Artist Progression: Taylor Swift

Week 10: Blog Post

Taylor Swift on Politics and Her Sundance Documentary 'Miss Americana' -  Variety

Photo Credit: Mary Ellen Matthews for Variety

Taylor Swift is a very successful artist as many of us know. But why is she so successful? Taylor Swift is not only a great musician and songwriter, but she is also a storyteller.

Taylor Swift started off as a country pop artist, she had released her debut album Taylor Swift in 2006 and quickly saw success. Then in 2008 with the release of her second album Fearless, she started to become a household name.  

Her album Fearless gave us hits like Love Story and You Belong With Me. You Belong With Me is “one of the best selling singles worldwide.” Taylor Swift was successful at the start of her career because her songs were always honest and relatable.

Her song You Belong With Me, is a story that I think many people can relate to. It’s a story about liking someone and believing that someone should be with you and not who they are currently with. Here are some lyrics from the song that describe this, She wears high heels / I wear sneakers / She’s Cheer Captain, and I’m on the bleachers / Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find / That what you’re looking for has been here the whole time.

Next was her country pop album Speak Now which was released in 2010. Speak Now was successful because of the stories she told throughout the songs in the album. Taylor Swift has a very soft and whimsical voice that fits perfectly with the emotions that she displays in her songs. Her voice and storytelling allows listeners to empathize with her. Taylor Swift has a light-lyric Soprano voice range. Her album Speak Now also had successful hits like Mean, and Sparks Fly. However, my personal favorite is Dear John.

This song is about the relationship she had with John Mayer. Dear John is a honest and vulnerable song, and this song demonstrates that Taylor Swift is not afraid to sing about the truth even when it’s sad and ugly. Sometimes her songs are disguised in riddles of her real-life experiences and sometimes they are not; like with this song she chose to expose who it was about and all the details involved. I think listeners enjoy her music because of how honest she is, just like she was with her song Dear John.

Here are some descriptive lyrics from the song where Taylor describes this toxic relationship, You are an expert at sorry / And keeping the lines blurry / Never impressed by me acing your tests / All the girls that you’ve run dry / Have tired, lifeless eyes / Cause you burned them out / But I took your matches before fire could catch me / So don’t look now, I’m shining like fireworks over your sad, empty town.

Next is her album Red which was released in 2012. Taylor Swift slowly starts to move away from country to more pop music. Her sound changes, as her songs switch over to an allegro tempo (fast), and are more upbeat. Songs like I Knew You Were Trouble and Red, were hits. With Red, I especially liked how she added colors to certain emotions, as this creates imagery in the listener’s mind.

Then came her album 1989 in 2014. This was a pop album which was accompanied “by heavy synthesizers, programmed drums and process backing vocals.” This album had a few number one singles such as, Shake It Off, Blank Space and Bad Blood. This refreshing new pop sound and her story telling skills, grasped people emotionally.

Her next album was Reputation which came out in 2017. She changed her sound and style in this album, but still continued to produce stories in her songs. Songs like Look What You Made Me Do, Delicate and Endgame, felt like storylines of movies. Then came her album Lover in 2019, which was the complete opposite of Reputation.

Her most current album releases were Folklore and Evermore which were both released in 2020. Folklore is an amazing album lyrically. Her soft voice and slower tempos returned for these albums. Her song My Tears Ricochet demonstrated that Taylor is a talented songwriter and storyteller. The lyrics, You wear the same jewels that I gave you / As you bury me, are assumed to be referring to her conflict with her old record label. The jewels she is discussing in the song are her albums, and how her record label still owns them as they continue to “bury” her. This is great song writing because she is able to disguise these problems in stories and tell them through songs.

Songs from Folklore like, The 1, Cardigan, Illicit Affairs, Exile, Hoax, This Is Me Trying and Mad Woman, are all great songs lyrically. Her album Evermore is similar to Folklore and songs like Tolerate It and No Body, No Crime are also great songs lyrically. The song No Body, No Crime feels like a murder mystery movie.

Taylor Swift also re-recorded her album Fearless (Taylor’s Version), and added additional songs (From The Vault) to the album which she released this year. Her song You All Over Me, shows that Taylor’s story telling skills are timeless, as this song was written a long time ago, but is still very relatable to audiences today. Here are some lyrics from the song to show how Taylor Swift is an amazing song writer, I lived, and I learned / And found out what it was to turn around / And see, that we / Were never really meant to be / So I lied, and I cried /And I watched a part of myself die / ‘Cause no amount of freedom gets you clean / I’ve still got you all over me.

Taylor Swift is a successful artist and as discussed in this progression post, I think she continues to be successful because she is a talented song-writer, and each album of hers was a progression from the last lyrically.

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