Since the beginning of her ERA’s tour in March 2023, it has been impossible to escape TikTok videos of the shows, the conspiracy theories, easter eggs, and relationship rumours that have put Taylor Swift at the forefront of conversation for the last few months. Taylor Swift’s fandom, the “Swifties” have also had to survive ‘The Great War’ in order to bag the tickets for her shows, which was extremely difficult due to the overload of fans trying to get them.
It is without a doubt that Taylor is one of the most popular celebrities in the last decade, however, public opinion on Taylor has always been mixed, especially in 2016 when it was considered “uncool” to like her or her music…
So why is she so popular now in 2023? To gain a better understanding of Taylor’s rise, fall and rise again in popularity, we have compiled a timeline of her full career to let you know why Taylor Swift is literally taking over both the music industry and celebrity pop culture in 2023.
Taylor signs her first record deal
In 2004, Taylor signed her first record deal at age fourteen with Sony, and in 2005, signed with Big Machine Records. She began writing and recording country songs that would later be released on her self-titled album “Taylor Swift” in 2006. Her first single “Tim McGrath” landed a place on the Hot 100 in the US and she was slowly starting to make a name for herself nationally.
Taylor releases Fearless
It was in 2008 when Taylor Swift truly started to make a name for herself both in the US and internationally, with the release of her second album, “Fearless”. The album was wildly successful, with songs like “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” reaching the charts in many different countries. The album also won a Grammy in 2010.
During this time, Taylor became a worldwide music sensation, with a lot of young girls looking up to her. In 2009, the name “Swifties” was finally born as Taylor began to grow her fandom, and went on her first world tour, which visited six countries and she performed 118 shows.
This era was also the beginning of Taylor becoming heavily discussed and criticised in tabloids, especially with her relationship and split with Joe Jonas, which would only become the beginning of the media frenzy that would happen with each relationship that Taylor would later be in.
The 2009 VMA’s
After the success of her album “Fearless”, Taylor won the “Best Female Video” award at the VMA’s for her music video for “You Belong With Me” in 2009. However, this win became one of the most famous TV pop culture moments, as while Taylor was accepting her first VMA award, Kanye took to the stage claiming: “Taylor I’m really happy for you. I’ll let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best music videos of all time.” There was public outrage, with many people, and celebrities publicly supporting Taylor online. This was only the beginning of the feud between Taylor and Kanye.
And he said, “Speak Now”
In 2010, Taylor released her third studio album “Speak Now” which had great commercial success as it sold over 1 million copies within its first week in the US alone. It reached number 1 on the Billboard Top 200 in the US and number 6 on the Irish music charts. She also went on another world tour, this time visiting 17 countries, as her popularity only grew further.
The songs from the “Speak Now” album allowed Taylor to tell her side of the story of things that the media and tabloids were discussing about her own personal life. A lot of the songs she wrote for this album were heavily influenced by her past relationships in 2009 with both Taylor Lautner and John Mayor. Her music caused a stir as she began to publicly call out her past relationship with John Mayor with the song “Dear John”, who would later bash her in the media claiming that the song “humiliated” him and is “cheap songwriting”.
But loving him was Red
Taylor’s fourth album, Red, was released in 2012 and was seen as Taylor’s transitioning into more of a pop sound, with still some hints of country elements on the album. It was a critically acclaimed album, with many songs that were in the charts for weeks, such as: “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We Are Never Getting Back Together”.
Like her previous album, Taylor wrote from her own experiences, with many of the songs written about her past relationships, one of which being Jake Gyllenhaal. During this time, the media became extremely obsessed with Taylor’s romantic relationships and created the narrative that she was “crazy” and “obsessive” due to writing about her exes.
Despite many criticising Taylor publicly on her personal life, she went on another tour, with 1.7 million people attending the shows in various countries including; US, Asia, Europe, and Australia.
It’s a new soundtrack, I could dance to this beat
Different from her last album, 1989 was inspired by synth-pop and was released in 2014. The album sold 15 million copies worldwide, with many of the songs like “Blank Space” and “Style” staying in the charts for multiple weeks. The album would go on to win two Grammys for both Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album.
This era made Taylor one of the most popular female pop stars at the time. While the media still discussed her romantic relationships with Harry Styles and Calvin Harris, with many paparazzi pictures to go with, they also began to criticise her for her feud with Katy Perry. This feud supposedly was over Katy Perry stealing tour dancers, and inspiring Taylor’s song “Bad Blood.” The media also had many articles criticising Taylor’s large group of female friends who were made up of models and other celebrities like Gigi Hadid, Selena Gomez, Emma Stone and Karlie Kloss.
