fbpx
Growth and TransformationMusicArts

The Eras of Taylor Swift: Her Evolution As a Musical Artist

 

Taylor Swift performing on November 9, 2023. (Header Image Source: News10)

 

Being an avid Taylor Swift fan for the past decade, I have grown up and evolved with her and her music; each genre shift, each new era and vibe, has somehow molded to relate to me at that stage of my life. My sentiment is shared by fans of various ages.

Taylor Swift has been a stable name in the music industry for over a decade. Her name is synonymous with growth, evolution and versatility. She is known for her lack of stagnancy, her continuous connection with fans, expressing herself through raw and emotional records and remarkable songwriting. 

In moments of emotional complexity including celebration, grief, love, envy, hate, confidence, fear, turning to Taylor’s music has been a constant for me. Her discography stands as a testament to both her musical prowess as an artist and personal growth as a human being. It has been a significant companion throughout my childhood, teenage years and now into adulthood, allowing me to navigate life’s challenges alongside her.

The trajectory of Taylor’s music, her aura and her status as a public figure have all undergone transformational changes, resonating deeply with her global fanbase. Her enduring presence as a woman in a male-dominated industry speaks volumes about her immense dedication and hard work. Taylor Swift has rightfully earned her place as one of the most prominent musical artists of the decade.

 

2006

The Eras of Taylor Swift: Her Evolution As a Musical Artist

Taylor Swift was in concert at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville, Tennessee on December 2006. (Image source: Flickr)

 

At 16, Swift released her first album, Taylor Swift (2006), recorded by Big Machine Records. She wrote the best-performing songs “Teardrops On My Guitar,” “Should’ve Said No,” and “Picture To Burn.” “Our Song” and “Teardrops On My Guitar” performed exceptionally well on the Billboard and Hot Country Songs charts.

From 2008–2012, Swift continued to release country albums such as Fearless (2008), which included hits like “Love Story” and Speak Now (2010), which included the two-time Grammy award-winning song “Mean.” 

Swift’s songs in this era were mostly love songs about past partners, including celebrity partners, friends and enemies. She wrote songs about Joe Jonas in “Forever & Always,” Camille Belle in “Better Than Revenge,” Taylor Lautner in “Back to December,” John Mayer in “Dear John,” Kanye West in “Innocent” and a music critic in “Mean.”

I was not a member of the fandom for the release of Taylor Swift’s first three albums, which marked the start of her journey as an extraordinarily impactful musical artist. At that time, I was too young and had yet to immigrate from my home country, oblivious to the realm of American artists. Nevertheless, the resonance of these early records became palpable later in my life, aligning with the specific ages and experiences meticulously and intentionally spoken to in her music. 

Her artistry at this point of her career captured a wide range of emotions and experiences from first love to heartbreak, longing, failed friendships, coming of age, teenage angst and the perpetual journey of growing up and finding who you are. Many of the records take inspiration from the public relationships Taylor was engaged in at the time, adding a deep personal touch and allowing her to portray naivety and the wrong choices a person who is finding their place in the world inevitably makes and how these lessons learned contribute to personal development. 

As time has passed, these songs have evolved into classic gems of the artist that have expanded past the fandom, in such a way that they are universally recognized and so well-known that many non-fans have them subconsciously memorized. As such, Swift’s classics often act as a starting point for new fans.

 

2012

The Eras of Taylor Swift: Her Evolution As a Musical Artist

Red is the fourth studio album by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. Big Machine Records released the cover on October 22, 2012. (Image source: Flickr)

 

Around 2012, Swift released her critically acclaimed country/pop mix album Red. This album officially marked the singer’s transition into the pop genre. This album contained songs, such as “Red,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “All Too Well” that chronicled the tumultuous relationship Swift had with her former partner Jake Gyllenhaal.

A couple of years later, she released 1989 (2014). This album had provocative 80s-inspired pop songs like “Bad Blood” in which Swift sings about her relationship with Katy Perry, and “Shake it Off.” In addition, Swift sings about the lack of emotional security she felt dating Harry Styles in “Out of the Woods” and “Style.”

Reputation (2017) marked a massive rebrand for the artist and a shift in her agency as a woman. In this album, Swift fully immersed herself in the pop genre. Around this time, she also began transitioning from Big Machine Records to Republic Records. This album was an ode to her continuous feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. West and Swift’s volatile relationship began at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards when she won the Best Female Video award and he snubbed her onstage

Taylor Swift’s surprising yet seamless transition from her origins as a country singer to the pop genre demonstrated her unparalleled versatility, proving to critics and skeptics that she could be a multifaceted singer who could navigate any genre she wished and fit any style with ease. In many ways, her shift to pop was an effective way to capture the essence of early adulthood and the new experiences with her newfound global fame.

