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Smooth Bananas: A Brief History of Taylor Swift

The superstar artist Taylor Swift is more than a household name. She’s a monolith in the music industry for a lot of complex reasons. 

Swift grew up in Pennsylvania but soon migrated to Nashville, Tenn. to pursue a career in country music. She quickly became a hit sensation with her debut album, entitled with her own name, and she dominated the music scene with both her popularity and her ability to write honest singer-songwriter music. Like many artists, she wrote and performed her own music which added another level of appeal especially to those growing up in the age of YouTube and the internet, inspiring many to simulate her style by accompanying themselves at the guitar and recording themselves. 

Swift’s musical journey has been a rough one to be frank. She began as a firmly planted country artist, digging her heels into the style she was most comfortable with. However, after being picked up by record labels, much of her musical style became warped towards more pop-oriented styles to allow her to appeal to a much wider audience. This began her primarily “confessional” style of writing which garnered her much praise for their raw narrative but also became emotionally draining according to the singer. One criticism she received is that all of her music was about failed relationships and this unfair critique is what pushed her to activism. Swift began speaking out about the double standard in the music industry where if a woman writes a song about her previous relationships with men, she is ridiculed but if a man does the opposite, he’s never criticized quite the same way.  

Her albums take distinct turns toward the pop or even the more electronic/R&B type genres. This turn received some negative reception from her older fans but not enough to deter her momentum as an artist. This change happens after the album, “Red” in 2012. Some popular songs from this era include “Shake it Off,” “Blank Space,” and “Bad Blood,” all known for their distinctly non-country aspects. This change represented a stark directional shift for Swift as she evolved into a more independent songwriter. 

Eventually, she became involved in a publishing dispute about the master copies for the older songs in her catalog. Swift didn’t actually own most of the songs she sang when she released her first few albums which greatly upset her as she couldn’t profit fully off her work in this manner. Her manager Scooter Braun withheld most of the masters from her older albums and would only allow her to buy back the rights to them in exchange for the rights to her newer albums which she completely refused to do. Eventually, she won the dispute and is planning to release a re-recorded album of the songs from her second studio album, “Fearless.” 

Her modern era was initially marred by the COVID-19 pandemic but through the isolation of the quarantines, she was able to produce two albums, “Folklore” and “Evermore” to great critical acclaim. They represent a further evolution of Taylor Swift as an artist and one we all wish to see keep growing. The songs abandon the realism and the confessional and instead move towards a grander narrative presentation of romanticism and escapism. Swift has stated this style of writing is far more emotionally healthy than writing about events directly from her life. Taylor Swift continues to carve out her niche in the music world, gaining considerable acclaim for every outing. Like many seasoned artists, the 31-year-old singer-songwriter will only continue to develop with age. Taylor Swift’s career is certainly one to keep up on, although that won’t be difficult to do. 

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