The “You Belong With Me” artist dropped her self-titled debut album in 2006, kickstarting her country career. Over her next eight albums, Swift began to branch out of her original genre and cross over into pop territory. “If I don’t beat everything I’ve done, it’s seen as a colossal failure,” she told her team in the 2020 documentary Miss Americana, reflecting on the pressures that come with being a major star.
Swift has spoken openly through the years about navigating fame — and about working through her various feuds. “A mass public shaming, with millions of people saying you are quote-unquote canceled, is a very isolating experience,” she noted in a 2019 Vogue interview, referring to her 10-year back and forth with Kanye West. “I don’t think there are that many people who can actually understand what it’s like to have millions of people hate you very loudly.”
The Grammy winner added, “When you say someone is canceled, it’s not a TV show. It’s a human being. You’re sending mass amounts of messaging to this person to either shut up, disappear, or it could also be perceived as, ‘Kill yourself.'”
While she’s frequently vocal about her personal ups and downs, fans have called out the “August” singer for often staying quiet when it came to politics, especially in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. She changed her tune in 2018 when she backed progressive candidates in her home state of Tennessee, but the decision to speak up was a scary one.
“I come from country music. The number one thing they absolutely drill into you as a country artist, and you can ask any other country artist this, is ‘Don’t be like the Dixie Chicks!'” she told The Guardian in 2019. “I watched country music snuff that candle out. The most amazing group we had, just because they talked about politics. And they were getting death threats. They were made such an example that basically every country artist that came after that, every label tells you, ‘Just do not get involved, no matter what.'”
Swift took home the Video of the Year trophy at the VMAs that year for “You Need to Calm Down,” which featured a call to action for fans at the end of the music video. “I want to thank everyone who signed that petition [for the Equality Act] because it now has a half a million signatures, which is five times the amount that it would need to warrant a response from the White House,” she said while accepting her win, asserting that everyone deserves to live in “a world where we are all treated equally under the law regardless of who we love — regardless of how we identify.”
The “Ivy” performer has changed a lot since her early career, but one thing has remained consistent through each of her eras: her songwriting. However, in 2017, she was accused of plagiarizing her smash hit “Shake It Off.” 3LW writers Sean Hall and Nathan Butler alleged the lyrics were ripped off from their 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play,” but Swift stood by her work.
“I recall hearing phrases about players play and haters hate stated together by other children while attending school [in Pennsylvania],” she argued in 2022 court docs, claiming she had never heard the song in question. “These phrases were akin to other commonly used sayings like ‘don’t hate the playa, hate the game,’ ‘take a chill pill’ and ‘say it, don’t spray it.’ … I was struck by messages that people prone to doing something will do it, and the best way to overcome it is to shrug it off and keep living.”
Scroll down for a look back at Swift’s most controversial moments: