Taylor Swift continues to break barriers in the music industry 

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Lindsay Benza '23

Miss Taylor Swift released nine albums over her 14-year musical career.

Miss Taylor Swift has broken barriers as a woman in the music industry by blending genres and following her passion.  Throughout her time in the spotlight, she became an inspiration to her fanbase by promoting confidence, grit, and self-expression.  Miss Swift often struggled to further her career as she fought for equal opportunity in a male-dominated industry. 

Miss Swift began to transition from country to pop music with her album “1989.”  Courtesy of Ms. Sarah Barlow

Miss Swift was born December 13, 1989 in Reading, Pennsylvania.  As a child, she loved to sing and write songs.  At age 16, Miss Swift began her music career by releasing her first album, titled “Taylor Swift.”  Continuing in the style of country music, she published her second album, “Fearless,” in November 2008.  She later won her first Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 2010, according to grammy.comIn 2014, Miss Swift released her first pop album titled “1989”.  The album‘s hit single “Shake it Off,” won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Song of 2015, according to mtv.com.

Despite the public success, Miss Swift dealt with challenges from her management and record label while trying to crossover to the pop genre, however, she ultimately achieved her goal through self-advocacy.

“With 1989, I was really putting my neck on the line, because I was the one saying I need to change directions musically,” Miss Swift said, according to time.com“My label and management were the ones saying ‘Are you sure, are you positive?  This is risky.’  And I was the one who had to come back every time and say, ‘No, this is what we’re doing.'”

Miss Swift released her album “Reputation” in November 2017.  The album contained songs about love and her relationships while also addressing the public criticism and hostility she experienced throughout her career.  In August 2019, Miss Swift released her album, “Lover,” which later won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Album of 2019, according to billboard.com.

Sophomore Jackie Franco, a music enthusiast and an avid Taylor Swift fan, spoke about why she thinks Miss Swift has continued to be a prominent and successful artist for the duration of her 14-year professional career. 

“I think that what makes Taylor Swift a good artist is that she is very relatable to her fans and a lot of people relate to the music she makes,” Jackie said.  “Her new music has been so successful because it completely goes against who Taylor Swift was and the music she made before her eighth album.  I really like how she wasn’t afraid to experiment and do something different.  Also, the way she made the albums a reflection of her mind, rather than a collection of songs about her life, is very different from her previous albums.” 

“Folklore,” released in July 2020, marked Miss Swift’s transition into the alternative genre.  This album is different from her previous work because it did not center around love and heartbreak.  The record tells stories through mythological characters across multiple songs.  In December 2020, Miss Swift wrote her second alternative album, entitled “Evermore.” 

Mr. Aaron Dessner, co-producer of “Folklore” and member of a music group known as The National, spoke about how Miss Swift has broken barriers with this album.

“Taylor has opened the door for artists to not feel pressure to have ‘the bop,'” Mr. Dessner said according to billboard.com.  “To make the record that she made, while running against what is programmed in radio at the highest levels of pop music — she has kind of made an anti-pop record.  And to have it be one of the most, if not the most, successful commercial releases of the year, that throws the playbook out.”

Although there is an abundance of successful women in the music industry, there a distinct gap between male and female representation and recognition.  Dr. Stacy Smith, an associate professor at the University of Southern California, led a study about inequality in the industry.  The study analyzed the top 600 songs from 2012 to 2017 and the results showed that only 22.4 percent of 1,239 artists were women, according to The New York TimesAdditionally, Dr. Smith discussed the underrepresentation of women in award shows, such as the Grammy Awards, citing that in the past six years, over 90 percent of men received nominations, as opposed to merely 9 percent of female performers.

Despite her musical success and supportive fanbase, Miss Swift struggled with sexist comments from critics and the media for the duration of her career.

“You’re going to have people who are going to say, ‘Oh, you know, like, she just writes songs about her ex-boyfriends,'” Miss Swift said, according to time.com.  “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 2019, Miss Swift won Artist of the Decade at the American Music Awards.  Jackie spoke about why this accolade was well-deserved.  

“An achievement in Taylor Swift’s career that stands out to me the most would be her winning the artist of the decade,” Jackie said.  “I feel she was very deserving of this award because, as most people would agree, the 2010s full of Taylor Swift number 1 hit after number 1 hit.  She’s a great artist and role model because she really takes advantage of her platform to shed light on injustices and has shown strength through her career facing several sexist criticisms.”

Miss Swift released her alternative albums, “Folklore” and “Evermore,” during the coronavirus pandemic.  Courtesy of TAS Rights Management

Before winning this award, Miss Swift had a dispute with her former manager, Mr. Scooter Braun, and Mr. Scott Borchetta, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of her record label, Big Machine Records.  Miss Swift accused Mr. Braun and Mr. Borchetta of preventing her from performing her old music at the American Music Awards.  She believes the obstacles she faced with her manager and record label were because of her gender.

“This is what happens when you sign a deal at fifteen to someone for whom the term ‘loyalty’ is clearly just a contractual concept,” Miss Swift said, according to vulture.com.  “And when that man says ‘music has value,’ he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it.”

Miss Swift consistently redefines herself and the music industry through her transitions between multiple genres, at times without support from her management and record label.  She also uses her platform to shed light on women facing injustices in their professions.  With continued determination, Miss Swift pursues her passion by expressing herself through music regardless of societal standards or opinions.

“Women in music, on stage, or behind the scenes, are not allowed to coast,” Miss Swift said, according to bbc.com.  “We are held at a higher, sometimes impossible-feeling standard.  And it seems that my fellow female artists have taken this challenge, and they have accepted it.  It seems like the pressure that could’ve crushed us made us into diamonds instead.”

Featured Image by Lindsay Benza ’23