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Speak Now Era

2010-2012

Taylor made history in early 2010, when she became the youngest ever winner of the Grammy award for “Album of the Year” for Fearless (2008). She was heralded as a promising young musician, but she also had something to prove: People were skeptical if she, a teenage girl, was actually responsible for the impeccable lyrics in her songs. So Taylor decided to write her next album solo. Speak Now would go on to become the best selling self-written album in history.
Even after her big win at the Grammys, Taylor was still establishing herself in the industry, not only as a country singer but as a world-renowned artist. Music history is littered with teen stars who were unable to maintain their commercial pace once they hit their 20s. But in most instances, those acts didn’t write their own material. Ultimately, Speak Now proved to be a pivotal album in Taylor’s creative progress. She penned every song on the album, often at odd hours on the road while performing all over the US on her first headlining tour. Reflecting her growth thus became an essential component of the album experience.
Table of Contents

Moving to Downtown Nashville

In July 2010, shortly before starting the Speak Now era, Taylor moved out of her parents’ home in the nice Nashville exurb of Henderson. For all of her pop success, she continued to show commitment to the country genre. When she bought her first condo, she not only chose downtown Nashville, she picked a home that’s less than one mile from Music Row. It is at the top of a modern building, but feels like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland: Remodelled to Taylor’s specifications, there is a spiral staircase going up to a giant tree house birdcage, and a pond with lily pads in the middle of the living room. Everything is mismatched: the pillows, the fabrics, the paintings, the dishes. There is also a balcony outside her bedroom, overlooking the living-room. Taylor delightedly described her interior design taste as something out of a fairytale by Shakespeare and Hans Christian Andersen.

Songs From the Heart

There’s something beautiful about the rawness that comes from knowing Taylor’s heart during the Speak Now era. Nothing was hidden, as she wore her heart on her sleeve in songs like “Dear John,” “Last Kiss,” and “Back to December”. While she had released two albums prior, Speak Now was arguably the most defining album of Taylor’s country music career. It was also the point in her career when she began making headlines for her celebrity romances and friendships. Yes, she had recently dated a handful of attractive young stars (Joe Jonas, John Mayer and Taylor Lautner) and had also feuded with a few notable celebrities (first and foremost: Kanye West). But instead of speaking on those matters publicly, Taylor addressed them in her music. Even though her songs had always been about her personal experiences, they eventually took on a new form as fans and the media scoured the lyrics for clues about which celebrity she was singing about. She told Entertainment Weekly in 2010:

«I imagined that people would make their own guesses. Sometimes I would laugh because I would see it in print and it would say, 'This song, which is written about her ex, so-and-so…' And they would write about it as if it was fact. The fact is, I haven’t ever confirmed that any song is about any particular person. There’s something kind of freeing about that. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all still up in the air.»

Taylor Swift
The guessing game may have been trivial at the time, but it was also very entertaining and piqued the interest of many in her hidden Easter eggs. Taylor’s beautifully written and emotional lyrics about heartbreak and growing up made it clear that despite growing out of her teen years, her music still struck a chord with teenage girls around the world – she became known as the quintessential “breakup song artist”, for better or worse.

Entertainer of the Year 2010

All in all, 2010 was the Year of Taylor Swift. It was the year everyone started seeing the “confidently sweet” country prodigy differently. Apparently, it wasn’t enough to have the top-selling album of 2009, or to become the female artist with the most Top 40 singles of the decade. No, that year Taylor topped even herself: She was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People In the World,” sang onstage with Stevie Nicks and was named the youngest-ever “Entertainer of the Year” by Entertainment Weekly. She was a natural pick: Suddenly, she was an enormous star. The kind of star people had started comparing to Michael Jackson and Madonna. The kind of star who toured with nine buses and several purple trucks that had her face plastered on the side. The kind of star about whom Big Machine label head Scott Borchetta said, “Look, if she can produce a superior third album, one that’s as big as the last two…well, when’s the last time somebody did that?” Taylor told Glamour in October 2010:

«I've gone through a few different phases of gratitude. When it's happening, you're all about [what's next] and trying not to make a misstep. When it came time to lock myself away and make my next album, I had a feeling of, 'Wow, that really was something, wasn't it?' I drive down the same streets I used to drive years ago, when I was just dreaming about stuff like this. So I feel total happiness and anticipation for the next thing.»

