The 2014 release saw Taylor Swift morph from a country girl who “only” writes about breakups to pop star shedding off sexist criticism and constant belittlement. Incorporating synth-pop sounds into her songwriting formula, Taylor was able to reach new audiences and break out of her sonic mold. The album produced three Billboard number #1’s with ubiquitous tracks “Blank Space, “Bad Blood,” and the all too danceable “Shake It Off.” Initial reactions to the album were mixed, with many old fans finding the new direction as a buy-in rather than some artistic reclamation. The country-girl gone city ultimately was the best move for the boxed-in artists, allowing her to ascend to the top of the music industry, where she still reigns supreme.
The break-up writing, ballad-singing queen of pop, country, and everything in between, Taylor Swift has come to define what it means to be an icon. She has grown to symbolize so much culturally, both good and bad. From high ticket prices and massive vinyl orders, her success has made her a common target of hate from within the industry. But her diary-esque lyricism and knack for writing solid pop songs have garnered her fans across generational and genre lines that don’t usually bleed into one another. Her popularity is evident not only on streaming but in her physical format sales as well, being a leader in vinyl/CD sales even as the streaming era began. Her focus on original music and experimentation has inspired and made space for a whole crop of artists like Pheobe Bridgers, Ariana Grande, and Billie Eilish. May the “Swifties” of the world prosper as Taylor’s exes suffer.