Taylor Alison Swift (born December 13, 1989) is an American singer-songwriter. Her narrative songwriting, which often centers around her personal life, has received widespread critical plaudits and media coverage.
Born in West Reading, Pennsylvania, Swift relocated to Nashville, Tennessee in 2004 to pursue a career in country music. Her 2006 eponymous debut studio album was the longest-charting album of the 2000s on the Billboard 200. Its third single, "Our Song", made her the youngest person to single-handedly write and perform a number-one song on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Swift's second studio album, Fearless (2008), expands on country pop styles and won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Buoyed by the success of crossover singles "Love Story" and "You Belong with Me", Fearless was certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Speak Now (2010), her third studio album, blends country pop with rock sensibility and spawned the top-10 singles "Mine" and "Back to December".
Swift's fourth studio album, Red (2012), experiments with various pop, rock, and electronic genres. It included the top-five singles "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", her first Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit, and "I Knew You Were Trouble". With her fifth studio album, 1989 (2014), she announced her full transition to pop. The synth-pop record made Swift the first female solo artist to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year twice and amassed three Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits—"Shake It Off", "Blank Space", and "Bad Blood". She extended the electronic-pop sound on her next two studio albums: Reputation (2017), which incorporates elements of hip hop and featured the Billboard Hot 100 number-one single "Look What You Made Me Do", and Lover (2019), which was the world's best-selling studio album of 2019. Swift's indie folk and alternative rock eighth studio album, Folklore (2020), and its lead single, "Cardigan", made her the first act to debut atop both the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 simultaneously.
With sales of over 200 million records worldwide, Swift is one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Her accolades include 10 Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award, seven Guinness World Records, 32 American Music Awards (the most wins by an artist), and 23 Billboard Music Awards (the most wins by a woman). She ranked eighth on Billboard's Greatest of All Time Artists Chart and, as a songwriter, was recognized in Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time (2015). Swift has been included in various power rankings, such as Time's annual (2010, 2015 and 2019) and Forbes Celebrity 100 (placing first in 2016 and 2019). She was named Woman of the Decade (2010s) by Billboard and Artist of the Decade (2010s) by the American Music Awards, and two of her albums featured in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (2020).
Taylor Alison Swift was born on December 13, 1989, in West Reading, Pennsylvania. Her father, Scott Kingsley Swift, is a former stockbroker for Merrill Lynch; her mother, Andrea Gardner Swift (née Finlay), is a former homemaker who previously worked as a mutual fund marketing executive. Swift, who said she has Scottish heritage, was named after the singer-songwriter James Taylor. Her younger brother, Austin Kingsley Swift, is an actor. Swift spent her early years on a Christmas tree farm that her father purchased from one of his clients. Swift identifies as Christian. She attended preschool and kindergarten at the Alvernia Montessori School, run by the Bernadine Franciscan sisters, before transferring to The Wyndcroft School. The family moved to a rented house in the suburban town of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, where she attended Wyomissing Area Junior/Senior High School.
At age nine, Swift became interested in musical theater and performed in four Berks Youth Theatre Academy productions. She also traveled regularly to New York City for vocal and acting lessons. Swift later shifted her focus toward country music, inspired by Shania Twain's songs, which made her "want to just run around the block four times and daydream about everything." She spent weekends performing at local festivals and events. After watching a documentary about Faith Hill, Swift felt sure she needed to move to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a career in music. She traveled with her mother at age eleven to visit Nashville record labels and submitted demo tapes of Dolly Parton and The Chicks karaoke covers. She was rejected, however, because "everyone in that town wanted to do what I wanted to do. So, I kept thinking to myself, I need to figure out a way to be different."
When Swift was around 12 years old, computer repairman and local musician Ronnie Cremer taught her to play guitar. He helped with her first efforts as a songwriter, leading her to write "Lucky You". In 2003, Swift and her parents started working with New York-based talent manager Dan Dymtrow. With his help, Swift modeled for Abercrombie & Fitch as part of their "Rising Stars" campaign, had an original song included on a Maybelline compilation CD, and attended meetings with major record labels. After performing original songs at an RCA Records showcase, Swift was given an artist development deal and began making frequent trips to Nashville with her mother.
To help Swift break into country music, her father transferred to Merrill Lynch's Nashville office when she was 14 years old, and the family relocated to a lakefront house in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Swift attended Hendersonville High School but transferred to the Aaron Academy after two years, which could better accommodate her touring schedule through homeschooling; she graduated a year early.
In Nashville, Swift worked with experienced Music Row songwriters such as Troy Verges, Brett Beavers, Brett James, Mac McAnally, and the Warren Brothers, and formed a lasting working relationship with Liz Rose. They began meeting for two-hour writing sessions every Tuesday afternoon after school. Rose thought the sessions were "some of the easiest I've ever done. Basically, I was just her editor. She'd write about what happened in school that day. She had such a clear vision of what she was trying to say. And she'd come in with the most incredible hooks." Swift became the youngest artist signed by the Sony/ATV Tree publishing house but left the Sony-owned RCA Records at the age of 14. She later said: "I genuinely felt that I was running out of time. I wanted to capture these years of my life on an album while they still represented what I was going through."
At an industry showcase at Nashville's Bluebird Cafe in 2005, Swift caught the attention of Scott Borchetta, a DreamWorks Records executive who was preparing to form an independent record label, Big Machine Records. She had first met Borchetta in 2004. Swift became one of Big Machine's first signings, and her father purchased a three-percent stake in the company for an estimated $120,000. She began working on her eponymous debut album shortly after. Swift persuaded Big Machine to hire her demo producer Nathan Chapman, with whom she felt she had the right "chemistry". She wrote three of the album's songs alone, and co-wrote the remaining eight with Rose, Robert Ellis Orrall, Brian Maher, and Angelo Petraglia. Taylor Swift was released on October 24, 2006. Jon Caramanica of The New York Times described it as "a small masterpiece of pop-minded country, both wide-eyed and cynical, held together by Ms. Swift's firm, pleading voice." Taylor Swift peaked at number five on the Billboard 200 albums chart in the United States, spending 157 weeks there—the longest stay on the chart by any release in the U.S. that decade. As of August 2016, the album had sold over 7.75 million copies worldwide.
