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The surprising allure of Taylor Swift in a pandemic world

Lucy Dean
·3-min read
Taylor Swift poses in the press room with the award for album of the year for
Taylor Swift poses with her Grammy for album of the year for "Folklore". (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Taylor Swift has had a busy year.

The artist released two new albums in 2020 and on Friday is re-releasing her 2008 album Fearless following a vicious dispute with her former label.

The decision to re-release the album could make her one of the most successful artists in the history of Billboard’s Hot 100.

She’s already ranked fourth on the list, and the way the songs are categorised means they will all be marked as different songs to those first sent out into the world in November 2008, helping to push her to the top.

However, according to AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver, the re-release is also an exercise in COVID-19 nostalgia and escapism.

The prominent economist and known Swifty said the two new albums Swift put out last year were made possible by COVID-19 isolation and an inability to tour. While he described those as a pleasant surprise, the broader popularity of her catalogue during COVID-19 had a simple explanation: people needed a break.

“It’s known that when you have economic downturns and people are feeling depressed, you do see an increase in escapism, people reading fantasy novels, gambling can sometimes see a boost and music may figure in that,” he told Yahoo Finance.

“People want to listen to it again.”

It’s a trend eBay Australia has also noted, with beloved classics like JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the Dr Seuss Books and even Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga surging in popularity over 2020 as anxious readers looked to sink into the familiar.

Amazon Australia also found that Taylor Swift and peers Billie Eilish and Harry Styles were three of the top ten most popular artists in 2020 by streams.

In fact, according to its analysis of Alexa streams, Taylor Swift and Adele music was more popular than even Donald Trump or COVID-19 news.

“Escapism has been the name of the game,” Amazon Australia said.

Speaking to announce the re-release, Swift said she also enjoyed returning to that era of her life.

"This was the musical era in which so many inside jokes were created between us, so many hugs exchanged and hands touched, so many unbreakable bonds formed. So before I say anything else, let me just say that it was a real honor to get to be a teenager alongside you," she said.

"I hope you'll like this first outing as much as I liked traveling back in time to recreate it."

Swift’s millions

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 16: (EDITORIAL ONLY. NOT RELEASED. NO COVER USAGE.)  In this screengrab, Taylor Swift performs onstage during the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards at the Grand Ole Opry on September 16, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. The ACM Awards airs on September 16, 2020 with some live and some prerecorded segments. (Photo by ACMA2020/Getty Images for ACM)
Taylor Swift performs onstage during the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards. (Photo by ACMA2020/Getty Images for ACM)

According to Forbes, the 31 year old Swift is worth US$365 million (AU$477 million), making her America’s 62nd most successful self-made women.

She’s made at least US$37 million from Spotify royalties, analysis by ManySpins.com released on Friday also revealed.

It found that she’s made US$4.7 million (AU$6.14 million) from Fearless, with US$1.7 million (AU$2.22 million) coming from breakthrough hit Love Story alone.

However, her most successful album in terms of streams was Reputation which delivered 2,869,028,305 streams and US$11.5 million (AU$15.02 million) in royalties.

Some US$2.5 million (AU$3.3 million) came from the revenge song Look What You Made Me Do.

Fearless: Taylor’s Version will drop at 12pm AEDT on Friday 9 April.

Image: Yahoo Finance
Image: Yahoo Finance