It’s a fact: At the tender age of 23, crossover sensation Taylor Swift has won just about every award available in the music-related stratosphere. However, it always seems there is yet another golden ring to reach for, and this time, Swift is poised to seize a momentous recognition in the country music realm.
On Monday it was announced that Swift will be receiving the Country Music Association’s Pinnacle Award at the organization’s 47th Annual CMA Awards, which will be held Wednesday in Nashville.
Now, before you write this off as just another award — in short, it’s not. It recognizes country musicians who have reached an extraordinarily high level of success. So high, in fact, that only one other artist has received it: Garth Brooks, for whom it was created in 2005.
The CMA, which refers to Swift as “Nashville’s own global sensation,” provides this background on the prestigious nod: “The Award recognizes an artist who has achieved both national and international prominence through concert performances and record sales at levels unique in Country Music. The artist has also attained the highest degree of recognition within the broad expanse of music worldwide. The artist’s talent and presence will have a long-term positive impact on the appreciation of Country Music for generations to come.”
It’s hard to argue with Swift’s overall sales figures, as well as her stable of milestones, records, and sheer worldwide impact. (To detail her full history of recognitions would create an incredibly long scroll.) However, a couple of questions are sure to arise from this particular honor. First off is Swift’s age — is she too young to receive any award with the word “pinnacle” in it?
Swift will be 24 in December and has released just four studio albums (Brooks was 20 years older and had more than twice as many albums under his belt at the time of his recognition). A few things to keep in mind regarding Swift’s relatively tender age, however. Brooks released his debut album in 1989 at the age of 27, already having followed a relatively normal life path including attending and graduating from college. About a decade and a half later, and while in self-imposed semi-retirement, he received the Pinnacle Award.
Swift, on the other hand, moved to Nashville at the age of 14 with clear intentions of a musical career. After receiving an artist development deal in 8th grade, she nailed down a record contract, finished high school early, eschewed college, and released her debut album at just 16 years old. About a decade later — therefore, not so far off from Brooks’s timeline — and in active rotation she is receiving the Pinnacle Award.
A far more debatable question to consider is if Swift still remains in the musical genre that is presenting her with this genre-specific recognition. Although Brooks has received crossover appreciation and all-genre awards of highest impact, he has never been considered anything but a country superstar (his forays into alter-ego rock persona Chris Gaines notwithstanding). Swift, however, has received criticism for her pop crossover success as early as her second album, 2008’s Fearless, which won the Album of the Year Grammy; a discussion that has only escalated in volume and definitely not helped by the virtually country-free tone of her latest hits.
Is this entirely fair, though? Swift has never explicitly turned her back on her country footing. Despite not courting a traditional sound, she has been nothing short of a new-age pioneer for the genre’s current massive popularity, and currently reigns as the top-selling digital artist in country music history. She has won the CMA Awards’ top (regular) honor, Entertainer of the Year, twice; and is poised to take it again for a third time on Wednesday night.
We’ll leave it to you. Does Taylor Swift deserve to receive this rarest of country awards? We vote “yes,” but want to hear from you. Be sure to let us know your thoughts.