Big Machine Records was still in its infancy during the June 2006 release of the lead single, "Tim McGraw". Swift and her mother helped "stuff the CD singles into envelopes to send to radio." She spent much of 2006 promoting Taylor Swift with a radio tour, television appearances, and opening for Rascal Flatts on select dates during their 2006 tour after they fired their previous opening act, Eric Church, for playing longer than his allotted time. Church jokingly told Swift she should give him her first gold record as thanks for getting fired. She sent him her first gold record with a note that said, "Thanks for playing too long and too loud on the Flatts tour. I sincerely appreciate it. Taylor."
Borchetta said that although record industry peers initially disapproved of his signing a 16-year-old singer-songwriter, Swift tapped into a previously unknown market—teenage girls who listen to country music. Following "Tim McGraw", four more singles were released throughout 2007 and 2008: "Teardrops on My Guitar", "Our Song", "Picture to Burn" and "Should've Said No". All appeared on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart in the United States, with "Our Song", and "Should've Said No" reaching number one. With "Our Song", Swift became the youngest person to single-handedly write and perform a number-one song on the chart. "Teardrops on My Guitar" reached number thirteen on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart in the United States. Swift also released the holiday album in October 2007 and the EP Beautiful Eyes in July 2008. She promoted her debut album extensively as the opening act for other artists on their tours.
Swift won accolades for Taylor Swift. She was one of the recipients of the Nashville Songwriters Association's Songwriter/Artist of the Year in 2007, becoming the youngest person to be honored with the title. She also won the Country Music Association's Horizon Award for Best New Artist, the Academy of Country Music Awards' Top New Female Vocalist, and the American Music Awards' Favorite Country Female Artist honor. She was also nominated for Best New Artist at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards. She opened for the Rascal Flatts on their 2008 summer and fall tour. In July of that year, Swift began a romance with singer Joe Jonas that ended three months later.
Swift's second studio album, Fearless, was released on November 11, 2008. The lead single, "Love Story", was released in September 2008. It peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one in Australia. Four more singles were released throughout 2008 and 2009: "White Horse", "You Belong with Me", "Fifteen" and "Fearless". "You Belong with Me" was the album's highest-charting single on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number two. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and was the top-selling album of 2009 in the United States. Swift's first concert tour, the Fearless Tour, promoted the album and grossed over $63 million. Journey to Fearless, a three-part documentary miniseries, was aired on television and later released on DVD and Blu-ray. Swift also performed as a supporting act for Keith Urban's Escape Together World Tour. In 2009 CMT Music Awards, Swift won Video of the Year and Female Video of the Year for "Love Story", and made a parody video of the song with American rapper T-Pain called "Thug Story," which aired during the show.
In 2009, the music video for "You Belong with Me" was named Best Female Video at the MTV Video Music Awards. Her acceptance speech was interrupted by rapper Kanye West, an incident that became the subject of controversy, widespread media attention, and many Internet memes. James Montgomery of MTV argued the incident and subsequent media attention turned Swift into "a bona-fide mainstream celebrity". That year she won five American Music Awards, including Artist of the Year and Favorite Country Album. Billboard named her 2009's Artist of the Year. The album ranked number 99 on NPR's 2017 list of the 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women.
At the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, Fearless was named Album of the Year and Best Country Album, and "White Horse" was named Best Country Song and Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Swift was the youngest artist to win Album of the Year.[a] During the ceremony, Swift sang "You Belong with Me" and "Rhiannon" with Stevie Nicks, a performance that received negative reviews and caused media backlash. Jon Caramanica of The New York Times found it "refreshing to see someone so gifted make the occasional flub" and described Swift as "the most important new pop star of the past few years". Swift became the youngest artist to be named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association (CMA). Fearless also won the CMA Album of the Year Award.
Swift contributed backing vocals to John Mayer's "Half of My Heart", a single from his fourth album, Battle Studies (2009). She co-wrote and recorded "Best Days of Your Life" with Kellie Pickler, and co-wrote two songs for the Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack—"You'll Always Find Your Way Back Home" and "Crazier". Swift provided vocals and co-wrote for American rock band Boys Like Girls' "Two Is Better Than One". She contributed two songs to the Valentine's Day soundtrack, including the country-pop song "Today Was a Fairytale", which became her first number one on the Canadian Hot 100 chart and her second number-two peaking song in the U.S. While filming her cinematic debut Valentine's Day in October 2009, Swift began a romantic relationship with co-star Taylor Lautner; they broke up later that year. The romantic comedy, released in 2010, saw her play the ditzy girlfriend of a high school jock, a role which the Los Angeles Times felt showed Swift had "serious comedic potential". On the other hand, in a scathing review, a critic for Variety deemed her "entirely undirected", arguing "she needs to find a skilled director to tamp her down and channel her obviously abundant energy".
Swift made her TV acting debut in a 2009 episode of CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, playing a rebellious teenager. The New York Times noted the character allowed Swift to be "a little bit naughty, and credibly so". Later that year, Swift both hosted and performed as the musical guest on an episode of Saturday Night Live and was the first host to write their own opening monologue. Entertainment Weekly described her as "this season's best Saturday Night Live host so far", noting she "was always up for the challenge, seemed to be having fun, and helped the rest of the cast nail the punchlines".
