Inspiring Women Series – part 4: Taylor Swift

Photo from her Instagram page @taylorswift.

If you prefer to learn about Taylor Swift through a video rather than text, take a look at this Instagram video I made.

Who she is

Taylor Swift is an American singer-songwriter and one of the best selling artists in the world. She was named ‘Artist of the Decade’ (2010 – 2019) by the American Music Awards and ‘Woman of the Decade’ by Billboard. Some of her popular songs are ‘Shake It Off’ and ‘Wildest Dreams’, but actually almost all her songs are or have been popular. Swift is known for leaving easter eggs about her future projects in everything she does, from music videos to pictures on social media.

Throughout the years, she has often been criticized by the press because of making songs about her love life (although male musicians do the exact same thing, but don’t get this criticism). Taylor, by the way, has been dating actor Joe Alwyn for a while now, but she consciously keeps her relationship out of the spotlight. For a long time she couldn’t speak up about politics and her vision because her management thought it would make her less popular. In the meantime, she found her voice and actively stands up for women’s rights, rights of LGBTQIA+ and other vulnerable groups. For many girls and women all over the world she is an example. 

What she does

Taylor Swift started her career in 2004 as a young teenager. She then moved from her hometown in Pennsylvania (where she grew up on a Christmas tree farm) to Nashville to pursue a career in country music. In 2005 she signed a record deal with Big Machine Records. The number of awards she won since then, is almost too large to keep track of. She’s been at the top of the industry for years, but states she had to ‘reinvent’ herself many times to stay there. Male artists, on the other hand, can keep doing what they’re doing for years and are being praised for it.

  • In 2006 Taylor’s first album ‘Taylor Swift’ was released
  • In 2008 ‘Fearless’ came, in the genre of countrypop
  • ‘Speak Now’ followed in 2010
  • In 2012 came ‘Red’
  • In 2014 ‘1989’ (with the reference to her birth year) came out and she made the full switch to pop music
  • In 2017 ‘Reputation’ was released, with this album she showed a whole other side of her. There were lots of references to the ‘enemies’ she made throughout the years and how she was treated by them

She then left Big Machine Records for Republic Records of Universal Music Group.

  • In 2019 she went back to more love songs on her album ‘Lover’
  • And in 2020 during the lockdown because of the coronavirus she stepped into another world and created the albums ‘Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’ with indiefolk music. Instead of her usual autobiographical songs, she wrote songs about the stories of others.
  • In 2021 she released a re-recording of ‘Fearless’: ‘Fearless (Taylor’s version)’. There are also some never released songs on the album that she wrote at the time of Fearless, when she wasn’t even 20 years old. She did the re-recording with a very good reason. You can read more about it below.

Taylor Swift signed a deal with Big Machine Records at the start of her career when she didn’t know much yet about how the industry worked. That deal said the record label legally owned the first six albums she created. This means the label gets to decide what happens with that music. Taylor apparently never got a fair chance to buy these albums back throughout the years when she became more popular. She wanted to own her music because next to a financial worth, they have an emotional meaning. After all, it’s the music she wrote or co-wrote and sang. Big Machine Records, and also Taylor’s music, was sold in 2019 to Scooter Braun. He is the manager of among others Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. The feud between Braun and Swift has been covered in the press a lot and also Bieber meddled to defend Braun.

Every now and then Braun is also the manager of Kanye West and this doesn’t make it easer for him and Taylor to get along. In 2009 Kanye stormed the stage at the MTV VMA’s when Taylor accepted an award of which he thought Beyoncé should have won. Taylor was very upset about it and Beyoncé – who wasn’t happy with what Kanye did at all – gave her the chance to finish her speech later (yes to women supporting women). Kanye also mentioned Taylor on one of his songs in a very disrespectful way. A public debate about this followed. Kanye claimed he asked her permission for the lyrics in advance and that she said it was fine. Yet, Taylor says she discussed other lyrics and never gave her permission for the eventual version. After all that drama, Taylor released the album ‘Reputation’. She made a lot of references to this feud.

Only to say, it’s all very complicated. In any case, she decided not to simply accept the fact she doesn’t own her first albums. To obtain the rights, she announced she would re-record all her first albums and release them with her new label. At Universal Music Group she has better conditions and legally owns all the music she makes. And the first re-recording is ‘Fearless (Taylor’s Version)’. She counts on her worldwide fanbase to only listen to her version. Conclusion: don’t mess with Taylor Swift.

Why she’s an example

 Taylor Swift is a big example for many girls and women around the world. She goes against prejudices and remains true to herself. Yet, this wasn’t always easy because of the criticism by the tabloids and on social media. In her Netflix documentary ‘Miss Americana she opened up about what the criticism did to her. She said she almost didn’t eat anymore because of mean comments about her appearance. She also stated that she always had the feeling she had to be ‘the good girl’ and wasn’t allowed to speak about important matters. People didn’t take her seriously and told her she shouldn’t speak about things she didn’t know anything about.

Luckily today she is in a position where nobody can tell her what to say and do. In everything she does, she stands up for equality for everyone. In her song ‘The Man’ and the accompanying music video she addresses the double standards for women and men and says that if she were a man, she would be ‘the’ man. And in ‘You Need To Calm Down’ she stands up for rights of LGBTQIA+. Furthermore, she supports a lot of good causes financially (also often under the radar). For a lot of societal problems, she uses her platform on social media to urge her followers to join her in building a more equal world. And that’s why we love Taylor Swift!

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