The musical themes of lessons learned and resilience carried through to Reputation, which came as a result of ceaseless drama, feuds, backstabbing and the media scrutiny she faced. Swift faced the harshest realities of celebrity life as her closest friends turned against her, the media unleashed relentless criticism against her and some fans even joined the chorus of negativity, creating trending hashtags like #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty, branding her as a snake. During this time it became socially uncool to be a fan of Swift. She transformed into a more private person, scared that anything she would reveal to the public would end up in ruins like her then blooming relationship with Joe Alwyn. 

However, Taylor Swift overcame the obstacles and came back stronger than ever after hiding from the media for a year, and dealing with many personal hardships. She sold out a world tour and released music highlighting a mix of themes such as disillusionment, vengefulness, fear about love and hope, reflecting how the difficult events she faced forced her to mature and adopt a more cautious and private persona. 

Reputation, which was crafted during the artist’s personal struggles, became a source of solace for me during my own challenging moments and showed the world Taylor Swift’s ability to transform adversity into artistic strength by creating deeply resonating music.

2019

Lover (2019), Folklore (2020) and Evermore (2020) were released amidst the pandemic. Though these albums didn’t receive as much attention as her past albums, audiences commented that they had exceptional lyricism. While Lover (2019) is a more dreamy and romantic pop album, the indie rock/chamber pop sister albums Folklore (2020) and Evermore (2020) focus on themes of love, marriage and grief.

Furthermore, 2020 marked the year she filed a dispute against Scooter Braun and Big Machine Records regarding them selling the masters for her first six albums. To reclaim the masters from her last six albums, she released Fearless (Taylor’s Version) (2021),  Red (Taylor’s Version) (2021), Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) (2023) and 1989 (Taylor’s Version) (2023).

Taylor Swift once again rose to the task of proving that one could find light in the darkest of times, grow from failures and make the best out of life’s challenges. She took this chance to gain even more independence with her music and exercised her creative freedom without any constraints. For example, she released 10-minute versions of songs that did not initially make the cut on past albums. Taylor’s immense vocal growth became evident through the re-recordings; hearing her sing old songs written when she was younger with her matured, skillful voice shows how far she has come as an artist and it evokes a deeply nostalgic journey for fans all over the world. Her vulnerability allowed fans to be transported back to the times they first heard the album and reflect on their own personal growth. 

Throughout the Lover era, Taylor Swift also flourished as a public figure and began vocally advocating for the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ community, people of color and various social issues. She spoke out against racism, took a stand against sexism and gender inequality while emphasizing the importance of voting, taking a more serious role in activism, politics, and using her platform constructively. She also included these themes in her songs, namely, “You Need To Calm Down”, “The Man”, and “Only The Young.”

The impact of sister albums Folklore and Evermore was extremely profound, blurring the lines between storytelling and songwriting, through the use of profound poetic devices, being the first mainstream artist to take this approach and execute it well. She reclaimed her art form and focused more on making art for herself and letting her creativity shine through by inventing vivid characters and plots rather than conforming to the conventional album expectations, making her expertise, intelligence and immense abilities as a songwriter apparent. These releases, acting as a lifeline, helped many, including me, through times of isolation, separation and fear during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

2022

The Eras of Taylor Swift: Her Evolution As a Musical Artist

Taylor Swift The Eras Tour Midnights Era Set taken by Paolo Villanueva on August 3, 2023. (Image source: Flickr)

 

In Midnights (2022), Swift continues to use pop beats with a softer edge. The album has more autobiographical lyrics that touch on Swift’s experiences in love, heartbreak and self-doubt. Her most recent album also inspired her latest tour, the Eras tour, which became the first concert tour in history to gross more than $1 billion.

Midnights was an emotional roller coaster of an album, filled with experiences that perfectly encapsulated the notion of late-night pondering which I found to be strangely relatable. Furthermore, the period of the Eras Tour has been a wild ride and has provided so many means of reflecting on her career thus far. Taylor Swift has been tactical and has brought fans the experience of a lifetime, allowing fans like myself to take a trip down memory lane and reconnect with favourite songs throughout Taylor’s extensive and impressive discography. 

Seeing Taylor Swift’s immense global impact has been a delight and a source of inspiration. She has proven that she is capable of longevity and the truth is real art is everlasting. Given her new album announcement and recent wins at the Grammys, it is easy to surmise that Taylor Swift is not stopping any time soon. I hope to find more riveting and haunting songs on The Tortured Poets Department album, set to be released on April 19, 2024. It appears to be a somber, yet beautiful record in the best way possible. I am excited to feel more emotions through her new artwork.

Thus, there is no doubt that she will continue to excel as an artist, hitting record after record and expanding her fanbase, achievements and discography.

Taylor Swift’s music is characterized by its versatility, authenticity, relevance and timelessness and will live on, leaving an indelible mark on the music industry.

Authors

Want to learn more about INKspire? Check out our organization's website.
This is default text for notification bar