In August 2010, Swift released "Mine", the lead single from her third studio album, Speak Now. It entered the U.S. charts at number three, making Swift the second female artist in the history of the Hot 100 (after Mariah Carey) to debut multiple tracks in the top five in one year; the other was "Today Was a Fairytale" at number two. Swift wrote the album alone and co-produced every track. Speak Now, released on October 25, 2010, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and was the 16th album in chart history to achieve opening week sales of one million copies. It became the fastest-selling digital album by a female artist, with 278,000 downloads in a week, earning Swift an entry in the 2010 Guinness World Records. Three of the album's singles, "Mine", "Back to December", and "Mean", peaked in the top ten in Canada, while in the U.S., the earlier two along with the title track peaked in the top 10 of the Hot 100 chart. Later in 2010, she briefly dated actor Jake Gyllenhaal.
"Mean" won Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. Swift performed it during the ceremony. Claire Suddath of Time felt she "delivered her comeback on-key and with a vengeance"; Jayme Deerwester of USA Today wrote that the criticism in 2010 seemed to have "made her a better songwriter and live performer". Swift won other awards for Speak Now, including Songwriter/Artist of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association (2010 and 2011), Woman of the Year by Billboard (2011), and Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music (2011 and 2012) and the Country Music Association in 2011. At the American Music Awards of 2011, Swift won Artist of the Year and Favorite Country Album. Rolling Stone placed Speak Now at number 45 in its 2012 list of the "50 Best Female Albums of All Time", writing: "She might get played on the country station, but she's one of the few genuine rock stars we've got these days, with a flawless ear for what makes a song click."
The Speak Now World Tour ran from February 2011 to March 2012 and grossed over $123 million. In November 2011, Swift released her first live album, Speak Now World Tour: Live. The following month, she contributed two original songs to The Hunger Games soundtrack album: "Safe & Sound", co-written and recorded with the Civil Wars and T-Bone Burnett, and "Eyes Open". "Safe & Sound" won the and was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. Swift contributed vocals to rapper B.o.B's "Both of Us", released in May 2012. From July to September 2012, Swift dated political heir Conor Kennedy. In August, Swift released "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", the lead single from her fourth studio album, Red. It became her first number one in the U.S. and New Zealand and reached the top slot on iTunes' digital song sales chart 50 minutes after its release, earning the Fastest Selling Single in Digital History Guinness World Record. Swift released the album's second single, "Begin Again", in October. It reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100. Other singles released from the album include "I Knew You Were Trouble", "22", "Everything Has Changed", "The Last Time", and "Red". "I Knew You Were Trouble" peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
Red was released on October 22, 2012, incorporating new genres for Swift, such as heartland rock, dubstep and dance-pop. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 1.21 million copies. This marked the highest opening sales in a decade in the United States, and made Swift the first female to have two million-selling album openings, a record recognized by the Guinness World Records. The Red Tour ran from March 2013 to June 2014 and grossed over $150 million; it broke the ticket sales record in China with all 18,000 tickets sold in 60 seconds. Red earned several accolades, including four nominations at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. Its single "I Knew You Were Trouble" won Best Female Video at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. Swift was named Best Female Country Artist at the 2012 American Music Awards and Artist of the Year at the 2013 ceremony. She received the Nashville Songwriters Association's Songwriter/Artist Award for the fifth and sixth consecutive years in 2012 and 2013. Swift was also honored by the Association with a special Pinnacle Award, making her the second recipient of the accolade after Garth Brooks. During this time, she had a short-term relationship with British singer Harry Styles.
In 2013, Swift co-wrote and co-produced "Sweeter than Fiction" with Jack Antonoff for the One Chance film soundtrack and received a Best Original Song nomination at the 71st Golden Globe Awards. She provided guest vocals for Tim McGraw's song "Highway Don't Care", featuring guitar work by Keith Urban. Swift performed "As Tears Go By" with the Rolling Stones in Chicago, Illinois as part of the band's 50 & Counting tour; after the performance, she stated that the band was a major influence on her career outlook. She also joined Florida Georgia Line on stage during their set at the 2013 Country Radio Seminar to sing "Cruise". Swift voiced Audrey, a tree lover, in the animated film The Lorax (2012), made a cameo in the sitcom New Girl (2013), and had a supporting role in the film adaptation of The Giver (2014).
In March 2014, Swift relocated to New York City. Around this time, she was working on her fifth studio album, 1989, with co-writers Antonoff, Max Martin, Shellback, Imogen Heap, Ryan Tedder, and Ali Payami. She promoted the album through various campaigns, including inviting fans to secret album-listening sessions. Credited as her "first documented, official pop album", it marked a departure from her country albums. The album was released on October 27, 2014.
1989 sold 1.28 million copies in the U.S. during the first week of release and debuted atop the Billboard 200. This made Swift the first act to have three albums sell more than one million copies in their opening week, for which she earned a Guinness World Record. As of June 2017, 1989 had sold over 10 million copies worldwide. The album was supported by three U.S. number-one singles—"Shake It Off", "Blank Space", and "Bad Blood" featuring rapper Kendrick Lamar, two U.S. top-10 entries—"Style" and "Wildest Dreams", and two U.S. top-50 entries—"Out of the Woods" and "New Romantics". "Shake It Off", "Blank Space", and "Bad Blood" also topped the charts in Australia and Canada. The video for "Bad Blood" won Video of the Year and Best Collaboration at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. The 1989 World Tour ran from May to December 2015 and was the highest-grossing tour of the year with $250 million in total revenue.
Prior to 1989's release, Swift stressed the importance of albums to artists and fans. In November 2014, she removed her entire catalog from Spotify, arguing that the streaming company's ad-supported, free service undermined the premium service, which provides higher royalties for songwriters. In a June 2015 open letter, Swift criticized Apple Music for not offering royalties to artists during the streaming service's free three-month trial period and stated that she would pull 1989 from the catalog. The following day, Apple announced that it would pay artists during the free trial period, and Swift agreed to stream 1989 on the streaming service. Swift's intellectual property rights management and holding company, TAS Rights Management, filed for 73 trademarks related to Swift and the 1989 era memes. She re-added her entire catalog plus 1989 to Spotify, Amazon Music and Google Play and other digital streaming platforms in June 2017.
