It’s been four years since Taylor Swift transitioned into a full-on pop singer, but she’s still expertly managed to keep her ties to country music. Honestly, she’s brilliant.
Now that Taylor Swift, 28, is in a happy, loving relationship with Joe Alwyn, she may never write one of her classic breakup songs AGAIN. She’s never one to disappoint her fans, though, so she’s decided to take another approach — by giving one of those old heartbreak tracks to another artist! The singer wrote “Babe” with Train’s Pat Monahan before releasing her 2012 album, Red, but it never saw the light of day until now — Taylor finally recorded a duet of the song with Sugarland for the duo’s upcoming album, and they released it on April 20. “Babe” is literally everything that country-era Taylor did best: A catchy beat paired with gut-wrenching lyrics, which tell a specific story of devastation that anyone who’s been cheated on can relate to.
When Taylor lost the 2014 Album of the Year Grammy Award for Red and the album was criticized for not being “sonically cohesive,” she went into the studio with a with a specific plan: Record a pop album. She may have started out as a country artist who quickly jumped on the pop/country crossover train, but for her fifth album, she was set on strictly keeping it to one genre. 1989 was born later that year, and Taylor’s plan worked — this time she did win Album of the Year. She followed the same strategy for her latest album, Reputation, released in Nov. 2017, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Still, amidst her adamance of transitioning into being a full-on pop singer, Taylor has managed to stay relevant in Nashville and the country music community. Just months after the release of 1989, when Taylor was in the thick of insisting that she was strictly a “pop star” now, she made a surprise appearance at the 2015 ACM Awards to accept the 50th Anniversary Milestone Award. It was an incredibly powerful moment, as her mom, Andrea Swift ,was the one to present her with the trophy…less than two weeks after Taylor told the world that Andrea had been battling cancer. In early 2015, Taylor also showed up to the opening night of Kenny Chesney’s tour and took the stage with him to perform his song “Big Star.” The collab eventually appeared on Kenny’s 2017 album, Live In No Shoes Nation.
For the rest of 2015, Taylor was uber-focused on her 1989 tour and burgeoning pop career, but just when fans thought she forgot about her country roots completely, she did something extraordinary: She showed up to the 50th annual CMA Awards in 2016 to present the award for Entertainer of the Year. By this point, Taylor was very much accepted as one of pop music’s biggest superstars, but she still took time to pay homage to where she came from at a milestone event in country music.
Around that same time, the band Little Big Town dropped an epic bombshell: Taylor was the writer behind their new track, “Better Man.” Like “Babe,” the song is true OG Taylor, and it shot to the top of the country charts. The next year, it even won Song of the Year (which goes to the songwriter) at the CMA Awards. Yes, after releasing only pop music of her own, Taylor still managed to win an accolade at a country music award ceremony in 2017. It’s mind-blowing.
Perhaps Taylor’s greatest nod to her country background, though, happened just last month. On March 31, the 28-year-old popped up at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe, which is where she was discovered by Scott Borchetta 14 years ago. The iconic Nashville landmark was celebrating its 35th anniversary, so it was only fitting for one of the biggest stars who was found there to show up. During the show, she performed “Better Man” and her top-charting pop hit, “Shake It Off,” proving she really still can give us the best of both worlds.
It’s 2018, and Taylor Swift is, without a doubt, a pop star. However, she’s made a point to keep her connection to the country music community, and that, I think, is brilliant. Taylor will be welcomed back to the country music scene with open arms if she ever decides to take her career in that direction again. Until then, she’s making sure to give her country-loving fans just enough to whet their appetites every few months. To me, this is proof that Taylor is just so incredibly self-aware, and a businesswoman for the ages. Watch out, Kris Jenner!