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Taylor Swift: Where She’s Come From and Where She’s Going

A New Label, New Music, and the Beginning of a New Era

 

Taylor Swift has always been great at what she does: sonically expressing her ideas, thoughts, and emotions in an ultra-relatable way. Since the early days of her career, Swift has evolved both as a person and an artist, but her method hasn’t changed. From the very beginning, the lyrics she wrote told the stories of her experiences, and for her many listeners across the globe, growing up hearing each of her albums felt similar to reading letters of advice written by an older sister. Swift recognizes that there is much to be learned through both successes and mistakes, and she has vulnerably shared all of these moments with the world since releasing her first studio album in 2006. 

 

At the age of 14, Swift moved from her home in Pennsylvania to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue a career as a songwriter. Swift was discovered by Scott Borchetta while playing a set at the Bluebird Café, and was signed to his new label “Big Machine Records”. From 2006 through 2012, Swift’s release cycle involved producing a country album every two years and performing it internationally on tour. Swift’s first release, Taylor Swift, was named “Album of the Year” at the 2008 American Music Awards, and was followed by Fearless which was awarded “Album of the Year” at the 2009 Country Music Awards and 2010 Grammy Awards. Speak Now, released in 2010, was a collection of iconic tracks such as Sparks Fly and Mean. Swift released Red in 2012, which despite being written during a tumultuous period in her life, acted as a smooth transition from the country into pop genre. Each new installment to her discography proved more groundbreaking and far-reaching than the last, and both the amount of “Swifties” and awards were accumulating exponentially.

 

In 2014, Swift released her 80’s synth pop influenced 1989, named after her birth year which included hit singles such as “Shake it Off”, “Blank Space”, and “Wildest Dreams”. This album represented a new chapter in her life; it’s about moving to New York, exploring a new form of music and learning more about herself. As she said in the forward of the album, she has told us her stories “…for years now.  Some have been about coming of age, some have been about coming undone. This [1989] is a story about coming into your own, and as a result… coming alive.” Swift’s transition into the pop genre proved very successful; 1989 was awarded “Album of the Year” and a 2016 Grammy Award, making Swift one of only two female solo artists to win twice. The 1989 World Tour became Swift’s (then) most attended and highest grossing tour, and featured surprise special guests including Walk the Moon (pictured), Selena Gomez, Lorde, Fifth Harmony, Avril Lavigne, Wiz Khalifa, Mick Jagger, and many more.

Pictured: Taylor Swift performing “Shut Up and Dance” with special guest “Walk the Moon” at the 1989 World Tour in Gillette Stadium July 24th, 2015

(Photo courtesy of Lindsay Toia)

 

Following the conclusion of her 1989 Tour, Swift took a break from her constant media-documented life until August 2017, when she purged all of her social pages and ultimately announced that the sixth installment of her discography reputation would be released on November 10th, 2017.  In the months leading up to its release, Swift held “Reputation Secret Sessions” in her homes in London, Rhode Island, Nashville, and LA. Swift invited people she found on social media who displayed their love for her music to come to these intimate events where she played the album a month before its release, knew them each by name, and chatted and took photos together. Swift told them about what she had been doing during her break and how her recent experiences inspired the songs on the new album. Always an artist who greatly values her listeners, Swift went on to meet many more of her listeners at pop-up events around the country and backstage before and after her “Reputation Stadium Tour” shows all over the world. Despite not intensely promoting the album (as Swift elected to spend time with fans rather than doing media interviews), reputation was well received and recently named the “The Biggest Album of 2018” by Billboard, and was nominated for “Best Pop Vocal Album” at the 2019 Grammy Awards. The “Reputation Stadium Tour” became the highest grossing tour in the US of all time, broke several venue attendance records, and was named “Concert Tour of the Year” at the 2018 People’s Choice Awards.

Pictured: Taylor Swift with Lindsay Toia (Right) and Michele Toia (Left) at the Secret Sessions in Watch Hill, Rhode Island

(Photo courtesy of Lindsay Toia)

 

On November 19th, 2018, Swift announced that she has signed a multi-album recording with Universal Music Group and Republic Records, and will be departing from her previous label Big Machine Records. Additionally, as part of her new contract, Swift asked that “any sale of their Spotify shares result in a distribution of money to their other artists, non-recoupable”. This is not the first time Swift has played an active role in preserving the rights of recording artists who release music to streaming services. In 2015, Swift wrote a letter to Apple Music which ultimately resulted in them paying royalties to artists during their 3-month trial period, and returned to Spotify in 2017 after originally pulling her music off of the service in 2014. Upon announcement, the founder and CEO of Republic Records said “Taylor has not only captured the imagination of an entire generation, but has also redefined the paradigm of the modern music industry. Her commitment to songwriting and performing has earned her the respect of her peers and millions of adoring fans around the world. I can only imagine what Taylor is capable of achieving in the years to come, both culturally and creatively. I’m beyond thrilled to create an alliance with Republic Records and the incomparable Taylor Swift.” In her recent Instagram post, Swift exclaimed that her “biggest goal moving forward” is to make her listeners “proud”, and she concluded by saying, “I can’t wait to show you what I’m making next”. Paired with a selfie that appears to have been taken at the recording studio, this news has been warmly welcomed by Swift’s listeners around the world. Speculation has already begun about what this new era of Swift may bring (possibly a new genre?), but we’ll just have to see!

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Lindsay Toia

Bentley '22

Lindsay is from southern CT and is a freshman at Bentley University planning to major in marketing. When she isn't hanging out with Taylor Swift (there was that one time....), she enjoys figure skating, photographing nature for her website www.lindsaytoiaphotography.com, visiting Boston, eating too much chocolate, attending concerts, and updating her Instagram feature blog page @NantucketStreetStyle. You can find her on Instagram @lindsaytoia!
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