Swift was named Billboard's Woman of the Year in 2014, becoming the first artist to win the award twice. At the 2014 American Music Awards, Swift received the inaugural Dick Clark Award for Excellence. In 2015, Swift won the Brit Award for International Female Solo Artist. Swift was one of eight artists to receive a 50th Anniversary Milestone Award at the 2015 Academy of Country Music Awards. At the 58th Grammy Awards in 2016, 1989 won three awards—Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, and Best Music Video for "Bad Blood". Swift was the first woman and fifth act overall to win Album of the Year twice as a lead artist. She dated Scottish DJ and record producer Calvin Harris from March 2015 to June 2016. Prior to their breakup, Swift and Harris co-wrote the song "This Is What You Came For", which featured vocals from Barbadian singer Rihanna; Swift was initially credited under the pseudonym Nils Sjöberg. She subsequently dated English actor Tom Hiddleston for a few months, and began dating English actor Joe Alwyn from September 2016. Swift wrote the song "Better Man" for Little Big Town's seventh album, The Breaker, which was released in November. The song earned Swift an award for Song of the Year at the 51st CMA Awards. Swift and English singer Zayn Malik released a single together, "I Don't Wanna Live Forever", for the soundtrack of the film Fifty Shades Darker (2017). The song reached number two in the U.S and won Best Collaboration at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards.
In August 2017, Swift successfully sued David Mueller, a former morning show personality for Denver's KYGO-FM. Four years earlier, Swift had informed Mueller's bosses that he had sexually assaulted her by groping her at an event. After being fired, Mueller accused Swift of lying and sued her for damages from his loss of employment. Shortly after, Swift counter-sued for sexual assault for a dollar. The jury rejected Mueller's claims and ruled in favor of Swift. Swift thereafter cleared her social media accounts and then released "Look What You Made Me Do" as the lead single from her sixth album, Reputation. The song topped the charts in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, and the U.S.
Swift released Reputation in November 2017. The album incorporates a heavier, darker electropop sound, with hip hop and EDM influences, new genres for Swift. It debuted atop the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 1.21 million copies. With this achievement, Swift became the first act to have four albums sell one million copies within one week in the U.S. The album topped the charts in the UK, Australia, and Canada. First-week worldwide sales amounted to two million copies. The album has sold over 4.5 million copies worldwide as of 2018. It spawned six other singles, including the U.S. top-five entry "...Ready for It?", and three top-20 singles—"End Game", featuring Ed Sheeran and rapper Future, "Gorgeous", and "Delicate". Other singles include "New Year's Day", which was exclusively released to U.S. country radio, and "Getaway Car", which served as the final single in Australia.
In April 2018, Swift featured on Sugarland's "Babe" from their album Bigger.[b] In support of Reputation, she embarked on her Reputation Stadium Tour, which ran from May to November 2018. In the U.S., the tour grossed $266.1 million in box office and sold over two million tickets, breaking Swift's own record for the highest-grossing U.S. tour by a woman, which was previously held by her 1989 World Tour in 2015 ($181.5 million). It also broke the record for the highest-grossing North American concert tour in history. Worldwide, the tour grossed $345.7 million, making it the second highest-grossing concert tour of the year. At the American Music Awards of 2018, Swift won Tour of the Year, Artist of the Year, Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist, and Favorite Pop/Rock Album for Reputation. With a total of 23 awards, she became the most awarded female winner in AMA history, a record previously held by Whitney Houston.
Reputation was Swift's last album under her 12-year contract with Big Machine Records. In November 2018, she signed a new multi-album deal with Big Machine's distributor Universal Music Group; in the U.S., her subsequent releases were promoted under the Republic Records imprint. Swift said the contract included a provision for her to maintain ownership of her master recordings. In addition, in the event that Universal sells any part of its stake in Spotify, Spotify agreed to distribute a non-recoupable portion of the proceeds among their artists. In late November, Big Machine Records released a Reputation Stadium Tour playlist for streaming services. The playlist includes every song performed on B-stages during the Reputation Stadium Tour. On December 31, Swift released her Reputation Stadium Tour's accompanying concert film on Netflix.
Swift released her seventh studio album, Lover, on August 23, 2019. Lover was Swift's sixth consecutive album to sell more than 500,000 copies in a single week, making Swift the first female artist to do so. All 18 songs from the album charted on the Billboard Hot 100 the same week, setting a record for the most simultaneous entries by a woman. It was the world's best-selling studio album of 2019, selling 3.2 million copies. Three singles preceded the release of Lover: "Me!", "You Need to Calm Down", and "Lover", all of which reached the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Me!" debuted at number 100 and rose to number two a week later, scoring the biggest single-week jump in chart history. The fourth single, "The Man", reached the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. At the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards, "Me!" won Best Visual Effects, and "You Need to Calm Down" won Video of the Year and Video for Good. Swift was the first female and second artist overall to win Video of the Year for a video that they directed. The (IFPI) honored Swift as the global best-selling artist of 2019. This made Swift the first woman to win the honor twice; she had previously won in 2014.
At the 2019 American Music Awards, Swift won six awards, including Artist of the Year and Artist of the Decade. Swift cast as Bombalurina in the movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Cats (2019). She recorded and released "Beautiful Ghosts", an original song she wrote with Webber for the film's soundtrack in November 2019. Although critics reviewed the film negatively, Swift's role received positive feedback. Her documentary Miss Americana, which chronicles part of Swift's life and career, premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was released on Netflix on January 31. The documentary features the song "Only the Young", which Swift wrote after the 2018 United States elections. In February 2020, Swift signed an exclusive global publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing Group, after her 16-year-old contract with Sony/ATV Music Publishing expired. Footage from Swift's 2019 City of Lover concert in Paris, which was part of a promotion campaign for her album Lover, aired on ABC on May 17, 2020. Swift released live versions of the Lover tracks she performed at the concert after the television special's premiere.
