Taylor Swift Grows with Genre Switch

The music industry has an extreme range of messages put out by many artists that share their work with the world. The messages can change between song, performance, and genre. How does an artist choose what they want to say, and how do they go about displaying this message? How does the genre effect the message? One great way to see how genre affects an artist’s work is to follow an artist through their journey when they transition from one genre to another. This essay will examine the career path of one of the most popular music star today: Taylor Swift. She is making the transition from Country to Pop music with her latest album RED. I will outline the differences we see in Swift’s lyrics, videos, and performances as she transitions from singing country western to popular top 40 music.

Taylor Swift has been under a microscope since she was a 16-year-old girl and came into fame with country music in 2006. She has generally been known for performing love songs about what seem to be high school crushes. When it comes to deep and meaningful messages Taylor Swift was not an artist that you would look for or listen to. Multiple analysts such as Camille Paglia have continuously picked Swift apart for putting herself in a “man-pleasing” role. The often critical Paglia claims that  “Despite the passage of time since second-wave feminism erupted in the late 1960s, we’ve somehow been thrown back to the demure girly-girl days of the white-bread 1950s” (Paglia). she says that Swift’s music has brought us back to this era and is hindering progress made by feminist movements. Paglia even gone out to say that Swift as a person, not just a performer, possesses these traits. “In TV interviews, Swift affects a “golly, gee whiz” persona of cultivated blandness and self-deprecation, which is completely at odds with her shrewd glam dress sense” (Paglia). She even has said that without her good looks she would not have a career at all. While Paglia does not like Swifts music or message, her thousands of fans would beg to differ. Swift has been the recipient of seven Grammy Awards, eleven American Music Awards, eleven Country Music Association Awards, six Academy of Country Music Awards, and twelve Billboard Music Awards. As a songwriter, She was even inducted into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. Most recently she was honored at the Country Music Awards by receiving the Pinnacle Award, which according to, “hasn’t been presented since 2005 when the CMA gave it to Garth Brooks, was created to honor “an artist who has achieved both national and international prominence through concert performances and record sales at levels unique in country music,” (Today).  All of this has been done while she was a country star. The shift to Pop music look like it is Swift’s way of saying that she did all that she could do in Country music and it is time to move on.


Taylor Swift Concert

Taylor Swift sitting at concert.

While she originally performed songs like Tim McGraw and Our Song, which are about experiences she has had with a boy, and how she loved them and him, she has shifted her message as of late when she transitioned into Pop music. The first single off of her new album Red was named We Are Never Getting Back Together. Long time fan, and journalist Ashton Moss writes: “Swift’s fourth studio album, “Red,” is a polished, stylish album which officially marks her departure from country music(Moss). Her performances have also changed. Swift’s performances were originally all about the music; she was conservatively dressed and did not participate in choreographed dance moves or really supplement her music during her performances. At the Brit Awards, Swifts performance was quite the opposite of this. She started in a large white dress, but during the song I Knew You Were Trouble she ripped the dress off to reveal a small black leotard suit.

See video here:

Her stage demeanor actually shifted as her wardrobe changed, she went from walking around the stage singing while her background dancers did most of the performance aspect, to interacting with the dancers, dancing herself and having an overall much more intense presentation. She is becoming the more dominant stage presence and in turn appears to be a much stronger performer. As she dominates the stage her confidence is beaming and her message becomes that much clearer.

As Swift is transitioning into Pop music she is also growing up. Starting out at age 16 Swift was just a young girl learning about life, love and relationships. She is having different experiences at age 23; she has seen love, heartbreaks, and the real world. I would say that her music shows these new experiences and that the shift to pop music allows her the opportunities to sing about them and perform her music in new and exciting ways. Moss also points out, “Red also differs from Swift’s previous albums because she takes the roll of a teacher instead of a student. The hesitant and timid questions of a girl have now been replaced by the experienced statements of a woman” (Moss).


Taylor Swift In concert Brit Awards

Taylor Swift in concert at the Brit Awards in 2013

While Swift has grown as an artist and her experiences have changed she has shifted the messages of her music from a love-struck teen to a woman having real experiences with men including break ups and hook ups. The shift from Country to pop has awarded her with the opportunity to express these experiences in different ways. The Journal Of Psychology has looked into lyrical content of music listened to, and how genre affects the choices. It was found that Country music is at the top of the list for music with social responsibility, honesty and integrity, while pop and rap had a lot more to do with rebelliousness, sexual promiscuity, and drugs and alcohol use.

Works Cited

Moss, Ashton. “Listen Up!: Taylor Swift’s “Red” reflects personal shifts with changes in genre.” The Red and Black. N.p., 29 Oct. 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. <>.

Paglia, Camille. “Camille Paglia: Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Hollywood Are Ruining Women.” The Hollywood Reporter. The Hollywood Reporter, 6 Dec. 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. <>.

Tafarella, Santi. “Camille Paglia Eats Taylor Swift | Prometheus Unbound.” Prometheus Unbound. N.p., 20 Dec. 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. <>.

“Taylor Swift ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ I BRITs 2013 I OFFICIAL – HD.” YouTube. YouTube, 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. <>.



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