The Irish Times view on Taylor Swift: Pop’s last superstar?

Her new album arrived on Friday and is currently being listened to by millions across the world

John Lennon caused an uproar in 1966 when he said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Some may be equally disturbed to hear that Taylor Swift is more popular than the Beatles. But the facts are indisputable.

By the time it draws to a close later this year, Swift’s current tour will have netted her more than a billion dollars. It has been estimated that the American leg alone will inject $4.6billion (¤4.3billion)into the US economy. Swift’s new album arrived on Friday and is currently being listened to by millions across the world on the streaming services which were forced by her to renegotiate their terms. Nobody else in music wields such power.

Her dominance of the zeitgeist is such that media organisations have appointed full-time Taylor Swift correspondents, churches have incorporated her hits into their services and conspiracy theorists accuse her of working with the Deep State to deny Donald Trump the US presidency.

How did a former country singer from Pennsylvania become the supreme avatar of contemporary pop?. The answer lies in part in her musical talent and business acumen, but also in her relationship with her mostly female fans, filtered through the intense sense of empathy that social media brings (or appears to). Through those channels, as well as her autobiographical songs, she seems to offer them an entry into her own life.


Young women have always been the drivers of changing musical tastes. But women now dominate the music business in a way that has never happened before. The only other figure with influence comparable to Swift’s is Beyoncé Knowles.

Some suggest Swift could be the last pop superstar. The shift to algorithmically driven streaming services such as Spotify has fragmented the old musical monoculture into hundreds of smaller niches. The once-vital music charts are now an irrelevance. What matters is the cultivation of a firecely loyal fanbase and the promise of a spectacular and memorable live experience. And no one does either of these things better than Taylor Swift.