During promotion of Lover in 2019, Swift became embroiled in a publicized dispute with talent manager Scooter Braun and her former label Big Machine, regarding the acquisition of the masters of her back catalog. Swift disdained the transaction, stating she had been trying to buy the masters for years, and described Braun as an "incessant, manipulative bully". She claimed that Braun offered her a chance at bidding on her masters on the condition of signing a non-disclosure agreement regarding her public statements on Braun, which she refused. According to Swift, Braun and Big Machine founder Scott Borchetta blocked her from performing her older songs at the 2019 American Music Awards and from using older material for the documentary Miss Americana, which were later resolved. In April 2020, Big Machine released Live from Clear Channel Stripped 2008, a live album of Swift's performances at a 2008 radio show, which Swift did not authorize. In October, Braun sold Swift's masters, videos and artworks, to Shamrock Holdings for $300 million. Swift began re-recording her back catalog in November 2020, and declined an offer by Shamrock to become an equity partner, on the grounds that Braun would continue to profit from her work.
Swift's eighth studio album, Folklore, was a surprise album released on July 24, 2020. Written and recorded while Swift was in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, the album includes collaborations with Bon Iver, Aaron Dessner, and Jack Antonoff. The album's indie folk production and Swift's vivid lyrics received critical acclaim. Folklore sold two million units worldwide within its first week and broke the record for first-day album streams by a female artist on Spotify. The lead single "Cardigan" debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100, making Swift the first artist to debut atop both the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 in the same week. Other singles from the album were Billboard Hot 100 top-10 entries "Exile" and "The 1", and country radio single "Betty". At the 2020 American Music Awards, Swift won three awards, including Artist of the Year for a record third consecutive time. On November 25, she released the self-directed concert film Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions on Disney+. At the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, Swift received six nominations, including Album of the Year.
One of Swift's earliest musical memories is listening to her maternal grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, sing in church. As a child, she enjoyed Disney film soundtracks: "My parents noticed that, once I had run out of words, I would just make up my own". Swift has said she owes her confidence to her mother, who helped her prepare for class presentations as a child. She also attributes her "fascination with writing and storytelling" to her mother. Swift was drawn to the storytelling aspect of country music, and was introduced to the genre listening to "the great female country artists of the '90s"—Shania Twain, Faith Hill, and the Dixie Chicks." Twain, both as a songwriter and performer, was her biggest musical influence. Hill was Swift's childhood role model: "Everything she said, did, wore, I tried to copy it". She admired the Dixie Chicks' defiant attitude and their ability to play their own instruments. The band's "Cowboy Take Me Away" was the first song Swift learned to play on the guitar. Swift also explored the music of older country stars, including Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Tammy Wynette. She believes Parton is "an amazing example to every female songwriter out there". Alt-country artists like Patty Griffin and Lori McKenna have also inspired Swift.
Swift has also been influenced by various pop and rock artists. She lists Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, and Carly Simon as her career role models. Discussing McCartney and Harris, Swift has said, "They've taken chances, but they've also been the same artist for their entire careers". McCartney, both as a Beatle and a solo artist, makes Swift feel "as if I've been let into his heart and his mind [...] He's out there continuing to make his fans so happy. Any musician could only dream of a legacy like that." She likes Springsteen for being "so musically relevant after such a long period of time". She aspires to be like Harris as she grows older because of prioritizing music over fame. Swift says of Kristofferson that he "shines in songwriting", and admires Simon for being "an emotional" but "a strong person". Her synth-pop album 1989 was influenced by some of her favorite 1980s pop acts, including Peter Gabriel, Annie Lennox, Phil Collins and Madonna. Swift named Pete Wentz and Lana Del Rey as her favorite lyricists.
Swift's music consists primarily of elements of pop, synth-pop, country, country pop and rock. Her later works draw from genres such as indie folk, alternative rock, R&B, EDM, hip hop and trap. Swift described herself as a country artist until the release of 1989 (2014), which she characterized as her first "sonically cohesive pop album". Rolling Stone wrote, "[Swift] might get played on the country station, but she's one of the few genuine rock stars we've got these days." According to The New York Times, "There isn't much in Ms. Swift's music to indicate country—a few banjo strums, a pair of cowboy boots worn onstage, a bedazzled guitar—but there's something in her winsome, vulnerable delivery that's unique to Nashville." The Guardian wrote that Swift "cranks melodies out with the pitiless efficiency of a Scandinavian pop factory."
Swift's singing voice was described by Sophie Schillaci of The Hollywood Reporter as "sweet, but soft". The Los Angeles Times identified Swift's "defining" vocal gesture in studio recordings as "the line that slides down like a contented sigh or up like a raised eyebrow, giving her beloved girl-time hits their air of easy intimacy". Rolling Stone, in a Speak Now review, wrote: "Swift's voice is unaffected enough to mask how masterful she has become as a singer; she lowers her voice for the payoff lines in the classic mode of a shy girl trying to talk tough." In another review of Speak Now, The Village Voice wrote that her phrasing was previously "bland and muddled, but that's changed. She can still sound strained and thin, and often strays into a pitch that drives some people crazy; but she's learned how to make words sound like what they mean." NPR Music described her singing as personal and conversational thanks to her "exceptional gift for inflection", but also suffers from a "wobbly pitch and tight, nasal delivery". The Hollywood Reporter wrote that her live vocals are "fine", but they do not match those of her peers. Swift has been praised for refusing to correct her pitch with Auto-Tune. Swift is a mezzo-soprano.
In an interview with The New Yorker, Swift characterized herself primarily as a songwriter: "I write songs, and my voice is just a way to get those lyrics across." A writer for The Tennessean conceded in 2010 that Swift is "not the best technical singer", but described her as the "best communicator that we've got". Swift's vocal presence is something that concerns her and she has "put a lot of work" into improving it. It was reported in 2010 that she continues to take vocal lessons. She has said that she only feels nervous performing "if I'm not sure what the audience thinks of me, like at award shows".
