On the music reviewing/ cataloguing site rateyourmusic.com, a reviewer of Taylor Swift's first album commented that it was "Almost like a country girl version of the early Beatles." When I first saw that review, it made me angry- how dare they disrespect a legend like The Beatles by comparing them to someone like Taylor Swift. I like both but The Beatles are one of my favourite artists whereas Taylor Swift is more of a guilty pleasure for me- but at the time I read this she wasn't even that. When I first read that review, it was before Lover but after reputation, which probably partly explains why I thought that she, along with all other modern pop music, was complete trash. I felt certain that she would be forgotten in a few years. But after Lover came out and I decided to give her another chance, I realised that the comparison might be more justified than it seems. Once I started thinking about it, the two artists are actually very similar. Not so much in their music, but when I thought about their career paths, I realised there was a lot of similarities. Here we go:
Both of them fell in love with music at an early age. Taylor Swift had a lot of potential in other areas and so did some if not all of The Beatles, but in both cases, they had their heart set on doing music. They both started writing songs at early ages. Early on in their careers, they both moved to kickstart their careers- Swift moving to Nashville and The Beatles' brief move to Hamburg. In both cases, their was disapproval of their career choice- for The Beatles it came from their parents and school, whereas for Swift it came from her friends-They were both turned down a lot before finally striking a deal with a small record label. It took slightly longer for Swift but in both cases (obviously) they blew up, winning over millions of fans with their youthful energy. And in both cases, they became known for writing simple love songs- this being the cause for the comparison made by the reviewer on rateyourmusic.com.
Both artists improved very quickly but still kept their style consistent for a while. One particularly interesting thing is the similarities with their third albums- "A Hard Day's Night" for The Beatles and "Speak Now" for Swift. For both artists, their third album was a definite step up from their previous work and also the first time they had written all the songs by themselves. In The Beatles case this meant not including covers; Swift never did covers. In her case it meant not using any co-writers. However, it's still an amazing similarity.
The Beatles kept their original style for 5 albums; Swift only kept hers for 3. But although this is a difference, it leads to another similarity: they both completely reinvented themselves and their styles. Both did it gradually at first, with an album that kept elements of their original style while introducing elements of a new style. For The Beatles this album was "Rubber Soul," for Swift it was "Red."
They both abandoned subtle change in their next albums and completely crossed over. But for both of them, they didn't just make any change- they followed the musical trends of the time. In the 60s psychedelic music was a big thing and a lot of other "British invasion" bands were turning psychedelic- this is what The Beatles did with "Revolver," which has barely a trace of their original sound. It was the same with Swift, except the trend in her day is "going electronic"- when artist who previously used real instruments abandon them for electronic instrumentation. This is what she did with "1989," which has not a trace of country and is pure electronic pop.
However, for both artists, the first album in which they changed wasn't the one that received the most attention, because neither of them had completely changed their persona yet. Taylor had changed a lot, but she was still the good girl and her music, though a different genre, still had a bright, happy sound. The Beatles still projected the image of a unified band of "brothers," still had the suits and haircuts and above all, they were still touring. This is probably the biggest difference between Taylor Swift and The Beatles- she never stopped playing live. But then they both made a huge, groundbreaking shift. In their next album, in addition to slightly pushing their style even more in the direction they were already going, both of them completely changed their persona, and thanks to pop culture's ridiculous focus on persona, this was when they got the attention and people started talking about the change. Okay, "reputation" isn't exactly Sgt. Pepper. Not only is it obviously not one of the greatest albums of all time, it's not even Taylor Swift's best- in fact, I would actually call it her worst. It had a generally bad reception and alienated a lot of listeners, unlike the acceptance that Sgt. Pepper received. But although they had very different levels of success in pulling it off, both made a huge shift.
But neither of them followed the trend for long. Soon, they both changed their image again and released an album which combined their previous styles inventively with new elements as well. Both were also really long albums- the White album with 30 tracks is way longer than "Lover" at 18 tracks, but 18 is still quite a bit longer than your average album. At this point they don't really care what genre they are. The Beatles gave us an extremely varied collection where they try so many different styles and redefine the concept of genre. Meanwhile, Taylor Swift mixes country and pop instrumentation, defying the conventions of genre. I think at that point neither of them really cared what their music was going to be called, they just made what they felt like.
At the time of my writing, "Lover" is Taylor Swift's latest album, so I can't yet know if her career will follow the last part of The Beatles' story. But so far her career path has been remarkably similar, and considering how large her fanbase is, I might have to say, like it or not, that she is today's equivalent of The Beatles. That doesn't mean she's as good as them (although only time will tell that), but she's definitely occupying the position that they once did. I can't wait to see what Taylor Swift's "Abbey Road" will be like!