Our Artists in Focus series has had a distinctly Swift-shaped void, until now!
Yes, we couldn’t possibly leave Taylor Swift out of this series. Her career has been a marvel to behold through its ups and downs (if we’re being honest, there are mostly ups!), and we want to focus in on her this week.
To Nashville, and Beyond
In the early days, Swift and her family relocated to Nashville where she formed an intimate working relationship with Liz Rose, an influential figure in the Nashville country music scene. Together they wrote 20 songs, perhaps most notably “You Belong With Me”, “Teardrops On My Guitar” and “White Horse”, which gained them both a Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 2010.
Her career really took off from there. 15 years, 8 studio albums, 10 Grammys, 23 Billboard Music Awards, and 7 Guinness World Records later, you begin to scratch the surface of what an outstandingly successful career Taylor has built.
Taylor is the cover star of our Acoustic grade 2 books, where we’ve featured “We Are Never Getting Back Together” as a performance piece. The song was recorded as the lead single for her fourth studio album, Red, in 2012. A Grammy for Record of the Year, number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Guinness World Records Fastest Selling Single in Digital History… in true Taylor-style, “We Are Never Getting Back Together” has received more accolades than you can shake a stick at!
Certainly in the earlier days of her career, it was rare to see Taylor without an acoustic guitar in hand. Whilst she isn’t known for virtuosic shredding or intensely elaborate chord progressions, her guitar playing mainly serves as a vehicle for vivid storytelling. She is rhythmically strong, capable of complex ornamentation, and above all, an enchanting performer.
If you are interested in a more detailed analysis of Taylor’s guitar playing, you can read more here!
It seems impossible to discuss Taylor Swift and her career without highlighting her unapologetic, savvy and intelligent approach to business. In 2014, Taylor made the decision to remove her entire catalogue from Spotify to emphasise the issue that the free, ad-supported service was undermining the premium service that better supports artists with royalties. Similarly, in 2015 she criticized Apple Music for not paying artists’ royalties during the 3-month trial period.
Taylor put pressure on Apple by threatening to pull her new album, 1989, from the platform and it worked. In just 24 hours, Apple would now be paying royalties to all artists during that 3-month period… T-Swift really is the colleague that we all need!
It would be fair to say that Swift made thoughtful use of the coronavirus pandemic and her time in isolation. Her brand new album folklore contains collaborations with the likes of Bon Iver, The National’s Aaron Dessner, and Jack Antonoff, and was announced a mere 24 hours before its release on the 24th July 2020. In folklore, Taylor is able to exhibit her greatest and most widely beloved strength – storytelling. The album is essentially a collection of fictional tales, and some even suggest that Swift makes reference to classic novels like Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. You can read more about that here!
Whilst she started out as a country artist, Taylor has never been afraid of branching out into new genres. She’s taken her listeners on a journey through pop, rock, R&B, hip-hop, trap, and folklore is no exception to this. It feels like a mature step in her music career, experimenting in the genres of indie-folk, alternative rock and electro-folk.
On the first day of its release, folklore sold 1.3 million copies, and was streamed over 80.6 million times (yes, that IS another record). Even by her 8th studio album, Taylor continues to push her career to new heights.
Her exploration of rocky-relationship terrain has earned Taylor some criticism that has been somewhat divisive over the years, but “Swiftie” or not, it is important to acknowledge the incredible work ethic and astute business mind set that she possesses.
If you’ve been inspired to delve a little deeper into the Swift-songlist, we would highly recommend giving folklore a listen, especially to our favourite track, “exile”, featuring Bon Iver.