Change Edition – Taylor Swift’s Evolution


Image via ELLE

Rowan Kalhar, Editor

These walls that they put up to hold us back will fall down.” Taylor Swift is a groundbreaking country, pop, and alternative artist from Pennsylvania. When she was 14, her family moved from Pennsylvania to Nashville, in order for her to pursue her musical career. Only two years later, at a mere 16, her music career took off when she released her first album, Taylor Swift

Swift has released nine albums and has rerecorded and released two of the six that she’s going to be re-recording. Throughout her albums, her voice, along with her views and opinions, has changed significantly. 

Beginning with her debut album, Taylor Swift, all the way through her most recent re-recording, Red (Taylor’s Version), Swift’s perspective on love has changed. For example, when she first began recording music, she was sixteen and in high school. She’s now 32 and has taken the music industry by storm. Her very first single, “Tim McGraw,” speaks of a boy she dated in high school, and how “When you think Tim McGraw/I hope you think of me.” From her teenage view of love, hearing or thinking of a certain artist and thinking of someone you’d link the song to, she’s grown into a deeper emotional thinker. For a long while in the middle of her career so far, Swift was known for dating many famous men for not a very long time and then writing songs about them. Now, though, she’s been in a relationship with actor Joe Alwyn since 2016. Because of this, her ideas and writing of love have certainly changed. Her seventh album, Lover, addresses romantic love, but also loving your family and yourself. In both “Paper Rings” and “It’s Nice To Have A Friend,” she talks about going from friendship to being lovers. “Paper Rings” really addresses her feelings about true love and what true love is, as she says “if you really love someone, … you’d be like, ‘I don’t care [about the ring].” In “It’s Nice To Have A Friend,” she tells the story of two childhood friends, and them growing up and getting married. An idealistic story of love being shown in one of her songs shows growth from her original roots of not-so-great relationships. 

Lover and some of Swift’s other albums also talk about her parents and the love between her and them. In “Soon You’ll Get Better” on Lover, she speaks of her mother’s cancer diagnosis, and how “there’s not a day that I won’t try.” On her second album, Fearless, Swift writes about her mother again, and how she’s always been there for her throughout her childhood, in “The Best Day.” She also speaks of her parents on Red (Taylor’s Version)’s track “All Too Well (10 Minute Version).” When Jake Gyllenhaal, her boyfriend at the time, didn’t show up for her 21st birthday, according to the song, her father told her “it’s supposed to be fun turning 21.” Her parents have always supported her, and that’s shown in both her songs and her life when she was a child. Her parents, Taylor, and her younger brother moved to Tennessee in order for her to pursue the music career she wanted. Uprooting their entire family in order to support her shows the familial love that she writes about in her music. 

Each of Swift’s exes have songs that are theorized to be written about them. For example, “Dear John” is about John Mayer, who dated Swift when she was 19 and he was 31. That’s one of the very few songs she namedrops an ex in, especially in the title. Swift’s song “Style,” on 1989, is about Harry Styles. Many of the album’s songs are about him or at least inspired by him, but none are so revealing in name as “Style.” Jake Gyllenhaal inspired one of Swift’s most well-known songs, “All Too Well,” which on her most recent release, there’s a 10-minute version of. “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” is the longest song to ever top the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Recently, though, her music has been less about her exes (except for rerecordings) and more about storytelling. 

Her two most recent all-new albums, folklore and evermore, both surprises dropped in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, have told stories more than told about her own life. For example, folklore has the story of three hearts, told within the songs “august,” “betty,” and “cardigan.” Each of these three songs is told from the perspective of a different person. “betty” is from the perspective of a teenage boy named James, who cheated on his girlfriend Betty (her perspective is seen in “cardigan”), with a girl who’s never actually named but whom fans call Augustine, after the title of her song. Also within folklore and evermore, her “sister albums” as they’re called, she tells stories of two of her grandparents. “epiphany,” track 13 on folklore, “touches on her grandfather’s experience in the military.” On evermore, “marjorie,” also the 13th track, is a tribute to Swift’s late grandmother, an opera singer whose vocals are featured in the background of the song. It’s theorized that “marjorie” may also be an allusion to the story of Marjorie West, a young girl who disappeared in Pennsylvania, Swift’s home state. West’s sister Dorothea was the last person to see her before she disappeared, and evermore contains another track called “dorothea.” “dorothea” also has a companion track titled “‘tis the damn season,” bringing up Dorothea’s return home after being in Hollywood. evermore and folklore both focus more on telling other people’s and made up stories than Swift’s own, which is a fairly drastic change from all of her earlier albums.

Swift has won 3 Grammy Album of the Year awards, one in each genre she’s released an album with. She’s had eight Billboard number ones and 25 Billboard Music Awards, which is the most for any female artist. She has 34 American Music Awards (AMAs), which is the most for any artist. She was 8th on Billboard’s Greatest of All-Time Artists List in 2019 and was named the Woman of the Decade (the 2010s) also by Billboard. The AMAs declared her the Artist of the Decade (the 2010s) as well. Swift has released a documentary, Miss Americana, and directed two films, Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions and All Too Well: The Short Film

Throughout her 16 year career so far, she’s released nine albums and two rerecordings, films, acted in multiple films as well and won numerous awards. From her country roots in Taylor Swift to Fearless’s slightly poppier but still, country sound, Speak Now’s a challenge to herself to write all the songs herself, and Red’s “Sad, Beautiful, Tragic” nature, she’s country through and through. She leaves those country roots though, with her fifth album 1989, her first official foray into the land of pop, then continues on to reputation, coming after a three-year disappearance from the public eye, and then to her most recent pop album, Lover, the embodiment of all kinds of love. From Lover, she changes and evolves once again into folklore and evermore, which are more of an alternative rock sound. 

Swift’s career has changed a lot throughout the time she’s been active in the music scene. Her evolution from her country roots to pop to alternative has changed the music industry as a whole, showing other artists that genre crossover is possible to succeed with. Swift’s changing mind and artistic nature show through in all of her songs and can change the way everything she speaks of is interpreted. So, “If one thing had been different/Would everything be different today?”