Taylor Swift: Music’s record-breaking, money-raking, headline-making deity

Her name is ubiquitous, her output prolific, her tour a golden goose, her every move a headline. And nearly two decades into her career, her star simply keeps rising.

We’re talking, of course, about Taylor Swift.

After a year of shattering records, including staging the first billion-dollar-tour ever, music’s reigning deity made history yet again Sunday, winning a fourth Grammy for Album of the Year, the most by any artist.

In surpassing stiff competition to win the prestigious award, the 34-year-old broke the tie she had been in with true stalwarts of the American songbook — Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder — to claim the record.

“I would love to tell you that this is the best moment in my life,” she said while accepting the night’s top prize, but said that it was a comparable feeling to seemingly smaller moments like finishing a song.

“For me, the award is the work,” said Swift, who also won the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album.

“Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to do what I 100 percent love so much! Mind blown!”

Swift is set to play a series of shows on her Eras Tour this week in Tokyo; the conversation-commanding global odyssey has already become the first to rake in more than a billion dollars.

It’s set to eventually bring in an estimated $2 billion in revenue — a staggering total.

With hundreds of millions of social media followers and a staunchly loyal fan base, she can move any dial with the tiniest of efforts, which has politicos — and conspiracy theorists — opining on her potential impact on the upcoming presidential election.

“You could not live in the United States and not have heard about Taylor Swift,” said Kristin Lieb, an expert at Emerson College on pop, gender and branding.

“She’s worked through Madonna’s playbook and is now writing the early pages of the next one… it’s incredible.”

– Person of the year –

By some estimates, her sprawling empire is worth more than $1 billion, and the massive $93.2 million opening this fall of her tour-documenting film was but another jewel on the artist’s crown.

And Swift’s blossoming romance with Kansas City Chiefs football player Travis Kelce has also brought the NFL a whole new wave of fans, as Swifties track the couple’s every move.

The wall-to-wall attention is not new for the singer-songwriter, who since her teenage years has seen her dating life broadcast to the world.

After all her success in 2023, Time Magazine honored Swift in its annual year-end issue as Person of the Year, calling her a “rare person who is both the writer and hero of her own story.”

– Ownership –

Swift — who was born in Pennsylvania on December 13, 1989 — began writing songs professionally as a teenager, signing with Nashville’s Big Machine Records as a country artist.

After her eponymous debut drew her a solid fan base, Swift’s sophomore album “Fearless” (2008) catapulted her into the mainstream, and earned her a first Grammy for Album of the Year in 2010.

Her next albums “Speak Now” (2010) and “Red” (2012) saw her lean harder into rock and electronic influences.

By her fifth studio album, “1989,” Swift had gone full pop — and she won her second Album of the Year gramophone.

The years that followed grew increasingly taxing, she said in Time recently, as the public grew weary of constant attention on her at a moment before US society had re-examined its hyperfixation on and criticism of young female celebrities.

Her media-hyped feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian didn’t help.

The difficult moment coincided with the fulfillment of her deal with Big Machine Records.

Swift decided it was time to move on and signed a major new deal with Universal that granted more agency and ownership of her own work.

But her relationship with Big Machine haunted her, as the sale of her song catalog to a private equity firm triggered a massive dispute over musicians’ rights — and a bold new era of Swift’s career.

– ‘Taylor’s Version’ –

Her cunning next move was a huge risk that perhaps only an artist of her stature and wealth could take: Swift decided she would re-record her first six albums to own their rights, urging her fans to listen to “Taylor’s Version” instead of previous releases.

It worked.

Swift has sweetened her versions with previously unreleased tracks — like the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” — delighting ardent fans, bringing new Swifties into the fold, and earning her renewed respect within the industry.

Simultaneously, Swift has also released four albums of new work starting with 2019’s “Lover,” in close collaboration with in-demand Grammy-winning producer Jack Antonoff.

In the early days of the pandemic, she dropped twin folk-pop albums, “Folklore” and “Evermore,” which saw her take an atmospheric turn with an emphasis on storytelling. “Folklore” won her the third Album of the Year Grammy.

With “Midnights,” she returned to the arena pop vibes of her earlier hits, setting the stage for her catalog-spanning Eras Tour.

And now fans have a brand-new album to look forward to: Swift said onstage Sunday that she was dropping “The Tortured Poets Department” on April 19.

“I’m going to go and post the cover right now backstage,” she said, as her declaration started going viral.

“Thank you, I love you!”


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