When Forbes listed the past year's Highest Paid Stars Under 30, a lot of people were shocked by the fact that Taylor Swift topped the list; I, for one, wasn't. For a while now I have been aware of Taylor's superstar abilities. She has flawlessly become a figurehead in both the Pop and Country genre. The former defines mainstream culture and the latter of the two defines a subculture that dominates record sales and airwaves.
Taylor has mastered what I like to call "The Mumford & Sons Effect" (of course I am referring to the indie-folk band's breakout success in 2011.) Mumford & Son's debut release, Sigh No More, sold more units than any other rock album of 2011 and has since gone double platinum. Obviously, Mumford & Sons were very successful in the realm of pop, but they also won over the Folk demographic, which generally consists of people that maintain classical values in relation to music. Music critic, Tim Hodgkinson, claims that Mumford & Sons appeals to both demographics because they write "pop songs couched in the language of the rustic troubadour."
The band speaks in a language only found in antiquated forms of music, and generally speaking, the people that identify with this sound still purchase records; they still believe in the "intimate" form of collecting music. As a result, Mumford & Sons were not only successful in the mainstream world, but they were also successful in the Middle-American, music purchasing, world. I strongly believe that Taylor Swift has taken this phenomenon to the next level.
By her nature as an artist, Taylor Swift has much more commercial value than an act like Mumford & Sons. While Mumford & Sons write grand anthems referencing Shakespeare (Sigh No More's title is a reference to Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing) Swift writes of teenage heartbreak, accompanied by pop-country instrumentals. Taylor Swift crafts a potent combination of old time crooning with adolescent melancholy. She has found a way to make both teenage girl and diehard country fans go crazy.
Taylor Swift has forged an image of a wholesome & innocent country girl, something both parents and young girls admire. While she may not be quite as popular as some artists, such as Justin Bieber or Rihanna, when it comes to gossip, she has dominated the market of purity. Surely that would boost record sales around Christmas time when Mom & Dad want to expose their daughters to a respectable role model.
However, Taylor Swift's massive success wasn't solely built upon her role as a pop star, her role as a country star also played a heavy part in her success. Before she came around, contemporary Country music had grown somewhat stale; not many artists were pushing the genre or introducing a fresh image. Taylor Swift accomplished both of these feats. Noted Country music blog, Saving Country, went as far as to claim that Swift is not only one of the biggest names in the genre, but one of "the biggest names of [this] generation." Similar to Folk listeners, Country listeners also tend to collect music in a classic manner. They still purchase records and rely heavily on the FM airwaves. Clearly this aspect of Country music's culture has had a large influence on Swift's record sales.
Taylor Swift has cracked the formula of true success. She has maintained a wholesome image while becoming the most successful artist under the age of 30. She has also garnered masses of fans ranging from teenage girls to middle-aged Southern men that are both attracted to her brand of heartfelt Country-Pop.
Hats off to you, Ms. Swift. You have established yourself as the ultimate crossover success.
-Ziya Smallens (@zmoney682)