Taylor Swift

Speak Now World Tour

Speak Now sold multiple million copies in the United States in its first couple of weeks, and the tour that followed the release grossed $123.7 million from 110 shows. Taylor had mapped out many of the production elements for her 2011 schedule nine months in advance. That is how long it took to plan the “Speak Now World Tour.” “I already have drawings in my journal of what the stage should look like,” she said in October 2010. “I know a few of the set list orders, [and] I want there to be an entire wedding scene on the stage.” Where the onstage weddings would take place was still to be decided at that point. After headlining a pair of stadium dates in Boston and Baton Rouge on the “Fearless Tour” in 2010, she intended to do more venues of that magnitude this time around:

«There aren’t many stadium shows anymore. It’s no small feat, and I know that. When you walk out onstage in front of 65,000 people, it can bring you to tears. If you really take it in at the end of a song and you hear that many people screaming, it will make you cry.»

Taylor Swift
The “Speak Now World Tour” was Taylor’s first truly world wide tour and to this day is still the one where she visited the most countries. It was a highly theatrical event, one that saw her in numerous vignettes on a collection of elaborate sets. In November 2011, the live album Speak Now: World Tour Live was released, capturing the North American leg of the tour. More than 1,6 million fans came out to see Taylor on the road by the time she wrapped the show in Australia in March 2012.

Wonderstruck

On July 15, 2011, Taylor’s official website announced that she had partnered with Elizabeth Arden to launch her first fragrance, Wonderstruck. In doing so, Taylor joined a number of top celebrities who had released fragrances in the previous few years, from Beyoncé to Britney Spears to Usher. Taylor said the trend was popular because a fragrance has some similarities with music:

«I think that fragrance has a lot to do with shaping people’s memories in the way that music does. If you hear a song for the first time when you are in love with someone and then you break up and you hear the song again a couple years later, it’s gonna make you think right back to that moment when you first heard the song.»

Taylor Swift
The fragrance’s name was a reference to the song “Enchanted” and used its chorus in TV commercials. The scent made its in-store appearance on November 16, 2011, and was a knockout hit. Wisely, Taylor was losing no time following up that success, announcing that she would be following up her debut scent with its successor, Wonderstruck Enchanted, in September 2012. In true form for her, there was a narrative behind the potion, as fans familiar with the lyrics of “Enchanted” soon recognized: “Wonderstruck Enchanted is the next chapter in the story of my Wonderstruck fragrance. Wonderstruck is about that moment when you instantly feel a connection to someone, but then there’s that feeling of being completely enamored – enchanted – when you know a little more about that someone and still feel that strong connection.”
Taylor Swift for Speak Now (Joseph Anthony Baker, 2011)
Speak Now

Billboard's Woman of the Year

At the end of 2011, Taylor was chosen to receive the coveted “Woman of the Year Award” at the Billboard Women in Music event on December 2 in New York City. It celebrates the most powerful and talented women in the music business. Taylor had built her name on her tireless work ethic, and told Katie Couric that she never expected anything to be handed to her:

«I’ve never felt entitled to play another sold-out show or win another award. So just the fact that this keeps happening, I’m thankful for that.»

Taylor Swift
At age 21, Taylor was the youngest artist to ever receive the honor, and it came on the heels of earning several 2011 Billboard Music Awards, among them “Top Country Album” for the five-time platinum selling Speak Now. “Taylor has shown the power of good songwriting with music that has transcended genres, and we’re thrilled to recognize all of her successes over the past year by honoring her with the ‘Billboard Woman of the Year Award’,” said Bill Werde, Billboard’s Editorial Director. “At the young age of 21, Taylor has already made a major impact on music and has been an incredible role model for aspiring singers/songwriters and young women everywhere. I look forward to watching her career continue to flourish in the years to come.”

America's Sweetheart

During the Speak Now era, Taylor also found herself under immense pressure from the public to be the quintessential “good girl.” She was pinned on a million tweens and teens’ walls because through her lyrics, her stories resonated with them. At the same time, the biggest danger she faced was her own adulthood. Though she had experienced incredible success since exploding onto the music scene as a 16-year-old, Taylor had managed to avoid the typical pitfalls of young Hollywood. She didn’t drink. She didn’t smoke, do drugs, or show much skin. Even as a legal adult at 21, unlike many starlets and pop stars, she had committed to serving as a role model for her millions of young fans, saying “I’m not, by nature, a party girl. I don’t think I’m gonna all of a sudden start being in love with the idea of going to a club.” In an interview with CBS News in November 2011, she said:

«Well, I definitely think about a million people when I'm getting dressed in the morning. That's just part of my life now. I think it's my responsibility to know it, and to be conscious of it. And it would be really easy to say, 'You know, I'm 21 now. I do what I want. You raise your kids.' But that's not the truth of it. The truth of it is that every singer out there with songs on the radio is raising the next generation. So make your words count.»

