A ‘Country’ mile from where she started: The Evolution of Taylor Swift

A new album heralds a new Taylor Swift, the record-breaker who has conquered both the country and pop world, and is constantly evolving as an artist, as Caroline Fairclough explores.

Taylor Swift is arguably the biggest name in pop music. A notorious shapeshifter, the singer-songwriter is renowned for reinventing both herself and her music with every new album. With her most recent musical incarnation, ‘Lover’, hitting shelves this year, it’s time to take a look at just how far the 29-year-old megastar has come.

Hailing from a Christmas tree farm in suburban Pennsylvania, the bright-eyed, bushy-haired ingénue began her journey penning songs about teenage heartbreak, pick-up trucks and the pressures of high school. Her eponymous first album was released thirteen years ago, selling 7.75 million copies worldwide. Presenting as the epitome of an ‘all-American’ teen sweetheart, it isn’t hard to see why Swift caught our collective eye all that time ago.

Determined not to lose her early traction, the starlet followed up with ‘Fearless’ just two years later. As was true of ‘Taylor Swift’, the lyrics on this second album felt torn from pages of the singer’s diary; her ode to Shakespeare in the form of the smash-hit ‘Love Story’ spoke to teen girls everywhere. With an ‘ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude came the speedy release of ‘Speak Now’, a collection which gave us some of Taylor’s best work to date (see ‘Mean’, ‘The Story of Us’, ‘Mine’).

 

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After having established a firm following as the ‘next big thing’ in country music, Swift’s ‘Red’ caused what can only be described as a seismic shift, shaking long-time fans to the core. Her ringlets had been straightened; the singer’s familiar country ‘twang’ was nowhere to be found on the likes of ‘22’ and ‘I Knew You We’re Trouble’. As her duet with Ed Sheeran told us so concisely, ‘Everything Has Changed’.

‘1989’ was 2014’s biggest hit. Not only did the album mark the culmination of Swift’s transition from guitar-strumming country star to fully-fledged pop princess, it saw the singer quite literally ‘shaking off’ the opinions of sharp-tongued critics. ‘Blank Space’ was an in-joke at the singer’s ‘serial dater’ reputation, whilst ‘Bad Blood’ bravely opened fire on fellow songstress Katy Perry, following an infamous spat over backing dancers.

As widespread criticism refused to cease, virtuous Taylor grew vengeful, channeling her inner ‘snake’ for the dawn of a new era. The jarring monochrome of ‘Reputation’, an album which included the nonchalant announcement that ‘the old Taylor’ was dead, proved unequivocally that Swift was not to be messed with.

All this brings us to the present day, and the release of album number seven. With a palette of pastels and butterflies, this is Taylor’s chance to prove she still has a softer side after all. Deep down, she’s a ‘Lover’, not a fighter.



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