Many people at this time either loved or hated Taylor Swift as she began to get a reputation for only writing songs about her exes, and many felt that her fans were made up of young girls. Despite this, Taylor’s bond with her fans grew, through her online presence online, on sites like Instagram sharing pictures of her cats and her posts on Tumblr. She also hosted secret listening parties for the album with her fans in her own house. Around this time, fans also began to discover easter eggs in Taylor’s songs and music videos, creating bonds between the fandom as they worked together to try and discover what they meant.
2016 was a tough year for Taylor Swift as she became one of the most hated female celebrities that year, with many people jumping on a bandwagon as we all watched her downfall online.
Taylor Swift’s fall from popularity began after Kanye released his song “Famous” which brought back up their previous feud from 2009 with the lyric: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have s*x/ Why?/ I made that b*tch famous”. He then released a music video where he was in bed with a naked Taylor Swift mannequin.
Taylor later announced that she did not approve of that lyric and that she was not happy with the crude music video either. However, in June, Kim began posting an “edited” phone call between Taylor and Kanye where she is heard giving “permission” to the lyric of the song, which we now know from the 2020 leak of the full phone call, that she was not made aware of the actual lyric.
But despite this, in 2016 this was considered a big deal with many taking to Twitter trending #KimExposedTaylorParty and her publicly being criticised for always playing the “victim.” Also, hundreds of thousands of people began commenting “🐍” on Taylor’s Insta and Twitter, as nearly everyone online began to celebrate the downfall of Taylor Swift.
It seemed that everyone was out to get Taylor, as only a month later, Calvin Harris, her ex, took to Twitter to publicly bash Taylor for her fans calling him out for not giving Taylor recognition for her work on his song “This Is What You Came For” and also her new relationship with Tom Hiddleston. He tweeted:
My reputation’s never been worse, so you must like me for me
After going quiet on Instagram in the aftermath of 2016, Taylor returns by posting a snake hissing, teasing her next album, Reputation, in 2017. The album’s songs were inspired by her now tarnished reputation caused by Kim and Kanye and her new boyfriend, Joe Alwyn.
The album became the best-selling album by a female artist in 2017 and sold over 4.5 million copies worldwide. Her first single from the album “Look What You Made Me Do” has become an iconic music video due to it having hundreds of easter eggs, some of which still have not been discovered according to Taylor.
Taylor also went on a worldwide stadium tour in 2018, which broke numerous box office scores at that time as it became the third highest-grossing female tour of all time. However, while the tour was considered extremely successful, it did not sell out, with many of the tickets being given away for free, especially in Dublin. It seemed that while in her best efforts, Taylor still had not fully recovered from her downfall in 2016.
Spiderboy buys her full discography
Taylor Swift’s bad luck still had not run out, as in 2018 her record label, Big Machine Records, sold her full discography to Scooter Braun, the now previous manager of Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, etc. In the past, Taylor had publicly disliked Braun due to his bullying of her online in 2016 and was disheartened to find that Big Machine Records had sold her music to him for $300 million without even offering her to buy her own music.
The record label claimed that the only way in which Taylor could own her own music is if she were to sign a new contract where each new album she recorded would grant her ownership of one of her old albums. Taylor turned down the deal, and signed a new contract with Republic Records instead and vowed to re-record all of her old music to gain ownership of all of her self-written songs.
Scooter Braun would also go on to sell her music in 2020 to Shamrock Capital, again not including Taylor in the sale. Braun’s contract from the sale still allows him to make money off her old music.
I’ve loved you three summers now honey, but I want ‘em all
In 2019, Taylor released her seventh studio album, “Lover”, with her new record label. This era was bright and colourful, different from her previous album “Reputation” which was very dark. The album showed her transitioning into more of a bubblegum pop sound and her newfound happiness, inspired by her relationship with Joe Alwyn.
At the time of release, the album received mixed reviews as her leading single “Me!” was a controversial song amongst fans and critics. However, the album without a doubt has the most longevity impact, with many songs still highly popular in 2023, with “Cruel Summer” being released as a single four years later.
Folklore and Evermore save lockdowns
2020 lockdowns were a difficult time for everyone due to the stress and anxieties people faced over their future, and the loneliness and boredom felt due to being stuck at home. Due to many tv, movies and music being halted with promises of releases after lockdowns, many people wanted something new to experience in the comfort of their homes to fill the boredom of their long days.
