An exploration of an artist who not only redefined what it is to be a modern day celebrity but also what it is like to be part of the modern music industry.
Words By Robyn Cowie
A famous old quote about Taylor Swift is that she “is the music industry”; however, I feel, especially in the last eight years of the award winning singers career, she is evoking change within an industry, rather than just dominating an industry which needs reform. Whether it is in her creative content, musicianship, being a woman in the industry, through advocacy for musicians owning their works, to calling out streaming services for the minal pay for streams, being part of the #MeToo Movement, having very public relationships, friendships and feuds, being analysed by brutal media scrutiny, to continuing to sell millions of records. Taylor Swift is doing much more than anyone realises. She is always steps ahead of both her dedicated fan base and the music industry as a whole.
For me, my admiration of Taylor Swift has evolved as both she and I have matured. I have followed her since first watching the music video for Love Story, during a lunchtime on a rainy day stuck inside in primary school. I had always been somewhat familiar with Swift’s songs quietly gracing the background of my kitchen through the radio whilst I ate my cereals before heading to school.However, it was not until I heard an interview with Swift on said radio, where she discussed her new album Red, when my attention was caught. Although it would take many more years for me to truly appreciate Taylor Swift as both a musician but also as a woman I would look to for inspiration.
At the same time she caught the world’s attention, following the progression of her now synonymous era’s which go along with each of her albums, and also her all encompassing touring shows. Taylor Swift invites us to experience where she is within her life, albeit in a highly constructed way, due to her firm belief in the right to a private life. Nonetheless, there is a vast amount of shared content between Swift and her audience, such as her use of ‘Secret Session’ to engage her fans with her latest album, how she exposes her creative process, allowing her fan base to actively engage in her mastery. Swift seems to be in complete control of her lyrics, content and marketing, something which has grown with each album and as she has matured into her stardom. She has learnt her worth as a star, the power she has in her industry but also as a person with a platform to be vocal in regards to issues which she is passionate about. This is something which she has had to learn along the way, and something I admire, as someone who myself is still learning the importance of vocalising what you believe in.
In the last 18 months alone Swift has released 3 albums, released a documentary with Netflix, had two surprise albums which show her transition into a new genre for Swift, that being more of the folk persuasion, which landed her six grammy nominations for the first of these surprise albums alone. Swift partnered with Disney + where Swift shared her new creative process which sees her transition to more imaginative storytelling for inspiration, instead of using her personal life as a starting point for her songs. Swift has also created several music videos for each album and is rumoured to perhaps be releasing a third surprise album for the Folklore, Evermore era. The woman seems to never stop working, something which as someone with workaholic tendencies myself, I completely admire.
Swift has also had her fair share of controversy. Taylor Swift like anyone else in the world is not perfect by anys means, in the past she has been widely criticised by the media, from famous feuds, her lack of taking a stand on topical issues in the past, to her too perfect persona. Her most famous controversy is her being labelled as unlucky in love. Swift was branded as a serial dater, to the extent where she was presented as so toxic anyone who did date her was dragged down. Swift has since lost this reputation due to her long-term committed relationship. Swift is now far more open and politically engaged in order to be a better role model. She very publicly discussed her expiernce of sexual assault, where she sued for the price of $1 and won. Swift has been far more composed and vocal for causes which she feel are important, “as a country musician, I was always told to stay out of politics, The Trump presidency forced me to lean in and educate myself”.
Her most recent undertaking, that being her re-recording her old albums due to others gaining the rights to her music. Swift is proving yet again that she has learned for her time in this industry, is proud of her past achievements and has the right to be in control of her craft in an industry where it is being revealed more and more that global musical stars are in fact not as in control of themselves or their work as previously thought. Also her revelations of her struggles with anxiety, eating disorders, family, the loss of friends and the realities of being a woman in the public eye. Swift is, in fact, simply letting the world know she is only human.
And that is what I have come to admire most, I cannot relate to Swift in most life experiences, artistic endeavours, wealth or credible success but her opening up to her flaws and experiences as a woman are things which I can relate to. And this is not to say she is a shining light for all women around the world, but for me, I can appreciate her for her endless hard work in creating not only albums but musical era’s, complete with whole creative ventures. But more, the fact that for someone who is so famous, being one of the most talked about people in the world, she has struggles which we can all relate to.
I have enjoyed watching from afar Swift mature into herself as an artist but also as a conscious woman who knows what she believes in and works hard for what she creates and has achieved. That, more than anything, is why she represents something which I hold so dearly. One where morality, creativity and work ethic are what makes someone worthy and I can only hope she continues to do so.