, some Gen Z may view some older Swift songs and lyrics as "cringe".[168] Vox and New Yorker called Swift the "millennial Bruce Springsteen", drawing numerous artistic and sociopolitical parallels between Swift and Springsteen's careers.[33][254] Similarly, The Times named Swift "the Bob Dylan of our age" and "the confessional queen of Noughties pop".[489] Paul Slanksy of Air Mail wrote in 2023, Swift is "a hit with the boomers too", observing rising numbers of "senior Swifties".[490]

As per Morning Consult, 45% of Swift's U.S. fans are millennial, 23% baby boomers, 21% Gen X, and 11% Gen Z.[312] YouGov surveys ranked her as the world's most admired female musician from 2019 to 2021.[491] Beyond music and business, Swift has also been cited as a role model by many millennial sportspersons, such as Simone Biles, Kobe Bryant, Jimmy Butler, Rob Gronkowski, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, Jessica Korda, Mikaela Shiffrin, Iga Swiatek, Russell Westbrook, Emma Weyant, and Serena Williams.[492]

Creative inspiration

Niall Horan in 2023
Olivia Rodrigo in 2021
Rina Sawayama in 2022
Halsey in 2019
Billie Eilish in 2022
Sabrina Carpenter in 2020
Conan Gray in 2019
Shawn Mendes
Swift has influenced a generation of artists, including Niall Horan, Olivia Rodrigo, Rina Sawayama, Halsey, Billie Eilish, Sabrina Carpenter, Conan Gray and Shawn Mendes.

Swift has influenced numerous music artists across genres since her debut.[98] Critics began noticing her influence on popular music in 2013,[8] and credit her albums with inspiring an entire generation of singer-songwriters.[23][92][493] Paul McCartney was inspired by Swift's artistry and fans to write the 2018 song "Who Cares".[494] Other acts who cited Swift as an influence include:

Various musicians have been inspired by other aspects of Swift's career, such as her work ethic and strategy, especially regarding artists' rights,[544] including Rodrigo, Joe Jonas,[545] Bryan Adams,[546] the Departed,[547] Snoop Dogg,[548] Ashanti,[549] Niki,[550] Paris Hilton,[551] SZA,[552] Rita Ora,[553] and Offset.[554] SZA said, "Taylor letting that whole situation go with her masters, then selling all of those fucking records. That's the biggest 'fuck you' to the establishment I've ever seen in my life, and I deeply applaud that shit."[552] Ashanti commented, "Taylor is amazing for what she's done and to be able to be a female in this very male-dominated industry, to accomplish that is amazing. Owning your property and getting a chance to have ownership of your creativity is so so important. Male, female, singer, rapper, whatever, I hope this is a lesson for artists to get in there and own."[549]

Swift has also helped artists achieve mainstream fame by having them on her tours as opening acts; examples include Bieber,[235] Ed Sheeran, Mendes, Cabello, and Charli XCX.[555] Filipino-British singer Beabadoobee, one of the openers at the Eras Tour, stated that touring with Swift was one of her dreams growing up.[556] American musicians Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner acknowledged Swift's role in expanding their careers as record producers. Antonoff stated, "Taylor's the first person who let me produce a song. Before Taylor, everyone said: 'You're not a producer'. It took Taylor Swift to say: 'I like the way this sounds'."[557][558]

Outside the music industry, Swift has inspired book authors,[559] film directors, and screenwriters, including Jenny Han (The Summer I Turned Pretty),[560] Abby McDonald (Bridgerton),[561] and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (Someone Great[562] and Do Revenge).[563] Swift has inspired impersonators such as Ashley Leechin,[564] Jade Jolie,[565] and Taylor Sheesh.[566]

Scholarly research

refer to caption
Swift performing "Love Story" (2008) with a male dancer in the O2 Arena, London, on February 10, 2014.

Swift is a subject of academic research.[100][567] Her artistry and fame are popular topics of scholarly media studies.[16][169] According to literature professor Elizabeth Scala, who dubbed Swift a bridge between contemporary and historical fiction, Swift's creativity is "contagious" and of particular interest to academics.[100] In the New York Times article "Taylor Swift is Singing Us Back to Nature", conservation scientist Jeff Opperman opined that Swift's songs are "filled with the language and images of the natural world", revitalizing themes of nature in popular culture after a reported decline in nature-themed words.[568] Songs like "Love Story" are studied by evolutionary psychologists to understand the relationship between popular music and human mating strategies.[569][570] Her fanbase is studied for their social capital, consumerist characteristics and interpersonal relationships.[467][463]

Academic programs

Various higher educational institutions offer undergraduate and elective courses focusing on Swift since 2022.[571][16] Indiana University Bloomington hosted a three-day academic conference on Swift's impact.[567]

List of courses on Swift offered by select educational institutions
Institution Course title Course description Ref.
New York University Tisch School of the Arts Swiftology 101 Swift's creative music entrepreneurship, legacy, image, genres, fandom, and analyses of youth, girlhood, race, ownership, American nationalism, and social media. [572]
Queen's University at Kingston Taylor Swift's Literary Legacy Swift's sociopolitical impact on contemporary culture, the recontextualization of her songs as literature, and exploration of her work within feminist and queer theory. [573]
St. Thomas University (Canada) Communications and Taylor Swift Swift's marketing, communication strategies, and use of social media. [574]
University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts The Taylor Swift Songbook Formalist literary criticism of Swift's songs alongside poets such as William Shakespeare, John Keats, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath. [575]
Binghamton University Taylor Swift, 21C Music Impact of the 21st-century music industry on Swift's music evolution, gender, race, sexuality, and business. [576]
Berklee College of Music Songs of Taylor Swift Swift's compositions, lyricism, global appeal, and musical evolution across her 10 albums. [577]
Stanford University All Too Well (Ten Week Version) In-depth analysis of "All Too Well" [578]
The Last Great American Songwriter: Storytelling With Taylor Swift Through the Eras Literary analysis of Swift's repertoire, lyrical evolution, and cultural impact. [579]
Queen Mary University of London Taylor Swift and Literature Swift's lyricism as literature, its canonicity, literary value, and critical theory in political, national, and historical contexts. [580]
Rice University Miss Americana: The Evolution and Lyrics of Taylor Swift Swift's cultural impact, songwriting evolution, femininity, social media, public opinion, whiteness, and feud. [581]
University of Kansas The Sociology of Taylor Swift Swift's fans as a community of interest and subculture [467]
Ghent University Songs of Taylor Swift Literary analysis of Swift's themes, styles and writing techniques [582]



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