The accolades keep pouring in for Taylor Swift, who has capped off a mind-boggling 2023 by becoming TIME’s Person of the Year.
In the introduction for this year’s decision, writer Sam Lamsky explains, “As a tradition, Person of the Year springs from the Great Man Theory of history, a belief that individuals have the power to transform society. The selections over the years have tended to follow certain patterns. The person chosen has typically been a ruler over traditional domains of power. He—and yes, usually it has been a ‘he’—is very often a politician or a titan of industry. Fourteen U.S. Presidents, five leaders of Russia or the Soviet Union, and three Popes have all been recognized.”
He continues: “And yet the person whose singular influence was revealed throughout 2023 has held none of these roles—or anything remotely similar. Every year contains light and dark; 2023 was a year with significant shares of darkness. In a divided world, where too many institutions are failing, Taylor Swift found a way to transcend borders and be a source of light. No one else on the planet today can move so many people so well. Achieving this feat is something we often chalk up to the alignments of planets and fates, but giving too much credit to the stars ignores her skill and her power.”
In her interview with Lamsky, Swift explains how she needed to evolve as an artist in order to survive.“By the time an artist is mature enough to psychologically deal with the job, they throw you out at 29, typically,” she said in the interview. “In the 90s and 00s, it seems like the music industry just said: ‘OK, let’s take a bunch of teenagers, throw them into a fire, and watch what happens. By the time they’ve accumulated enough wisdom to do their job effectively, we’ll find new teenagers.’”
Taylor has managed to avoid this fate in part because, as Lamsky says, “Swift is the rare person who is both the writer and hero of her own story. Her path is untraveled, something she’s known for some time.” In a 2014 interview after releasing 1989, Swift told TIME, “I can’t find anyone, really, who’s had the same career trajectory as mine…So when I’m in an optimistic place I hope that my life won’t match anyone else’s life trajectory, either.”
Swift also touched on her relationship with Beyoncé. She explained how Beyoncé supported the Eras film premiere, having said that she is, “the most precious gem of a person.” She added, “When I’m talking to her, she is so warm and open and funny.”
“She’s such a great disruptor of music-industry norms. She taught every artist how to flip the table and challenge archaic business practices,” Swift added. “She’s always thinking in an innovative way.”