Taylor Swift has been given quite the award from Billboard. And hopefully this time Kanye West won’t interrupt her thank you speech.
The Billboard Woman of the Year award goes to Swift, who has racked up quite an impressive list of accomplishments, from being the youngest to get this prize to making the album that stayed on the Billboard 200 list for the longest time any record had since 2000. Past winners of the Woman of the Year award include Beyoncé Knowles and the Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie, which means Swift is now joining the ranks of female singers who’ve shaken up the industry.
This is yet another title to Swift’s already-long list of awards. But what is probably the most interesting part of all this is the fact that she is only 21 years old, a fact that probably helped Billboard make its decision. It’s rare that anyone can boast of more than 20 million albums sold worldwide and 40 million digital downloads, but it’s even more impressive when this someone is barely of legal drinking age.
Swift is setting the bar high and joining other famous Top 40 acts, like the ever-popular 17-year-old Justin Bieber, in creating hits before even reaching the basic milestones of life. Of course, Britney Spears is the perfect example of the child star making it big, and she set that precedent two decades ago. But the fact that today’s stars are still shockingly young proves that hasn’t gone out of fashion. You don’t wait to graduate high school to start your music career anymore; if you have the right talent or good connections, nothing should stop you – the sooner, the better.
The catch is that if you are explosive at a young age, you have to stay just as interesting when you’re older. Swift can’t always keep up the image of innocent youth she has now. If you trace 23-year-old Rihanna’s career, there came a point where she cut her hair and named her next album Good Girl Gone Bad in an attempt to create a completely different image. Ri-ri was suddenly a much more aggressive, overtly sexual singer that could appeal to older listeners. She’s now still quite young for her success, but she’s at the point where her youth is not so much a factor as is her overall persona. She’s sexy and bold, and by this point she’s crafted an image that doesn’t really fit a certain age.
Swift’s songs mostly do a good job of being universal and surpassing any age barrier, but keeping the same identity might only hold for so much longer. Yet too drastic of a change might turn off fans and make her lose popularity.
When you start off so young and market such a specific personality, things get a little risky. Should Swift chop off her hair too and get a little more risqué to get more fans, or stay the way she is to keep her many fans?
The only certain thing is that audiences are fickle, and the fame of artists lies in their audiences and also who becomes the next big thing. Swift, Bieber and similar artists prove that it’s not impossible for youngsters to get famous. So the next big act might just be plucked from her bedroom where she sung her heart out until a record label found her. Swift’s accomplishments are admirable, but they prove that the competition for stardom is even fiercer today, especially with teenagers’ savvy use of the Internet to expose their talents to the world.
Yet the Woman of the Year award goes to Swift not only for her accomplishments as a singer but also for equally important accomplishments, such as the fact that she composed all the songs on Speak Now. Billboard also stresses that she gave $1 million to charities this past year. Swift is smart enough to not just do what she does but to also give back, and she’s talented enough to not just sing something she is fed but to create her own music.
It’s never certain that any one type of music of any one artist will stay popular. Even if Swift’s fame falters, she’s at least leaving young musicians with a goal to reach: If you’re going to start off your career at a young age, you better make that career a multi-platinum-selling one.