Swift uses her life experiences as an inspiration in her work. She often addresses the "anonymous crushes of her high school years" and celebrities in her early songs. Swift frequently criticizes ex-boyfriends, an aspect of her songwriting downplayed by The Village Voice: "Being told What Songs Mean is like having a really pushy professor. And it imperils a true appreciation of Swift's talent, which is not confessional, but dramatic." However, New York believes the media scrutiny over her decision to "mine her personal life for music ... is sexist, inasmuch as it's not asked of her male peers". Swift said that not all of her songs are factual, and they are sometimes based on observations or fictional narratives. Aside from clues provided in her liner notes, Swift tries not to talk about song subjects specifically "because these are real people. You try to give insight as to where you were coming from as a writer without completely throwing somebody under the bus."
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.
The Guardian has praised Swift for writing about teenage years "with a kind of wistful, sepia-toned nostalgia" over the course of her first two albums. New York has remarked that many singer-songwriters have made great records as teens, but "none made great records so explicitly about their teens". The magazine has also compared her work to Brian Wilson. In Fearless, Swift featured fairy tale imagery and explored the disconnect "between fairy tales and the reality of love". Her later albums address more adult relationships. In addition to romance and love, Swift's songs have discussed parent-child relationships, friendships, alienation, fame, and career ambitions. Swift frequently includes "a tossed-off phrase to suggest large and serious things that won't fit in the song, things that enhance or subvert the surface narrative".
Rolling Stone describes Swift as "a songwriting savant with an intuitive gift for verse-chorus-bridge architecture". According to The Village Voice, she often uses third-verse point of view reversals. In terms of imagery, repetition is evident in Swift's songwriting. In The Guardian's words, "she spends so much time kissin' in the rain that it seems a miracle she hasn't developed trenchfoot". Slant Magazine adds, "to Swift's credit, she explores new lyrical motifs over the course of [her fourth] album". Although reviews of Swift's work are "almost uniformly positive", The New Yorker has said she is generally portrayed "more as a skilled technician than as a Dylanesque visionary".
Swift has collaborated with many different directors to produce her music videos, and over time she has become more involved with writing and directing. She has her own production house, Taylor Swift Productions, Inc., which is credited with producing music videos for singles such as "Me!", and is known for hiding elaborate clues and easter eggs in most of her work. In 2010, Swift co-directed the music video for "Mine" with Roman White. In 2011, she continued to collaborate with White on the music videos for "Mean" and "Ours". Swift developed the concept and treatment for "Mean". In an interview, White elaborated that Swift "was keenly involved in writing the treatment, casting and wardrobe. And she stayed for both the 15-hour shooting days, even when she wasn't in the scenes." Swift wrote the concept for the "Ours" music video and then brought in White to direct, describing her vision of both videos as being "storylines".
From 2014 to 2018, Swift collaborated with director Joseph Kahn on eight music videos—four each from her albums 1989 and Reputation. Kahn has praised Swift's involvement in the craft. In 2016, Swift worked with American Express for her "Blank Space" music video (which Kahn directed), and released the interactive app AMEX Unstaged: Taylor Swift Experience. Swift received starring and executive producer credit, and in 2015 won a Primetime Emmy Award in the Outstanding Interactive Program category for the app. She received producing credit in her music video for "Bad Blood". Swift developed the concept, wrote the treatment for, and starred in the music video for the Sugarland song "Babe" (2018). She has emerged as a music video director, co-directing the music videos for three Lover singles: "Me!" with Dave Meyers, and "You Need to Calm Down" and "Lover" with Drew Kirsch. She co-executive produced the second of them with Todrick Hall. She was the sole director of the videos for "The Man" and "Cardigan".
Swift's personal life has been the subject of widespread media attention. In 2013, Abercrombie & Fitch marketed a slogan T-shirt with a "slut-shaming" remark directed toward her. The New York Times asserted in 2013 that her "dating history has begun to stir what feels like the beginning of a backlash". They questioned whether Swift was in the midst of a "quarter-life crisis". Swift is unwilling to publicly discuss her personal life; she believes that talking about it can be "a career weakness". In 2015, singer Ray Stevens released his album Here We Go Again which included the single "Taylor Swift Is Stalkin' Me".
Rolling Stone remarked upon her polite manner: "If this is Swift's game face, it must be tattooed on because it never drops", and noted her "ease with glad-handing". The Hollywood Reporter described Swift as "the Best People Person since Bill Clinton". While presenting Swift with an award for her humanitarian endeavors in 2012, Michelle Obama described her 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". Swift considers Obama to be a role model. According to The New York Times and marketing executive Matt B. Britton, Swift's business savvy has helped her "excel as an authentic personality who establishes direct connections with her audience", "touch as many people as possible", and "generate a kind of advocacy and excitement that no level of advertising could".
Swift is one of the most-followed people on social media; as of September 2020, she has over 140 million followers on Instagram, 87 million followers on Twitter and 39 million subscribers on YouTube. She is known for her frequent and friendly online interactions with her fans. She has visited fans in hospitals and delivered holiday gifts to them by mail and in person, an event dubbed "Swiftmas", and considers it her "responsibility" to be conscious of her influence on young fans. She has called her relationship with her fans "the longest and best" she has ever had. Often labeled by the media as "America's Sweetheart", a sobriquet based on her down-to-earth personality and girl-next-door image, Swift insists she does not "live by all these rigid, weird rules that make me feel all fenced in. I just like the way that I feel like, and that makes me feel very free". She refuses to take part in overly-sexualized photo shoots, although Bloomberg L.P. views her as a sex symbol. She has been recognized as a fashion icon; Vogue named her an Icon of American Style in 2011. In 2014, she topped People's annual best-dressed list. In 2015, she was named Woman of the Year at the Elle Style Awards and ranked first on Maxim's Hot 100 list.
