On March 14, 2021, Taylor Swift will be the favorite to win a Grammy Award for Album of the Year for her eighth album, folklore, which would make her the first female artist in history to win this award three times and the first artist to win Album of the Year for albums of three different genres — country, pop and alternative.
If nothing else could convince you that Taylor Swift has range — epitomizes range, really — that should.
Taking a walk down memory lane and her timeline of albums only furthers the point.
Even when Taylor Swift was solely a country singer, she still had range, transitioning between being hopelessly in love on her debut single “Tim McGraw” to scathing and unforgiving in “Picture to Burn” — and those are just on her self-titled debut album. Following that, she broke countless records and made history many times over with the variety of songs, sounds and themes that is Fearless. From her wistful “Romeo and Juliet”-themed song “Love Story” (one of her most well-known songs among fans and non-fans alike) to the heartbreaking track “White Horse” to the iconic “You Belong With Me,” Swift exemplified range.
With Speak Now, she continued to prove that she was not just a one-note country singer, offering sad songs for her fans to relate to (“Dear John” and “Never Grow Up”) along with head-banging bops, like “Haunted” and “Sparks Fly.”
And then you reach her fourth album Red, which, in many ways, can’t be categorized. Charts and streaming services label it as her fourth country album, but Red is truly a genre of its own. Centering around the titular color, Swift managed to encapsulate every feeling and thought that you could ever associate with red: petty anger (“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”), painful, scarring sadness (“All Too Well”), incandescent joy (“22”) and so much more. While many critics scoff at Red’s lack of sonic cohesion, that’s exactly the point. The songs aren’t supposed to sound the same because the color red never means the same thing twice.
When you enter Swift’s pop eras, her musical range grows. Though 1989 was her first obviously pop album, she created it like she’d been writing pop music her whole life. And then, following her “disappearance” in 2016, she returned with an album that was the antithesis to 1989: reputation. The popstar-princess colors of 1989 turned into blacks, golds and greens as she said “Look What You Made Me Do” and became the snake that others accused her of being. Somehow, following that, she made another 180 with pastel-tinged Lover, that had a love song for every kind of love there is. 1989 and reputation are opposites, without a doubt, and yet reputation and Lover are equally distinct … but 1989 and Lover sound as different from each other as two albums ever could. Does that spell out range to you?
And then you reach today: folklore and evermore, two sister albums that are similar in how they turn inward and feature thematic messages but differ so vastly from one another. Where folklore is grayscale sadness, depth and lessons learned, evermore is the earth-toned soundtrack to fictional story after story.
Only Taylor Swift could change her whole persona (and Instagram feed) as she switches from black-and-white newsprint to bubblegum pastels to woodsy grays and browns, transitioning between sounds, albums and stories, so effortlessly.
Even as she changes her sound, her outfits and her musical genres, she remains true to herself always, as evidenced by her songwriting and story-telling abilities that have never once faltered from Taylor Swift to evermore. Her music and sound may have range — pivoting from one thing to another as she grew up, learned lessons and found herself — but her lyrics never waver. They only grow stronger.
Sometimes I wonder where she’ll go next. In some ways, it feels like she’s done all there is to do when it comes to music. Every Taylor Swift album/era feels like a complete reversal of what she previously did, and how many more times can a person do that? She never seems to run out of themes to embody or songs to create. But knowing Taylor Swift, her 10th studio album (not including her rerecordings) is going to be just as different, just as new, as all of her past endeavors.
To say that Taylor Swift has range is, frankly, an understatement. In actuality, she is range. She personifies it. She owns it.
Daily Film Beat Editor Sabriya Imami can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.