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15 Years of Taylor Swift

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Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift released her self-titled debut album on Oct. 24, 2006. Now, 15 years later, she is one of the most popular musicians in the world. So far, she has released nine studio albums, eight of which have reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. She has also released multiple Top 10 singles, with seven of them reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

Born Dec. 13, 1989 in Pennsylvania, Swift moved to Nashville when she was 13, releasing her first album at 16. Through songs like “Picture to Burn” and “Our Song,” she tapped into a teenage demographic that was unconventional for her chosen genre of country music. The album also crossed over to the pop market, with the aforementioned singles hitting No. 16 and No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively. Perhaps as a result of this, her later albums gradually became more pop-oriented to increasing success on the charts. This pandering to a new style culminated with the releases of the single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” in 2012, her first No. 1 on the pop charts, and 2014’s “1989,” her first fully pop-oriented album. Since then, she has experimented with musical styles of various genres. This is perhaps most evident with her two latest studio albums, “folklore” and “evermore” — both have a more stripped-down alternative sound, as well as separate singles intended for pop, country and alternative radio stations.    

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While Swift’s songs often center around love and breakups, to the point where many people have joked about her starting relationships just to provide songwriting material, her music actually covers a wide range of subjects. Songs that do not talk about relationships include “Mean,” which is about the people who did not believe in her, “Welcome to New York,” about her experiences moving to the eponymous city, and “The Man,” which covers sexism and double standards. However, the stereotype of Swift using her love life for her music career is not completely without merit, as several of her most iconic songs, including “You Belong With Me” and “Teardrops On My Guitar,” do center around breakups.  

Of course, a modern artist with a career lasting over a decade is guaranteed to have some memorable music videos to go with the multitude of singles that she’s released, and Swift is no exception. Particularly notable ones include the videos for “You Belong With Me,” which has her portraying the song’s two love interests of the girly cheerleader and the tomboy protagonist, and “Look What You Made Me Do,” which features her fighting off various incarnations of herself.

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Swift has also collaborated with various artists, such as ZAYN on “I Don’t Want to Live Forever;” the Jonas Brothers on a live version of “You Should’ve Said No;” Ed Sheeran on “End Game” and “Everything Has Changed;” and Brandon Urie on “ME!” Swift is also fairly infamous for her feuds with other A-list celebrities, including Kim Kardashian and her husband Kanye West, who notoriously interrupted Swift’s award speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

As a major celebrity with massive influence, Swift has used her platform to become an outspoken activist for various issues. For instance, she removed her entire discography from Spotify due to a lack of royalties, only returning when her albums hit a sales threshold. She also endorses Democratic viewpoints, including hiring prominent LGTBQ+ figures to appear in her “You Need to Calm Down” music video, endorsing Democratic Congressional candidates, voicing her opposition against Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn over feminist-related issues and disliking former President Donald Trump for similar reasons.      

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Additionally, Swift has gained prominence through the many fights that she has had with her old record label, Big Machine, which prevented her from having ownership of her first six albums. To solve this issue, she announced in 2020 that she intends to re-record her albums and release them under her new record label. A re-recording of her second album, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” was released April 9, and she will release a re-recording of her fourth album, “Red (Taylor’s Version),” on Nov. 12.   

Although not as prominent as her music career, Swift also has made her way into the film industry. Her film credits include “Valentine’s Day,” “Cats” and “The Lorax.” She has also contributed to several movie soundtracks, the most prominent being “The Hunger Games” and  “50 Shades Darker.” 

With such a long career, Swift has obviously proven to have massive staying power. It seems likely that she will stay relevant for the next 15 years as well.    

Bailey Kanthatham is an Entertainment Contributing Writer. He can be reached at bkanthat@uci.edu.