Taylor Swift can blow out 30 candles today. The American singer, who this year was also entitled to claim the title of best-earning artists in the music industry, has already swum a lot of turbulent waters. Still, in the meantime, she can count herself among the absolute world top. Just bad for a country singer from Pennsylvania.
Taylor Alison Swift was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1989, where she spent her young years on a Christmas tree farm. Not really a musical environment, but the ball started rolling when Taylor took theater lessons at the age of 9 and started traveling to New York City to take singing and acting lessons. There she decided to focus on country music, inspired by the tones of Shania Twain.
Swift took a chance at a very young age and traveled to Nashville, the mecca of country music, to present her songs to big record moguls. One rejection after another followed because, according to them, the young blonde was not unique. “Everyone in Nashville wanted to do the same. So I kept thinking about how I could be different from the rest.” At the age of 14, she started working with a manager from New York, who managed to sign her with RCA Records.
It ended with a sisser because less than a year later, the agreement was broken. However, Swift continued to believe in her singing career and gave gigs on free stages in Nashville, where she was eventually discovered by Scott Borchetta, an experienced promoter who wanted to start his own record company. The Swift family went into business with the man and invested $120,000 in the now influential label.
Swift released her first album with Big Machine Records in 2006 and started to attract attention in the United States. She had found a niche in the market: teenage girls who listen to country music. Taylor soon became a well-known name among the Americans, but she only made her first international breakthrough in 2010 when she received a Grammy Award for ‘Album of the Year’ for the album ‘Fearless’.
She was, therefore, the youngest artist ever – then 20 years old – to receive that title. The singer scored hits like ‘Love Story’ and ‘You Belong With Me’, but became famous for writing songs about her famous exes, of which singer John Mayer was the first in the list, but certainly not the last. The two formed a couple for several months in 2009 and the break-up inspired the song ‘Dear John’. Mayer wasn’t very fond of that, he later admitted to Rolling Stone: “I felt terrible because I didn’t deserve it. It was a sad move on her part to abuse her talent.”
Despite (or just because of) the many love breakdowns, Swift went professionally for the wind. She put the awards together, as she did at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009. A moment that Taylor Swift – and I’m sure you will too – won’t soon forget. After all, while receiving the award for ‘Best Female Video’, she was interrupted on stage by rapper Kanye West, who felt that she was not the deserved winner. “Taylor, I’ll let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.” A painful moment, but it catapulted Taylor’s popularity even more.
In Hollywood, innocent girls don’t have a long life, as Taylor once again showed when he started an image switch in 2012. Where she was first known as the good country girl, she brought out a slightly more mischievous side with her fourth album ‘Red’. The country disappeared into the background and made way for pop music. The single ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ – about an ex-lover and actor Jake Gyllenhaal – became her very first number-one single in the US.
Meanwhile, interest in Taylor’s love life (and the accompanying songs) grew and her brief romance with One Direction singer Harry Styles became a public theme. She also wrote a few songs about that, for which she was increasingly being taken in by the mud. Swift, therefore, denounced the double standard. “I find it very sexist that I am ‘the one who writes about her exes’. Nobody says that about Ed Sheeran or Bruno Mars. They all write about their exes, their current girlfriend or their love life, but nobody has a problem with that,” she told an Australian radio station.
Swift’s transformation continued in 2014 when ‘1989’ was released, the album named after her year of birth. In the meantime, her music fell into the ‘pure pop’ category, and that turned out to be no wrong move. The record became a huge commercial success and the charts were actually dominated by singles such as ‘Shake It Off’, ‘Bad Blood’ and ‘Blank Space’.
However, by 2016, the feud with Kanye West gained the upper hand when the artist released the controversial song ‘Famous’, with the text: “I made that b*tch famous”. This was followed by a severe argument between Taylor and Kanye, but also his wife, Kim Kardashian. Swift claimed that the rapper had not informed her beforehand about the song, on which Kardashian published video footage of a telephone conversation between the singer and West online. “Wait, it’s legit National Snake Day?” Kim tweeted.
Subsequently, Swift threw her reputation overboard and lashed out at the couple – and all her other enemies, such as ex-sweet Calvin Harris – on her fifth album ‘Reputation’ in 2017. She portrayed herself as a snake – after Kim Kardashian called her that – and she wrote in her songs that the “old Taylor” was dead. “I wanted to give the message that when someone uses names to bully you on social media, it doesn’t have to take you down. You can use it to make you stronger,” she said during her ‘Reputation’ tour with snake decor.
A new record label, renewed image
‘Reputation’ also became her latest album with record company Big Machine Records, which she traded in for Universal Music at the end of her contract. The professional turnaround coincided with a reborn Swift, who closed herself off from the outside world while making her sixth record. As if she regretted her playing and public quarreling, she joins in all the fuss. She also learned from the past and kept her budding relationship with her friend Joe Alwyn – the two have been together for almost three years now – anxiously secret.
The result was the new album ‘Lover’, on which Swift returns to her past and reveals a slightly softer (and also wiser) side of herself. The title song is already causing a furor, and the album is doing very well. But at the moment, attention is not so much focused on her music, but mainly on the battle with her former record label. Big Machine Records was bought earlier this year by Scooter Braun, manager of Justin Bieber, who also became the owner of almost the entire repertoire of Taylor. The singer claims that Braun – after a long-standing feud – wanted to put her down.
Swift made the dispute public and wrote an open letter. “For years, I have begged to be able to own my work. Instead, I was offered to sign a contract with ‘Big Machine Records’ again to earn back my music. I decided to leave that situation. Today I heard that Scooter Braun had bought the company. Never, not even in my worst nightmares, could I have imagined that Scooter Braun would be the buyer. Every time Scott Borchetta (the former record boss) heard his name from my mouth, I was crying. Fortunately, I only left the past, not my future in their hands.” What followed was a wave of reactions and division. Many artists expressed their support for the singer, but Braun customers – such as Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato – publicly turned against Swift.
The conflict flared up again last month after she revealed that she was not allowed to play her old songs. “I would perform a medley of my biggest hits at the American Music Awards ceremony, but Borchetta and Braun won’t let me unless I agree not to record new versions of my songs,” wrote the singer. Something that she does intend to do and is admitted from 2020 according to her contract. To everyone’s big surprise, she did bring the songs live, which suggests that Big Machine Records is (for the time being) folded. And after the performance, she was crowned the best artist of the past ten years. Just to say that all the hassle has not hurt her.