WHO: The former teenage country music singer became the biggest – and most influential – pop star on Earth after the enormous success of her ‘1989’ world tour.
WHY: You could argue Adele saved the music industry in 2015. Or you could take the stance that this honour falls to the seven-times Grammy-winning pop-cultural force that is Taylor Swift – the artist who took on Apple and won. The trillion-dollar company was about to introduce its streaming service Apple Music, promising users a free three-month trial, with the caveat that artists would not be recompensed during this period. On the morning of June 21, Taylor published an open letter on her website, politely stating her case. “We don’t ask you for free iPhones,” she wrote. “Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.” The letter went viral. By the evening, Apple had announced that artists would indeed be paid during the trial. That, friends, is the influence of an NME Person Of The Year.
Yet Tay would be in the running even if she hadn’t pulled off that considerable coup. Her album ‘1989’ came out in late 2014 (selling 1.287m copies in its first week in the US) but continued to dominate music throughout 2015. That’s thanks to her stellar stage show, which featured a parade of powerful guest movers-and-shakers. From Mick Jagger, Beck and St Vincent to Justin Timberlake, Fetty Wap, Haim and the entire World Champion US women’s football team – not to mention Friends star Lisa Kudrow for a duet of ‘Smelly Cat’ in Los Angeles – her Swifties were treated to a special show every night. By September of this year, the ‘1989’ World Tour had grossed $130million.
There was also a veritable celebrity pile-up in the massive video for her single ‘Bad Blood’, released in May and featuring everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Cindy Crawford. But there’s more to Taylor Swift than celebs and cash (Forbes reckons she’s worth $200m, since you asked). She’s more indie than most indie bands, as she retains the masters of her music and controls her own distribution. Tay’s also helping to promote fourth-wave feminism, having experienced what she called a “feminist awakening” after becoming friends with Girls creator Lena Dunham.
Which brings us to the overarching theme with Swift: she is just bossing life. Reading an interview with Tay is like reading a self-help book. It makes you want to be a better person – more assertive (as she was with Apple), more generous (she shares her stage with pals) and more self-sufficient (ain’t no record label gonna tell Taylor Swift what to do). Many of us make New Year’s resolutions to just be better. Looking back at Taylor Swift’s 2015 would be a good place to start.
WHAT SHE SAYS: In October, Taylor told NME: “Not to try and sound like the good witch in The Wizard Of Oz or something, but I really do want to do good things with what I have, and that’s it. I don’t think my brain could cook up very shocking things for the sake of being shocking.”
WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT HER: “But seriously, @taylorswift13 is the leader of a great and beautiful galaxy that I’d live in forever.” – Lorde
HOW SHE MADE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE: She achieved a fairer deal for artists the world over and helped introduce feminism to a new generation.
Read about why we picked the rest of our People of the Year 2015:
Kendrick Lamar – For making rap righteous again
The Libertines – For the year’s most beautiful (and unlikely) comeback
Mhairi Black – For changing the face of British politics
Skepta – For taking grime global
Miley Cyrus – For refusing to conform, and celebrating diversity
Nicki Minaj – For speaking out on race, gender and sexuality
Mathieu Flamini – For trying to save the world with his geo-energy company GF Biochemicals
Adele – For breaking every record in music history
Jennifer Lawrence – For being the year’s best role model
JJ Abrams – For re-awakening The Force
Noel Gallagher – For cutting through the crap and making us laugh