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How Taylor Swift Reached “New Heights” of Fame in 2023

Taylor Swift is everywhere. What lies behind her music’s astronomical success?

Credit: Shutterstock / A. PAES

Taylor Swift has long been a household name. With the release of her debut album Taylor Swift in 2006, Swift immediately emerged as a dominant force in the music industry. But now, Swift is the music industry.

After years of mingled success and struggle, Swift amassed numerous honors in 2023. These included the highest number of Spotify streams worldwide, billionaire status, and Time’s Person of the Year selection.

Taylor Swift is arguably the most famous musician in the world. But what is the driving force behind her fame, and how far does it truly reach?

The Eras Tour

Swift’s standout venture of 2023 was the Eras Tour, a compilation of her different musical “eras” and her most ambitious tour to date. It offers 151 shows across the globe and has repeatedly added new dates and locations

It also happens to be the most lucrative tour of all time, with its revenue projected to exceed $4 billion. Marketed as an unforgettable experience of technical and musical splendor, the Eras Tour boasts 44 songs and a range of visual effects. It has even become its own movie.

Many concert-goers are also sharing viral concert footage on social media. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, as commenters praise Swift’s performance, her outfits, and her choice of surprise songs.

For instance, in @theweatherry’s TikTok post, fans scream in unmitigated delight as Swift combines “Is It Over Now?” and “Out of the Woods” — a highly anticipated mashup. Commenter @cobainfame reflects, “I love being a fan [of Taylor Swift],” noting how “girls everywhere [are] passionate about the same person.”

“Taylor’s Version”

Swift’s business-savvy decision to re-record her albums has provided another source of excitement for her loyal fanbase. The impact of the re-recordings is twofold. It sets a revolutionary precedent for female artists to reclaim their own discography, and it also satiates fans’ appetite for more Taylor content. 

To fuel the fan frenzy, Swift scatters puzzle-like “Easter eggs” throughout her fashion choices and her social media platforms. This enables fans to decode the release timelines and titles of her music.

She also includes unreleased songs written for her original albums on each re-recorded album. This mixes new and old to produce a nostalgic, yet novel end result. “Taylor’s Versions” have dominated Spotify charts, accumulating billions of streams and smashing records.

Fans are currently awaiting Swift’s final re-recording of her 2017 album Reputation. The most committed amongst them have been working to pin down an exact release date.

But why the numbers? Why the fervent adoration, bordering on reverence? Well, the bottom line is that Swift makes women feel seen. Her songs abound on apps such as TikTok, with users lauding the emotional resonance of her lyricism. 

Lines such as “You hang from my lips like the Gardens of Babylon” (from Evermore’s “cowboy like me”) stand out to female fans for their depth. User @swizzlemizzel13 posted a video about this line, with over a thousand commenters echoing the sentiment of shared appreciation.

“The Archer” is another fan favorite. It has inspired an ongoing viral trend in which (primarily female) users share quotes that “see right through them.” This pays homage to the song’s lyrics and their poetic exploration of selfhood and vulnerability. 

A TikTok post from @emforevermore emphasizes the “double meaning” of that particular line, as its reference to “seeing right through” a person may convey either invisibility, scrutiny, or both.

Commenters agreed. @user28bxdj72hdhw672 concluded that “Taylor Swift is a songwriting genius,” while @sageosaurus_ stated that she “ha[s] never related to another song like ‘The Archer’ ”.

It seems that Taylor Swift “sees right through” women in the best way possible. She gives voice to their innermost thoughts and validates their deepest, darkest feelings of shame, rejection, and even self-loathing. Time and time again, Swift has demonstrated a unique gift for articulating these intricacies of womanhood.

Taylor Swift in Television

And at age 34, she is only just getting started. In fact, one of the most unique features of Swift’s music is its perpetual expansion. 

Featured in hit dramas such as The Summer I Turned Pretty (TSITP), her songs serve as versatile storytelling tools.

The Summer I Turned Pretty features Taylor Swift music from a number of different albums.
Chris Briney and Lola Tung as Conrad and Belly in The Summer I Turned Pretty. Credit: Youtube / @Anda Hung edits

Whether it is Conrad and Belly’s sweet beachside excursion, set to “Invisible String,” or the “Delicate” pool play-fight between Jeremiah and Belly, TSITP evolves its romantic entanglements through Taylor Swift lyrics. 

This has generated immense publicity for the show, inspiring a number of fan edits.

TSITP is not alone in its usage of Taylor classics. From other popular shows like Bridgerton to trailers for new movies like Wilderness and Migration, Swift’s songs have permeated screens as well as radio stations.

Taylor & Travis

Swift’s heightened media presence has also taken a more personal turn. After her highly publicized breakup with actor Joe Alwyn, Swift has since struck up a new relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. 

Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce shared a sweet hug at the Super Bowl.
Swift embracing Kelce after his Super Bowl win. Credit: Youtube / @ESPN

Their fairytale romance has been a hot topic ever since Kelce first mentioned Swift on his aptly named football podcast New Heights.

Though the NFL’s fixation on Swift has sparked bitter criticism, her impact on the sport is undeniable. According to Forbes, a Swift-attended Chiefs game garnered the highest number of viewers since the last Super Bowl. Likewise, Kelce’s jersey sales have also risen exponentially this season.

This constitutes a highly gendered phenomenon, with more women drawn to football than ever before. The “Taylor Swift effect” is evidently breathing new life into sectors far beyond the music industry.

The Grammys & More

Yet it is Swift’s musical success that endures as the pinnacle of her career. In 2024, Swift became the first artist to win four Album of the Year awards at the Grammys. While accepting her award, she announced a brand-new album, entitled The Tortured Poets Department, to be released on April 19th, 2024.

Swift's latest album Midnights earned Album of the Year at the Grammys -- a milestone for her music.
Taylor Swift at the 2024 Grammys. Credit: Youtube / @Recording Academy / GRAMMYS

Everything Swift touches turns, quite literally, to gold. With her new album, her imminent Reputation re-recording, and the international leg of her Eras tour, there is much to anticipate on the Swift front. 

But perhaps the most striking quality of Taylor Swift is not the record-shattering statistics, nor the exponential rise to fame. It’s how she did it.

Like so many musicians, she started out with a guitar and a dream. What sets Swift apart is her ability to speak to and for girls across the globe. She is unapologetic in her emotionality, capturing the female existence in all of its turbulent, beautiful glory.

The power of Taylor Swift reflects the power of women — and that is precisely why Swift dominated 2023.

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English major at Dartmouth College. Also a member of the track and field and cross country teams.

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