Taylor Swift’s career spans genres, breaks barriers

One of Swift’s latest releases, “evermore,” represents a departure from pop and moves into folk music.

By Natalie Polinski, Entertainment Writer

Taylor Swift is one of the biggest music icons around. Starting with country, transitioning to pop, and mostly recently dabbling in folk, Swift’s extremely popular music has made her a household name.

The Breakout Country Star: “Taylor Swift,” “Fearless,” “Speak Now,” “Red”

Starting in 2006, Swift began to make waves in the music industry with the release of her first album, “Taylor Swift.” With the album, she had established herself as a young, up and coming country artist. Other early albums “Fearless,” “Speak Now,” and “Red” were all characterized by their youthful country sound. Taylor Swift became known as the epitome of the American girl next door. Her songs often talked about love and heartbreak. “Taylor Swift” and “Fearless” mainly focused on high school romance, but as Swift matured, so did her songs. “Speak Now” and “Red” concentrated on telling the stories of love and romance from a different perspective and grew out of the previous teen romance storytelling Swift used. As the production of her songs became progressively more mature, Swift started to lose that youthful “gloss” her albums had with each new release. 

All four albums were categorized as country and rock. However, some singles were listed as pop. These albums were generally reviewed positively, especially for Swift’s talented songwriting. However, “Red” was the least critically acclaimed. Many critics said this album was inconsistent and mislabeled as a country and rock album since it had more pop traits. “Fearless” was the first of Swift’s albums to chart at the number one spot of the Billboard 200 chart, though it would not be the last. “Speak Now” and “Red” also spent multiple weeks on top of the Billboard 200 chart. The first four albums combined earned Swift seven Grammy nominations and four wins by the age of 25. “Fearless” won Grammys for Album of the Year and Best Country album in 2010, making her the youngest Grammy winner until 2020 when Billie Eilish won at the young age of 18. “Mean” from “Speak Now” won two Grammys for Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance in 2012. With the release of her first four albums, Taylor Swift enchanted the public and made it clear that she was a force with which to be reckoned. 

Taylor Swift’s a Pop Star Now: “1989,” “Reputation,” “Lover”

“1989” ushered in an entirely new pop sound for Swift. Though the albums all had different aesthetics, there was a common pop trademark. While “1989” featured more of the ‘80s-inspired synth-pop sound, “Reputation” carried a heavy electronic sound, and “Lover” returned to bright-synth pop. All three albums continued Taylor’s previous themes about the ups and downs of love, but with more sincerity. “Reputation” was written like a diary entry from Swift to the public. This album came after “1989,” during which Swift was featured in many tabloids because of her controversial image at the time. She was criticized for her complete shift from country rock to pop, as well as her famous relationships and feuds with other celebrities. “Reputation” was an honest album about the artist’s struggles with publicity in the limelight and how she dealt with romance in her fame. “Lover” switched back to a bright and cheerful synth-pop sound. These songs paired lighter themes and production. The album’s aesthetic was also notably more bright and colorful than its predecessor, “Reputation.” 

For Swift, “1989” brought the most commercial success, and changes to the artist’s name. “Shake it Off,” “Blank Space,” and “Bad Blood” all charted number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “1989” also won two Grammys for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album. “1989” had officially changed Swift from a country star to a mainstream pop girl. Although “Reputation” and “Lover” were not as commercially successful, they still showed that Taylor Swift could succeed at whatever projects she wanted to pursue, which was seen when both albums charted number one on the Billboard 200 chart. “Look What You Made Me Do” from “Reputation” charted number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and “Lover” received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album in 2020. The explosion of Swift’s career during her pure pop era showed us that the world was far from bored with Taylor Swift. 

A Folk Story: “folklore,” “evermore”

Another transformation in Taylor Swift’s aesthetic and sound happened with the surprise release of “folklore.” “folklore” was the second major stylistic change in Swift’s discography. Previously she had recorded country rock and pop, but had never before dabbled in alternative folk music. The album was announced on Instagram the day before its release with a set of photos revealing the album cover. Swift chose to do the same with “folklore’s” sister album, “evermore.” The singer revealed on Instagram that both albums had been written during quarantine and that the writing felt like “standing on the edge of the folklorian woods.” She said the writing was nonstop, hence, she was able to release two albums. “folklore” still had similar themes as the rest of Swift’s discography, but Taylor took a detour from writing about personal experiences with “folklore” and “evermore.” Instead, she wrote with a poetic storytelling tone.  “folklore” even features the widely appreciated musical love triangle with the songs, “cardigan,” “august,” and “betty” that describe a high school romance between a boy, his girlfriend, and the girl with whom he cheats. 

“folklore” was highly acclaimed among critics. This album became Swift’s seventh number one album on the Billboard 200 chart and was the best selling album of 2020. “evermore” also charted at number one. The lead singles from both albums, “cardigan” and “willow,” also debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “evermore” was released after the Grammy’s submission deadline, but “folklore” made up for that with its countless nominations. “folklore” alone racked up a total of five Grammy nominations for Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance with “cardigan,” and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance with “exile” featuring Bon Iver. The many nominations were not a surprise though, as “folklore” was repeatedly named one of the best albums of 2020. These sister albums cemented many people’s idea that Swift is one of the best musical artists of our time. 

Since her arrival, Swift has dominated the music industry. From country music star to pop star, to newly minted alternative folk-pop artist, Swift is continually making and releasing music everyone loves. She sets no boundaries for herself when creating music. Her multifaceted discography demonstrates her true love for the art form. Although she may not appeal to everyone, Taylor Swift is an unmatched musical talent.

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