Following a recording-breaking concert tour so huge that she brought mini economic booms wherever she went, pop star Taylor Swift’s cultural ascendancy reached another peak as Time Magazine pronounced her Person of the Year, citing the joy she has brought to audiences worldwide. She is the first individual to receive the title in recognition of achievement in the arts since the magazine began the tradition in 1927.

“The entertainment industry is a multibillion-dollar industry, and a foundational part of the world economy,” said Virginia Tech voice expert Ariana Wyatt. “This decision is recognizing an artist who continues to change the world for the better through art while advocating for other artists and staying true to her beliefs.”  

Wyatt answered questions about Swift’s legacy and cultural impact.

Q: Have any other figures in the music industry matched Swift’s cultural and economic impact?

“There have been other figures with cultural impact, but none to the degree of Taylor Swift. The Beatles, Beyoncé, and Michael Jackson have had similar cultural impacts and changed the music industry, but not to the same degree as Swift. It has been reported that the economic impact that her Eras Tour generated this year exceeded $5 billion dollars. That level of impact is unprecedented. She is not only a cultural icon, but also a global economy.”

Q: Was there a turning point in her career that elevated her to her current status?

 “Taylor Swift has been a constant presence in the music industry since she debuted in 2006 and has had a profound effect on the music industry her entire career through both her music and her business acumen. However, within that context, the Eras Tour was a turning point. The economic effect of this tour was profound and elevated her impact on the world. The industries decimated by the COVID shut down were also the ones that benefitted most from the tour’s economic stimulus. For some communities, a tour concert was the difference between recession and recovery.”

 Q: How would you describe the evolution of her music?

 “Taylor Swift is constantly evolving. She lives in a musical space that is inclusive of multiple genres at once, and she is constantly reinventing her musical style. She always stays true to storytelling, and that creates an intimacy and passion in her music that speaks to millions of people.”   

About Ariana Wyatt
Wyatt, associate dean for outreach and engagement at Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture, Arts, and Design, is a graduate of Juilliard Opera Center who has performed in operas and concert halls throughout the country. She teaches voice for the college’s School of Performing Arts. Read more about her here.

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