American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift has released a new song titled “Mastermind” from her tenth studio album, “Midnights.”
Released on October 21, 2022, via Republic Records, Midnights marks Taylor Swift’s first body of new work since her ninth studio album, Evermore (2020).
Her discography spans genres and her narrative songwriting—often inspired by her personal life—has received critical praise and widespread media coverage.
Born in West Reading, Pennsylvania, Swift moved to Nashville, Tennessee at age 14 to pursue a career in country music. She signed a songwriting deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing in 2004 and a recording contract with Big Machine Records in 2005.
Taylor Swift’s 2006 self-titled debut album made her the first female country artist to write or co-write every song on a US platinum-certified album.
Taylor Swift’s next albums, Fearless (2008) and Speak Now (2010), explored country pop. The former’s singles “Love Story” and “You Belong with Me” were the first country songs to respectively top the US pop airplay and all-genre airplay charts.
Taylor Swift experimented with diverse rock and electronic styles on Red (2012), which features her first US Billboard Hot 100 number-one single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, and recalibrated her identity from country to pop with her synth-pop fifth studio album, 1989 (2014), supported by the chart-topping singles “Shake It Off”, “Blank Space”, and “Bad Blood”.
Media scrutiny on Taylor Swift’s life inspired the urban-flavored Reputation (2017) and its number-one single “Look What You Made Me Do”. The album made Swift the first act to have four albums each open with a million copies sold.
Departing from Big Machine and signing with Republic Records in 2018, Taylor Swift released her seventh studio album, Lover (2019), followed by the autobiographical documentary Miss Americana (2020).
Taylor Swift’s artistic input during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the indie folk and alternative rock albums, Folklore and Evermore (2020), which incorporated escapism and fictional narratives; their lead singles “Cardigan” and “Willow” debuted atop the Hot 100.
Taylor Swift began re-recording her Big Machine catalog after a public dispute over the ownership to the albums’ masters, releasing two re-recorded albums in 2021—Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version).
The latter’s “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” became the longest song to top the Hot 100. Besides music, Swift has played supporting roles in films and directed the musical films Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions (2020) and All Too Well: The Short Film (2021).
One of Swift’s earliest memories of music is listening to her grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, sing in church. Swift said she owes her confidence to her mother, who helped her prepare for class presentations as a child.
Taylor Swift also attributes her “fascination with writing and storytelling” to her mother. Swift was drawn to the storytelling aspect of country music, and was introduced to the genre listening to “the great female country artists” of the 1990s—Shania Twain, Faith Hill, and the Dixie Chicks.
Hill was Swift’s childhood role model, and she would often imitate her. She admired the Dixie Chicks’ defiant attitude and their ability to play their own instruments. “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer was the first song Swift learned to play on the guitar.
Taylor Swift also explored the music of older country stars such as Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and Dolly Parton, the last of whom she believes is exemplary to female songwriters, and alt-country artists like Patty Griffin and Lori McKenna. She has also cited Keith Urban’s musical style and Fall Out Boy’s lyrics as major influences.
Taylor Swift self-identified as a country music artist until 2012, when she released her fourth studio album, Red. Her albums were promoted to country radio, but music critics noted wide-ranging styles of pop and rock.
Taylor Swift eschewed mainstream pop in favor of alternative styles like indie rock with her 2020 studio albums, Folklore and Evermore.
Clash said Taylor Swift’s career “has always been one of transcendence and covert boundary-pushing”, reaching a point at which “Taylor Swift is just Taylor Swift”, not defined by any genre.
Taylor Swift possesses a mezzo-soprano vocal range, and a generally soft timbre. During her career as a country singer, her vocals were criticized by some as weak and strained compared to those of her contemporaries.
Taylor Swift admitted her vocal ability often concerned her in her early career, and has worked hard to improve. After transitioning from country to pop music in 2014, reviews of Swift’s vocals remained mixed; critics complained that she lacks proper vocal technique but appreciated her usage of her voice to communicate her feelings to her audience, prioritizing “intimacy over power and nuance”.
Taylor Swift has been referred to as one of the greatest songwriters of all time and the best of her generation by several publications. She told The New Yorker in 2011 that she identifies as a songwriter first: “I write songs, and my voice is just a way to get those lyrics across.”
Taylor Swift’s personal experiences were a common inspiration for her early songs, which helped her navigate the complexities of life. Her “diaristic” technique began with identifying an emotion, followed by a corresponding melody.
On her first three studio albums, recurring themes were love, heartbreak, and insecurities, from an adolescent perspective. Taylor Swift delved into the tumult of toxic relationships on Red, and embraced nostalgia and positivity after failed relationships on 1989.
Reputation was inspired by the downsides of Swift’s fame, and Lover detailed her realization of the “full spectrum of love”. Besides romance, other themes in Swift’s music include parent-child relationships, friendships, alienation, self-awareness and tackling vitriol, especially sexism.
Having sold over 200 million records worldwide, Taylor Swift is one of the best-selling musicians of all time.
Taylor Swift’s accolades comprise 11 Grammy Awards—including three Album of the Year wins, 34 American Music Awards—the most for an artist, 29 Billboard Music Awards—the most for a woman, and an Emmy Award.
Taylor Swift has featured on rankings such as Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time (2015), Billboard’s Greatest of All Time Artists (2019), the Time 100 and Forbes Celebrity 100.
Honored with titles such as Woman of the Decade and Artist of the Decade, Taylor Swift is an advocate for artists’ rights and women’s empowerment. Her albums have been credited with influencing a generation of singer-songwriters.