The Profile Classic: The Profile Dossier: Taylor Swift, America's polarizing pop titan
"You are not the opinion of someone who doesn't know you."
A note from Polina: I first published this Profile Dossier two years ago, so I wanted to re-surface it in light of Taylor Swift’s billion-dollar tour and recent resurgence in the public eye. I think you’ll really enjoy this one even if you’re not a T-Swift fan.
Taylor Swift has mastered the art of self-reinvention.
As a teenager, Swift established herself as a shining star in the world of country, with her eponymous debut studio album in 2006, which featured the singles "Teardrops on My Guitar" and "Our Song." Eight years later, she successfully crossed over into pop with her album 1989. She then played with the electro-pop sound in her next two studio albums, Reputation and Lover.
During the pandemic, Swift surprised fans and dropped two albums, in which she experimented with folk and alternative rock.
Unlike many stars who have found success in a single genre, Swift has embraced creative risk and re-invented herself at every stage in her career. Some might consider re-invention calculating, but Swift considers it progress.
"You've got to allow yourself that grace to put on a certain lifestyle, or a certain outfit, or a certain creative mantra — and then discard it when you outgrow it," she says.
Although Swift has turned into a full-blown brand, she still appears relatable because she's remained maniacal about warding off commodification. “The bigger your career gets, the more you struggle with the idea that a lot of people see you the same way they see an iPhone or a Starbucks," she says.
With sales of over 200 million records worldwide, Swift is one of the best-selling music artists on the planet. And the accolades are many: She has won 11 Grammy Awards, 32 American Music Awards (the most wins by an artist), and 23 Billboard Music Awards (the most wins by a woman).
Although you could argue that nothing about Swift's life is relatable, she's masterfully humanized her brand and built a mega-loyal fan base that refers to themselves as the "Swifties."
Before you call her calculating, consider this: “Am I shooting from the hip? Would any of this have happened if I was? ... You can be accidentally successful for three or four years. Accidents happen. But careers take hard work."
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