Julia McCoy ’22
How does society judge an artist’s influence? Success is often judged not only by their accolades, but also by their ability to influence future generations of artists. That is exactly what Taylor Swift has been able to do throughout her career. Even more impressive: she’s only 31 years old (32 later this month).
Since her debut album, Taylor Swift, hit the radio in Oct. 2006, Swift has accumulated eleven Grammy awards and become the most decorated artist in American Music Awards history. Swift has released nine studio albums and is beginning to re-record those albums that she does not yet have ownership of, with two of them already released this year.
Something that the well-decorated artist has been aware of, however, is the possible ephemerality of her career and fame. On her re-recorded album, Red (Taylor’s Version), Swift released a song “from the Vault” featuring Phoebe Bridgers titled “Nothing New.” Originally written in 2012, it speaks to Swift’s fears of losing her “radiance” as she gets older. Listeners were quick to notice the way that these lines resonate with Swift’s career today. Swift sings that new artists will use her as inspiration: “She’ll know the way and then she’ll say she got the map from me./I’ll say I’m happy for her/ Then I’ll cry myself to sleep.” At 22, Swift clearly feared what the future might hold for her. A decade later, those stars that “got the map” from Swift are luckily also blessed with her devoted support.
Swift’s success on the stage is only complemented by the impact that she has had on younger artists and a newer generation of music. In 2021, artists like Olivia Rodrigo, Conan Gray, and Maisie Peters are among the most prominent “Swifties” gaining their own success in the music industry.
Rodrigo’s Sour is steeped in Swift’s influence. Her song, “1 step forward, 3 steps back,” features an interpolation of Swift’s “New Year’s Day” from reputation. After Rodrigo’s hit “driver’s license” broke records, Swift reached out as a friend and mentor to for the young artist. When sharing the iTunes charts together earlier this year, Swift commented on Rodrigo’s post, saying, “I say that’s my baby and I’m really proud,” a quote inspired by Swift’s own mother at the beginning of her career. Rodrigo now sports a ring gifted by Swift that is similar to the style that the elder singer wore while recording Red.
When Swift lauded Gray’s song “Wish You Were Sober” on her Instagram Story, Gray responded, “I honestly feel like you raised me both as a writer and a human and I cannot express in words how much this means to me.” Rodrigo and Gray were each given an exclusive first listen to Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and were tasked with advertising the first re-recorded album on TikTok. They often identify themselves as Swift’s children, calling her “mom” because of her influence on their careers.
Lastly, Peters is also a fan and took inspiration from Swift’s writing style this year. On July 24, 2020—the day that Swift’s folklore album was released—Peters found inspiration in Swift’s storytelling in “betty” to write her own story-like song, “Outdoor Pool.” She was able to understand through Swift that she could craft experiences based on different perspectives.
Swift’s “Nothing New” opened her audience’s eyes to how she feels about her career and legacy. As she seamlessly moves through different creative periods, Swift’s words and work blaze a trail for generations to follow. And they’ve already started.