Taylor filled an empty market during this time with her release of both Folklore and Evermore. Two surprise albums were only announced a day before release, and both albums were released six months apart. Folklore, and its sister album, Evermore, both became Number One albums on the US Billboard Top 200 and saw huge success due to the different sound. The songs from both albums showcased Taylor’s songwriting capabilities through poetic and vivid imagery, and both albums told stories of forbidden love affairs.
The calmness and peaceful sound of these albums were the perfect soundtrack for many people during the covid lockdowns as it helped them destress, relax and enjoy their time at home during a difficult period of their lives. It also brought Taylor new fans as she was the main and one of the only artists making and releasing music during this time. People who had previously disliked her and her music had grown to love the new sound and had a newfound respect for Taylor Swift.
Taylor began to tease her re-records at the beginning of 2021, and in April she released her first re-record of the album “Fearless”. It was the vault tracks which truly hyped this album release as it would mean that fans would finally get to listen to songs that did not make the album the first time. Her vault track, “Mr Perfectly Fine”, drew attention to the album further due to Joe Jonas, who the song is about, posting videos of him and his wife, Sophie Turner, enjoying the song too. It showed fans and previous critics that despite her reputation for writing songs about her exes, some past boyfriends still supported her.
In November of that same year, Taylor released her second re-record “Red”, which saw the release of the song and short film “All Too Well” (the 10-minute version). This song was highly praised by both critics and fans online for Taylor’s talented vivid songwriting and also her directing debut of her short film for the music video, which starred both Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink. The song also began to trend on TikTok, where people discussed in detail what the song and music video meant.
The next re-record was not announced until mid-way through the ERA’s tour. This re-record would be “Speak Now” and was released in July 2023. Like the previous albums, it was the vault tracks that really drew attention to this re-record, as she premiered the vault track “I Can See You” music video on stage at the Kansas City show. The music video once again showed familiar faces from her Speak Now Era in 2010, including Joey King and her ex-boyfriend that inspired songs on the album, Taylor Lautner. The music video also has many easter eggs in the video for future releases in which many fans are still trying to find what they mean online.
As of August 2023, on the final night of the first leg of the ERA’s tour in Los Angeles, Taylor announced her next re-release with 1989. As of right now, it is unclear what to expect from the re-record, however, what we know is that there are five new vault tracks that are due to be released on October 27 2023 along with the full re-record of the album.
Meet Me at Midnight
Prior to The Era’s Tour, in October 2022 Taylor released her 10th Studio Album, Midnights, which were songs that she had written over the years that kept her up at night. The album’s first week of sales sold 1.5 million copies in the US alone, and made it the fastest-selling album overall of Taylor’s previous releases.
The album also produced the most number of singles in the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 in a single week, with songs such as “Anti-Hero,” “Lavender Haze,” “Snow on the Beach” featuring Lana Del Rey, and “Bejeweled” also breaking into the top ten.
The ERA’s Tour
After the success of the album, Taylor announced her next worldwide stadium tour, “The ERA’s Tour” with the main premise is to revisit all of Taylor Swift Era’s in one night. However, when the tickets went on sale in the States it had become clear that Taylor had become single-handedly one of the most successful celebrities in the music industry, as 14 million people attempted to get tickets, with only 2.9 million tickets available.
When the ERA’s tour began in March 2023, it had begun to take over everyone’s ‘for you page’ on TikTok, which showed her fantastic stage presents, incredible stage design and extremely talented dancers. There was also a huge hype around what songs she would surprise songs she would sing each night and whether she was going to announce any new music or easter eggs.
But if that wasn’t enough, TikTok users were also viewing people’s era’s inspired outfits, exchanging friendship bracelets at the shows and also the amount of A-list celebrities in attendance, including Selena Gomez, Blake Lively, Adam Sandler, Reese Witherspoon, etc.
Like every other Taylor Swift era, Taylor’s love life has been speculated throughout the tour. After it was announced that Taylor and Joe had broken up near the end of April, she was then linked with Matty Healy, who had attended many of Taylor’s shows back in May. However, this was quickly over before it began, with more speculation from fans that Taylor could potentially be back with Joe or possibly have a new boyfriend as of August 2023.
The tour is set to continue on August 23 2023 in Mexico and goes overseas in 2024, with her playing three nights in Dublin next Summer for those who managed to bag tickets to one of the three nights.
It is clear that Taylor has managed to stay one of the most relevant and talented female artists of this century, due to the drive, passion and success she has succeeded over the last 16 years. Taylor Swift does not seem to be backing down anytime soon, with more re-records to be released and the rumours of a brand new album, it is understandable how she has managed to only grow her popularity throughout the years!