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Taylor Swift: How a country girl took over the world – as new album The Tortured Poets Department released | Ents & Arts News

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Taylor Swift is one of the world’s best-selling artists, a billionaire, and a record breaker. And she’s just 34.

With her 11th studio album – The Tortured Poets Department – out today (her follow up to 2022’s Grammy winning Midnights) the buzz around the singer is at fever pitch.

Update:
Swift reveals ‘secret double album’

Taylor Swift accepts the Global Icon award during the Brit Awards 2021
Image:
Swift accepts the Global Icon award at the Brit Awards 2021. Pic: PA

Fans can expect 16 new tracks (addressing the five stages of heartbreak) and collaborations from the likes of Florence + The Machine and Post Malone.

With a history of writing about her exes (you know who you are, Joe Jonas, Harry Styles, Jake Gyllenhaal and John Mayer), there’s much interest over whether any songs will refer to her English ex-boyfriend, actor Joe Alwyn who she dated for six years until their split last year.

There’s a strong suggestion track number five (the slot she always gives to her most meaningful songs) – So Long London – may do just that.

And the very title of album may be referring to a WhatsApp group Alwyn previously set up with fellow actors Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal, called The Tortured Man Club.

Speaking about it in 2022, the actors joked that they’d not been using it much since becoming less tortured. Four months later news of Swift and Alwyn’s split emerged.

Meanwhile, in current boyfriend news, Swift’s latest beau – Travis Kelce – says he’s had a listen to parts of the album and says it’s “unbelievable”.

The US star’s rise from teen country pop singer to all-round global phenomenon has been – well – swift.

We take a look at the unstoppable rise and rise of Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift was there to support Travis Kelce. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Swift with boyfriend Travis Kelce in February. Pic: Reuters

Moving forward while reclaiming her past

She started out Taylor Alison Swift, born in Pennsylvania and named after singer-songwriter James Taylor.

Inspired to become a country singer after watching a documentary about Faith Hill (one of the genre’s best-selling stars), her parents upped sticks to move to Tennessee in 1993 to help her forge her music career, and Swift landed her first record deal aged just 13.

A musical chameleon, she’s switched up her genre a few times since then, moving from country to pop to alternative and folk.

And as well as moving forward artistically, she’s quite literally reclaimed her past too, re-recording her back catalogue since 2021 as a way to regain ownership of her music following a spat with talent manager Scooter Braun, who bought her former label Big Machine Records.

The MTV VMAs moment in 2009 when Kanye sparked his feud with Swift. Pic. Reuters
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The MTV VMAs moment in 2009 when Kanye stormed the stage. Pic. Reuters

Earlier this year, Swift made Grammy history when she became the first person to win album of the year four times with Midnights.

She’s come a long way since Kanye West infamously stormed the stage at the 2009 VMAs as Swift accepted her award for best video by a female artist, a stunt he later claimed in a lyric “made that b**** famous“.

Her fame has been on the rise ever since – reaching peak Swift over the last few years.

Taylor in 2006, when she was seen as the sweet girl of country music. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Taylor in 2006, when she was seen as the sweet girl of country music. Pic: Reuters

Billionaire status

Swift is a billionaire, according to Forbes magazine, accumulating $1.1bn (£875m), based on earnings from her Eras Tour and the worth of her pop music catalogue.

It makes her the first musician to hit 10-figure status solely based on her songs and performances.

Following the start of her Eras Tour, kicking off in March 2023, she became the first artist to surpass $1bn (£800m) in revenue, breaking the Guinness World Record for the highest-grossing music tour.

Plus, she was the biggest-selling global recording artist of 2023, breaking another record by topping the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s (IFPI) global artist chart for a fourth time.

Taylor Swift accepts the award for Album of the Year for Midnights during the 66th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2024. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Swift making Grammy history. Pic: Reuters

In 2023 Swift was ranked as Spotify’s most popular artist, and she became the first female artist to have four albums on Billboard’s top 10 list concurrently.

Her Eras Tour – which started out with 53 shows played across the US before expanding to include 78 international dates – has sold out stadiums around the world, with an estimated $900m in ticket sales last year, according to Billboard.

It’s projected to become the highest-grossing tour in history by the end of this year, forecast to push Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour into second place.

Plus, the Swift magic touch has boosted the local economies her tour has passed through.

Fans arrive at the Tokyo Dome, for the Taylor Swift concert, as part of the Eras Tour .
Pic:AP
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Fans at the Tokyo Dome, for the Eras Tour. Pic:AP


Economic angel with the power to shake cities

Her seven sold-out concerts in Sydney and Melbourne in Australia in February were credited by the Australian Bureau of Statistics with increasing spending on clothing, merchandise, accessories and dining out across the month.

Six nights near Los Angeles added $320m (£257m) and 3,300 jobs to the area, according to the California Center for Jobs and the Economy.

And not content with ruling the music world or mending the economy, she has conquered the silver screen too, with a movie version of her concert tour taking over $250m (£200m) in ticket sales.

The movie generated the highest ticket sales at the UK and Ireland box office on its opening day, according to Vue International.

And did I mention, she can also cause minor natural disasters?

In July 2023, a Swift concert in Seattle was pointed to for setting off a nearby seismometer, registering the equivalent of a magnitude 2.3 earthquake.

A fan shows off his Taylor Swift T-shirt at a sing-a-long event in Singapore. Pic: Reuters
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A fan’s Taylor Swift T-shirt at a sing-a-long event in Singapore. Pic: Reuters

She’s across politics and sport too – and fellow celebs love her

While never telling her fans who to vote for, Swift has encouraged voter registration, with Vote.org reporting 35,000 signups after Swift urged her 282 million followers on Instagram to vote in Super Tuesday primary contests across the US in March.

And putting the super into Super Bowl, her high-profile relationship with Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce has been credited with bringing more viewers to American Football. Indeed, sales of Kelce jerseys jumping 400% in one day, according to online seller Fanatics.

While she never went to college herself, numerous US colleges offer courses on her, including Harvard, Stanford and Bentley, while a university in Belgium offers a Swift-inspired literary class. Avoiding the hassle of years of study, in 2022 she received an honorary doctor of fine arts degree from New York University.

And earlier this year the Victoria And Albert Museum recruited for a Taylor Swift superfan adviser to help develop future Swift-themed programming.

Teenagers trade bracelets while waiting for the beginning of Taylor Swift's Eras Tour concert movie in a cinema in Mexico City, Mexico October 13, 2023. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
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Teenagers trade friendship bracelets at an Eras Tour concert movie in Mexico City. Pic: Reuters


It’s no surprise that Time magazine named her 2023’s person of the year.

Known for her dedication to her fans – inspiring friendship bracelets, handmade signs, and all sorts of memorabilia – she has a legion of celebrity fans too including Jennifer Lopez, Julia Roberts and Adam Sandler.

And in good news for UK fans – she’ll be coming soon to a city near you.

This summer she will play 15 UK shows as part of her Eras Tour, kicking off on 7 June in Edinburgh before coming to London on 21 June. Her extended London run will conclude at Wembley Stadium on 20 August.



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