Swift's early success as a country singer-songwriter plays an important role in shaping the modern country music scene. New York journalist Jody Rosen asserts that Swift is the first country artist whose success reaches the world beyond the United States. Following Swift's rise to fame, country labels have become more interested in signing young singers who write their own music. With her autobiographical narratives revolving around romance and heartbreak—which defy traditionally conservative values represented in country music—Swift introduces the genre to a younger generation that could relate to her personal struggles. Her onstage performance with guitars contributed to the "Taylor Swift factor", a phenomenon to which media outlets attribute the rise in guitar sales to women, a previously ignored demographic.
Swift's success in the 2010s, particularly in terms of record sales, cemented her power as a leading figure in the music industry. Although Swift's image has transitioned from country to pop, her narrative songwriting, nurtured by her country background, offers a sense of authenticity that retains significant devotion from young audiences. Buoyed by her strong fan base, Swift is the only artist to have four albums sell over a million copies within one week since Nielsen SoundScan started tracking sales for the Billboard 200 in 1991, a remarkable feat following the decline of the album era. For New York magazine, Swift's million-selling albums, amidst an influx of streaming and a continuous decline in traditional album sales, prove that she is "the one bending the music industry to her will". According to Rolling Stone, Swift's opposition to low-royalty streaming services and efforts to claim rights to her masters were two of the defining moments for the music industry in the 2010s decade. Her actions have fostered debate over reforms to on-demand music streaming and prompted awareness of intellectual property rights among younger musicians.
In 2019, Swift was named Woman of the Decade of the 2010s by Billboard and became the first woman to earn the title Artist of the Decade (2010s) at the American Music Awards. Musician Jack Antonoff cited Swift as the main reason why he started producing music. Swift and her work have influenced various recording artists, including Kelsea Ballerini, Shamir Bailey, Bailey Bryan, Ruth B., Camila Cabello, Sabrina Carpenter, The Chainsmokers, Girl in Red, Selena Gomez, Ellie Goulding, Conan Gray, Halsey, Niall Horan, Shawn Mendes, Maren Morris, Nina Nesbitt, Niki, Finneas O'Connell, Katy Perry, Olivia Rodrigo, Tegan and Sara, Troye Sivan, Greyson Chance, and the Vamps.
Swift has won 10 Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award, 32 American Music Awards (most wins by an artist), 23 Billboard Music Awards (most wins by a female artist), seven Guinness World Records, 12 Country Music Association Awards (including the Pinnacle Award), eight Academy of Country Music Awards, and a Brit Award. As a songwriter, she has been honored by the Nashville Songwriters Association and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and was the youngest person included on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time in 2015. At the 64th BMI Awards in 2016, Swift was the first woman to be honored with an award named after its recipient. Her albums Red and 1989 featured on Rolling Stone's 2020 revision of their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Swift has sold over 50 million albums, including 37.3 million in the U.S., and 150 million singles worldwide. She has amassed more than 97 million units in global album consumption, including 54 billion streams, as of February 2020. In 2019, Billboard placed Swift eighth on its Greatest of All Time Artists Chart. She is the woman with the most cumulative weeks (48) atop the Billboard 200 and the highest certified female digital singles artist in the U.S., with a total of 134 million units certified by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). She is the first female artist to have both an album (Fearless) and a song ("Shake It Off") certified Diamond by the RIAA. The top female touring artist of the 2010s, she broke the record for the highest-grossing U.S. tour of all time with her Reputation Stadium Tour (2018).
Swift has appeared in various power listings. Time included her on its annual list of the 100 most influential people in 2010, 2015, and 2019. She was one of the "Silence Breakers" who spoke up about sexual assault, and were honored as Time Person of the Year in 2017. From 2011 to 2020, she appeared in the top three on the Forbes Top-Earning Women in Music list, topping the list in 2016 and 2019. She also topped the magazine's list of the 100 highest-paid celebrities in 2016 with $170 million—a feat recognized by the Guinness World Records—and again in 2019 with $185 million. In 2014, she was named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 list in the music category and again in 2017 in its "All-Star Alumni" category. In 2015, Swift became the youngest woman to be included on Forbes' list of the 100 most powerful women, ranked at number 64. In June 2019, Forbes estimated Swift's net worth at $360 million. Swift was the most googled female music artist of 2019 and the highest-paid female musician of the 2010s, placing second on Forbes's list of Top-Earning Musicians of the Decade with earnings of $825 million.
Swift's philanthropic efforts have been recognized by the Do Something Awards and the Tennessee Disaster Services. She has received The Big Help Award for her "dedication to helping others" and "inspiring others through action" and the Ripple of Hope Award for her "dedication to advocacy at such a young age". In 2008, she donated $100,000 to the Red Cross to help the victims of the Iowa flood. Swift has performed at charity relief events including Sydney's Sound Relief concert. She also recorded a song for the Hope for Haiti Now album. In response to the May 2010 Tennessee floods, Swift donated $500,000 during a telethon hosted by WSMV. In 2011, Swift used a dress rehearsal of her Speak Now tour as a benefit concert for victims of recent tornadoes in the U.S., raising more than $750,000. In 2016, she donated $1 million to Louisiana flood relief efforts and $100,000 to the Dolly Parton Fire Fund. Swift donated to the Houston Food Bank after Hurricane Harvey struck the city in 2017. In 2020, she donated $1 million for Tennessee tornado relief.
Swift is a supporter of the arts. She is a benefactor of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and, in 2010, donated $75,000 to Nashville's Hendersonville High School to help refurbish the school auditorium. In 2012, she pledged $4 million to fund the building of a new education center at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. That year, she also partnered with textbook rental company Chegg to donate $60,000 to the music departments of six US colleges. In 2013, Swift donated $100,000 to the Nashville Symphony. Swift also promotes children's literacy; in 2009, she donated $250,000 to various schools around the country to improve education. She also donated thousands of books to the Reading Public Library in Pennsylvania, the Nashville Public Library in Tennessee, and New York City schools.
