A Comprehensive Analysis Of Why The World Has Fallen For Taylor Swift

A year ago you barely knew who she was. Now she's your favourite pop star. Here's how it happened

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What team are you on? Team RiRi? Team Minaj? What about Gaga, Perry, Allen or Azalea?

Should you even be on a team, given you're a grown man who cites Wu-Tang Clan or Led Zeppelin or something else indisputably 'classic' when asked about your favourite music?

In short: yes. Because whether you like it or not, music in 2014 isn't about bands or rappers or even, really, men. It's about smart, talented women in their twenties who you have a slightly unedifying crush on and secretly listen to on Spotify.

Because when Beyonce asked "who runs the world?" and answered her own question "girls", she was bang on – in her world, girls are reigning supreme.

But today, we don't want to talk about Team Beyonce.

Today, we want to talk about Team Taylor Swift.

In the past year, the 24-year-old has gone from uncool country and western singer and fringe player in the Great Cultural War of the Female Pop Goddesses to, arguably, the biggest of them all.

How? By releasing great songs, ruling social media and – most startingly of all – keeping her clothes on.

Here, we anaylse the reasons and moments that caused Esquire – and the rest of the world, for that matter – to jump onboard Team Taylor.



Cause, darling I'm a nightmare dressed like a PEGACORN. #HappyHalloween!

Una foto pubblicata da Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) in data:

There's nothing cooler than a girl who eschews the sexy cat / devil / witch Halloween costume paradigm for something genuinely funny, and Taylor did just that (and then some) this year by donning a full onsie, wings and horn to go as a pegasus / unicorn hybrid.

As well as being madder than the ship's cat, the 'Pegacorn' costume confirmed Taylor as pop's answer to Cara Delevingne – someone working in a beauty industry who is more concerned with enjoying herself than being drooled over.

After years of country music (critically-acclaimed country music, but country music all the same) and a phase of slightly-annoying teen pop ('We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together', aimed at Jake Gyllenhaal apparently), the world had become accustomed to telling themselves they 'hate Taylor Swift'.

Then 'Shake It Off' happened, and Swift become the only person other than Pharrell Williams  to write a perfect pop song this year ('Happy', obviously), and everyone over 16 had to grudgingly admit what Taylor's fans have known all along – namely, she can write a hell of a tune.

This Saturday Night Live sketch from November sums it up best.


This was what happened when Lena and I found out that there is a rap song called 'Lena Dunham'. @lenadunham

Ein von Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) gepostetes Video am

You're only as good as the company you keep. And in Taylor's case, that means being close enough to the voice of her generation (or a voice her generation, at least) to film her dancing in your living room.

Dunham considers Taylor her role model, telling Rolling Stone, not unreasonably: "She runs her own company, she's creating music that connects to other women instead of creating a sexual persona for the male gaze, and no one is in control of her. If that's not feminism, what is?"

Whether or not the arms race toward full frontal nudity being waged between today's pop stars is  of sexism or female empowerment is a debate we'll leave for another time.

But whether you're looking at it from a political or a primal point of view, Taylor's unconventional insistence on keeping her kit on is rather refreshing. 

While her contemporaries fellate hammers, get down to some faux-lesbian writhing or just release entire songs about their backsides, the pornification of music videos extends no further than flashing a bit of leg in some cute dresses (Blank Space) or wearing totally narrative-appropriate leotards (Shake It Off) in Taylor's world.

And yet, of course, she is still sexy – just in way that makes you wish you could date her, rather than in way that makes you feel the need to take a cold shower and fret about the world we've created for our children.

In December, Swift performed at the Victoria's Secret Show in London.  

The fact she was willing to share a stage with the unofficial Most Beautiful Women In The World Club (and, er, Ed Sheeran) struck us as rather brave.

A bit like you or us going out on the town with Brad Pitt, David Beckham, Ryan Gosling and David Gandy. In front of a few thousand people. In our underwear.

In 2014, any self-respecting pop star needs an active Instagram account.

Twitter too, of course.

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But no mdoern celebrity understands the power of social media quite like Taylor Swift.

For a quick masterclass, consider this popular Tumblr post that acquired quasi-legendary status among Swift fans :


In September this year, Swift stepped out in New York wearing a 'no it's Becky' t-shirt.

It meant nothing to the photographers and reporters who follow her everywhere, but it meant everything to her fans online, who promptly went ape-shit over the private joke.

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Another lesson in how the mainstream media are no long required to broker a deal between star and fan – and in how Taylor is one of the shrewdest of pop stars out there.

For a young artist – albeit a rather popular one – to quit a streaming service used by 40 million people around the world was a pretty bold step, and one unlikely to have impressed her record label.

It was also a step that said she took herself and her music seriously, meaning we took her and her music more seriously, too. 

And for anyone still thinking this was a case of an artist throwing her toys out of the pram or just being greedy, check out her passionate and well-argued op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal.

To wit:


Aside from Kayne West and Jennifer Lawrence, there is no famous person more gif-worthy than Taylor Swift.

Part of it is having a naturally expressive face, of course. But is it such a stretch to believe the modern day celebrity has developed an instinct for the way their every step could be meme-d, gif-d and shared online?

This much-loved reaction to mate Selena Gomez bumping into her ex-boyfriend Justin Bieber is a particularly excellent example. 

After 'Shake It Off' came 'Blank Space', meaning Taylor had now released two singles in 2014 better than anything else put out by her nearest rivals.

The tune is catchy as all hell, and the way the video makes fun of her media caricature as the world's "angry ex-girlfriend" is smart and funny too.

On 1989:

"When I put forth an album cover that didn’t have half my face on it, and tried to convince my label that this was the best way to sell an album, you know, I got some kind of interesting side-glance looks.

"But I knew that this was the best cover to represent this record, because I wanted there to be an air of mystery. I didn’t want people to know the emotional DNA of this album.

"When I wanted to call the album 1989, people on the team questioned that.

"Every single element of this album has been called into question, and I’ve had to say “No, this is how we’re doing it.”" 

Time, 2014 

What happened next? The biggest selling album of 2014.

At the core of Tayor's appeal may be this: we all like reasons to believe our favourite pop stars are 'authentic', because it justifies falling for them in the first place.

In the 1990s hey-day of stage-managed pop stars who didn't write their own material, and the open manufacturing process of X-Factor era, that was always difficult.

Your guilty musical pleasures remained guilty, because you couldn't help seeing the strings being pulled by shadowy executives in suits.

In 2014, pop stars are more in control of their own image than ever, and that leap of faith is a little easier. Particularly, it turns out, if you're on Team Taylor.




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