Lil Wayne and Coldplay may have battled it out for 2008's top-selling album, but the year's indisputable winner was a 19-year-old who loves banjos and Def Leppard. Taylor Swift scored the type of figures that made record executives swoon like it was the Nineties: Fearless, her second album, moved 2.1 million units (her 2006 debut, Taylor Swift, moved another 1.6 million in '08), and her teen fans legally purchased 8.7 million digital tracks. According to Scott Borchetta, president of her label, Big Machine, the key was crossing over — but carefully. "Taylor loves walking into a pop station wearing cowboy boots and a sundress," he says. "It was never 'Hey, I wanna be a pop star.' This is one of those rare moments where your music transcends format."
This is a story from the February 5, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone.