Why Taylor Swift Ruled the World in 2023
Taylor Swift doesn’t celebrate her birthday until December 13, but she spent all year dominating the pop culture landscape.
Already a 12-time Grammy winner, Swift’s career skyrocketed even further with the debut of her highly anticipated Eras Tour and its subsequent concert film, both of which broke records across the board. She also made VMAs and Grammys history in 2023, found love after heartbreak and continued to dominate the charts with her rerecorded albums, two of which hit shelves earlier this year.
As for the key to her success? “My response to anything that happens, good or bad, is to keep making things. Keep making art,” she shared in her TIME Person of the Year cover story in December. “But I’ve also learned there’s no point in actively trying to quote-unquote defeat your enemies. Trash takes itself out every single time.”
Scroll down to see every reason why 2023 was the year of Taylor Swift:
1. ‘The Eras Tour’ Earned a Big Reputation
When Swift kicked off The Eras Tour in March, little did she know that it would break the record for the highest-grossing music tour of all time. Since debuting her sixth concert tour in Glendale, Arizona, Swift has performed hits from her entire discography both across the U.S. and around the globe.
Swift’s ever-changing stage outfits have been the subject of countless fan videos, as have her jaw-dropping performances. In particular, “Vigilante S–t” from the Midnights portion of the show became a fan-favorite number because of its sexy, cabaret-style choreography.
Throughout the tour, Swifties showed their devotion by trading friendship bracelets (inspired by a lyric from the song “You’re on Your Own, Kid”). Several celebrity attendees partook in the trend, including Gigi Hadid, Mindy Kaling, Sofia Richie, Mariska Hargitay, Halsey, Kyle Richards, Simu Liu, Jennifer Garner and more.
After the first U.S. leg of shows concluded in August, Swift took The Eras Tour to Mexico, Argentina and Brazil with special guest Sabrina Carpenter. Swift will resume performances in Japan, in February 2024 before making additional stops across Europe, Australia, Canada and the U.S. through December 2024.
2. ‘Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour’ Movie Broke Records
Swift made sure that fans who were unable to attend The Eras Tour in person didn’t miss out on seeing the show. Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour concert film hit theaters in October and dominated on its opening weekend, earning $123.5 million at the worldwide box office and quickly becoming the highest-grossing concert film ever.
Swifties brought the same energy they had at the tour’s live shows to theaters by singing and dancing in their seats and purchasing Swift-themed popcorn buckets and cups (which sold out in many locations).
The movie also marked a major moment for women in music as both Swift and Beyoncé released film versions of their 2023 concert tours. While many fans compared the tours’ successes, the pop stars shut down any rivalry rumors by attending the premieres of each other’s films.
“I’m so glad I’ll never know what my life would’ve been like without @beyonce‘s influence,” Swift wrote via Instagram after Beyoncé walked the red carpet at the premiere of the Eras movie. “The way she’s taught me and every artist out here to break rules and defy industry norms. Her generosity of spirit. Her resilience and versatility. She’s been a guiding light throughout my career and the fact that she showed up tonight was like an actual fairytale.”
3. She Made Headlines With Travis Kelce
Swift started the year with a high-profile split (from longtime boyfriend Joe Alwyn), but she ended 2023 with a romance that captivated everyone from her fans to NFL commentators. The love story began in July when Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce attempted to give Swift a friendship bracelet with his phone number on it when she played Missouri’s Arrowhead Stadium. He was unsuccessful, but the act caught Swift’s attention, and the two eventually sparked a romance.
Swift has since supported Travis at several football games and won over his family members, including mom Donna Kelce, dad Ed Kelce and brother Jason Kelce.
One of the couple’s most viral moments occurred at one of Swift’s Eras Tour shows in Argentina. The Grammy winner gave Travis a shout-out on stage by changing the lyrics to her closing song, “Karma.” Instead of singing, “Karma is the guy on the screen coming straight home to me,” she sang, “Karma is the guy on the Chiefs,” prompting Travis to blush in the audience.
4. She Took Over the NFL
Swift and Travis’ relationship has dominated NFL coverage throughout the 2023 season, largely thanks to Swift’s presence at several Chiefs games. In October, CBS reported that Travis performed better at games that Swift attended versus ones where she was absent. That same month, Swift’s attendance at the Chiefs matchup against the New York Jets helped boost NFL ratings by bringing in 2 million female viewers.
Some football fans took issue with the attention Swift drew away from the actual sport, but Swift herself remained unbothered. “I don’t know how they know what suite I’m in. There’s a camera, like, a half-mile away, and you don’t know where it is, and you have no idea when the camera is putting you on the broadcast, so I don’t know if I’m being shown 17 times or once,” she told TIME in December.
“I’m just there to support Travis,” she added before joking, “I have no awareness of if I’m being shown too much and pissing off a few dads, Brads and Chads.”
5. She Rocked the World — Literally
The first U.S. leg of The Eras Tour was full of memorable moments, but nothing topped the day Seattle Swifties reportedly caused a 2.3 magnitude earthquake just by cheering and dancing.
“The shaking was twice as strong as Beast Quake,” seismologist Jackie Caplan-Auerbach told CNN in July, referring to a famous 2011 incident wherein former Seattle Seahawks player Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown caused fans to shake the ground. “The primary difference is the duration of shaking. Cheering after a touchdown lasts for a couple seconds, but eventually it dies down. It’s much more random than a concert.”
Another seismologist, Mouse Reusch, later reported that the two songs that prompted the biggest response from the audience were Swift’s 1989 hits “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space.”
6. She Put a Spell on Fans — and Planes
The viral moments didn’t stop with an earthquake. Swift has often alluded to witchcraft in her music, causing fans to joke that the singer has magical powers. Those theories gained further credibility in November at one of her Argentina tour stops.
During the surprise song section of the night — where she performs two acoustic songs not on the standard set list — Swift jumped into a piano rendition of “Labyrinth” from her 2022 album, Midnights. As Swift sang the lyrics, “I thought the plane was going down / You just turned it right around,” a plane could be seen descending over Argentina’s Estadio River Plate.
After a fan video of the moment went viral on social media, Swift joked about the eerie coincidence. “Never beating the sorcery allegations ✨🛬✨,” she quipped via Instagram.
7. She’s a Billionaire, Baby
Following the massive success of The Eras Tour, the concert film and the Taylor’s Version rerecordings, Bloomberg crowned Swift a billionaire in October, reporting that her net worth is upwards of $1.1 billion. “[Taylor Swift is] one of the few entertainers to reach that status based on music and performing alone, the result of work and talent, but also canny marketing and timing,” the outlet wrote.
According to Bloomberg’s analysis, Swift’s music catalog is worth an estimated $400 million, and she’s earned $370 million in concert ticket sales and merchandise and $120 million in Spotify and YouTube stream earnings. She also holds $110 million in real estate properties and $80 million in royalties from music sales.
8. She Scored Accolades, Accolades and More Accolades
Swift broke a Grammys record with the nominations she received for her 10th studio album, Midnights. Her hit single “Anti-Hero” earning a nod for Song of the Year makes her the first songwriter to score seven nominations in the category, a record previously held by Paul McCartney and Lionel Richie with six each.
Midnights is also nominated for Album of the Year at the February 2024 awards show, marking her sixth nomination in the category and tying her with Barbara Streisand for most nominations in that category by a female artist. If she wins, she will be the first artist to win the accolade four times.
At the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards in September, she went into the night with the most nominations and left with nine wins, including Artist of the Year, Best Pop Song of the Year and Video of the Year. She is now the second-most-awarded artist in the show’s history, with Beyoncé holding the top spot.
Swift also hit a major milestone on Spotify, becoming the platform’s top global artist of the year with more than 26.1 billion streams since January 1. (Bad Bunny previously held the top spot for three consecutive years.)
Finishing 2023 with a bang, Swift was named TIME’s Person of the Year in December, marking her second time receiving the honor. She previously nabbed the title when she was listed as one of 2017’s Silence Breakers who inspired women to speak out about sexual misconduct.
9. She Sparked New Conversations Over Old Music
Swift began rereleasing her first six studio albums in 2021 after her former label, Big Machine Records, sold her masters to Scooter Braun for $300 million. (They have since been bought by private equity fund Shamrock Holdings.)
Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), the third of her rereleases, hit shelves in July while Swift was traveling the country for her Eras Tour. In addition to the original 16 songs, the new version included six “From the Vault” tracks. She later dropped a music video for the vault song “I Can See You” during one of her Kansas City concerts. To fans’ delight, the video featured familiar faces from her past, including Joey King (who was featured in the music video for her “Mean”) and ex-boyfriend Taylor Lautner (the subject of her 2010 ballad “Back to December”).
In October, Swift released the rerecording of her 2014 pop hit, 1989. The album contains six vault tracks, some of which are rumored to be about her past relationship with Harry Styles, whom she dated off and on from 2012 to 2014.
In particular, “Is It Over Now?” left Swifties reeling with a more brutal story of her alleged split from Styles, including claims of him being a “lying traitor” who is “searching every model’s bed for something greater.”
10. She Remains an Easter Egg Genius
Swift has been honing the craft of dropping clues about future projects for years, and she all but perfected it when her Eras Tour kicked off in March. Millions of fans picked each performance apart via social media to try and decode secret messages.
Not all the guesses were correct, but some theories paid off in spades. Prior to the releases of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) and 1989 (Taylor’s Version), Swift changed her concert outfits to colors that reflected each of her previous “eras.” She debuted new purple ensembles for Speak Now, while her 1989 costumes were blue. The singer has also been spotted rocking more black and gold off stage, which eagle-eyed fans believe could be a hint that Reputation (Taylor’s Version) is coming next.
There are still plenty of potential clues that may pay off when The Eras Tour picks back up in February 2024. Many believe the burning down of the “Lover” house on stage means all her rerecordings are finished and ready for release at a moment’s notice. Other fans think her orange coat during the “Karma” dance finale represents a forthcoming 11th album because she so rarely uses the color in her art.
The Eras Tour wasn’t the only place fans dug for Swift-related clues in 2023. A December Instagram post celebrating her song “You’re Losing Me” hitting streaming platforms sent Swifties into a tizzy when Swift spelled certain words with both capitalized and lowercase letters, in a callback to her old album booklets that contained secret messages. When she was named the top Spotify artist of 2023, fans found more than 25 signs they believed to be secret messages in a video posted by the streaming service. A mastermind, indeed.