In 2007, country teen queen Taylor Swift charmed fans and critics alike when, at sixteen, she released a self-titled debut on which she wrote or co-wrote every song and came off like a seasoned pro. Taylor Swift's mix of pop-rock and Dixie Chicks-style twang struck a chord, and the album shot to Number One on Billboard's Country Chart and Number Five pop. Swift's second album, 2008's Fearless, did even better, debuting at Number One on the Pop Charts. One key to Swift's success was that she expanded country music's demographic to include suburban adolescent girls — something she accomplished in part by using social networking sites and by drawing on confessional teen-diary lyrics in ways unprecedented within the genre.
Taylor Alison Swift was born December 13, 1989, in Reading, Pennsylvania. Her grandmother, an opera singer, was an early influence but Swift soon discovered the music of Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and LeAnn Rimes. When she was eleven, she took her homemade demo tapes to Nashville and continued traveling back and forth to Music City for the next three years. At fourteen, Swift and her family permanently moved to the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville, Tennessee. During a performance at the famed Bluebird Café, she was spotted by Scott Borchetta, who signed her to his new label, Big Machine Records. Taylor Swift arrived in 2006 along with a single, "Tim McGraw" (Number Six country, Number 40 pop, 2007), whose video reached Number One on CMT's video chart and spent a record-breaking 30 consecutive weeks on the Great American Country network's weekly Top Twenty countdown.
Fearless included the hits "Love Story" (Number One country, Number Four pop, 2008); "White Horse" (Number 2 country, Number 13 pop, 2008); "You Belong With Me" (Number One country, Number Two pop, 2009); and "Fifteen" (Number Seven country, Number 23 pop, 2009.) When Fearless was re-issued in an expanded edition in November 2009, Swift placed eight songs in the Billboard Hot 100 in the same week — the most by any female artist ever. Billboard named Swift the Top Pop Artist of 2009. All told, she scored 22 Top 40 singles in the 2000s; no other female artist came close, all the more remarkable since Swift didn't chart before 2006.
In November 2009, Swift took home four Country Music Association awards: Album of the Year (Fearless ), Music Video of the Year ("Love Story"), Female Vocalist of the Year, and Entertainer of the Year. The same year, she won American Music Awards for Artist of The Year, Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist, Favorite Country Female Artist, Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist, and Favorite Country Album (Fearless).
She has also showed hints of broadening her reach far beyond even pop-country — collaborating with Def Leppard on CMT Crossroads, with T-Pain in the self-parodying song "Thug Story" at the 2009 CMT Music Awards, with pop-punk band Boys and Girls on "Two Is Better Than One" (Number 20, 2009), and with John Mayer in "Half Of My Heart" (Number 25, 2009). But the most publicized instance of her sharing the stage with another artist wasn't planned — On September 13, 2009, she was about to accept a Video Music Award for Best Female Video at Radio City Music Hall in New York when Kanye West hijacked the stage, interrupting Swift and insisting that Beyoncé had "one of the best videos of all time." He wound up apologizing a few days later, but by then the incident was legend, the stuff of endless Internet memes and TV comedy routines. Swift poked fun at West when she hosted and performed two songs on "Saturday Night Live" on November 7, 2009.
Chuck Eddy contributed to this article.