Taylor Swift
Taylor had a deeply ingrained sense of appropriateness. When she was interviewed onstage by Katie Couric at Billboard‘s “Women in Music” luncheon, she was asked a question she had heard many, many times before: “When are you going to have some sort of scandal or meltdown, or, at the very least, an embarrassing photograph?” Taylor politely responded by saing, “I think, for me, the bigger pitfall is losing your self-awareness. Even though I am at a place where my dresses are really pretty and the red carpets have a lot of bright lights and I get to play to thousands of people…you have to take that with a grain of salt. The stakes are really high if you mess up, if you slack off and don’t make a good record, if you make mistakes based on the idea that you are larger than life and you can just coast. If you start thinking you’ve got it down, that’s when you run into trouble—either by getting complacent or becoming mouthy. And nobody likes that.”

At her commencement speech for the New York University Class of 2022 (where she received her Doctor of Fine Art, Honoris Causa), Taylor shared how she feels about that time of her life in retrospect:

«I was a teenager in the public eye at a time when our society was absolutely obsessed with the idea of having perfect young female role models. It felt like every interview I did included slight barbs by the interviewer about me one day ‘running off the rails’. That meant a different thing to everyone person that said it to me. So I became a young adult while being fed the message that if I didn’t make any mistakes, all the children of America would grow up to be perfect angels. However, if I did slip up, the entire earth would fall off its axis and it would be entirely my fault and I would go to pop star jail forever and ever. It was all centered around the idea that mistakes equal failure and ultimately, the loss of any chance at a happy or rewarding life. This has not been my experience. My experience has been that my mistakes led to the best things in my life. And being embarrassed when you mess up is part of the human experience. Getting back up, dusting yourself off and seeing who still wants to hang out with you afterward and laugh about it? That’s a gift.»

Taylor Swift

The Hunger Games

Anticipation for the soon-to-be-phenomenon The Hunger Games had been steadily building all throughout 2011, from the casting announcements to the full-length trailer. And just in time for Christmas, on December 23, there was one more Hunger Games surprise: In the wee hours of the morning, Taylor announced the release of her contributions to official soundtrack, “Safe & Sound” and “Eyes Open.” For her first new songs since 2010, Taylor was telling stories about the lead character, Katniss Everdeen, played by then rising star Jennifer Lawrence. “Slipping into her mind was such a wonderful break. It’s pretty intense writing about my own life, my own struggles. It was almost like a vacation to get to write from someone else’s perspective.” Even before she wrote the songs for the movie adaption, Taylor was already a huge fan of the books. “I fell in love with the book, fell in love with the themes running through it, [and] fell in love with Katniss.”

An Enchanting Era

Nowadays, some claim that Speak Now sort of became the “forgotten Taylor Swift era” – after all, it didn’t produce über hits like “You Belong With Me” or “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. However, it won her two more Grammy awards for “Mean” and is all the more popular in her fandom, one of the main factors being that Taylor wrote the album entirely on her own. People who have followed Taylor since the beginning of her career often regard Speak Now as the album that turned them from being a fan into being a lifelong fan.

Speak Now has also become one of the most renowned albums in country music history. It is a piece of art that will stand the test of time with its brave emotion, skillful songwriting, and Taylor’s fearlessness to wear her heart on her sleeve. There was something magical and nostalgic instilled into the Speak Now era: Taylor’s songs were full of hope, love, and a sense of bravery. But she also knew her audience — and was aware that they weren’t ready for her to grow up quite yet.
General Information
Associated AlbumSpeak Now
Beginning of EraJuly 2010
End of Era
Tour
AestheticFairytale
Arm Lyrics
Sparkles
Broadway
Magic
Purple
13
StyleVintage
Feminine
Cable-knit sweaters
Headbands
Key necklaces
Belts
Saddle bags
Loose curls
Wonderstruck perfume
ERA CHRONOLOGY
Fearless Era (2008-2010)Speak Now Era (2010-2012)RED Era (2012-2014)
Announcement
Commercial
Speak Now Era

Speak Now (2010)

Speak Now Songs

Speak Now World Tour

Speak Now:
World Tour Live

Taylor Swift:
Speak Now

Taylor's Discography