In 2007, Swift partnered with the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police to launch a campaign to protect children from online predators. In 2009, Swift recorded a Sound Matters public service announcement (PSA) to raise awareness for the importance of listening "responsibly" to prevent hearing impairment. She has donated items to several charities for auction, including the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the UNICEF Tap Project, MusiCares, and Feeding America. As recipient of the Academy of Country Music's Entertainer of the Year in 2011, Swift donated $25,000 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Tennessee. In 2012, Swift participated in the Stand Up to Cancer telethon, performing "Ronan", a song she wrote in memory of a four-year-old boy who died of neuroblastoma. The song was made available for digital download with all proceeds donated to cancer-related charities. She has also worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Habitat for Humanity. In 2014, she donated $100,000 to the V Foundation for Cancer Research and $50,000 to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Swift has encouraged young people to volunteer in their local communities as part of Global Youth Service Day.
Swift donated to American singer-songwriter Kesha to help with her legal battles against Dr. Luke and to actress Mariska Hargitay's Joyful Heart Foundation organization. In 2019, she donated $113,000 to the LGBT organization Tennessee Equality Project, as well as to the media advocacy organization GLAAD in support of Pride Month. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Swift donated to the World Health Organization and Feeding America and offered one of her signed guitars as part of an auction to raise money for the National Health Service. Swift performed "Soon You'll Get Better" during One World: Together At Home television special, a benefit concert curated by Lady Gaga for Global Citizen to raise funds for the World Health Organization's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. In June 2020, she donated to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in light of the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement and urged fans to do the same. As well as charitable causes, Swift has made donations to many of her fans.
Swift identifies as a feminist and pro-choice. During the 2008 United States presidential election, she promoted the Every Woman Counts campaign, aimed at engaging women in the political process. She was one of many country stars to record a PSA for the Vote (For Your) Country campaign. During her acceptance speech at the Billboard Women in Music summit in 2019, she spoke out against sexism and misogyny. She was one of the founding signatories of the Time's Up movement against sexual harassment. Swift has also spoken out against LGBT discrimination. Following the 2008 murder of openly gay teenager Larry King, she recorded a GLSEN PSA aimed at combating hate crimes. The music video for Swift's anti-bullying song "Mean" deals in part with homophobia in high schools; it was nominated for an MTV VMA social activism award in 2011. After the Orlando nightclub shooting in June 2016, Swift penned a letter to honor the victims. She encouraged support for the Equality Act in a letter addressed to Senator Lamar Alexander and a petition on Change.org, which accumulated over 800,000 signatures and responses from the White House and various Democratic legislators. Swift called on the Trump administration to pass the Equality Act at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards and during Pride Live's 2020 Stonewall Day livestream event, where she criticized the 2020 U.S. Census for excluding transgender and non-binary people.
Swift avoided discussing politics in her early career, but she has become politically active since the 2018 United States elections. She has supported the March for Our Lives movement and gun control reform in the U.S. She endorsed candidates for public office for the first time ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, declaring her support for two Democratic candidates to represent Tennessee in the House of Representatives and the Senate. In her endorsement, Swift expressed her desire for greater LGBT rights and gender and racial equality, condemned systemic racism, and encouraged her fans to vote according to their personal values. In August 2020, Swift urged her fans to check their voter registration ahead of elections. Vote.org reported that 65,000 people had registered to vote within 24 hours of Swift's post, an unprecedented surge even accounting for usual registration increases as deadlines approach. She endorsed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the 2020 United States presidential election and was found to be one of the most influential celebrities in the polls. She lent her song "Only the Young" for use in an advertisement to increase voter turnout.
Swift is a vocal critic of white supremacy, systemic racism, and police brutality in the U.S. In May 2020, she called for justice in the deaths of African-American men Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. Swift shared resources to support the Black Lives Matter movement and an essay written by former President Barack Obama on policy change in the wake of the George Floyd protests, advocating for mail-in voting for the 2020 U.S. elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. She called for the removal of racist Confederate monuments in Tennessee and advocated for Juneteenth to become a national holiday.
While promoting her debut album, Swift appeared as the face of Verizon Wireless' Mobile Music campaign. In the Fearless era, she launched a l.e.i. sundress range at Wal-Mart, and designed American Greetings cards and Jakks Pacific dolls. She became a spokesperson for the National Hockey League's (NHL) Nashville Predators and Sony Cyber-shot digital cameras. She released a special edition of her album Speak Now through Target. Swift became a CoverGirl spokesmodel and launched two Elizabeth Arden fragrances—Wonderstruck and Wonderstruck Enchanted.
While promoting her fourth album, Red, Swift offered exclusive album promotions through Target, Papa John's Pizza, and Walgreens. She became a spokesmodel for Diet Coke, and Keds sneakers, released her third Elizabeth Arden fragrance, named Taylor by Taylor Swift, and continued her partnerships with Sony Electronics and American Greetings. Swift released her fourth fragrance, Taylor by Taylor Swift: Made of Starlight, and partnered with the companies AirAsia and Qantas during the Red Tour. The companies acted as the official airlines for the Australian and Asian legs; Cornetto sponsored the Asian leg of the tour. While promoting 1989, Swift had tie-ins with Subway, Keds, Target, Xfinity, and Diet Coke. In 2014, Swift released her fifth fragrance, Incredible Things, in 2014. In 2016, she worked with Apple Music to release a series of three commercials.
Swift signed a multi-year deal with AT&T in 2016. She later headlined DirecTV's Super Saturday Night event on the eve of the 2017 Super Bowl. While promoting Reputation, Swift released a series of behind-the-scenes videos showing the album recording process through DirecTV. In 2018, Swift released two commercials for AT&T. The same year, Swift partnered with UPS as an official delivery partner for Reputation and Fujifilm on a special-edition autographed Instax camera, which includes a selfie-mode and double exposure. The cameras showed massive growth in sales after partnership with Swift. In 2019, Swift signed a multi-year partnership with Capital One, and released a sustainable fashion clothing line with Stella McCartney. Vogue regards Swift as one of the world's most influential figure in sustainable fashion.